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Name of the two smallest states of the German Confederation, which lie almost in the centre of Germany, east of Thuringia, on the western boundaries of the Kingdom of Saxony. Their united area is 440 sq. miles. Reuss alterer Linie, or Reuss-Greitz, comprises 122 sq. miles and in 1905 its population was 70,603, of whom 68,549 were Lutherans, 1205 Catholics, and 54 Jews. Reuss jüngerer Linie, or Reuss-Schleiz, contains 318 sq. miles, and had 144,584 inhabitants in 1905, of whom 140,640 were Lutherans, 2806 Catholics, and 290 Jews. The present Principality of Reuss and the neighbouring tracts of land were inhabited in early medieval times by Slavonian races who were civilized and converted to Christianity by the German Emperor Otto I (936-73). In church matters the region was under the Diocese of Zeitz (founded in 968), which became a suffragan of Magdeburg. On account of the frequent inroads of the Slavs, the residence of the Bishop of Zeitz was removed to Naumburg in 1028, after which the see was called Naumburg-Zeitz. Upon its subjection to German authority, the whole province was allotted to the Margraviate of Zeitz. As early as the year 1000, however, Emperor Otto III permitted the entire part lying on the eastern boundary of Thuringia to be administered by imperial vogts, or bailiffs (advocati imperii), whence this territory received the name of Vogtland (Terra advocatorum), a designation that has remained to this day a geographical summary for Reuss, especially that part on the Saxon borders. The position of vogt soon became hereditary. The princes of Reuss are descended from the vogts of Weida. Erkenbert I (1122) is proved by documentary evidence to have been their ancestor. His successors acquired almost the whole Vogtland by feuds or marriage settlement, although in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries they lost the greater part of their possessions, most of which fell to Saxe-Meissen (the present Kingdom of Saxony). In 1244 the vogt Henry IV entered a German monastery. His sons divided his possessions, their seats being respectively at Weide (extinct in 1535), Gera (extinct in 1550), and Plauen. The Plauen branch was sub divided into an elder line that died out in 1572, and a young line. Henry, the founder of the Plauen line (d. about 1300), on account of a visit to Russia received the surname of "der Reusse" (Ruthenus), whence the name passed to the country; on account of the close relations of that country with the neighbouring Saxon states, Lutheranism speedily gained a foothold in Reuss.
The rulers joined the Smalkaldic League against the German emperor, and forfeited their possessions, but afterwards recovered them. Henry XXII is notable among the more modern princes of this house for his enmity to Prussia, which he opposed in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, when the Prussian troops occupied his domain. Henry joined the North German Confederation and the new German empire (1871). He alone of all the confederate princes remained until his death (1902) an implacable enemy of Prince Bismarck and of the conditions created in Germany by the foundation of the empire. His son, Henry XXIV (both in 1878), being incapable of ruling, the regency passed to the princes of the younger line of Reuss. After the death of Henry XXIV, the last scion of the younger line, the Principalities of Reuss-Greiz and Reuss-Schleitz will be united. Since the end of the twelfth century all the male members of the princely house have borne the name of Henry in honour of the Emperor Henry VI of Germany (1190-7), to whom they were under great obligations. The Reformation entirely destroyed Catholicism in Reuss. The few Catholic settlers were for a long time deprived of regular religious ministrations. A Brief obtained from the papal nuncio in Vienna, 15 March, 1822, by the efforts of the Catholic Princess Gasparina of Rohan-Rochefort, wife of Henry XIX, placed the Catholics in the domains of the elder line under the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Prague; and through a papal Brief of 18 March, 1874, they passed under that of the Vicar apostolic of Saxony. The parish of Greiz has existed since 1897 and the statutes of the Catholic congregation there, dated 12 April, 1897, received government sanction of 7 June of the same year, together with the grant of a legal status under the civil law. Priests from the neighbouring countries (Bavaria and Saxony) are not prevented from exercising their spiritual functions.
Excluding Greiz and Frauenreuth, permission of the authorities to hold religious services is required in the towns and villages of the principality. The Catholics of Reuss-Schleiz were placed under the jurisdiction of the bishops of Paderborn by a Decree of the papal "Congregatio de propaganda fide" of 27 June, 1869, which, however, was not officially recognized, and, when in 1883 the Catholics of the city of Gera desired a mission with permanent priests, the Government made its consent dependent upon the transfer of jurisdiction to the Vicar Apostolic of Saxony. This was effected by a Decree of Propaganda dated 7 October, 1889. By a princely rescript of 14 June, 1894, the status of the Catholic population of Gera was recognized from 1 June. They then received the rights and privileges of citizens under the civil law. The rector of Gera is not debarred from exercising his sacerdotal functions in places belonging to his parish, nor are priests from the neighbouring countries (Saxony and Saxe Weimar). The successful progress of Catholicism is retarded in both principalities by lack of means, since neither the state nor the people contribute anything to the Catholic Church and a church tax is not permitted. The Evangelical-Lutheran Church is supported by state and communal contributions, Catholics being assessed equally with Protestants for this purpose. The Government does not interfere with its subjects in regard to the change of their religion, establishment of orders, mixed marriages, and the education of the children of such marriages in either principality. For the most part the principles obtaining in the Kingdom of Saxony prevail in Reuss. Nominally, enjoyment of the privileges of citizenship is independent of creed, but in Reuss-Greiz religious exercises can take place only by express permission. In both principalities no previous permission is required for processions on religious festivals, provided they are carried out in the customary manner. Catholic processions are not allowed. The public free schools are Evangelical-Lutheran and maintained by political or school districts. Catholics are obliged to contribute proportionally as much as Protestants, although religious instruction in their Faith is never given. A private Catholic free school (about 200 children) has existed in Gera since 1903, to which neither State nor city contributes. In Greiz the Catholics have succeeded in obtaining a school of their own since 1908, with about 130 children who are of compulsory school age. The grant of an appropriation for a high school is still pending (1911).
SCHMIDT, Vogtlandische Forschungen (Dresden, 1904); LIMMER, Entwurf einer Gesch. des Vogtlandes (4 vols., Gera, 1825-8); IEDM, Kurze Uebersicht der Gesch. des Hauses Reuss (Ronneburg, 1829); BRUCKNER, Landeskunde des Furstentums Reuss j. L. (2 vols., Gera, 1870); BURKHARDT, Einfuhrung der Reformation in Reuss (1894), Protestant; FREISEN, Staat u. kathol. Kirche in den deutschen Bundestaaten, II (Stuttgart, 1906).