Melchior von Diepenbrock

Melchior von Diepenbrock
Melchior von Diepenbrock.

Melchior, Freiherr von Diepenbrock (b. 6 January 1798, at Bocholt in Westphalia; d. at the castle of Johannesberg in Jauernig, 20 January 1853) was a German Catholic Prince-Bishop of Breslau and Cardinal.



He attended the military academy at Bonn and took part in the campaign against France in 1815 as an officer of the militia. Upon his return he was much attracted by the personality of Johann Michael Sailer, a friend of the family, at that time professor at the University of Landshut in Bavaria, and studied public finance at that institution. When Sailer was made Bishop of Ratisbon, Diepenbrock followed him there, took up the study of theology, and was ordained priest 27 December 1823.

In 1835 he was made dean of the cathedral and vicar-general by the successor of Bishop Sailer. His knowledge of modern languages and his administrative ability, together with his understanding of the interior life and his ascetical character, paved the way for his elevation to the episcopal See of Breslau, to which he was elected 15 January 1845. He at first declined the honor, but finally accepted out of obedience to the mandate of Pope Gregory XVI.

From the beginning of his reign he was called to face difficult problems and momentous political events. There was famine in Upper Silesia. The Revolution of 1848 showed him one of the most loyal supporters of government, law, and order. The pastoral letter which he issued on this occasion was, by order of the king, read in all the Protestant churches of the realm. He devoted his energies to the training of the clergy, opened a preparatory seminary, and improved the conditions of the higher seminary. He was a watchful guardian of ecclesiastical discipline and, when necessary, employed severe measures to enforce it. He reintroduced retreats for the priests and missions for the people.

In 1849 he was appointed Apostolic delegate for the Prussian army. He was created cardinal in the consistory of 20 September 1850, and received the purple 4 November. This event gave occasion to one of the most magnificent public demonstrations ever witnessed in Germany. It was soon followed by the cardinal's death from disease.

His will bequeathed his estate to his diocese. In personal appearance he was of dignified presence, but pleasant and affable to all.

In 1879, his great nephew, Melchior Hubert Von Diepenbrock, immigrated to America, married the daughter of wealthy Sacramento merchant Anthony Coolot (one of the early financiers of the Trans-Contintental Railroad), and raised 10 children. The family lived for several years in the San Francisco Bay Area, but departed The City after the Great Earthquake of 1906 to settle in Sacramento. Diepenbrock attempted a number of business ventures in Sacramento, most notably the Diepenbrock Theater, an alfalfa farm and a dairy farm.

His children included San Francisco doctor Anthony Bernard Diepenbrock.

Noted Dutch composer Alphons Diepenbrock is related to this American branch of the family: he was Melchior Hubert Von Diepenbrock's first cousin.


He was a noted preacher and poet. His principal publications are: "Spiritual Bouquet, Gathered in Spanish and German Gardens of Poesy" (Sulzbach, 1826); "Life and Writings of Heinrich Suso" (Ratisbon, 1829); "Sermons" (Ratisbon, 1841); "Pastoral Letters" (Munster, 1853); "Personal Letters" (Frankfort, 1860).


  • Chowanetz,, Life of Cardinal von Diepenbrock (Osnabruck, 1853)
  • Forster, Life of Cardinal von Diepenbrock (Ratisbon, 1859)
  • Cardinal von Diepenbrock (Bonn, 1878)
  • Karker in Kirchenlexikon

External links

 This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainHerbermann, Charles, ed (1913). "Melchior, Baron (Freiherr) von Diepenbrock". Catholic Encyclopedia. Robert Appleton Company. 

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