Bentheim, Munster

County of Bentheim

County of Bentheim


As mentioned in the ‘Oversticht’ section, the northern part of Twente was split of its larger original pagi in 828, this included Bentheim, its castle was first mentioned in 1116. The counts also had significant properties along the rivers across the Low Countries and we do see family relationships (through marriage) with the Counts of Holland, the Lords of Arkel, the Lords of Cuyk and the Lords of Heeswijk.

In 1120 Otto II von Bentheim and Rheineck married to Getrude von Northeim (County in the Harz). Countess Gertrude donates in 1152 land to Count Hugo van Buren to build a Monastery in Wietmarschen. Later on the Budde family establish their farm when the Monastery reclaimed more lands in the Bourtanger moor for farm land. Nordhorn where, around 1770, also Budde’s settled was also part of the County.

Otto’s daughter Sophie von Rheineck, heiress of the Country, married Dirk VI Count of Holland. She died in 1157.

In 1144 Otto III, probably because of a vassalage issue, rampaged through Twente. Bishop Heribert of Utrecht assembled his forces and the two armies met at a fortification of the bishop,  Walstad (Hunenborg) 15 kms north of Ootmarsum where the Count was captured by the Bishop and taken to Utrecht.

Two years earlier Bishop Heribert had donated the income of the church of Weerslo to Hugo van Buren and his cousin Hugo van Goor to establish here a Benedict Abbey (Stift Weerselo).  In 1154 Bishop Herman van Hoorn  ordained Hildebrand as the Abt of both Monasteries in Wietmarschen and Weerselo.

Stift Weerselo

After robber knights from Saterslo raided the monastery, the Bishop granted, in 1162 the income of the church of Ootmarsum to the Monastery of Weerselo. Because of the ongoing havoc, there were plans to move the monastery to Ootmarsum but this never eventuated. I visited this beautiful spot in 2007.

As mentioned above the Counts of Bentheim became involved in a range of military campaigns between the Bishop of Utrecht and the Count of Coevorden, the fact that they twice received Coevorden in fief indicates the importance of their participation in these campaigns.

Bentheim had an excellent export product ‘sandstone’ and it has been suggested that already in 1050 Bentheimer sandstone was used to built churches [4. H.Wissink, Verslagen en Mededelingen Archief Overijssel, 1971].  Records indicate that in 1160 sandstones were transported over the river Vechte. It was the largest ‘company’ in Germany during the Middle Ages. The revenues from this trade allowed the counts to built up a strong County wedged between the powerful Bishoprics of Utrecht and Münster.

The bishops often challenged the Count. In 1374 and 1381 the Prince-bishop of Münster advanced all the way to the castle in Bentheim.

Walraven van Bentheim , a son of Count Otto II, marries Agnes van Megen a daughter of Count Dirk van Megen, Through this marriage Heeswijk and Dinther passed on to the van Bentheim family.

Otto’s younger son Egbert I becomes the new count of Bentheim and his son, Johan II of Bentheim founded in 1290 the castle of Dinkelrode near Neuenhaus. The site was strategically positioned on the important trade route Münster-Amsterdam crossed the river Vechte.

In 1312 the castle in Uelsen, which until that time formed part of Twente,  came in the possession of the Count of Bentheim.

Johann was followed by Simon I and he in turn by Otto III.

In order to protect its sandstone trade Nordhorn received its city privileges (Wigbold Rights) from Count Bernd I(son of Otto III)  in 1379, at that point the place most likely already has its castle on the ‘Burginsel’, further rights were further confirmed or issued in that year.

While he started of as another robber knight Everwijn van Guterwick – in 1421 –  successfully claimed the title as Duke of Bentheim. He was a grandson of Hadwig the sister of Bernard I of Bentheim. In 1516, his successor Everwijn II buys the castle Singraven near Denekamp. His brother Bernard II married Anna van Egmond, he became the Stadtholder of Friesland.

Denenkamp - Singraven

After this branch of the family died out in 1530, the counties of Bentheim and Steinfurt were united under Arnold II of  Bentheim-Steinfurt. He also converted in 1544 convert the county to Lutheranism. The churches in Uelsen, Veldhausen and Neuhenhaus were also converted.

The Thirty Year War in the County coincided with inheritance disputes and a foreign administration by the Prince-Bishop of Münster led to a financial crisis. Around 1626 it was several times occupied and plundered by roaming troops of unpaid soldiers.

The following years saw poor harvests, in 1636 there were thousands of plague victims and another epidemic happened again in 1664.

During the Thirty Year War the villages and towns in the county were destroyed after multiple raids of Spanish troops, fighting again the Dutch Republic who was fighting its own war of independence at the same time. Two thirds of its citizens and farmers fled to the Netherlands or died of the plague following the war

Finally in 1752 Count Friedrich Carl Philipp promised the county to the Electorate of Hanover, thus ending the independence of the County. The chaos of the war had devastated the county and the Bentheim Castle was partially destroyed. The military importance of the castle became increasingly meaningless and for a while it acted as an administrative court and a local jail.

Prince-Bishopric of Münster

Prince-Bishopric Münster
Prince-Bishopric Münster

As we saw in the chapter Missionaries and Monasteries the Frisian missionary Liudger became – in 804 – the first bishop of Münster.

The territory of the Diocese of Münster was bounded in the west, south, and north-west by the dioceses of Cologne and Utrecht, on the east and north-east by Osnabrück.

The 12th century was marked by a considerable growth of the bishops’ secular power. In 1220, during the episcopate of Dietrich III of Isenberg-Altena (1218–26), the position of the bishop as a prince of the empire was formally acknowledged by Emperor Frederick II. Hermann II was the last bishop directly appointed by the emperor.

The most important accession was in 1252, when the see purchased the County of Vechta and the district of Meppen. The area between these new districts was acquired later; in 1403 the districts of Cloppenburg and Oyte were added.

By the early 14th century Munster had became one of the most powerful prince-bishoprics in Western Europe. It was in reality totally independent, both from a secular and a clerical point of view. The Prince-Bishops were appointed by a small group of local aristocrats. They enriched themselves, often through high taxes on the local population and ongoing warfare. Monks and clerics were also enable to enrich themselves through lucrative trade and handicraft privileges. Within the Prince-Bishopric all members of the clergy were tax exempt.

Often the Bishop was a secular Lord who wasn’t even ordained and also did not necessarily reside in the town itself.

In order to keep Rome on its side vast sums of money were send to Rome each time a new bishop was elected. Of course it was the local population who had to cough up that money through the tax system.

Not surprisingly, during all those years the City of Münster itself, struggled to become independent of the bishop.

Conditions were at their worst during what is known as the Münster Diocesan Feud (1450–57). The arbitrary conduct of Bishop Henry II of Moers (1424–50) had aroused a very bitter feeling in the city. After his death the majority of the city’s cathedral chapter elected Walram of Moers, brother of Henry and also Archbishop of Cologne, while the city and a minority of the chapter demanded the election of Eric of Hoya, brother of Count John of Hoya. Although the election of Walram was confirmed by the pope, open war for the possession of the see broke out, and Walram was unable to gain possession of the city of Münster. In 1457, after his death, a compact was made by which Eric of Hoya received a life income, and the privileges of the city were confirmed, while both parties recognized the new bishop appointed by the pope, John II, Count Palatine of Simmern (1457–66).

Obviously this was fertile ground for local uprising, which finally happened as part of the Peasant War.

Under the indolent and thoroughly worldly Frederick III (1522–32), brother of the Archbishop of Cologne, Hermann of Wied, Lutheranism spread rapidly after 1524, especially in the city. Scarcely any opposition to the innovation was made by the next bishop, Franz of Waldeck (1532–53), who from the beginning planned to aid the Reformation in his three dioceses of Münster, Minden, and Osnabrück, in order to form out of these three a secular principality for himself. He was obliged, indeed, for the sake of his endangered authority, to proceed against the Anabaptists in the city of Münster; but he did little for the restoration of the Faith.

Münster the new Jerusalem

The new cult of Anabaptists sat somewhere between Lutheranism and Catholicism, with prophets predicting a New Millennium and Münster as the new Jerusalem. In February 1534 the opportunistic Anabaptist leader from Leyden Jan Bockelszoon rapidly positioned himself as the absolute leader and demanded the wealth from its followers and also established a free sex society around him. He was able to take over control and ruled the town through shear terror.

The confiscated money was used to raise an army of mercenaries – mainly from the Low Countries. This also fuelled the Anabaptism movement in places such as Utrecht. Amsterdam and Groningen.

In 1534, the zealots were able to get 300o people from West Friesland to sell all their possessions and  embark on dozens of  ships to cross the Zuiderzee  and then to walk from here to Münster. Many of these people had fell victim to a severe flood in 1530, which had swept away 72 villages in the region, at the same time Holland was at war with Denmark and famine was widespread, ideal circumstances for zealots to do their work.   This campaign ended in utter disaster when they were met in Genemuiden  (north of Kampen) by soldiers who stopped the ‘procession of the children of Israel’. While most were let free a large number drowned, were prosecuted and several were killed.The situation in Münster had created panic in Holland as there were rumours that these ‘heretics’ also wanted to turm Amsterdam into a “New Münster’. This resulted in a widespread persecution of these anabaptists.

Finally in 1535 the Bishop, with the assistance of the Duke of Gelre, was able to stop the movement from expanding their control. He also put a blockade in place which starved a large portion of the population. In June that year the Bishop regained control again and ended the occupation of the city by the Anabaptists. The leaders were tortured and suspended in iron cages from the church tower, where these cages can still be seen today.  Jan Bockelszoon is in the Netherlands also known as “Jantje van Leiden” (Zich met een Janje van Leiden afmaken).

Bishop John William of Cleves (1574–85), inherited the Duchy of Cleves in 1575, married, and gave up the administration of the diocese. A long diplomatic battle as to his successor arose between the Catholic and Protestant powers, during which the diocese was administered by Cleves.

The western part of the Frisian district – which originally was under the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Münster,  was transferred in 1569, to the newly-founded bishoprics of Groningen and Deventer. With the rival of the Reformation, the ecclesiastic rule over this regions disappeared.

‘Berendken van Goalen’  in Ootmarsum

Christoph Bernhard of Galen (1650–78) was equally efficient both as bishop and as secular ruler; he forced the refractory city of Münster, after a long siege, to acknowledge his sovereign rights, succeeded in freeing his territory from foreign troops, gained parts of the Archdiocese of Bremen and of the Diocese of Verden in a war with Sweden, restored church discipline, and established a school system for his territory.

He attacked the Dutch Republic both in the Third Anglo-Dutch War and in the Franco-Dutch War.

The reason why I include him in this overview is that my grandfather Theo Budde mentioned him in one of the poems he wrote in Twents dialect. As history has it, the Bishop during one of his campaigns apparently rested in the house where later my grandfather lived in Ootmarsum.


The History of Northwestern Europe (TOC)