Reformation & Wars of Religion

History of Germany between 1517 - 1617

Reformation

Lutherbibel
Martin Luther's Bible
translated into German (1534).

In the early 16th century there was much discontent in Germany occasioned by abuses such as indulgences in the Catholic Church, and a general desire for reform. In 1517 the Reformation began with the publication of Martin Luther's 95 Theses; he posted them in the town square and gave copies of them to German nobles, but it is debated whether he nailed them to the church door in Wittenberg as is commonly said. The list detailed 95 assertions Luther believed to show corruption and misguidance within the Catholic Church. One often cited example, though perhaps not Luther's chief concern, is a condemnation of the selling of indulgences; another prominent point within the 95 Theses is Luther's disagreement both with the way in which the higher clergy, especially the pope, used and abused power, and with the very idea of the pope.

In 1521 Luther was outlawed at the Diet of Worms. But the Reformation spread rapidly, helped by the Emperor Charles V's wars with France and the Turks. Hiding in the Wartburg Castle, Luther translated the Bible from Latin to German, establishing the basis of the German language. A curious fact is that Luther spoke a dialect which had minor importance in the German language of that time. After the publication of his Bible, his dialect suppressed the others and evolved into what is now the modern German.

German Peasants' War

In 1524 the German Peasants' War broke out in Swabia, Franconia and Thuringia against ruling princes and lords, following the preaching of Reformers. But the revolts, which were assisted by war-experienced noblemen like Götz von Berlichingen and Florian Geyer (in Franconia), and by the theologian Thomas Münzer (in Thuringia), were soon repressed by the territorial princes. As many as 100,000 German peasants were massacred during the revolt. With the protestation of the Lutheran princes at the Imperial Diet of Speyer (1529) and rejection of the Lutheran "Augsburg Confession" at Augsburg (1530), a separate Lutheran church emerged.

From 1545 the Counter-Reformation began in Germany. The main force was provided by the Jesuit order, founded by the Spaniard Ignatius of Loyola. Central and northeastern Germany were by this time almost wholly Protestant, whereas western and southern Germany remained predominantly Catholic. In 1547, Holy Roman Emperor Charles V defeated the Schmalkaldic League, an alliance of Protestant rulers. The Peace of Augsburg in 1555 brought recognition of the Lutheran faith. But the treaty also stipulated that the religion of a state was to be that of its ruler.

The Augsburg formula preserves for half a century an uneasy peace in the German lands, while princes use their religious freedom as a form of diplomacy. In 1608/1609 the Protestant Union and the Catholic League were formed. Early in the 17th century the two sides form up in opposing blocs, each headed by a branch of the Wittelsbach family. The Wittelsbachs of the Rhine Palatinate, in southwest Germany, are Calvinist; they lead the Protestant Union, formed in 1608. The Wittelsbachs of Bavaria, just to the east, form the Catholic League in the following year.

This confrontation does not immediately lead to armed conflict - until the Protestants of distant Bohemia elect as their king, in 1619, the Calvinist Wittelsbach, Frederick V. The response by the Catholic League, in alliance with pope and emperor, becomes one of the opening encounters of the Thirty Years' War.

References: Wikipedia, Historyworld.net

Popular sites founded between 1517 and 1617 in Germany

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael"s Jesuit church in Munich is the largest Renaissance church north of the Alps. The style of the building had an enormous influence on Southern German early Baroque architecture. The church was built by William V, Duke of Bavaria between 1583 and 1597 as a spiritual center for the Counter Reformation. In order to realise his ambitious plans for the church and the adjoining college, Duke William had 87 hou ...
Founded: 1583-1597 | Location: Munich, Germany

Detmold Castle

Fürstliches Residenzschloß, in the center of the Detmold town park, is a fine example of Weser Renaissance style. In 1263, Bernard III of Lippe fortified the settlement at the crossing of the trade route from Paderborn to Lemgo over the Werre River with stone walls and granted it a municipal charter. In 1550, Detmold became the permanent residence of Count Simon III of Lippe. The counts were elevated to princ ...
Founded: 1550s | Location: Detmold, Germany

St. Michael's Church

St. Michael"s church in Aachen was built for the Jesuit Collegium in 1617-1628 and is now a church of the Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Germany. With the dissolution of the Jesuit Order in September 1773 the church was closed and converted into a granary during the French period, later it was used as a parish church. In 1987 the Greek Orthodox community of St. Dimitrios which was found in 1963 purchased the buildi ...
Founded: 1617-1628 | Location: Aachen, Germany

Geyerswörth Palace

Geyerswörth Palace is a former prince-bishop"s city palace built in 1585-1587. The current appearance dates from the restoration made in 1740s, after the collapse of Renaissance gable on the north side.
Founded: 1585-1587 | Location: Bamberg, Germany

Spandau Citadel

Spandau Citadel is one of the most important and best-preserved Renaissance fortresses in Europe. In the 16th century, developments in weaponry rendered older castles useless. Thus, Kurfürst Joachim II ordered his fortification in Spandau to be constructed as a fortress in the ‘new Italian style.’ The fortress was laid out as a rectangle of curtains (fortress walls) with bastions, entirely encircled by wa ...
Founded: 1557-1594 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Cologne City Museum

The armoury was built by the Imperial Town of Cologne as weapons arsenal around 1600 in Dutch Renaissance style. Today, there is the 'Kölnisches Stadtmuseum', which provides an insight into the spiritual, economic and every day life of the city of Cologne and its citizens from the Middle Ages up until today.
Founded: 1600 | Location: Cologne, Germany

Augsburg Town Hall

The Town Hall of Augsburg is one of the most significant secular buildings of the Renaissance style north of the Alps. On 25 August 1615, the foundation stone of the building was laid. The exterior of the building was completed in March 1620, and the interior in 1624. Technologically, the Augsburger Rathaus was a pioneering performance; upon its completion it was the first building in the world with more than six storeys. ...
Founded: 1615 | Location: Augsburg, Germany

Alte Brücke

The Alte Brücke (Old Bridge) was erected by Charles V in 1546 and is one of the oldest constructions in Saarbrücken. The Alte Brücke connects Alt-Saarbrücken and St. Johann. Originally it consisted of 14 arches, but now only 8 remain. It was destroyed during WWII and subsequently rebuilt before being shortened in the early 1960s to make room for the urban expressway which passes through central Saarbr& ...
Founded: 1546 | Location: Saarbrücken, Germany

Schleissheim Palace

Schleissheim Palace actually comprises three palaces in a grand baroque park in the village of Oberschleißheim, a suburb of Munich. The palace was a summer residence of the Bavarian rulers of the House of Wittelsbach. Old Schleissheim Palace The history of Schleissheim Palace started with a renaissance country house (1598) and hermitage founded by William V close to Dachau Palace. The central gate and clock tower ...
Founded: 1617-1704 | Location: Munich, Germany

Ehrenburg Palace

Ehrenburg Palace was built by Johann Ernst, Duke of Saxe-Coburg, in 1543-47. It replaced the Veste Coburg as the Dukes" city Residenz. The new city palace was built around a dissolved Franciscan monastery. According to tradition, the palace was named Ehrenburg ('Palace of Honour') by Emperor Charles V for having been constructed without the use of forced labour. In 1690, a fire destroyed the northern part ...
Founded: 1543 | Location: Coburg, Germany

Moritzburg Castle

Moritzburg is a Baroque palace about 13 kilometres northwest of the Saxon capital, Dresden. The castle has four round towers and lies on a symmetrical artificial island. It is named after Duke Moritz of Saxony, who had a hunting lodge built there between 1542 and 1546. The surrounding woodlands and lakes have been a favourite hunting area of the electors and kings of Saxony. The Castle Chapel was built in 1661 under ...
Founded: 1542 | Location: Moritzburg, Germany

Landshut Residence

In 1536 Louis X, Duke of Bavaria laid the foundation stone for a new residence in the inner city of Landshut. It was begun in German Renaissance style under the architect Bernhard Zwitzel from Augsburg. During a journey to Italy the duke got the inspiration for an additional palace. Behind the German building, close to the river Isar, the so-called 'Italian building' was constructed from 1537 to 1543 in Italian ...
Founded: 1536 | Location: Landshut, Germany

Johannisburg Palace

Schloss Johannisburg was erected between 1605 and 1614 by the architect Georg Ridinger for Johann Schweikhard von Kronberg, Prince Bishop of Mainz. A keep from the destroyed 14th-century castle that had formerly stood on the site was included in the construction and is the oldest part of the castle. Until the end of the ecclesial princedoms in Germany in 1803, it was the second residence of the Prince Bishop of Mainz. At ...
Founded: 1605-1614 | Location: Aschaffenburg, Germany

Dachau Palace

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Founded: 1546 | Location: Dachau, Germany

Eutin Castle

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Founded: 16th century | Location: Eutin, Germany

Weikersheim Palace

Weikersheim Palace (Schloss Weikersheim) was built in the 12th century, however the exact year is not known. The palace was the traditional seat of the princely family of Hohenlohe. In the 16th century, Count Wolfgang II inherited Weikersheim after a division of estates and made it his main home. He converted the moated castle into a magnificent Renaissance palace, whose splendid rooms have been preserved with their furni ...
Founded: 1586 | Location: Weikersheim, Germany

St. Rochus Cemetery

St. Rochus Cemetery (Rochusfriedhof) was created in late 1510s to bury the victims of the plague epidemic of 1517-18. To avoid spreading the disease, city authorities decided to build the cemetery at some distance from the city, so St. Rochus is located outside the old city wall. The cemetery was finally consecrated on 21 March 1519. St. Rochus Chapel was built in 1520–21. The architect was Hans Beheim the Elder, wh ...
Founded: 1517-1520 | Location: Nuremberg, Germany

Husum Castle

Husum castle is the only manor-castle on the western coast of Schleswig-Holstein and highlights the important role that Husum has always played for the western part of the state. Duke Adolf von Schleswig-Holstein-Gottorf (1526-1586) erected the castle in the Dutch Renaissance style between 1577 and 1582. He was the first ruler of this dukedom which had been formed by means of the settlement of an estate in 1544; the duke ...
Founded: 1577-1582 | Location: Husum, Germany

Glücksburg Castle

Glücksburg Castle is one of the most important Renaissance castles in northern Europe. It is the seat of the House of Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Glücksburg and was also used by the Danish kings. Situated on the Flensburg Fjord the castle is now a museum owned by a foundation, and is no longer inhabited by the ducal family. The castle was built from 1582 to 1587 by Nikolaus Karie for John II, Duke of Schleswig-Holste ...
Founded: 1582-1587 | Location: Glücksburg, Germany

Melanchthonhaus

The Melanchthonhaus is a writer"s house museum in the German town of Lutherstadt Wittenberg. It is a Renaissance building with late Gothic arched windows and the broad-tiered gables. It includes the study of the Protestant Reformer Philipp Melanchthon, who lived there with his family. In 1954 the house became a museum on Melanchthon"s life and work displaying paintings, prints and manuscripts by him and h ...
Founded: 1536 | Location: Lutherstadt Wittenberg, Germany

Wewelsburg Castle

Wewelsburg castle is perched atop a wooded slope close to Paderborn"s airport. The fortification Wifilisburg was used during the 9th and 10th centuries against the Hungarians. The next castle was demolished in 1123/24 by revolting peasants. From 1301 to 1589, the Prince-Bishops of Paderborn assigned the estate to miscellaneous liege lords. The masonry of both predecessor buildings was integrated in the current tr ...
Founded: 1603-1609 | Location: Büren, Germany

Neuburg Castle

The original Neuburg castle was built in the early Middle Ages by the Agilolfings noble family. This was acquired by the Wittelsbach dukes in 1247. When Count Palatine Otto Henry began his rule in Palatinate-Neuburg in 1522, he found a medieval fortified castle in his residence city of Neuburg, which, unlike similar than other royal residences was still not adjusted for the demands of a modern royal court. So from 1527 he ...
Founded: 1527 | Location: Neuburg an der Donau, Germany

Güstrow Palace

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Founded: 1558 | Location: Güstrow, Germany

Bad Mergentheim Castle

The castle of Mergentheim was the residence of the Grand Masters of German Teutonic Order from 1525-1809. In 1996 the museum was opened with around 3000 m² of exhibition space. The 800-year history of the German Teutonic Order from 1190 to the present day is illustrated with objects, works of art and models. The castle has a rich architectural history. There are Romanesque structural elements (residential quarter co ...
Founded: 1525 | Location: Bad Mergentheim, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Hochosterwitz Castle

Hochosterwitz Castle is considered to be one of Austria's most impressive medieval castles. The rock castle is one of the state's landmarks and a major tourist attraction.

The site was first mentioned in an 860 deed issued by King Louis the German of East Francia, donating several of his properties in the former Principality of Carantania to the Archdiocese of Salzburg. In the 11th century Archbishop Gebhard of Salzburg ceded the castle to the Dukes of Carinthia from the noble House of Sponheim in return for their support during the Investiture Controversy. The Sponheim dukes bestowed the fiefdom upon the family of Osterwitz, who held the hereditary office of the cup-bearer in 1209.

In the 15th century, the last Carinthian cup-bearer, Georg of Osterwitz was captured in a Turkish invasion and died in 1476 in prison without leaving descendants. So after four centuries, on 30 May 1478, the possession of the castle reverted to Emperor Frederick III of Habsburg.

Over the next 30 years, the castle was badly damaged by numerous Turkish campaigns. On 5 October 1509, Emperor Maximilian I handed the castle as a pledge to Matthäus Lang von Wellenburg, then Bishop of Gurk. Bishop Lang undertook a substantial renovation project for the damaged castle.

About 1541, German king Ferdinand I of Habsburg bestowed Hochosterwitz upon the Carinthian governor Christof Khevenhüller. In 1571, Baron George Khevenhüller acquired the citadel by purchase. He fortified to deal with the threat of Turkish invasions of the region, building an armory and 14 gates between 1570 and 1586. Such massive fortification is considered unique in citadel construction.

Since the 16th century, no major changes have been made to Hochosterwitz. It has also remained in the possession of the Khevenhüller family as requested by the original builder, George Khevenhüller. A marble plaque dating from 1576 in the castle yard documents this request.

A specific feature is the access way to the castle passing through a total of 14 gates, which are particularly prominent owing to the castle's situation in the landscape. Tourists are allowed to walk the 620-metre long pathway through the gates up to the castle; each gate has a diagram of the defense mechanism used to seal that particular gate. The castle rooms hold a collection of prehistoric artifacts, paintings, weapons, and armor, including one set of armor 2.4 metres tall, once worn by Burghauptmann Schenk.