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Diocese of Trent (Tridentum)
Diocese; suffragan of Salzburg. Trent became universally known through the famous general council held there from 1545 to 1563. At an earlier date, however, it had a certain historical importance. In 15 B.C. its territory became subject to the Romans. As early as 381 there appeared at the Council of Aquileia Abundantius, Bishop of Trent. While Arianism and the barbarian invasions elsewhere smothered the seed of the gospel, it grew in Trent under the care and protection of St. Vigilius. Bishop Valerian of Aquileia had consecrated the youthful Vigilius, while the great Ambrose of Milan had instructed him as to his duties in lengthy, fatherly, epistles. Vigilius came to his end prematurely; he was stoned to death when barely forty years of age.
In the sixth century during the Three Chapters controversy, the Provinces of Milan and Aquileia continued in schism even after Popes Vigilius and Pelagius I had recognized the decrees of the Council of Constantinople; through the Patriarch of Aquileia the bishops of Trent also persisted in the schism. Placed between Germany and Italy, Trent was exposed to the influences of both. Ecclesiastically it remained subject to Aquileia until 1751, but in political affairs it could not withstand the power of the Salic and Saxon kings and emperors. Under the first Franconian king, Bishop Ulrich II became an independent prince of the empire, with the powers and privileges of a duke. In consideration of imperial favour the bishops of Trent sided with Henry IV and Frederick I during the great struggle between the Church and the Empire, but in such a skilful manner so as to avoid a rupture with the pope. Bishop Adelbert is even revered as a saint, although he sided with the antipope Victor IV, who had been chosen by the emperor; in those times of confusion it was often difficult to find the right path. He died a martyr in defence of the rights of his see (1177). Under Innocent III, Friedrich von Wanga raised Trent to the height of its power and influence. He was a great temporal and ecclesiastical ruler. He used every means to kindle and strengthen the religious spirit, and began the building of the splendid Romanesque cathedral. He died at Acre in 1218 during the Fourth Crusade.
The untimely death of Meinhard III, son of Margaret of Tyrol, brought Trent under the rule of Austria in 1363. In 1369 Rudolph IV concluded a treaty with Bishop Albrecht II of Ortenburg, by virtue of which Rudolph became the real sovereign of the diocese. The bishop promised in his own name and in that of his successors to acknowledge the duke and his heirs as lords, and to render assistance to them against their enemies. Thereafter Trent ceased to be an independent principality, and became a part of the Tyrol. Ortenburg's successor was George I of Liechtenstein, who endeavoured to regain its independence for the see. His efforts involved him in several wars, terminated only by his death in 1419. More than once during these wars he was taken prisoner, while the duke was excommunicated and the see interdicted.
The much discussed story of the death of St. Simon of Trent belongs to the reign of Prince-Bishop Johannes IV Hinderbach. On Holy Thursday of the year 1475, the little child, then about 20 months old, son of a gardener, was missed by its parents. On the evening of Easter Sunday the body was found in a ditch. Several Jews, who were accused of the murder, were cruelly tortured.
The sixteenth century was a time of trouble and worry for the Church in the Tyrol. In the towns the Lutherans, in the villages and among the peasants the Anabaptists, multiplied. After many ineffectual efforts, the sovereign, bishops and several monastic orders combined their authority, and a new order set in, which reached its climax in the Council of Trent. At the time of the council Cardinal Christoph von Madrutz was prince-bishop. He was succeeded by three members of his house, with the last of whom the house of Madrutz died out. The decrees of the council were executed but slowly. In 1593 Cardinal Ludwig von Madrutz founded the seminary, which later was conducted by the Somaschi. The Jesuits came to Trent in 1622.
Peter Vigil, Count of Thun, governed the see during the Josephite reforms, with which he was in sympathy. He abolished some of the monasteries in his territory, interfered with the constitutions of the various orders, and closed some churches. When the patriarchate of Aquileia ceased to exist in 1751, Trent became exempt. During the administration of his successor, Emmanuel Maria Count of Thun, it ceased to be an independent ecclesiastical principality (1803). The Bavarian Government insisted on the following: (1) priests were to be ordained only after an examination at the university; (2) the bishops were to order their clergy to obey all orders of the Government in connection with the ecclesiastical police; (3) when filling benefices a list of three names was to be presented by the bishop to the Government or by the Government to the bishop; (4) recourse to Rome or combination with other bishops was forbidden. Bishop Emmanuel replied that he would remain true to his oath to support and defend the privileges of the Church, and that he would rather suffer all the consequences which might arise from his refusal rather than act against his conscience. He was expelled in 1807 and crossed the frontier into Salzburg at Reichenhall. He could only return after the Tyrolese had freed themselves of the Bavarian yoke. After the Peace of Viena negotiation were begun relative to the circumscription of the dioceses of the Tyrol, and were concluded in 1825. Trent was made a suffragan of Salzburg, and the bishops, instead of being chosen by the chapter, were appointed by the emperor. The 115th Bishop of Trent was Johann Nepomuk Tschiderer. He died on 12 March, 1860, and his canonization is already under way. The diocese numbers 602,000 Catholics, 1072 priests, 817 male religious, and 1527 nuns.
Acta Tirolensia, urkundliche Quellen zur Geschichte Tirols (2 vols., 1886, 1899); KINK, Urkundenbuch des Hochstiftes Trient in Fontes rerum Austriacarum, II (5 vols., Vienna, 1812); ATZ, Der deutsche Anteil des Bistums Trient (Bozen, 1879); Austria sancta: Die Heiligen und Seligen Tirols. (Vienna, 1910); RONELLI, Notizie istorice-critiche delle Chiese di Trento (3 vols., Trent, 1761); PINCIUS, De vitis Pontificum Tridentinorum, lib. XII (Mantua, 1546); Kurze Geschichte des Bistums und der Bischofe von Trient (Bozen, 1852).