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

Dresden Cathedral

Dresden Cathedral (Hofkirche) stands as one of Dresden's foremost landmarks. It was designed by architect Gaetano Chiaveri from 1738 to 1751. The church was commissioned by Augustus III, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland while the Protestant city of Dresden built the Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) between 1726 and 1743. The Catholic Elector decided that a Catholic church was needed in order to counterbalance the Pro ...
Founded: 1738-1751 | Location: Dresden, Germany

Französischer Dom

French Cathedral (Französischer Dom) is the colloquial naming for the French Church of Friedrichstadt. Louis Cayart and Abraham Quesnay built the first parts of the actual French Church from 1701 to 1705 for the Huguenot (Calvinist) community. At that time, Huguenots made up about 25% of Berlin"s population. The French Church was modelled after the destroyed Huguenot temple in Charenton-Saint-Maurice, France. I ...
Founded: 1701-1705 | Location: Berlin, 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

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

Zwinger Palace

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Founded: 1710-1728 | Location: Dresden, Germany

Charlottenburg Palace

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Founded: 1695-1713 | Location: Berlin, Germany

Nymphenburg Palace

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Founded: 1664 | Location: Munich, Germany

Neumünster

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Founded: 1711-1722 | Location: Würzburg, 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

St. Stephen's Cathedral

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Ludwigsburg Palace

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Founded: 1704 | Location: Ludwigsburg, Germany

St. Bartholomew Church

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Founded: 1697 | Location: Berchtesgaden, Germany

Karlsruhe Palace

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Founded: 1715 | Location: Karlsruhe, Germany

St. Andreas Church

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Asam Church

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Electoral Palace

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St. Martin's Church

St. Martin"s Church is located in the heart of Bamberg. Built by the Dietzenhofer brothers, it is Bamberg"s only baroque church. The creation of this church is closely linked with the Jesuits as it was originally constructed as the university church and the church of the Jesuit College. After a construction period of just seven years, the house of worship was consecrated in 1693. The trompe d"oeil dome by ...
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Bensberg Palace

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Founded: 1711 | Location: Bensberg, Germany

Bruchsal Palace

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Founded: 1720 | Location: Bruchsal, Germany

Saarbrücken Castle

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Founded: 18th century | Location: Saarbrücken, Germany

Pillnitz Castle

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Founded: 1720 | Location: Pillnitz, Germany

Goethe House

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Founded: 1709 | Location: Weimar, Germany

Poppelsdorf Palace

The design of a new structure to replace the old ruined castle of Poppelsdorf commenced in 1715 at the request of the owner, Joseph Clemens, Archbishop-Elector of Cologne, who engaged the French architect Robert de Cotte. Clemens wanted a maison de plaisance that would be near his remodeled Bonn Palace one-half mile to the north. There was to be a canal between the two, following the example of the Palace of Versail ...
Founded: 1715-1746 | Location: Bonn, Germany

Leineschloss

The Leineschloss, situated on the Leine in Hanover, is the former residence of the Hanoverian kings and the current seat of the Landtag of Lower Saxony. The first building on the site was a Franciscan friary, constructed in about 1300, which was abandoned in 1533 after the Protestant Reformation. In 1636, George, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, began construction of the palace on the site as his residence. In 1 ...
Founded: 1636 | Location: Hanover, 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.