Eberhard Billick (d. 1557) came of a family of Cologne which had given many members to the Order. He was professed in 1514 and upon ordination functioned as first lector in the studium of Cologne. The chapter of 1542 elected him provincial.
At the time, he was already involved in the affairs of the archdiocese, where the familiar signs of the disintegration of the Catholic establishment were beginning to manifest themselves. Archbishop Hermann von Wied, a worldly prelate, given to the joys of the chase, was attracted to the new doctrines.
Matters came to a head in the quarrel of the archbishop with the clergy and magistrates. On October 9, 1544, the cathedral chapter, clergy, and university made a public appeal to pope and emperor. Von Wied sought support among the Protestant princes. On June 27, 1545, the emperor granted letters of protection to those who had made the appeal to pope and emperor. On July 10, the archbishop appealed to a German national synod and ignored a summons from Charles V and Pope Paul III. On April 16, 1546, the pope excommunicated Hermann von Wied and declared his coadjutor, Adolf von Schauenburg, administrator of the diocese. Gropper and Billick were appointed to examine his orthodoxy.
The struggle to keep Cologne Catholic was no tempest in a teapot, and Billick’s role in that struggle was far from inconsequential. “Had the Protestant attempt to introduce a reform into the Archdiocese of Cologne met with success,” writes the church historian, John P. Dolan, “it may have changed the entire course of the Reformation in Germany.