German Mediatization & French Revolution

History of Germany between 1789 - 1814

French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars

German reaction to the French Revolution in 1789 was mixed at first. German intellectuals celebrated the outbreak, hoping to see the triumph of Reason and The Enlightenment. The royal courts in Vienna and Berlin denounced the overthrow of the king and the threatened spread of notions of liberty, equality, and fraternity. By 1793, the execution of the French king and the onset of the Terror disillusioned the educated middle class. Reformers said the solution was to have faith in the ability of Germans to reform their laws and institutions in peaceful fashion.

Europe was racked by two decades of war revolving around France's efforts to spread its revolutionary ideals, and the opposition of reactionary royalty. War broke out in 1792 as Austria and Prussia invaded France, but were defeated at the Battle of Valmy (1792). The German lands saw armies marching back and forth, bringing devastation, but also bringing new ideas of liberty and civil rights for the people. Prussia and Austria ended their failed wars with France but (with Russia) partitioned Poland among themselves in 1793 and 1795. The French took control of the Rhineland, imposed French-style reforms, abolished feudalism, established constitutions, promoted freedom of religion, emancipated Jews, opened the bureaucracy to ordinary citizens of talent, and forced the nobility to share power with the rising middle class. Napoleon created the Kingdom of Westphalia (1807–1813) as a model state. These reforms proved largely permanent and modernized the western parts of Germany. When the French tried to impose the French language, German opposition grew in intensity. A Second Coalition of Britain, Russia, and Austria then attacked France but failed. Napoleon established direct or indirect control over most of western Europe, including the German states apart from Prussia and Austria. The old Holy Roman Empire was little more than a farce; Napoleon simply abolished it in 1806 while forming new countries under his control. In Germany Napoleon set up the "Confederation of the Rhine," comprising most of the German states except Prussia and Austria.

Prussia tried to remain neutral while imposing tight controls on dissent, but with German nationalism sharply on the rise, the small nation blundered by going to war with Napoleon in 1806. Its economy was weak, its leadership poor, and the once mighty Prussian army was a hollow shell. Napoleon easily crushed it at the Battle of Jena (1806). Napoleon occupied Berlin, and Prussia paid dearly. Prussia lost its recently acquired territories in western Germany, its army was reduced to 42,000 men, no trade with Britain was allowed, and Berlin had to pay Paris heavy reparations and fund the French army of occupation. Saxony changed sides to support Napoleon and join his Confederation of the Rhine; its elector was rewarded with the title of king and given a slice of Poland taken from Prussia.

After Napoleon's fiasco in Russia in 1812, including the deaths of many Germans in his invasion army, Prussia joined with Russia. Major battles followed in quick order, and when Austria switched sides to oppose Napoleon his situation grew tenuous. He was defeated in a great Battle of Leipzig in late 1813, and Napoleon's empire started to collapse. One after another the German states switched to oppose Napoleon, but he rejected peace terms. Allied armies invaded France in early 1814, Paris fell, and in April Napoleon surrendered. He returned for 100 days in 1815, but was finally defeated by the British and German armies at Waterloo. Prussia was the big winner at the Vienna peace conference, gaining extensive territory.

German mediatization

German mediatization was the major territorial restructuring that took place between 1802 and 1814 in Germany and the surrounding region by means of the mass mediatization and secularization of a large number of Imperial Estates: ecclesiastical principalities, free imperial cities, secular principalities and other minor self-ruling entities that lost their independent status and were absorbed into the remaining states.

The mass mediatization and secularization of German states that took place at the time was not initiated by Germans. It came under relentless military and diplomatic pressure from revolutionary France and Napoleon. It constituted the most extensive redistribution of property and territories in German history prior to 1945.

The two highpoints of the process were the secularization/annexation of ecclesiastical territories and free imperial cities in 1802–03, and the mediatization of secular principalities and counties in 1806.

Reference: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1789 and 1814 in Germany

Muskau Park

The Muskau or Muskauer Park is the largest and one of the most famous English gardens of Germany and Poland. Situated in the historic Upper Lusatia region, it covers 3.5 square kilometers of land in Poland and 2.1 km2 in Germany. The park extends on both sides of the Lusatian Neisse, which constitutes the border between the countries. A fortress on the Neisse at Muskau was first mentioned as early as the 13th century und ...
Founded: 1811 | Location: Bad Muskau, Germany

Oberhausen Palace

A predecessor of current Oberhausen palace was a medieval castle about 200 meters away from today's location. This 12th or 13th century building has now completely disappeared. In 1443 the moated castle controlling an Emscher River passage fell to the von der Hoven clan based in the fiefdom of Kleve. In 1615, Overhus then passed on to become the domain of Conrad von Boenen. The castle was often plundered and seized due t ...
Founded: 1804-1820 | Location: Oberhausen, Germany

Wieland Estate

The Ossmannstedt estate is closely linked with the name of Christoph Martin Wieland (1733-1813). The poet purchased the Baroque complex of buildings and park in 1797 and lived there with his family for six years (see Wieland estate in Ossmannstedt). Even in Wieland’s day, very little of the original Baroque garden remained, as the previous owners had used the three terraces sloping down to the river Ilm for agricult ...
Founded: 1797 | Location: Oßmannstedt, Germany

Merten Palace

Schloss Merten is a building belonging to a former Augustine monastery, which was founded by the neighbouring castle. It is likely that the monastery was donated by Countess Mathilde von Sayn and was first mentioned in a document by Otto von Kappenstein and his wife Kunigunde in 1217. In 1699 the monastery was burned down. It was not until 1791 that the southern wing was rebuilt. The overall site also includes a small ...
Founded: 1791 | Location: Eitorf-Merten, Germany

Achstetten Manor

Achstetten Castle is a spacious three-storey building in classicist style. Two wings are loosely attached to the main structure at a right angle. These two wings function as economy buildings. On three sides the castle is surrounded by a large park, which is home to an enclosure where fallow deers are kept. The main access to the castle is by a driveway measuring about 150 metres in length. Noteworthy of the interior are ...
Founded: 1795-1797 | Location: Achstetten, Germany

Wallerstein Castle

Wallerstein Castle is a three-wing building with a classical facade. It is owned by the family Oettingen-Wallerstein and built in the early 1800s.
Founded: 1805 | Location: Wallerstein, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Wawel Castle

Wawel Hill – a Jurassic limestone rock, a dominant feature in the landscape of Kraków, have provided a safe haven for people who have settled here since the Paleolithic Age. It is supposed that the Slav people started living on Wawel hill as early as the 7th century. Early medieval legends tell stories about a dreadful dragon that lived in a cave on Wawel Hill, about his slayer Krakus, and about the latter’s daughter Wanda, who drowned herself in the Vistula rather than marry a German knight. Towards the end of the first millennium A.D Wawel began to play the role of the centre of political power.In the 9th century it became the principal fortified castrum of the Vislane tribe. The first historical ruler of Poland, Miesco I (c.965-992) of the Piast dynasty as well as his successors: Boleslas the Brave (992-1025) and Miesco II (1025-1034) chose Wawel Hill as one of their residences.

At that time Wawel became one of the main Polish centres of Christianity. The first early Romanesque and Romanesque sacral buildings were raised here, including a stone cathedral that was erected after the bishopric of Kraków was established in the year 1000.

During the reign of Casimir the Restorer (1034-1058) Wawel became a significant political and administrative centre for the Polish State. Casimir’s son, Boleslas the Bold (1058-1079) began the construction of a second Romanesque cathedral, which was finished by Boleslas the Wrymouth (1102-1138). In his last will of 1138, this prince divided Poland into districts, and provided that Kraków was to be the residence of the senior prince. In 1291 the city of Kraków along with Wawel Hill temporarily fell under the Czech rule, and Wenceslas II from the Premysl dynasty was crowned King of Poland in Wawel cathedral.

In 1306 the Duke of Kuyavia Ladislas the Short (1306-1333) entered Wawel and was crowned King of Poland in the Cathedral in 1320. It was the first historically recorded coronation of a Polish ruler on Wawel Hill. Around that time, at the initiative of Ladislas the Short, the construction of the third Gothic cathedral began, the castle was expanded and the old wooden and earthen fortifications were replaced by brick ones. The tomb of Ladislas the Short in the cathedral started a royal necropolis of Polish kings in Krakow.The last descendant of the Piast dynasty, Casimir the Great (1333-1370) brought Wawel to a state of unprecedented splendour. In 1364 the expanded gothic castle witnessed the marriage of Casimir’s granddaughter Elizabeth to Charles IV accompanied by a famous convention of kings and princes, subsequently entertained by a rich burgher Wierzynek. The accession to the throne in 1385 of Jadwiga from the Hungarian dynasty of Andegavens, and her marriage to a Lithuanian prince Ladislas Jagiello (1386-1434) started another era of prosperity for Wawel. The royal court employed local and western European artists and also Rus painters. During the reign of Casimir Jagiellon (1447-1492) the silhouette of the hill was enriched by three high brick towers: the Thieves’ Tower, the Sandomierz Tower and the Senatorial Tower. The first humanists in Poland and tutors to the king’s sons: historian Jan Długosz and an Italian by the name Filippo Buonacorsi (also known as Callimachus) worked there at that time.

The Italian Renaissance arrived at Wawel in the early 16th century. King Alexander (1501-1506) and his brother Sigismund I the Old (1506-1548) commissioned the construction of a new palace in place of the Gothic residence, with an impressive large courtyard with arcaded galleries which was completed about 1540. Sigismund’s patronage also left an indelible impression in the cathedral, where a family chapel was erected, known today as Sigismund’s Chapel - the work of Bartolomeo of Berrecci Florence, and through various foundations, one of which was that of a large bell, called the Sigismund to commemorate the king. Close artistic and cultural relations with Italy were strengthened in 1518 by the king’s marriage to Bona Sforza. Alongside Italian artists, German architects, wood workers, painters and metal smiths worked for the king. The last descendant of the Jagiellonian dynasty, Sigismund II Augustus (1548-1572), enriched the castle’s interiors with a magnificent collection of tapestries woven in Brussels. In the “Golden Age” of Polish culture Wawel became one of the main centres of humanism in Europe.

The reign of Sigismund III Waza (1587-1632) also made a strong impression on the history of Wawel. After a fire in the castle in 1595 the king rebuilt the burned wing of the building in the early Baroque style. The relocation of the royal court to Warsaw was the cause of a slow but nevertheless steady deterioration in the castle’s condition. The monarchs visited Kraków only occasionally. Restoration of the castle was undertaken during the reign of John III Sobieski, the Wettins and Stanislas Augustus to counteract neglect.

After Poland had lost its independence in 1795, the troops of partitioning nations, Russia, Prussia and Austria, subsequently occupied Wawel which finally passed into the hands of the Austrians. The new owners converted the castle and some of the secular buildings into a military hospital, and demolished some others, including churches. After the period of the Free City of Kraków (1815-1846) Wawel was once more annexed by Austria and turned into a citadel dominating the city. By the resolution passed by the Seym of Galicia in 1880, the castle was presented as a residence to the Emperor of Austria Franz Josef I. The Austrian troops left the hill between 1905-1911. At the turn of the 20th century a thorough restoration of the cathedral was conducted, and shortly afterwards a process of restoration of the royal castle began which lasted several decades.

When Poland regained its independence in 1918, the castle served as an official residence of the Head of State, and as a museum of historic interiors. During the Nazi occupation the castle was the residence of the German governor general, Hans Frank. Polish people managed to remove the most valuable objects, including the tapestries and the “Szczerbiec” coronation sword to Canada, from where they returned as late as 1959-1961. At present, the main curators of Wawel are Wawel Royal Castle – State Art Collection and the Metropolitan Basilica Board on Wawel Hill.