With certain restrictions the pastoral staff is also sometimes conceded to dignitaries of cathedral and collegiate churches, but never to abbesses (Sacra Congreg.
Even a certain number of the monastic establishments came in this way into the possession of the feudal landowners, who nominated abbots and abbesses as they appointed the incumbents of their churches.
Besides the full functions of the presbyterate, or priesthood, bishops have the sole right (I) to confer holy orders, (2) to administer confirmation, (3) to prepare the holy oil, or chrism, (4) to consecrate sacred places or utensils (churches, churchyards, altars, &c.), (5) to give the benediction to abbots and abbesses, (6) to anoint kings.
Among the abbesses was the celebrated Elizabeth (1618-1680), eldest daughter of the elector palatine Frederick V., who was a philosophical princess, and a pupil of Descartes.
Herford was a member of the Hanseatic League, and its suzerainty passed in 1547 from the abbesses to the dukes of Juliers.
It has two Protestant churches of which the convent church (Stiftskirche) contains the tombs of famous abbesses, a palace (now used as law courts) and the famous abbey (now occupied by provincial government offices).
Protestantism was introduced in 1568, and Magdalena, the last Roman Catholic abbess, died in 1589; but Protestant abbesses were appointed to the foundation, and continued to enjoy their imperial privileges till 1803, when Gandersheim was incorporated with Brunswick.
On the west it is commanded by the castle, formerly the residence of the abbesses of Quedlinburg, connected with which is the interesting Schlosskirche, which was dedicated in 1129 and completely restored in 1862-82.
The abbesses, who were frequently members of the imperial house, the second of them being Otto's daughter Matilda, ranked among the princes of the empire, and had no ecclesiastical superior except the pope.
The abbesses, however, retained certain rights of jurisdiction, and disputes between them and the Prussian government were frequent until the secularization of the abbey in 1803.
Abbesses have a right to demand absolute obedience of their nuns, over whom they exercise discipline, extending even to the power of expulsion, subject, however, to the bishop. As a female an abbess is incapable of performing the spiritual functions of the priesthood belonging to an abbot.
In England abbesses attended ecclesiastical councils, e.g.
By Celtic usage abbesses presided over joint-houses of monks and nuns.