1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Constance
CONSTANCE (Ger. Konstanz or Costnitz), a town in the grand-duchy of Baden. It is built, at a height of 1303 ft. above the sea, on the S. or left bank of the Rhine, just as it issues from the Lake of Constance to form the Untersee. The town communicates by steamer with all the places situated on the shores of the Lake of Constance, while by rail it is 30 or 31 m. by one or other bank of the Rhine from Schaffhausen (on the W.) and 22½ m. along the S.W. shore of the lake from Rorschach (S.E.). In 1905 it numbered 24,818 inhabitants, mostly German-speaking and Romanists. A fine bridge leads north over the Rhine to one suburb, Petershausen, while to the south the town gradually merges into the Swiss suburb of Kreuzlingen. It is a picturesque little town, with several noteworthy medieval buildings. The former cathedral church was mainly built 1069–1089, but was later gothicized; near the west end of the nave a plate in the floor marks the spot where Huss stood when condemned to death, while in the midst of the choir is the brass which covered the grave of Robert Hallam, bishop of Salisbury, who died here in 1417, during the council. The old Dominican convent, on an island east of the town, is now turned into a hotel, but the buildings (especially the cloisters) are well preserved. The 14th century Kaufhaus (warehouse for goods) was the scene of the conclave that elected Martin V., but the council really sat in the cathedral church. The town-hall dates from 1592, and has many points of interest. In the market-place, side by side, are two houses wherein two important historical events are said to have taken place—in the “Gasthaus zum Barbarossa” Frederick Barbarossa signed the peace of Constance (1183), while in the house named “zum Hohen Hafen” the emperor Sigismund invested Frederick of Hohenzollern with the mark of Brandenburg (1417). On the outskirts of the town, to the west, in the Brühl suburb, a stone marks the spot where Hus and Jerome of Prague were burnt to death. The Rosgarten museum contains various interesting collections. Constance is the centre of a brisk transit trade, while it has various factories and other industrial establishments.
Constance owes its fame, not to the Roman station that existed here, but to the fact that it was a bishop’s see from the 6th century (when it was transferred hither from Vindonissa, near Brugg, in the Aargau) till its suppression in 1821, after having been secularized in 1803 and having lost, in 1814–1815, its Swiss portions. The bishop was a prince of the Holy Roman Empire, while his diocese was one of the largest in Germany, including (shortly before the Reformation) most of Baden and Württemberg, and 12 out of the 22 Swiss cantons (all the region on the right bank of the Aar, save the portions included in the diocese of Coire)—in it were comprised 350 monasteries, 1760 benefices and 17,000 priests. It was owing to this important position that the see city of the diocese was selected as the scene of the great reforming council, 1414–1418 (see below), which deposed all three rival popes, elected a new one, Martin V., and condemned to death by fire John Huss (6th of July 1415) and Jerome of Prague (23rd of May 1416). In 1192 (some writers say in 1255) the city became an imperial free city, but the bishop and his chapter practically ruled it till the time of the Reformation. Constance is the natural capital of the Thurgau, so that when in 1460 the Swiss wrested that region from the Austrians, the town and the Swiss Confederation should have been naturally drawn together. But Constance refused to give up to the Swiss the right of exercising criminal jurisdiction in the Thurgau, which it had obtained from the emperor in 1417, while the Austrians, having bought Bregenz (in two parts, 1451 and 1523), were very desirous of securing the well-placed city for themselves. In 1530 Constance (whose bishop had been forced to flee in 1527 to Meersburg, on the other side of the lake, and from that time the episcopal residence) joined, with Strassburg, Memmingen and Lindau, the Schmalkalden League. But after the great defeat of the Protestants in 1547, in the battle of Mühlberg, the city found itself quite isolated in southern Germany. The Austrians had long tried to obtain influence in the town, especially when its support of the Protestant cause attracted the sympathy of the Swiss. Hence Charles V. lost no time, and in 1548 forced it, after a bloody, though unsuccessful, fight on the bridge over the Rhine, not merely to surrender to the imperial authority and to receive the bishop again, but also to consent to annexation to the Austrian family dominions. Protestantism was then vigorously stamped out. In 1633 Constance resisted successfully an attempt of the Swedes to take it, and, in 1805, by the treaty of Pressburg, was handed over by Austria to Baden.
See S. J. Capper, The Shores and Cities of the Bodensee (London, 1881); G. Gsell-Fels, Der Bodensee (Munich, 1893); Bruckmann’s illustrierte Reiseführer; E. Issel, Die Reformation in Konstanz (Freiburg i/B., 1898); F. X. Kraus, Die Kunstdenkmäler des Kreises Konstanz (Freiburg i/B., 1887); J. Laible, Geschichte der Stadt Konstanz (Konstanz, 1896); A. Maurer, Der Übergang der Stadt Konstanz an das Haus Österreich (Frauenfeld, 1904). (W. A. B. C.)