History of Germany between 1740 - 1788
The dominant factor in 18th-century German history was undoubtedly the emergence of Prussia as the main rival to Austria, which had long been the leading state within the German empire. Prussia grewin stature for several reasons - through Frederick the Great's seizure of the rich province of Silesia, through the personal prestige acquired by Frederick himself, and through the vast gain of territory in the successive partitions of Poland. But certain other states were also be identified at this time as likely players in the struggles which will eventually lead, in the 19th century, to a united Germany.
Saxony began the 18th century as a very significant power. The state was weakened in subsequent decades, through disastrous involvement in Poland and because it was between the arch-rivals Prussia and Austria. Even so, Saxony's size and large population gave it an undeniable importance.
Hanover acquired an entirely new stature during the century, from the personal link with Britain after the elector succeeds to the British throne in 1714 as George I. In the wars of the 18th century Hanover had a special importance and exposure, as Britain's continental outpost.
Bavaria, ruled by the Wittelsbachs, had played a major role in German history from early medieval times. In recent centuries a division between two branches of the family had somewhat reduced its status. From 1329 the western region went its own way as the Palatinate of the Rhine. The split was accentuated in the Reformation, when the Palatinate becomes Protestant while Bavaria remains Roman Catholic.
The Palatinate returned to the Catholic fold in 1685, and by the end of the 18th century this line has recovered the entire inheritance. In 1777 the Bavarian line of the dynasty died out. The region was reunited under the rule of the Palatine branch.
In the War of Austrian Succession (1740–1748) Maria Theresa fought successfully for recognition of her succession to the throne. But in the Silesian Wars and in the Seven Years' War she had to cede 95 percent of Silesia to Frederick the Great of Prussia. After the Peace of Hubertsburg in 1763 between Austria, Prussia and Saxony, Prussia won recognition as a great power, thus launching a century-long rivalry with Austria for the leadership of the German peoples.
In 1772–1795 Prussia took the lead in the partitions of Poland, with Austria and Russia splitting the rest. Prussia occupied the western territories of the former Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth that surrounded existing Prussian holdings. This occupation led over a century of Polish resistance until Poland again became independent in 1918.
Before 1750 the German upper classes looked to France for intellectual, cultural and architectural leadership; French was the language of high society. By the mid-18th century the Enlightenment had transformed German high culture in music, philosophy, science and literature. Christian Wolff (1679–1754) was the pioneer as a writer who expounded the Enlightenment to German readers; he legitimized German as a philosophic language. German music, sponsored by the upper classes, came of age under composers Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), Joseph Haydn (1732–1809), and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791).
In remote Königsberg philosopher Immanuel Kant (1724–1804) tried to reconcile rationalism and religious belief, individual freedom, and political authority. Kant's work contained basic tensions that would continue to shape German thought – and indeed all of European philosophy – well into the 20th century.
The German Enlightenment won the support of princes, aristocrats, and the middle classes, and it permanently reshaped the culture.
From 1763, against resistance from the nobility and citizenry, an "enlightened absolutism" was established in Prussia and Austria, according to which the ruler governed according to the best precepts of the philosophers. The economies developed and legal reforms were undertaken, including the abolition of torture and the improvement in the status of Jews. Emancipation of the peasants slowly began. Compulsory education was instituted.
The Church of Our Lady before Týn is a dominant feature of the Old Town of Prague and has been the main church of this part of the city since the 14th century. The church's towers are 80 m high and topped by four small spires.
In the 11th century, this area was occupied by a Romanesque church, which was built there for foreign merchants coming to the nearby Týn Courtyard. Later it was replaced by an early Gothic Church of Our Lady before Týn in 1256. Construction of the present church began in the 14th century in the late Gothic style under the influence of Matthias of Arras and later Peter Parler. By the beginning of the 15th century, construction was almost complete; only the towers, the gable and roof were missing. The church was controlled by Hussites for two centuries, including John of Rokycan, future archbishop of Prague, who became the church's vicar in 1427. The roof was completed in the 1450s, while the gable and northern tower were completed shortly thereafter during the reign of George of Poděbrady (1453–1471). His sculpture was placed on the gable, below a huge golden chalice, the symbol of the Hussites. The southern tower was not completed until 1511, under architect Matěj Rejsek.
After the lost Battle of White Mountain (1620) began the era of harsh recatholicisation (part of the Counter-Reformation). Consequently, the sculptures of 'heretic king' George of Poděbrady and the chalice were removed in 1626 and replaced by a sculpture of the Virgin Mary, with a giant halo made from by melting down the chalice. In 1679 the church was struck by lightning, and the subsequent fire heavily damaged the old vault, which was later replaced by a lower baroque vault.
Renovation works carried out in 1876–1895 were later reversed during extensive exterior renovation works in the years 1973–1995. Interior renovation is still in progress.
The northern portal is a wonderful example of Gothic sculpture from the Parler workshop, with a relief depicting the Crucifixion. The main entrance is located on the church's western face, through a narrow passage between the houses in front of the church.
The early baroque altarpiece has paintings by Karel Škréta from around 1649. The oldest pipe organ in Prague stands inside this church. The organ was built in 1673 by Heinrich Mundt and is one of the most representative 17th-century organs in Europe.