Friday, May 31, 2024

Today, on the Christian History Almanac, we remember a curious Prince Archbishop at the end of the Holy Roman Empire and his connection to Mozart.

It is the 31st of May 2024. Welcome to the Christian History Almanac, brought to you by 1517 at; I’m Dan van Voorhis.


The Holy Roman Empire was a funny thing. Yes, it was neither “holy” nor “Roman” nor an “empire” according to the famous epithet. But here is this amalgamation of European power centuries after the fall of Rome that holds a tentative grasp over the people—some people—not just through the Middle Ages, Renaissance, and Reformation but through the age of revolutions until the destruction wrought by Napoleon in the early 1800s.

Lasting as long as it did, the final years were marked by strange idiosyncratic positions and titles- take, for instance, the curious Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg. Royalty? A church leader? Did you need a bloodline? Seminary training? Such were the problems of a transition between “Christendom” and a secular state. And we see this peculiar mix and a connection to, perhaps, the greatest composer of all time in the character of (take a deep breath) Hieronymus Joseph Franz de Paula Graf Colloredo von Wallsee und Melz.

Hieronymous is Latin for “Jerome,” so we will call him “Jerome the Count of Colloredo (among other things). Jerome was born on the 31st of May in 1713 in Vienna, the son of a count and countess at the closing of the Baroque age. Early 18th century Vienna was a symbol of Habsburg opulence, but as the Enlightenment wore on, this could become a liability.  

Jerome was a canon in Salzburg—a clergy member—since 1747 after an education in Vienna and Rome. He was elected to the Prince-Archbishopric in 1772 and held the position until the position (and the so-called empire) was dissolved in 1803.

He was a controversial choice as many saw him as over-domineering, especially so when it came to his reforms. Just as Jerome, the Count of Colloredo, and elsewhere was coming into power, so too was the Holy Roman Emperor, the Austrian Habsburg Joseph II.

Jerome and the new Emperor sought to modernize along Enlightenment lines. There was a call to social welfare and benefits for the poor; there were agrarian reforms and an emphasis on education and science- these would have them known as “enlightened despots”- sure, heavy-handed but for the good of the people! But it was the religious reforms that hit closest to home for Salzburg.

Jerome, Count and Archbishop, was certainly a catholic- raised in an austere Catholic home, and given the benefits the church could offer in a Catholic land, he saw no reason to leave the church. However, the new Enlightenment watchword was “tolerance”- not a broad “anything goes” but rather an acknowledgment that some reforms were necessary and non-Catholics could receive civil benefits (all of this sounds normal to us moderns, but this toleration is a child of the Enlightenment, not Reformation).

One of Jerome’s concerns was the length of the church service. The Archbishop himself was a musician and cared a good bit for the arts- in fact, he was one of the first to give a regular paying job to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, although the two both had pointed personalities and would clash- Mozart would recall being called a “knave” and a “clown” by the Archbishop’s Chamberlain at the bidding of Jerome himself. As Wolfgang left the city, he claimed that Salzburg was dead.

However, the church services were getting too long, and thus, the Prince-Archbishop had them cut elements of the mass. That, his confiscation of some monasteries for civic use, and his outlawing of pilgrimages led old-school Catholics to suggest that he was, in fact,  a “crypto-Lutheran,” although this was not at all the case.

The Count of Colloredo would stay on until the news of Napoleon’s advancing army in Austria led him to flee the city. In the wake of reorganization, Jerome still claimed to be the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg until his death in 1812, and Salzburg would be integrated into the Empire of Austria, ending the comic tragedy of the Holy Roman Empire and names like Hieronymus Joseph Franz de Paula Graf Colloredo von Wallsee und Melz. 


 The last word for today is from the daily lectionary and some gold from Romans 8:

31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? 33 Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. 34 Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. 35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written:

“For your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.


This has been the Christian History Almanac for the 31st of May 2024, brought to you by 1517 at

The show is produced by the Prince-Archbishop of Random Lake, Christopher Gillespie.

The show is written and read by a person known to be called both a “clown” and a “knave.”  I’m Dan van Voorhis.

You can catch us here every day- and remember that the rumors of grace, forgiveness, and the redemption of all things are true…. Everything is going to be ok.

Subscribe to the Christian History Almanac

Subscribe to the Christian History Almanac

Subscribe (it’s free!) in your favorite podcast app.

More From 1517