On 26 September 2015 Caroline Gräfin von Arco-Zinneberg was visiting Gent on the occasion of the presentation of the book The Legacy of Charlemagne (see Events). She also visited the magnificent Lam Gods or Gent Altarpiece in the cathedral of Saint Bavo. Ludo Collin, chancellor of the bishop of Gent, was her guide. She did not know at that time that an epitaph of a far relative of hers is to be found in that beautiful church…
Doing research about the countess’s father Karl Graf von Arco-Zinneberg, we noticed that his paternal grandmother Josephine belonged to the famous Lobkowicz (Lobkowitz) family, one of the oldest and most distinguished Bohemian noble families. They are also well known as patrons and benefactors. They commissioned magnificent architectural projects and ground-breaking music and collected paintings, manuscripts, books, musical instruments and decorative arts that enhanced their numerous residences and increased their prestige in the courts and circles in which they moved and exerted power.
Josephine’s grandfather was Jozeph Franz Maximilian Fürst von Lobkowicz (1772-1816). He was a talented singer, violinist and cellist, but his greatest contribution to the history of music was in his role as great patron of the composer and pianist Ludwig van Beethoven. The generous annual stipend he provided allowed the musical genius to create some of his most significant and now famous works. In recognition of his patronage, Beethoven dedicated numerous important works to Joseph Franz Maximilian, including the 3rd (Eroica), 5th and 6th (Pastoral) symphonies; the Opus 18 String Quartets; the Triple Concerto and the song cycle An die ferne Geliebte.
But let us return to Gent.
On 22 November 1771 Archduchess Maria Theresia appointed Ferdinandus Maria Carolus Josephus Leonardus Procopius Prinz von Lobkowicz bishop of Gent. Born in Vienna on 18 December 1726, he was the son of Georg Christian von Lobkowicz and Caroline Henriette Gräfin von Waldstein. After studying in Rome at the Collegio Romano, he was tonsured in Salzburg on 2 April 1747 and finally ordained to the priesthood in Prague on 21 January 1751. He became a canon in the cathedrals of Liège, Augsburg and Salzburg. When he was 45 years old he became bishop of Namur. His device was: Adhaerere Deo bonum (it is good to attach yourself to God).
When Lobkowicz was appointed bishop of Gent, the Secret Council refused his candidacy because he could not speak the language of the people, but Maria Theresia ignored their objection and obtained confirmation of pope Pius VI. Lobkowicz was installed on 29 October 1779.
Lobkowicz protested heavily against the civil and religious reforms of Emperor Joseph II. When he declared the Edict of Tolerance in 1781, extending religious freedom to non-Catholic Christians living in Habsburg lands, including: Lutherans, Calvinists, and the Greek Orthodox.
The bishop spent most of the time in castle ‘Rozelaar’ in Lochristi, near Gent. Lobkowicz openly lived there with Madame van der Saeren van Gendt, wesende de favoriete van seyne Hoogheyt (Mrs. van der Saeren of Gent, being the favorite of his highness), which of course caused a scandal. Castle Rozelaar was in fact the summer residence of the bishops of Gent. Lobkowicz restored, embellished and enlarged the castle. The castle was sold in 1797 (after the French Revolution) and almost totally rebuild in the 19th century. The stables for the horse and two wintergardens built by Lobkowicz were integrated in the new building. Lobkowicz also constructed a beautiful English garden on the site.
In the course of the French Revolution, France overran the Austrian Netherlands in 1794 (and later annexed them to the Republic). On 23 June of that year the bishop had to flee from Gent. He first went to Antwerp and then via Düsseldorf and Delft to Münster. He was sick upon his arrival there and passed away on 29 January 1795. He was buried in the Münster Dom. In one of the chapels of the Gent cathedral you can see an epitaph of Bishop Lobkowicz.
And what is now the connection between Bishop Ferdinand Lobkowicz and Caroline Gräfin von Arco-Zinneberg? They have indeed a mutual forefather: they are both descendants of Ferdinand August Fürst von Lobkowicz (1655-1715). He had 13 children. His oldest surviving son, Philipp Hyazinth Fürst von Lobkowicz, was the great-great-grandfather of Josephine Prinzessin von Lobkowicz. Another son, Georg Christian Fürst von Lobkowicz (1686-1753) was the father of the Ferdinand, bishop of Gent.