It’s not what you know III: More Networking [in] Salzburg by David Murray

In this third and final post in the series, David turns his attention to another figure from the circle of Pilgrim von Puchheim. Although Wilderich de Mitra spent only a few years in Salzburg itself, his influence was considerable and shines a light on the tangle of ecclesiastical and political connections that passed through Salzburg in the later fourteenth century.


I promised in my last post to say more about one of the more interesting characters we find in the shadows of Pilgrim II of Salzburg, Wilderich de Mitra. (In fact, a first problem is deciding what to call him, as in some contexts his name appears in its German version, as Wilderich von der Hauben, or sometimes even as ‘Ulrich’.) Wilderich is a particularly good instance of how the medieval Church gave rise to international careers that it might be tempting to think of as rather more modern affairs. As one reads about him in the various scholarly works in which he appears, however, it is also striking how one’s perspective can changes. Wilderich, that is, is one of those figures whose star’s trajectory curves this way and that as it enters and exits the gravitational pull of heavier political objects.


The Westwerk of St Paul’s church in Worms, where Wilderich was the scholasticus, now (hence the gentleman in white) the Dominican church.


Wilderich started out his life as a member of one of patrician families of Worms on the Rhein, where he was later scholasticus at St Paul’s church. Wilderich was somewhat unusual for having pursued higher studies from 1368 at the University of Bologna, before becoming a member of the Bavarian nation at the universitas legum at Prague in 1374. There he was raised to the rank of doctor in decretis. Wilderch seems also to have been promised a prebend at the cathedral, as well as later one in the college on the Vyšehrad hill high above the Vlatava; but in the event, neither of these materialized. (One is tempted to draw comparisons with more recent forms of academic brain-drain.) Not long after, however, Wilderich left this positon in Prague at the beginning of the Great Schsim with the election of Anti-Pope Clement VII at Fondi in 1378, to join the cause of Pope Clement, apparently taking the deans of Prague cathedral and the collegiate church on the Vyšehrad with him.


Leopold III of Habsburg, Duke of Styria, Carinthia, Tyrol and the Habsburg lands on the Rhein.


Wilderich entered the service of Leopold III in September 1379, a keen Clementist in the service of the most prominent princely supporter of the Avignonese cause in German-speaking lands. He was sent by him to act as procurator with the archbishopric of Salzburg in the matter of the small ecclesiastical territory (technically a Fürstpropstei) of Berchtesgaden.


Berchtesgaden was a close neighbour of Salzburg, It had been a much-desired target of the Hochstift for a long time, since controlling Berchtesgaden would allow Salzburg to protect its own salt-works at Hallein. In a rather parlous financial state, the Provost Ulrich Wulp had attempted to sell lands, which led to the canons there accusing him of squandering the Stift’s fortune. Hence Wilderich’s arrival as investigator. (Two years later, the canons would finish what they had started by imprisoning and deposing Wulp in a favour of the Pilgrim-friendly Sighart Waller, and Berchtesgaden eventually became part of the Salzburg domain in the 1390s.)


This week’s contribution to Alpine tourism: a view over Berchtesgaden, showing the Stiftskirche on the left, and the church of St Andrew with the Baroque tower, with the Watzmann mountain in the background.


Wilderich must have impressed the Archbishop of Salzburg a good deal, as by December of the same year he had joined Pilgrim’s household as his protonotary, which is to say the head of his chancery. He was also accorded the benefice of Laufen, a large town to the north of Salzburg. Wilderich, evidently functioned as a link between Salzburg and Leopold of Habsburg, who, along with his brother Albrecht III, had been one of Pilgrim’s earliest supporters at the time of his election to the see.

(Anti-)Pope Clement VII receiving the Duke of Anjou in Jean Froissart’s Chroniques. Paris, BnF, fonds fr. 2664, f. 10v.


Wilderich’s installation in Salzburg preceded the announcement of the Provincial council in Salzburg in 1380, when Pilgrim hoped to win over his diocese for Clementine cause. The omens for this looked relatively good, given the support Pilgrim could count on from his nephew Johann von Neidperg, whom he had installed in the suffragan bishopric of Seckau, and the Bishop of Brixen, Friedrich von Erdingen, who was also Leopold III’s chancellor and open Clementist. Similarly, the fact that Leopold III was himself in Salzburg, might have been hoped to tip the scales.


Unfortunately for Pilgrim, he had not reckoned with his longstanding enemies in the cathedral Chapter in Salzburg, and the aging Bishop of Lavanttal, Heinrich Krapff, both of them in the end loyal to Rome. After the failure of Salzburg’s open support for the Avignon cause, Wilderich was unable to remain in the city for much longer and, in 1381, travelled to safety in Freiburg with Pilgrim’s associate Guillaume d’Aigrefeuille the younger. (This protection has been attributed to Leopold III, although as a previous post of mine suggested,  Pilgrim was not unconnected to this extraordinary Avignonese ecclesiastical dynasty.) Aigrefeuille, travelling the Empire trying to drum up support for the Clementine cause, had himself planned to travel to Salzburg for the Council, but was detained in Metz. It is intriguing to wonder whether his presence might have won over the Archdiocese of Salzburg. From Freiburg, Wilderich travelled to Avignon, where he was named adiutor sacrii palatii, before later being sent back to the German Empire in 1389 as representative of the Avignon papacy. His last known position was that of counsellor to Leopold III’s son Leopold IV in 1406.


Weaving a path between the Habsburg rulers of Austria, the still-rising star of the Luxemburg dynasty in Prague and multiple different strongholds in the Church, Wilderich demonstrates eloquently the complex web of acquaintance and favours that held together medieval power structures. And some of these favours were all to the good for Wilderich, such as when he had his brother named judge of the town of Laufen while he held the benefice. While he may figure in the history books for the most part as orbiting around Great Men, Wilderich, who left such a mark on Pilgrim that his successors in the chancery in Salzburg were titled only ‘secretary’ and, not ‘chancellor’, was himself clearly no mean mover and shaker.




Further Reading

Klein, Herbert, ‘Erzbischof Pilgrim II. von Puchheim (1365-1396)’, Mitteilungen der Gesellschaft für Salzburger Landeskunde, 112/113 (1972/1973), 13–71

Lackner, Christian, Hof und Herrschaft: Rat, Kanzlei und Regierung der österreichischen Herzoge (1365–1406), Mitteilungen des Instituts für Österreichische Geschichtsforschung, Erg. 41 (Vienna: Oldenbourg, 2002)

Moraw, Peter, ‘Die Juristenuniversität in Prag (1372-1419), verfassungs ind sozialgeschichtlich betrachtet’, in Gesammelte Beiträge zur deutschen und europäischen Universitätsgeschichte: Strukturen – Personen – Entwicklungen, Education and Society in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, 31 (Leiden: Brill, 2008), pp. 101-159

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