Mobility of elites from the Electorate of Mainz

- this was the topic of our seminar in the summer term of 2022 whose aim was creating maps on a topic of regional history. The theoretical starting point was recent research postulating that traditional maps with their clearly delineated areas and unambiguous lines did not do justice to the complex structure of the Holy Roman Empire, which did not know unambiguous territorial affiliations that one could represent as uniformly coloured areas.

The closed-off territorial state developed only slowly and was not yet fully developed anywhere in early modern Europe, not even at the end of the 18th century, but it already characterises the map images produced for the earlier centuries. In addition, spaces are not only constituted by political-legal categories, but also by manifold social, juridical, confessional or economic ties.

This also includes the lives and career paths of people. For elites in particular, it is true that they did not just stay within the borders of a territory, but had a high degree of mobility to study, to act, to hold office, etc., so that their lives show how much they moved between borders and structures. This can also be seen in the example of the cathedral provosts of Mainz, on whom the seminar focused because of the comparatively favourable source and literature situation.

The Electorate of Mainz was a so-called spiritual state, i.e. the Archbishop and Elector of Mainz was spiritual and secular head in one person. The Electorate of Mainz is the subject of a sub-project of the DigiKAR research project, with which the seminar cooperated closely by drawing on the expertise gathered there and, conversely, making the data compiled in the seminar available to DigiKAR for subsequent use.

The curricula vitae of 14 noblemen who held the office of cathedral provost in Mainz between 1650 and the end of the electoral state around 1800 were examined in detail. Important stations in the lives of these people were defined and researched so that they could then be visualised on maps according to specific questions. The criterion for a station in life was that it had to have had a lasting influence on the respective life, so that, for example, study visits, cavalier tours, elevations to the cathedral chapters as well as secular and clerical offices were recorded. The latter played a special role, as many of the lords were members not only of Mainz, but of several other cathedral chapters and were elected to various offices there; some even rose to the office of bishop. The stations in the lives of the canons show that they did not only move within the boundaries of the Mainz diocese or in Electorate Mainz, but also assumed offices or benefices in other dioceses or were sent as envoys, e.g. to the Perpetual Diet in Regensburg or to other courts, depending on family origins and personal abilities, but also health and coincidences. Their cross-border mobility shows the dynamic conditions in the Old Empire and counteracts the idea of an empire that could be depicted in a few maps with clear borders and uniform areas: the cathedral provosts of Mainz exemplify on a small scale what (probably) applied to all elites of the Roman-German Empire.

The availabilty of early modern sources is, of course, only comparatively high when constrated with the Middle Ages: Researching the individual biographies of the cathedral provosts from Mainz was a time-consuming process during which many new insights could be gained, but questions and problems arose that had to be answered and solved. Literature on the individual cathedral chapters and dioceses, biographies of individual persons associated with the cathedral chapters, collections of inscriptions, university enrollment lists, and various other research works were consulted. Moreover, we also analysed early modern material printed material such as Mainz court and state calendars and send source-related inquiries to archives. Nevertheless, only approximate dates could be determined for some events, while we were only able to identify the date and type of event in other cases, lacking information on the location. When conflicting information was available, decisions had to be made as to which information should be given preference. After a phase of relatively broad research into the lives of the cathedral provosts, it was decided that the visualisation should concentrate on the ecclesiastical offices held by the cathedral provosts, as these are relatively well documented and have special significance for an ecclesiastical state and its elites. In addition to an interactive map, static maps with different focal points were created to trace these careers:

For comprehension purposes, the maps are each provided with a short description that briefly explains the research objective, the clerics depicted as well as the most important cartographic symbols.

First draft: Lukas Theobald, August 2022

Final version: Bettina Braun, October 2022

Translation: Monika Barget