Thirty Years War & Rise of Prussia

History of Germany between 1618 - 1739

Map Thirty Years War-en
Map of the Thirty Years' War

From 1618 to 1648 the Thirty Years' War ravaged in the Holy Roman Empire. The causes were the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants, the efforts by the various states within the Empire to increase their power and the Catholic Emperor's attempt to achieve the religious and political unity of the Empire. The immediate occasion for the war was the uprising of the Protestant nobility of Bohemia against the emperor, but the conflict was widened into a European War by the intervention of King Christian IV of Denmark (1625–29), Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden (1630–48) and France under Cardinal Richelieu. Germany became the main theatre of war and the scene of the final conflict between France and the Habsburgs for predominance in Europe.

The fighting often was out of control, with marauding bands of hundreds or thousands of starving soldiers spreading plague, plunder, and murder. The armies that were under control moved back and forth across the countryside year after year, levying heavy taxes on cities, and seizing the animals and food stocks of the peasants without payment. The enormous social disruption over three decades caused a dramatic decline in population because of killings, disease, crop failures, declining birth rates and random destruction, and the out-migration of terrified people. One estimate shows a 38% drop from 16 million people in 1618 to 10 million by 1650, while another shows "only" a 20% drop from 20 million to 16 million. The Altmark and Württemberg regions were especially hard hit. It took generations for Germany to fully recover.

The war ended in 1648 with the Peace of Westphalia. Alsace was permanently lost to France, Pomerania was temporarily lost to Sweden, and the Netherlands officially left the Empire. Imperial power declined further as the states' rights were increased.

Rise of Brandenburg-Prussia

From 1640, Brandenburg-Prussia had started to rise under the Great Elector, Frederick William. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 strengthened it even further, through the acquisition of East Pomerania. The second half of the 17th century laid the basis for Prussia to become one of the great players in European politics later on. The emerging Brandenburg-Prussian military potential, based on the introduction of a standing army in 1653, was symbolized by the widely noted victories in Warsaw (1656) and Fehrbellin (1675) and by the Great Sleigh Drive (1678). Brandenburg-Prussia also established a navy and German colonies in the Brandenburger Gold Coast and Arguin. Frederick William, known as "The Great Elector", opened Brandenburg-Prussia to large-scale immigration of mostly Protestant refugees from all across Europe, most notably Huguenot immigration following the Edict of Potsdam. Frederick William also started to centralize Brandenburg-Prussia's administration and reduce the influence of the estates.

In 1701, Frederick III, Elector of Brandenburg, succeeded in elevating his status to King in Prussia. This was made possible by the Duchy of Prussia's sovereign status outside the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and approval by the Habsburg emperor and other European royals in the course of forming alliances for the War of the Spanish succession and the Great Northern War. From 1701 onward, the Hohenzollern domains were referred to as the Kingdom of Prussia, or simply Prussia. Legally, the personal union between Brandenburg and Prussia continued until the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806. However, by this time the emperor's overlordship over the empire had become a legal fiction. Hence, after 1701, Brandenburg was de facto treated as part of the Prussian kingdom. Frederick and his successors continued to centralize and expand the state, transforming the personal union of politically diverse principalities typical for the Brandenburg-Prussian era into a system of provinces subordinate to Berlin.

From 1713 to 1740, King Frederick William I, also known as the "Soldier King", established a highly centralized, militarized state with a heavily rural population of about three million (compared to the nine million in Austria).

References: Wikipedia

Popular sites founded between 1618 and 1739 in Germany

Goethe House

The Goethe House is the main house where poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe lived in Weimar, though he did live in several others in the town. Goethe House is one of sites in a UNESCO World Heritage Site consisting of multiple structures related to Weimar Classicism. Johann Wolfgang Goethe lived in the house on Frauenplan for 50 years until his death in 1832, apart from his journeys and a lengthy stay in Italy. He first mov ...
Founded: 1709 | Location: Weimar, Germany

Mainz Citadel

The Mainzer Zitadelle (Citadel of Mainz) was constructed in 1660. The Jakobsberg hill, where the citadel was constructed, had been occupied by a Benedictine abbey during the middle ages (since 1050). Halfway up the hill, the amphitheater of the Roman settlement of Mogontiacum, which has been recently excavated, must also have been visible at that time. The Jakobsberg hill, however, had not been integrated in the ring of t ...
Founded: 1660 | Location: Mainz, Germany

Johannisberg Castle

Schloss Johannisberg is a castle and winery in the Rheingau wine-growing region of Germany. It has been making wine for over 900 years. The winery is most noted for its claim to have 'discovered' late harvest wine. A mountain on the north bank of the River Rhine near Mainz has been associated with the Church and with winemaking since the Dark Ages, when the estate of Ludwig der Fromme ('Louis the Pious') made 6000 litres ...
Founded: 1716 | Location: Johannisberg, Germany

Frauenkirche

The Dresden Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) is considered an outstanding example of Protestant sacred architecture, featuring one of the largest domes in Europe. Built in the 18th century, the church was destroyed in the bombing of Dresden during World War II. The remaining ruins were left for 50 years as a war memorial, following decisions of local East German leaders. The church was rebuilt after the reunification of ...
Founded: 1726-1743 | Location: Dresden, Germany

Karlsruhe Palace

Karlsruhe Palace was erected in 1715 by Margrave Charles III William of Baden-Durlach, after a dispute with the citizens of his previous capital, Durlach. The city of Karlsruhe has since grown around it. The first building was constructed by Jakob Friedrich von Batzendorf. The city was planned with the tower of the palace at the centre and 32 streets radiating out from it like spokes on a wheel, or ribs on a folding fan. ...
Founded: 1715 | Location: Karlsruhe, Germany

Deutscher Dom

The Neue Kirche (colloquially Deutscher Dom) was originally built in the 1701-1708 by Giovanni Simonetti after a design of Martin Grünberg. It was the third church in Friedrichstadt, established in 1688, which was a town of princely domination, while the neighbouring old Berlin and Cölln were cities of town privileges. The Prince-Elector originally only provided for a Calvinist congregation, since they - the Hoh ...
Founded: 1702 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Mannheim Palace

Mannheim Palace is a large Baroque palace, originally the main residence of the Prince-electors of the Electorate of the Palatinate of the House of Wittelsbach. It is now primarily used by the University of Mannheim. The city of Mannheim, founded in 1606, was fortified and at the present site of the castle there was a fortress called Friedrichsburg, sometimes serving as alternative residence for the Elector, one of the m ...
Founded: 1720 | Location: Mannheim, Germany

St. Andreas Church

The Church of St. Andreas was constructed between 1622 and 1629 in the South German baroque style. It was originally a Jesuit church and also served as the court church for the Counts palatine of Neuburg. After the dissolution of the Jesuit order in August 1773 it served as a parish church until 2005 when it became the monastery church of the Dominican Order. The building itself is now owned by the city of Düss ...
Founded: 1622-1629 | Location: Düsseldorf, Germany

Charlottenburg Palace

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Founded: 1695-1713 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Saarbrücken Castle

The existence of Saarbrücken was first documented in 999 under the name 'Castellum Sarabrucca'. In the 17th century the castle was rebuilt in the style of the Renaissance, but later destroyed and now only the cellars of this construction remain. In the 18th century Prince Wilhelm Heinrich had his architect Stengel build a new Baroque residence on the same site. Since then the castle has suffered various bou ...
Founded: 18th century | Location: Saarbrücken, Germany

Würzburg Residence

The sumptuous Würzburg Residence was built and decorated in the 18th century by an international corps of architects, painters, sculptors, and stucco workers under the patronage of two successive Prince-Bishops, Johann Philipp Franz and Friedrich Karl von Schönborn. The Residence was essentially constructed between 1720 and 1744, decorated on the interior from 1740 to 1770 and landscaped with magnificent gardens from 1 ...
Founded: 1720-1780 | Location: Würzburg, Germany

Ludwigsburg Palace

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Founded: 1704 | Location: Ludwigsburg, Germany

Nymphenburg Palace

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Founded: 1664 | Location: Munich, Germany

Schloss Weimar

Schloss Weimar was the residence of the dukes of Saxe-Weimar and Eisenach, and has also been called Residenzschloss. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site 'Classical Weimar'. In history, the palace was often destroyed by fire. The Baroque palace from the 17th century, with the church Schlosskirche where several works by Johann Sebastian Bach were premiered, was replaced by a Neoclassical structure after ...
Founded: 1619 | Location: Weimar, Germany

Dresden Cathedral

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Founded: 1738-1751 | Location: Dresden, Germany

Fulda Cathedral

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Electoral Palace

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Founded: 1697-1705 | Location: Bonn, Germany

Neumünster

According to tradition, the Irish bishop Kilian were killed with his fellows at the site of today Neumünster church. Bishop Megingoz built the first church on the site as a memorial for martyrs in the 8th century. The next church was built around 1060 and renewed in 1250. The current Baroque appearance dates from the 18th century (1711-1722). In World War II the church was partly destroyed and restored later.
Founded: 1711-1722 | Location: Würzburg, Germany

St. Stephan's Church

St. Stephan"s Church is built on the most eastern of the seven hills. It has been Bamberg"s most important protestant church since 1807. The original building, which was probably donated by empress Kunigunde, was erected at the same time as Heinrich"s Cathedral and was consecrated by Pope Benedict VIII in 1020. Today"s church was constructed in two phases in the 17th century and is based on a Greek cr ...
Founded: 1628 | Location: Bamberg, Germany

Köpenick Palace

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Founded: 1677 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Schwetzingen Palace

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Founded: 1700-1750 | Location: Schwetzingen, Germany

Hohenburg Palace

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Founded: 1712-1718 | Location: Hohenburg, Germany

Herrenhausen Gardens

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Founded: 17th century | Location: Hanover, Germany

Fulda Residence

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Founded: 1706-1714 | Location: Fulda, Germany

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

São Jorge Castle

São Jorge Castle is a Moorish castle occupying a commanding hilltop overlooking the historic centre of the Portuguese city of Lisbon and Tagus River. The strongly fortified citadel dates from medieval period of Portuguese history, and is one of the main tourist sites of Lisbon.

Although the first fortifications on this hilltop date from the 2nd century BC, archaeological excavations have identified a human presence in the Tagus valley as far back as the 6th century BC. The first fortification was, presumably, erected in 48 BC, when Lisbon was classified as a Roman municipality.

The hill was first used by indigenous Celtic tribes, then by Phoenicians, Greeks, and Carthaginians as a defensible outpost that was later expropriated by Roman, Suebic, Visigothic, and Moorish peoples. During the 10th century, the fortifications were rebuilt by Muslim Berber forces, these included the walls or Cerca Moura ("Moorish Encirclement").

Kingdom

In the context of the Christian Reconquista, the castle and the city of Lisbon were freed from Moorish rule in 1147 by Afonso Henriques and northern European knights in the Siege of Lisbon during the Second Crusade; this victory was the only notable success of that failed crusade. According to an oft-repeated legend, the knight Martim Moniz, noticing that one of the doors to the castle was open, prevented the Moors from closing it by throwing his own body into the breach, thus allowing Christian soldiers to enter at the cost of his own life. With the taking of the castle Christian forces were able to maintain the defense of Lisbon until the end of the 12th century.

When Lisbon became the capital of the kingdom in 1255, the castle served as the alcáçova, a fortified residence for Afonso III, in his role as governor. It was extensively renovated around 1300 by King Denis I, transforming the Moorish alcáçova into the Royal Palace of the Alcáçova. Between 1373 and 1375, King Ferdinand I ordered the building of the Cerca Nova or Cerca Fernandina, the walled compound that enclosed the entirety of the castle. The master builders João Fernandes and Vasco Brás were responsible for its construction. This wall, which partially replaced the old Moorish walls, was designed to encircle previously unprotected parts of the city. Completed in two years, it had 77 towers and a perimeter of 5,400 metres.

The castle and the city resisted the forces of Castile several times during the 14th century (notably in 1373 and in 1383–1384). It was during this period (the late 14th century) that the castle was dedicated to Saint George by King John I, who had married the English princess Philippa of Lancaster. Saint George, the warrior-saint, was normally represented slaying a dragon, and very was popular in both countries.

From this point onward many of the kingdom's records were housed in the Torre de Ulisses, also known as the Torre Albarrã, until the reign of Manuel I. The Portuguese National Archive is still referred to as the Torre do Tombo. Between 1448 and 1451, the master builder was paid several stipends for his work on the palace. These public works continued until 1452, with additional payments being made for labor and materials to convert the building from a fortified castle to a royal residence.

Around the early 16th century, following the construction of the Ribeira Palace beside the Tagus river, the Palace of Alcáçova began to lose its importance. An earthquake occurring in 1531 further damaged the old castle, contributing further to its decay and neglect. In 1569, King Sebastian ordered the rebuilding of the royal apartments in the castle, intending to use it as his official residence. As part of the rebuilding, in 1577 Filippo Terzi demolished one of the towers near the principal facade of the Church of Loreto. However, many of the works were never completed after the young king's apparent death during the Battle of Alcácer Quibir. The following Portuguese dynastic crisis opened the way for sixty years of Spanish rule and the castle was converted into military barracks and a prison. On 30 December 1642, Teodósio de Frias the Younger was appointed master builder to continue the works begun by his father, Luís de Frias, and his grandfather, Teodósio de Frias. This was part of a greater plan by the Spanish forces to recommission the fortification.

However, after Portugal regained its independence following the Portuguese Restoration War, the works were taken over by the Portuguese government. On 6 November 1648, Nicolau de Langres was called upon to take over the design, execution and construction of a new fortification that would surround the Castle of São Jorge and the city walls of Lisbon. In 1650 the military architect Mateus do Couto was named master builder of the project and reconstruction took on a new formality: although the military engineer João Gillot built new walls in 1652, construction again followed Couto's plans between 1657 and 1733. In 1673, the Soldiers' Hospital, dedicated to São João de Deus, was installed on the grounds beside the Rua do Recolhimento. At the end of the 17th century the Recolhimento do Castelo was constructed along the southeast angle of the courtyard, and in 1733, new projects were initiated by master Custódio Vieira.

The 1755 Lisbon earthquake severely damaged the castle and contributed to its continuing decay: apart from the walls of the old castle, the soldier's hospital and the Recolhimento were left in ruins. The necessity of maintaining a supporting military force within the capital city required expansion of the site's role of garrison and presidio. From 1780 to 1807, the charitable institution Casa Pia, dedicated to the education of poor children, was established in the citadel, while soldiers continued to be garrisoned on site. Inspired by the events of the earthquake and the following tsunami, the first geodetic observatory in Portugal was constructed in 1788 at the top of one of the towers of the castle, later referred to as the Torre do Observatório.

Republic

As part of the commemorative celebrations marking the foundation of nationhood and restoration of independence, the government of António de Oliveira Salazar initiated extensive renovations at the site. Most of the incongruous structures added to the castle compound in previous centuries were demolished and there was a partial restoration of the Recolhimento. In addition, on 25 October 1947, a monument dedicated to Afonso Henriques, presented by the city of Porto, of a replica created by Soares dos Reis (in 1887) was installed on the grounds.