Philipp Christoph von Sötern

Philipp Christoph von Sötern (1567–1652) was the Prince-Bishop of Speyer from 1610 to 1652 and the Archbishop-Elector of Trier from 1623 to 1652.

Philipp Christoph von Sötern
Archbishop of Trier
Philipp Christoph von Sötern.jpg
ChurchCatholic Church
DioceseElectorate of Trier
In office1623–1652
Personal details
Born11 December 1567
Died7 February 1652
Epitaph in the Cathedral of Trier


Philipp Christoph von Sötern was born in Kastellaun on 11 December 1567. He was the son of a Catholic mother and a Protestant father, and was initially baptized as a Lutheran. He converted to Catholicism as a child. As an adolescent, he was educated at the Jesuit school in Trier.

At age 17, he became a canon of the Cathedral of Trier; he later also acquired canonicates at Mainz Cathedral and Speyer Cathedral. He was elected provost of Trier in 1604 and proved adept at handling legal and diplomatic disputes.

On 30 May 1609, the cathedral chapter of Speyer Cathedral elected Sötern coadjutor bishop of Speyer, alongside Bishop Eberhard von Dienheim. Pope Paul V confirmed his appointment on 11 December 1609. Upon the death of Dienheim, Sötern succeeded as Bishop of Speyer on 10 October 1610. He was subsequently ordained as a priest on 8 August 1612. He was consecrated as a bishop by Stephan Weber, Auxiliary Bishop of Mainz, on 15 August 1612.

As bishop, Sötern was a noted proponent of the Counter-Reformation. During the Thirty Years' War, he allied with the Kingdom of France and the Protestant Union against Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor.

Philipp Christoph von Sötern

The cathedral chapter of the Cathedral of Trier elected Sötern Archbishop of Trier on 25 September 1623 and Pope Urban VIII confirmed this appointment on 11 March 1624. As archbishop, Sötern pursued a rigid fiscal policy that made him unpopular with the people of the Archbishopric of Trier. He also alienated the people by appointing his family members to high office. In 1630, the people of Trier asked Ferdinand II, Holy Roman Emperor for help, and the emperor sent Habsburg troops from the Spanish Netherlands to occupy the archbishopric. With aide from French troops, Sötern retook his archbishopric in 1632. In 1634, Sötern supported the election of Cardinal Richelieu as coadjutor Archbishop of Trier, which would have given Richelieu control of a vote in an imperial election if Sötern had predeceased Richelieu. Spanish Habsburg troops retook Trier in 1635, and Sötern was subsequently imprisoned in Linz from 1635 to 1645. During his absence, the cathedral chapter took over administration of the archbishopric. After his release in 1645, he again entered into secret negotiations with France.

Sötern died in Trier on 7 February 1652.


Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Lothar von Metternich
Archbishop of Trier
Succeeded by
Karl Kaspar von der Leyen