June 5th 1556 - Ignatius Establishes Two German Provinces
Only eight weeks before his death Ignatius established on June 5th 1556 the Upper German, and on June 7th the Nether German Province. The Upper German Province, to which also Austria and Bohemia belonged, was subordinated to the leadership of Petrus Canisius. It had about 150 members. Up to the year 1600 the number rose to approximately 350 members. Already in 1563 Laínez separated the residences Innsbruck, Vienna, Prague and Tyrnau and established the Austrian Province with Father Lanoy as Provincial.
The Nether German Province, which covered also Belgium and the Netherlands, was put by Ignatius under the command of Bernard Oliverius, who died however already on September 4th 1556, before he could take up his office. In his place Laínez appointed Everhard Mercurian, the later fourth General of the Society of Jesus (1573-1580), as actually first Provincial. He came from Marcour in Belgian Luxembourg and had in 1548, at the age of thirty four, entered in Paris the Order. Ignatius had appointed him Rector of the College in Perugia. On the occasion of Francisco de Borja's election as General, Father Mercurian became Assistant for Germany. When he died, the Order numbered about 5000 members in 21 Provinces.
In 1564 Laínez divided off from the Nether German Province the Residences in Cologne, Mainz and Trier as Rhine Province, which in the year 1620 was again divided into the Upper and Nether Rhine Provinces.
About 1630 there were five German-speaking Provinces:
Upper Rhine (434)
Upper German (820)
Up to 1700 the numbers of members had risen to:
Upper Rhine (497)
Upper German (1060)
Since 1853 there was only one German Province, which was divided on February 2nd 1921 into the Upper and Nether German Province. To the Nether German Province belonged also Scandinavia, Lithuania, and the Mission in Japan. The administrative district of the Upper German Province included also Vorarlberg with the important College Stella Matutina in Feldkirch and the noviciate and retreat house in Tisis.
On February 2nd 1931 the East German Province with seat in Berlin was separated from the Nether German Province. It comprised the residences beyond the river Elbe. The reunification of the East German and the Nether German to the North German Province took place on January 1st 1978.