Melchior von Diepenbrock

Portrait of Melchior von Diepenbrock, c. 1850.


Melchior von Diepenbrock

The texts in Flämisches Stillleben were selected and translated into German by Melchior von Diepenbrock (1798-1853). When Flämisches Stillleben was first published in the spring of 1845, Von Diepenbrock had just been elected Prince-Bishop of Breslau (Wrocław). Von Diepenbrock was born in Bocholt, a city in Westphalia close to the Dutch border. Having attended the military academy, he volunteered in the campaign against Napoleon in 1815, but soon grew dissatisfied with the military. Through the Romantic writer Clemens Brentano (1778-1842), he became acquainted with the theologian Johann Michael Sailer (1751-1832) and the mystic Anna Katharina Emmerick (1774-1824), who inspired him to study theology. When Sailer was appointed Bishop of Ratisbon (Regensburg) in 1823, Von Diepenbrock followed him to Regensburg and was ordained priest there.

In addition to his activities as a priest, Von Diepenbrock translated the play La vida es sueño by Pedro Calderón de la Barca (1600-1681) and poems by Lope de Vega (1562-1635) and others from Spanish. He published these poems together with poems by himself and other German-language authors in the anthology Geistlicher Blumenstrauß aus spanischen und deutschen Dichtergärten (Sulzbach, 1829). Furthermore, as a specialist in medieval mysticism, in 1829 he published a study on the fourteenth-century mystic Heinrich Seuse (Heinrich Susos, genannt Amandus, Leben und Schriften, Regensburg). Collections of his sermons and letters have also been published during his lifetime.

During Von Diepenbrock’s reign as Bishop of Breslau (from 1845 to his death in 1853), the impoverished region of Silesia was struck by disease, famine, and unemployment. Von Diepenbrock dealt with these social issues by building up charitable organizations, orphanages and hospitals. The statement on the front page of Flämisches Stillleben that the proceeds of the publication (of which especially Was eine Mutter leiden kann and Wie man Maler wird address themes of hunger and poverty) were to go to the poor, illustrates this commitment.

Von Diepenbrock has not translated any other texts by Hendrik Conscience, but his introduction of Conscience’s works to a catholic audience is considered an important factor for Conscience’s success in the German-language area and beyond (Van Uffelen 56–57). Conscience himself was fully aware of the impact Von Diepenbrock had on his literary career, and he expressed his gratitude in one of his letters to Von Diepenbrock: “Votre bonté m’a acquis une place exceptionelle dans la littérature de mon pays” (Conscience 403).

Select Bibliography

Conscience, Hendrik. Brieven aan Melchior, baron van Diepenbrock, prinsbisschop van Breslau. Edited by A Nowack, Vanderpoorten, 1933.

Stasiewski, Bernhard. “Melchior von Diepenbrock.” Die Bischöfe der deutschsprachigen Länder 1785/1803 bis 1945. Ein biographisches Lexikon., edited by Erwin Gatz, Duncker & Humblot, 1983, pp. 126–30.

Van Uffelen, Herbert. Moderne niederländische Literatur im deutschen Sprachraum 1830-1990. Zentrum für Niederlande-Studien, 1993.