Emperor Joseph II

[Emperor Joseph II]
Also known as

  • Sacristan Emperor


German emperor. He was the son and successor of Maria Theresa and Francis I. After 1765 he acted as emperor and co-regent with his mother in the Habsburg dominions, and upon her death in 1780 he became sole ruler. His desire to make Austria dominant in central Europe led to the Bavarian War of Succession, the first partition of Poland, and an alliance with Russia against the Turks in 1788. In order to weld the different peoples of his kingdom he made German the official language, and united the administrations of the provinces into one central council in Vienna. He abolished serfdom and the death penalty, made the courts of justice independent and impartial, abolished censorship, and created the Austrian marriage law.

Joseph II was the most celebrated exponent of Josephinism, or the policy of secular interference and state supremacy in ecclesiastical affairs, so called after the emperor. He consolidated almost the entire property of the Church and merged all the religious funds into one great Religionsfond for the requirements of public worship. To accomplish his purpose he suppressed all the monasteries and secularized them. For inter-meddling in Church affairs, even to the regulation of candles, he was called the Sacristan Emperor.