11th Bishop of Litomerice, Czech Republic

11th Bishop of Litomerice, Czech Republic

We had a nice visitors in Litomerice – Colin and his wife Edith Colston. Edith is Austrian (her father, Wilhelm Hille, was a country doctor in a small village near Freistadt, what is the first town of any size if one drives into Austria from Prague heading for Linz) and her forbears come from a wide area in central Europe. One of them, Augustin Bartholomäus HILLE, appears to had been Bishop of Leitmeritz (then) now called Litomerice. Edith and Colin came to stay for three nights  – Thursday, 17th, Friday, 18th and Saturday, 19th May 2007 in Litomerice. They met recent bishops Mons. Josef Koukl and the current Bishop Mons. Pavel Posad. They also met Ivana a Jan Grimm, which are from the family of 9th bishop Josef Frantisek Hurdalek.

The meeting of Colston and Grimm family

The meeting of Colston and Grimm family

Augustin Bartolomej Hille

Born 02.12.1786 Velky Šenov u Šluknova

Nominated 31.12.1831 by Francis I, Emperor of Austria

Ratified 02.07.1832 in Rome by Pope Gregory XVI.

Ordained Bishop on 16.09.1832 in Prague, All Saints Church

Enthroned 07.10.1832 at Litomerice (Leitmeritz)

Died 26.04.1865 in Litomerice (Leitmeritz)

Picture of the bishop Hille;

Picture of the bishop Hille

The enthronement of Augustin Bartholomew Hille took place on 07.10.1832 in St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Litomerice. He was the fourth non-aristocratic bishop of the Leitmeritz diocese. He was born on 02 December 1786 in Velky Šenov, near the town of Šluknov, the fifth of seven children of the tailor John Joseph Hille (Jan Josef Hille) and his mother Mary Magdalena (family name: Paulová = the Pauľs family). The Hille family was very devout and had revered the statue of the Nativity of the Virgin Mary at the holy shrine in Česká Kamenice (Bohmisch Chemnitz). He attended the elementary school in his home village and very soon was found to be a talented boy. He was the best student in his class and he loved singing, especially in the church. He was fortunate in his parents because his father was a member of the choir. From the age of 10 Augustin Hille wanted to be a priest. But because the family was poor they could not support their son in his studies. The boy, Augustin, realized how poor his family was and begged his father to allow him to study on the condition that his impoverished family would not support him and that he would make his own way. His very devoted mother interceded for her son and in the end his father agreed with this decision.

He started to study at the Old Prague City Grammar School in the autumn of 1800. He had to put up with considerable hardship in Prague but, as a talented singer he got a job in St. Stephen’s Church in Prague and so earned an income. He also had a poorly paid job. Both, however, enabled him to study and later he gave lessons to younger but better off students. From time to time he was also helped by benefactors. After finishing grammar school he studied philosophy for two years. There his professor was the famous B. Bolzano who helped this brilliant student to become a member of the Prague archdiocese. During this time Augustin Hille also studied astronomy as a hobby. In the end he decided to study theology in his own diocese in Litomerice (Leitmeritz). From the beginning of his studies he was an excellent student and was a “Prefect” which meant that he had responsibility for those fellow students who had private apartments. He was the top graduate in Litomerice and on 23 April 1810 he was ordained priest by bishop Chlumčansky (Chlumcansky). He celebrated his first holy mass in St. Bartholomew’s Church where he had been baptized and from which he got his second name.

He became an assistant to the pastor of Šluknov (Sluknov) in the autumn of 1810. He took his priesthood very seriously and through his devotion and eagerness he won many souls for Christ and became very popular. Not only Catholics but also Protestants came from Saxony, which is near to Sluknov, to listen to his preaching. He was the trusted pupil of Bolzano. Very soon he published articles in theological and educational journals. One was his very important essay: “Is Obstruction necessary between Protestants and Catholics?” This essay was accepted very positively. The Apostolic Vicar in Saxony, Doctor Schneider, also a pupil of Bolsano, and former secretary to Bishop Hurdálek (9th bishop of Litomerice) had the essay published. This essay was reprinted four times and was positively accepted by both Catholics and Protestants. It was translated into Polish and also into Latin. And so Father Hille’s name became well known not only within the diocese but also in Vienna and Rome.

This essay was published at the time when Bishop Hurdalek was looking for a new Rector for the Seminary for priests. He chose the young Augustin Hille. He was confirmed as Rector of the Seminary by the new bishop of Litomerice, Vincenc Eduard Milde. He was given an apartment in the Capitular´s House on Domske Square No. 4 (which is still used by capitulars today). There he taught pastoral theology and started work on the statutes for a new seminary. At that time there was also an investigation and sacking of followers of Bolsano as well as followers of the Josephinian heresy and of nationalists. Young Hille wrote theological articles which were published by the man investigating him, Jakub Frint, and as a result he was not sacked. In his new position as Rector of the Seminary he had published: “Apologetics of the Catholic Teaching” and “Catholic Teaching on Indulgences”.

For his good work as Rector and publisher he was promoted by bishop Milde and became Consistorial Counsellor in 1823, Prebendary in 1826, Censor of Publishing in 1827 and in 1831 Residentiary of Cejnoviani of the St. Stephen Chapter House (founded in the year 1057 AD).

When Bishop Milde was moved to Vienna Augustin Hille, as priest-vicar, became leader of the diocese as general-vicar. The Emperor who had been made aware of the articles and activities of Hille did not hesitate and so, on 31 December 1832, nominated him bishop of the diocese. Pope Gregory XVI confirmed this decision on 02 July 1832. The bishop’s ordination, on Hille’s request, took place on 16 September 1832, the day of the tenth anniversary of his mother’s death and the feast of St. Ludmila, in All Saints church in Prague Castle. The main ordainer was the archbishop of Prague, Alois Josef Earl of Kolovrat-Krakovsky (Kolovrat-Cracow); the co-ordainers were the bishop of Hradec Kralove (König Granze), Karel Hanl (born in Krbice u Zatce), and the Abbot of Strahov monastery in Prague, Jan Benedikt Pfeiffer O.Praem (John Benedict Pfeiffer, of the order of St. Norbertus). The enthronement was in Litomerice on 07 October 1832 with many priests and their flocks attending. Shortly, less than a week after his ordination, he started to celebrate the sacraments.

Bishop Hille started work on his duties very energetically. When there was a plague of cholera in Bohemia in the autumn of 1832 he reacted by publishing the letter “The Teaching of the Word of God in the Time of Suffering”. Whereas the main emphasis of his activities before had been on pastoral care, he now concentrated his efforts on the spiritual growth of Christian communities and on cooperation with the priests. He boosted spiritual exercise (retreats) and every year there were about 70 participants.

He was the founder of the first Seminary for boys in Bohemia in 1851 and he was also responsible for the priests’ seminary. For the Boys’ Seminary he had used the Emperor´s castle in Horni Police (Oben Policz) near Litomerice. Because there were more and more students (about 100), two years later he wanted to move the “Little Seminary” to Bohosudov (near the town of Teplice – today it is the Bishop´s Grammar School). The foundation-stone for the “Little Seminary” was laid in the spring of 1853. Bishop Hille did not forget about elementary schools and he also worked for a better level of education. He considered Visitations to parishes as very important. He went at least twice to every parish (there were almost 500) and to the big parishes he went several times.

Most of his personal correspondence he did himself but he was also meticulous in dealing with official documents of the Bishop´s Consistory. His letters are of a deep spirituality and ascetic thinking. We have his correspondence which shows his wide connections and the matters most important to him. As yet, his correspondence has not been systematically analysed. He was hard working and had no vicar-general till the year 1858 when he nominated Capitular Vaclav Kara who was to work as vicar-general for the next 27 years. Bishop Hille was excellent in his choice of team members.

In his activities he was humble as well as talented and he knew the human soul like a good psychologist. This led to the development of the diocese and a better quality of priests. He encouraged them to teach in the schools, to educate themselves and to give pastoral care to the sick. He established a fund for sick priests which made him popular with the priests. We have letters sent from parishes during his illness in the year 1844 testifying to his popularity. There was a pamphlet which vilified the bishop in the revolutionary year of 1848 but the clergy publicly stood on his side. He had time for every priest to help him in his personal and spiritual needs.

Before that, in Linz (Austria), a quarterly journal, the “Quartalschrift,” was published in which he set out his thoughts on theology.

He also supported Czech speaking priests with donations to enable them to publish Czech books. For example, for the edition of the first part of the Book of Liturgy, written by the Rev Vojtech Hnojek, Bishop Hille donated 6 ducats. He encouraged the church historian, Antonin Ludvik Frind, to write The History of the Czech Church (A L Frind later became 13th bishop of Litomerice).

Bishop Hille attached great importance to a thorough education for the clergy and wished every 10 parishes to have their own library and for all clergy in a parish to attend periodic conferences.

He thought about the welfare of poor priests and established funds to help them. This led to the foundation of a senior house in Bohosudov to which he encouraged priests to give money.

Bishop Hille, as a former Rector of the priests’ Seminary, looked for the best professors in the Austro-Hungarian Empire for his students. He offered the professors good salaries and encouraged the study of ascetics, science and citizenship. The programme of studies in the Seminary in Litomerice was based on the style of education at the Theological Institute in Salzburg. He was exacting in choosing the new candidates to the priesthood. In his time the number of students (alumni) rose from 70 to 120 in Litomerice. Some of the best students became eminent professors throughout the Empire: Dr Simunek in Salzburg, Dr Mayer in Prague, Dr Zschoke in Vienna, Dr Rössler in Budapest, to mention just a few. From among the graduates of the priests’ seminary in Litomerice later dignitaries emerged, e.g. the next bishop of Litomerice, Antonin Ludvik Frind (Anthony Ludwig Frind) and Vaclav Antonin Frind (Wenceslas Anthony Frind); the King's chaplain the Rev’d Machacek in Dresden; the governor’s advisor, the Rev’d Jaksch in Prague, etc.

Some, having joined the Jesuit order, came back to the town of Bohosudov in 1804 and exerted a strong influence not only on the spiritual development of the whole diocese but also on the missionary-preachers.

Bishop Hille promoted the publication of good books and devotional literature of a high level. He fought against the publication of bad and immoral literature. He was enthusiastic about the use of the Czech language in worship. He wrote the book: “Sunday Afternoon´s Piousness and Feasts in the Church Year” and the Litany which became very popular in the other dioceses, e.g. in Ceske Budejovice (Budweis diocese). He also improved church and choir music. He considered Eucharistic worship very important and ordered every priest to celebrate the Eucharist every day in Church. He established the new Feast Day of the Sacred Heart of Jesus which is on the Friday next to the octave of the Feast of Corpus Christi. He propagated the veneration of the Virgin Mary in the month of May and devotion to the patrons of Litomerice diocese – St. Stephen, St. Felix and St. Victorin.

His social conscience led him to establish factories based on Christian social teaching. There was the textile factory and spinning factory, under the leadership of the Capuchin from Switzerland, in the town of Horni Litvinov, which was later administered by Nuns of the Holy Cross. This project unfortunately failed due to unfavourable external conditions.

He ordained priests not only in the Cathedral but also in parishes and religious houses, e.g. Velky Senov, Osek, Liberec etc. He re-consecrated the old baroque St. Wenceslas church in Litomerice which, in the time of the Josephinian reformation, had been used for storage. This church had been repaired and refurnished and on 20 October 1852 it was solemnly consecrated. In the same way he saved the St. Lawrence and the St. John chapels in Litomerice. He initiated the construction of new churches and chapels. During his episcopate more than 30 churches and chapels were built for which he paid.

Bishop Hille was interested in the education of all people in the diocese. This resulted in the foundation of The Pedagogical Institute. He founded the School for Girls under the leadership of the nuns of St. Carolus Borromeus. These Nuns went on to found similar schools in many parts of the diocese, e.g. in the towns of Teplice, Osek and Zakupy. The Nuns of Notre Dame in Liberec (town), Cross Nuns in the towns of Duchcov, Litvinov and Chomutov also founded schools. He published the book “Deus lux laetitia et salus meus” for students.

After he had discovered a high number of deaf and dumb people without professional help in his diocese, he sent the Rev’d Mares to Vienna to get the latest and best information available at the time about a hospital for deaf and dumb people. Following the example of the hospital in Vienna he built the new special hospital in the year 1861 for people suffering from this handicap (today The Diocese House of Cardinal Trochta). After this achievement 10 new hospitals and orphanages were founded. The medical care was provided mostly by nuns.

He also considered religious orders of great importance in his diocese. He very often made a visitation and encouraged them to uphold spiritual customs and traditions. He became known in the Austro-Hungarian Empire as the specialist for religious life and he was asked to be Visitor-General of the Cistercian monks in the whole Empire. He managed his visitation in one month and suggested the plan for the reorganization of this Order.

Bishop Hille was in regular contact with Cardinal Schwarzenberg – the archbishop in Prague. He put forward new proposals at the Synod of the Czech Church Province in Prague from 08 to 24 November 1860. He welcomed to his table priests, clerks, representatives etc. The visitors gave him new information about life and problems facing citizens in each of the regions. Personally he was a very modest man. He was even more modest than some of the priests.

This German speaking bishop had supported Slavic activities by the Czech population in his diocese which consisted mostly of German speaking people. For example: The Capitular Pesina z Cechorodu (1782–1859) established The St. John´s Fund for the publication of Czech books and Bishop Hille was the first donor.

His influence extended beyond the diocese of Litomerice. He was awarded the Doctorate Honoris Causa at the Charles University in Prague in 1848.

He celebrated fifty years of his priesthood in 1860. After that celebration he started to feel unwell. His health was bad and he started to write instructions in case of his death for the Cathedral Chapter House on 02 February 1864.

During Easter of 1865 he was very ill and he received the Last Sacrament on 26 April 1865. There was a procession of priests and students (alumni) from St. Stephen’s Cathedral to the Bishop’s Residence with the Sanctissimum. The dying bishop blessed all of them praying: “Christ have mercy, have mercy on me in the moment of my death”. And he died before midnight.

There was an unbelievably large number of people from all parts of the diocese at his funeral on 02 May 1865 and more than 120 priests attended. The bishop was buried in the crypt in the cemetery in Litomerice. In his case also the old tradition was adhered to – after the death of the bishop his heart was removed and placed in a silver box which was then put into a pillar in St. Stephen’s Cathedral. There is the marble tablet which, in Latin, gives a brief account of his life. He was respected and loved. For many years after his death his tomb was covered by flowers and wreaths until his contemporaries died.

Bishop Augustin Bartolomeus Hille died after 55 years of priesthood at the age of 79 years. He led his diocese for 33 years. His life and work became examples not only in the Empire but in other countries as well. The first evaluation of his life was published by Th Dr A L Frind in the second part of the book “Church History in Bohemia”.

Written by Mr. Jaroslav Macek, Chancellor of the diocese of Litomerice, 2005, © Translated by Martin Davidek

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