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9-08-2015, 15:33

Religious wars

Radicals and peasants were not the only ones to be met by violence, for the Reformation brought with it more than one hundred years of religious war in Europe. What we might term round 1 of these wars, from 1529 to 1555, involved Zwinglians, Lutherans, and Catholics in Switzerland and Germany; round 2, from 1560 to 1609, involved Catholics and Calvinists in France and the Netherlands; and round 3, the Thirty Years War from 1618 to 1648, involved nearly all of Europe. Thus one of the consequences of the Reformation was an increased chance of being killed for one’s own religious beliefs, the beliefs of one’s ruler, or simply by accident in a religious war. All of these wars involved political and dynastic issues as well as religious ones. Indeed, it is probably misleading to separate the two, for rulers and others who held political power clearly did not. Switzerland in the early sixteenth century was offi cially a part of the Holy Roman Empire, though it was really a loose confederation of thirteen largely autonomous cantons. The cantons were often hostile to one another, and powers from outside the Swiss Confederation, particularly the papacy and France, could take advantage of these tensions. Popes, the kings of France, and emperors also used Switzerland as a source of mercenaries, paying large pensions to Swiss military captains to act as recruiting offi cers and commanders. Along with calling for religious reforms, Zwingli called for an end to the mercenary system, what he termed “trading blood for gold.” This did not mean that he rejected military action to further his aims, however. As the leader of the Zurich city council, he made a number of treaties with other cantons that had accepted reform, and those that had not also formed an alliance. These Catholic cantons allied themselves with Ferdinand, the Habsburg ruler of Austria, which Zwingli countered by planning a grand anti-Habsburg alliance involving France, England, and many other states of Europe. This never materialized, but the two sides met militarily in 1531 at Kappel, just south of Zurich, a battle in which Zwingli was killed. Both sides quickly decided that a treaty was preferable to further fi ghting; the treaty basically allowed each canton to determine its own religion, and ordered each side to give up its foreign alliances. This weakened the unity of the Swiss Confederation and did not stop mercenary recruitment, but it did establish a policy of neutrality that is still characteristic of modern Switzerland. At the same time as Protestants and Catholics were forming military alliances in Switzerland, political authorities were doing the same in Germany. Hoping to end religious divisions, the Emperor Charles V (ruled 1519–56) called an Imperial Diet in 1530, to meet at Augsburg. Luther’s associate Melanchthon developed a statement of faith, later called the Augsburg Confession (or Confessio Augustana in Latin), and the Protestant princes presented this to the emperor. He refused to accept it and ordered all Protestants to return to the Catholic church and give up any confi scated church property. This threat backfi red, and Protestant territories in the Empire – mostly north German princes and south German cities – formed a military alliance called the Schmalkaldic League, with the Augsburg Confession as its statement of belief. The Augsburg Confession remained an authoritative statement of belief for many Lutheran churches, especially those outside of Germany, for centuries, while a subsequent statement of belief, the Formula of Concord, drawn up in 1577, was accepted by the majority of German Lutherans. (Several Lutheran colleges in the United States are named Augsburg, Augustana, and Concordia in honor of these statements.) Luther altered his ideas about the right of resistance somewhat; though private persons were never to oppose their rulers, those who had political authority, such as princes, could oppose those above them in a political hierarchy, such as the pope and emperor, when they were clearly in league with the Anti-Christ. The emperor could not respond militarily to the Schmalkaldic League, as he was in the midst of a series of wars with the French – the Habsburg–Valois wars, fought in Italy and along the eastern and southern borders of France – and the Turks under Süleyman the Magnifi cent had taken much of Hungary and besieged Vienna. The 1530s and early 1540s saw complicated political maneuvering among many of the powers of Europe. The emperor, the pope, France, England, Protestant and Catholic princes and cities in Germany, Scotland, Sweden, Denmark, and even the Turks made and broke alliances, and the Habsburg–Valois rivalry continued to be played out militarily. Various attempts were made to heal the religious split with a church council, but the intransigence on both sides made it increasingly clear that this would not be possible, and that war was inevitable. Charles V realized that he was fi ghting not only for religious unity, but also for a more unifi ed state against territorial rulers who wanted to maintain their independence. He was thus defending both church and Empire. Fighting began in 1546, and initially the emperor was very successful, taking a number of Protestant leaders captive and forcing the south German cities to come to terms with him. This success alarmed the pope, however, who did not want Charles to become so powerful that he could limit papal authority in Germany. He withdrew papal troops, and Charles called an Imperial Diet in an attempt to end the war. The agreement drawn up at this Diet created only a temporary lull in the fi ghting, and Protestant rulers regrouped, allying themselves with the French. The French were Catholic, but by this time territorial rulers were more concerned with limiting the power of the emperor than with religious ideology. After a brief period of fi ghting, both sides agreed to a Diet to draw up a more permanent settlement. Neither the emperor nor papal representatives were present at this Diet, so the main actors were the territorial rulers, and the agreement they drew up, the Peace of Augsburg, refl ected their concerns. According to the terms of the Peace of Augsburg, accepted in 1555, Lutheran princes, knights, and cities were guaranteed security, with both sides ordered to maintain “eternal, unconditional peace”; each territory was given the right to decide whether to be Lutheran or Catholic (a principle codifi ed in the phrase cuius regio, eius religio – literally whose the region, his the religion); inhabitants who disagreed with their ruler were to be allowed to leave; all church lands taken by Lutheran rulers before 1552 were to be retained by them; individuals who were territorial rulers because of their position as offi cials in the Catholic Church were to give up their title and lands if they became Lutheran. The terms of the treaty were to be preserved not by the emperor, but by a deputation of princes. The Peace of Augsburg accomplished what its makers hoped it would: it ended religious war in Germany for many decades, and put political, religious, and economic life clearly in the hands of the territorial rulers, who became increasingly authoritarian. They became the primary agents of confessionalization and social discipline, developing and expanding institutions of control such as church courts, reforming poor relief by regulating begging and reforming social welfare, supporting schools and universities that would impart correct doctrine to students and train pastors loyal to state churches. Limitations and problems in the Peace of Augsburg would become clear by the late sixteenth century, but it was immediately evident that this agreement ended Charles V’s hope of creating a united Empire with a single church. He abdicated in 1556 and moved to a monastery, transferring power over his holdings in Spain and the Netherlands to his son Philip, and his imperial power to his brother Ferdinand.

 

 

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