Thilo von Trotha

No visitor to the city and cathedral of Merseburg can fail to notice the traces left by Bishop Thilo von Trotha. His coat of arms, which can be seen on many buildings and shows a raven with a golden ring in its beak, is a reminder of the construction activity during the reign of Thilo von Trotha (1466-1514). 1514). 

The legend associated with the bishop’s coat of arms tells of a hot-tempered person with a tendency to make rash decisions. The bishop is said to have once misplaced his signet ring and to have suspected his servant Johann of the theft. The latter denied the crime, but Bishop Thilo had him executed without the ring having been found. A little later, when a storm blew the nest of a raven into the courtyard of Merseburg Palace, the bishop’s signet ring was found there. Dismayed by his rash decision, the bishop is said to have included the raven with the golden ring in its beak in his coat of arms as a warning to his family. Since then, a raven has always lived in an aviary in the courtyard of Merseburg Palace.

Consulting the many sources on Bishop Thilo, you are left with the picture of a bishop who was belligerent but dynamic. The bishop became involved in numerous disputes and had the tenacity to see them through until he gained the advantage. Thus, in the late 15th century, he succeeded in enlarging the territory of the bishopric, buying up many noble estates and intensifying the cultivation of the episcopal estates, for example by building ponds. All this was accompanied by an intensive expansion of written administration and the enlargement of the episcopal chancellery. Bishop Thilo maintained good relations with the neighbouring Wettins, who had always sought to curtail the rights of the small Bishopric of Merseburg.  

His successful policy ultimately resulted in the magnificent new buildings and alterations to the palace, cathedral and Merseburg chapter house, which are still the defining features of Merseburg’s skyline today. The cathedral and palace are the architectural evidence of an extremely prosperous epoch in Merseburg’s history. Bishop Thilo’s long reign, of almost half a century, was also significant. This created stable administrative and constitutional structures that were still effective well into the 16th century. As he became weaker with age, Bishop Thilo, together with the cathedral chapter, appointed the Magdeburg cathedral dean Adolf von Anhalt as his coadjutor in 1505. After the death of Thilo von Trotha in 1514, Adolf von Anhalt assumed the office of Bishop of Merseburg.

Bishop Thilo was buried in the Bishop’s Chapel, which had been splendidly decorated by him. His table tomb as well as an epitaph originate from the famous workshop of Peter Vischer in Nuremberg. He is rightly one of the most famous figures in the history of Merseburg.

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