Dorpat , Bishopric of


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Dorpat (Tartu), Bishopric of

 

a feudal state in Livonia that occupied the southeastern portion of the present-day Estonian SSR. It was founded in 1224 by Albert, the bishop of Riga, who led the aggression of German crusaders in the Baltic region.

The head of the Bishopric of Dorpat was a Catholic bishop elected by the cathedral chapter—a collegium of the highest local cathedral clergy. The bishop of Dorpat was an important feudal landowner, and ecclesiastic feudal lords as well as the Teutonic Knights cruelly exploited the local Estonian and Russian population. The bishop also administered church affairs in the lands west of the Bishopric of Dorpat (as far as the Gulf of Riga and the Bay of Parnu on the Baltic). He granted these lands to the Order of the Knights of the Sword. During the Middle Ages the bishopric was in fact dependent on the Livonian Order, which had inherited the domains of the Knights of the Sword. The Bishopric of Dorpat pursued a policy of hostility toward the Russian lands. Weakened by internecine feudal strife and the Reformation of the early 16th century, the Bishopric of Dorpat ceased to exist at the beginning of the Livonian War of 1558-83.