Speyer - History - Speyer Cathedral Chapter

Speyer Cathedral Chapter

The Speyer cathedral chapter (Domkapitel, capitulum) was an ecclesiastical corporate body of approximately 30 canons, or clergy ordained for religious duties in the church. The chapter mainly assisted the bishop to govern the diocese, but formed a body distinct from him, with the authority to make its own statutes and regulations. The chapter elected the bishop and ruled the diocese during episcopal vacancies. The chapter eventually became wholly aristocratic in composition and in 1484 the pope decreed that only members of the nobility or aristocracy were to be admitted. The nobility of the city strove to have a family member in the chapter.

The chapter owned property and appointed officials to administer its possessions which were not under the control of the bishop. Henry III, who made several donations of property to the chapter in 1041 and 1046, even specified with the first of these that the bishop was to be excluded from its administration. Each capitular canon (Domkapitular or Domherr, canonicus capitularis) had the right to a prebend (Pfründe) or income and was required to reside near the cathedral church, unless granted leave. Each canon had to perform his duties personally, including choir service. Head of the chapter was originally the cathedral provost (Dompropst, praepositus), the highest dignitary after the bishop. From the end of the 12th century, leadership passed to the cathedral dean (Domdekan, decanus). The chapter was an important factor in the city's economy because it operated various administrative departments (cellar, barn, granary, portal, factory, ornaments, bakery), staffed by cathedral vicars (Domvikare, vicarii) who carried out their duties under the supervision of a capitular canon. There were approximately seventy vicars associated with the Speyer cathedral.

Library of the cathedral chapter

Three libraries were associated with the cathedral: the cathedral library, comprising liturgical books and books forming part of the cathedral treasure, such as the codex aureus, the palace library of the bishop (as of c. 1381 in Udenheim) and the library of the cathedral chapter, the largest of the three. In August 1552 Speyer was occupied by troops of the margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach. They plundered the cathedral and its associated buildings. The margrave had in mind to hand the books to his stepfather and had them brought to the nearby house of the Deutsche Orden. But the books were saved for the library owing the hurried departure of the troops on 24 August. All the known and extant copies of the Notitia Dignitatum, a unique document of the Roman imperial chanceries and one of the very few surviving documents of Roman government, are derived, either directly or indirectly, from the Codex Spirensis which is known to have existed in the library of the cathedral chapter. The codex contained a collection of documents (of which the Notitia was the last and largest document, occupying 164 pages) that brought together several previous documents of which one was of the 9th century. It was lost before 1672.

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