John I, Bishop-Elect of Utrecht

Coat of Arms of the Bishopric of Utrecht

John I of Nassau (German: Johann I. von Nassau; Dutch: Jan van Nassau) (c.1230 – 1309) was bishop-elect of the Bishopric of Utrecht from 1267 to 1290.


John was a son of Count Henry II of Nassau and Matilda of Guelders (German: Mathilde von Geldern). From 1262 to 1265, he was archdeacon of Condroz.

After Bishop Henry I van Vianden died in 1267, the cathedral chapter in the Diocese of Utrecht elected John (primarily because of his military skills) as the successor. Their decision was influenced by John's maternal relatives: his cousin Otto II, Count of Guelders, and Floris V, Count of Holland. But Pope Clement IV, at the instigation of Engelbert, Archbishop of Cologne, did not agree with this choice. John was therefore never consecrated as bishop and he remained bishop-elect.

He first of all had to deal with marauding gangs of insurgents from the north of the County of Holland and eventually had to flee the city, Utrecht, because of them. When he tried to return to the city after the marauders withdrew in 1268, the townspeople refused him entrance, so he had to take his headquarters to Deventer until 1270. Only with the help of Otto II did he succeed in taking possession of the city. John supported Otto II in his feud with Engelbert.

John of Nassau's administration is considered to be one of the worst in the history of the Bishopric of Utrecht, due to his political weakness and poor financial management. In order to finance a lifestyle devoted to sensual pleasures, he pledged both the castles of Vredelant (castle) and the Montfoort (castle). The County of Holland's influence on the bishopric increased sharply during John of Nassau's reign. In 1274, he faced an uprising of local nobles led by the powerful lords Gijsbrecht IV of Amstel, Zweder of Abcoude, Arnoud of Amstel, and Herman VI of Woerden, who held lands between the bishopric and the County of Holland (the areas of Amsterdam, Abcoude, IJsselstein, and Woerden). Gijsbrecht and Herman were supported by Utrecht's craft guilds that had seized power in the city, the peasants of Kennemerland (Alkmaar and surroundings), Waterland (north of Amsterdam), and Amstelland (Amsterdam and surroundings) and the West Frisians. John received the help of Floris, but he had to pay heavily for this assistance: in 1277 he pledged the castle of Horst to his brother-in-law, John I of Cuijk,[lower-alpha 1] who then gave it to Floris. In 1279, he was even forced by Floris to pledge the diocese's lands held by the rebellious nobles to the Dutch count.

In 1281, he confiscated money that had been raised in his diocese on the income of its properties since 1276 to finance a crusade. This prompted Siegfried II of Westerburg, archbishop of Cologne, to excommunicate both John and Floris. Eventually Floris had the ban lifted through appeals to the Pope.

In 1283 – 1284 John, with the help of Hanseatic League cities along the IJssel River,[lower-alpha 2] tried unsuccessfully to free the diocese from the control of Holland.

In 1288, John took various measures to secure finances for the construction of the St. Martin's Cathedral, Utrecht. For this reason he is regarded as its founder.

John was dismissed in 1288 by the cathedral chapter, and was replaced in 1290 by Pope Nicholas IV. He settled in Deventer, where he died on July 13, 1309. He was buried in the Lebuïnuskerk, Deventer.


John fathered three illegitimate sons and a daughter:[1]

Notes and references

  1. John I of Cuijk married John of Nassau's sister, Jutta of Nassau.
  2. Doesburg, Zutphen, Deventer, Hattem, and Zwolle.
  1. Dek, Adriaan W. E. (1970). Genealogie van het vorstenhuis Nassau (in Dutch). Zaltbommel: Eurpoese Bibliotheek. p. 15. OCLC 27365371. Archived from the original on 2009-10-26. Retrieved 2009-01-28.


Religious titles
Preceded by
Henry I van Vianden
Bishop of Utrecht
1268 – 1290
Succeeded by
John II van Sierck
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