CHRISTOPH VON UTENHEIM (c. 1450-1527) was Bishop of Basel from 1502 until his resignation from that office in 1527.
Christoph von Utenheim was born about the year 1450. He studied
theology and canon law at the
University of Basel
While many bishops in the empire treated their office as a way to
aggrandize the power and wealth of their particular family, von
Utenheim appeared to take his spiritual duties as bishop seriously.
His motto was "Spes mea crux Christi; gratiam, non opera quaero" which
translates to "The cross of Christ is my hope; I seek mercy, not
works". This profession was also the motto of
Von Utenhiem may have had some conciliarist sympathies but subsequent actions paint him as more of a humanist than anything else. In 1503 the new bishop called together a synod for the purposes of reforming his diocese . The noted humanist scholar Jacob Wimpfeling was invited by the bishop to attend this synod. Any attempts at actual reform in the diocese of Basel however were halted because of the refusal of the cathedral chapter to cooperate with the reforming bishop.
This early failure to correct abuses in his diocese did not
discourage von Utenheim from reformist enterprises however. He
continued his attempts to regenerate the life of his clergy. At one
point the reforming bishop "warned his clergy not to curl their hair
with curling-tongs, nor to carry on trade in the churches, or to raise
a disturbance there, not to keep drinking booths or to engage in
horse-dealing, and not to buy stolen property." In 1515 he invited
Johannes Oecolampadius to serve as his cathedral preacher at Basel
Münster . While serving under Bishop von Utenheim, Oecolampadius
demonstrated his reforming fervor when he criticized the introduction
of humorous stories into
By the time Oecolampadius left Basel in 1520 the Reformation was already underway. Throughout the 1520s von Utenheim held on as bishop in Basel as the Reformation , a movement which increasingly ignored established episcopal authority, steadily gained momentum in the city. On 26 January 1524 the beleaguered von Utenheim, along with the bishops of Lausanne and Konstanz , complained at the Diet of Luzerne of the deteriorization of ecclesiastical unity. A program of reform for the three bishoprics was laid out at the Diet but was never enacted.
This slow decline in the bishop's authority continued and culminated in his resignation on 19 February 1527. Von Utenheim relocated to the town of Pruntrut along with his cathedral chapter. He died shortly after leaving Basel and his burial took place in Delsberg . In retrospect von Utenheim can be grouped with contemporary bishops of the Catholic Church