John III Potho of Pothenstein

John III Potho of Pothenstein
See Münster
Appointed 1379
Term ended 11 October 1382
Other posts Bishop of Schwerin
Personal details
Died 1390

John III Potho of Pothenstein (also spelled Pottenstein; d. 1390) was Bishop of Bishopric of Münster from 1379 to 1382. He was then officially appointed Bishop of Schwerin, however, he was never able to actually exercise power there.


Potho was a member of a Czech-speaking Bohemian noble family based at Pottenstein Castle (now Potštejn in the Czech Republic). They were possibly related to the Bavarian Counts Palatine. It is not known whether he spoke German himself.

In 1356, he was appointed canon of the cathedral in Olomouc. In 1371, he was mentioned as Archdeacon in Prague and papal chaplain. He originally supported the Popes in Avignon, however, after King Wenceslaus proposed him as the next Bishop of Münster, he changed sides and support Pope Urban VI in Rome.

En route to Münster, Potho and his entourage was attacked near Hamm by the Count of the Marck. He lost his valuables and barely managed to evade being taken prisoner. King Wenceslaus tried in vain to exert his influence to have the stolen money returned.

Immediately after his arrival in Münster, he created several indulgences, with papal permission. He urged the faithful to try to acquire these. A diocesan synod was probably not held during his time in office. He was later described as greedy, however, contemporary documents suggest that he was genuinely interested in religious affairs.

On the other hand, he showed little interest in the castles in his territory. When he was short of money, he had to pledge Horstmar Castle to the Count of Hoya. He probably never signed a treaty with the Estates of his bishopric.

Potho took no notable initiatives for the temporal government of his bishopric. During his reign, Rheda was besieged by an alliance between Münster and several other bishops against the Counts of Tecklenburg, however, this alliance had already been created before his arrival. During his reign, a Public Peace was agreed, and a peace treaty was agreed with the counts of Tecklenburg. However, the dispute with Tecklenburg would erupt again shortly afterwards.

As he was unfamiliar with the political situation in his bishopric, the cathedral chapter tasked his provost Heidenreich Wolf of Lüdinghausen with the administration of the bishopric . It is not clear whether the chapter demanded his resignation. In any case, he realized that he was unable to fulfill his duties as prince-bishop and on 13 October 1382, he resigned. He recommended Rupert of Jülich-Berg as his successor, however, the chapter elected Lüdinghausen instead.

His contemporaries generally held a negative view of his performance. Several epigrams accuse him of greed and insobriety. One cause of his bad reputation may have been his lack of language skills. He did not understand the Low German dialect spoken in Münster and this made relations with his subjects problematic.

After his resignation in Münster, Potho moved to the episcopal see of Schwerin. At the time, Bützow Castle was the residence of the bishops of Schwerin. However, the cathedral chapter refused to recognize him and elected John IV Junge instead. John IV was murdered in 1389 by one of his captains.[1] Even after John IV's death, Potho was unable to take up de facto government.[2] He lived in Stralsund until his death.[3]

It is unknown where Potho was buried.


External links


  1. August B. Michaelis and Julius Wilhelm Hamberger: Einleitung zu einer volständigen Geschichte der Chur- und Fürstlichen Häuser in Teutschland, vol. 2, Meyer, 1760, p. 408
  2. Julius Wiggers: Kirchengeschichte Mecklenburgs, Hinstorff, 1840, p. 48 ff
  3. He died before 11 August 1390, as a deed from that date mentions Rudolph III as bishop of Schwerin
John III Potho of Pothenstein
House of Pottenstein
Died: 1390
Regnal titles
Catholic Church titles
Preceded by
Florence of Wevelinkhoven
Prince-bishop of Münster
as John II
Succeeded by
Heidenreich Wolf of Lüdinghausen
Preceded by
Prince-bishop of Schwerin
as John III
Succeeded by
Rudolph III
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