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Religion in The Holy Roman Empire.

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    Posted: 26 Jan 2011 at 01:21
I have been reading extensively on the reigns of both Charles I and Charles II of England, Scotland and Ireland. I still have to cover the The Interregnum and will do eventually. The readings of Charles I and the Civil Wars made various references to The Thirty Year War and with that I became interested in this seemingly less discussed area of European history. 
 
I have just began Europe's Tragedy A New History Of The Thirty Year War by Peter H Wilson and am presently only just beginning the 4th chapter in what is a long book but so far has been very very interesting though complicated. The book is set out into three parts, The Beginning, Conflict and finally Aftermath.

As said above I am very much into the early stages of the book. So far though, and in a nutshell, I am given the impression that the Holy Roman Empire leading up to the beginning of the war's outbreak in 1618 was an odd amalgam of estates, principalities, dukedoms and so on with the Emperor a secular head of this heady mix whose rule was based on a constitutional legal system with The Church of Rome the dominant religion.

That brings me to a question that is not answered in this book and I am having difficulty finding out on the WWW. When Luther began the reformation in the early 1500's there was seemingly a mass conversion to Lutheranism. I understand that various theological arguments broke out, Indulgences for example was a major complaint against the Roman Church, but what was it that made the peasant masses initially move away from the past to protestantism? Considering the ruling classes were seemingly Catholic and most peasants  were illiterate and relied on Priestly education why the mass conversion in the early 1500's?


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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Reginmund Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2011 at 10:39
So not a specialist on this, but it's an interesting question and based on what little I do know I have been speculating.
 
I think the peasants to a far greater extent than the ruling classes, were geuinely religious. While lords and bishops may have had a form of semi-devotion where they acknowledge the importance of religion but also see its use as a tool on a more pragmatic level, peasants in general I presume were less reflected owing precisely to their lack of education and for them religion was about salvation and little else. Since they had no wordly stakes in organized religion, they'd be more flexible, and if they suspected organized religion was leading them to damnation, that concern would overshadow all else. Given the disillusionment with the materialistic ways of the Catholic Church, I have no trouble seeing why these peasants would grow sceptical and be attracted to a form of Christianity where they took more of a personal responsibility for their salvation instead of relying on possible corrupt clergymen.
 
It was nothing new either. Through the middle ages you saw several of these movements of intense popular religiousity, most famously the Cathars and Albigensians, who felt organised religion simply wasn't religious enough.
 
Of course when kings and lords start converting to protestantism in order to free themselves of the Papacy, they also required their subjects to convert (which was made the rule by the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648), but that's a different matter entirely from popular conversions in spite of the authorities.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote Windemere Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2011 at 16:08
The kings, nobles, and lords were eager to take over the extensive lands of the Church (monasteries, churches, etc.), and embracing the Reformation gave them the opportunity to do this. Some peasants were benefited by this, and it opened up new  agricultural opportunities for them. Other peasants, dependent on monastery lands and charity for their livelihoods, lost out.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 26 Jan 2011 at 18:33
One thing that needs to be kept clearly distinct is that the issue is not Protestant vs Catholic even in a religious sense.
 
The much more complicated issue is Lutheran vs Calvinist vs Roman Catholicism vs Gallicanism. Reginmund's point about more personal  responsibility for salvation doesn't really apply to Lutheranism. And Gallicanism explains to some extent the fact that France fought on the so-called 'Protestant' side.  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 03:19
Come on...why not go into details on a complex struggle that essentially turned the bounds of the Holy Roman Empire into one giant battlefield following the Defenestration at Prague and principally redirected the political turmoil that had roiled France for a generation outward from French soil onto another terrain. Anyway, no matter the religion of the peasants they paid the price for all the turmoil since when it came time to feed the criss-crossing armies, the roaming quartermasters didn't give a hoot what religion you professed come plundering time. 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 11:05
Originally posted by Windemere Windemere wrote:

The kings, nobles, and lords were eager to take over the extensive lands of the Church (monasteries, churches, etc.), and embracing the Reformation gave them the opportunity to do this. Some peasants were benefited by this, and it opened up new  agricultural opportunities for them. Other peasants, dependent on monastery lands and charity for their livelihoods, lost out.


I am not so sure that that is true of The Holy Roman Empire. My understanding is at the time of the breakout of the war the Habsburg's, for example, were staunchly Catholic but large swathes of the peasantry and the middles classes were protestants.

I think that I will have to reread the chapters on the religion again.        
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 11:08
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

One thing that needs to be kept clearly distinct is that the issue is not Protestant vs Catholic even in a religious sense.
 
The much more complicated issue is Lutheran vs Calvinist vs Roman Catholicism vs Gallicanism. Reginmund's point about more personal  responsibility for salvation doesn't really apply to Lutheranism. And Gallicanism explains to some extent the fact that France fought on the so-called 'Protestant' side.


Reginmund's reply tended to make sense to me but then I have only read a little on Lutheranism. On the highlighted point can I ask why?
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 11:43
One question here is when the followers of Luther and other reformators began realising they should break from the "main" catholic church, as they initially wished not to break, but to reform it.
And Luther was in no way only "supported by peasants", but had support from some of the most mighty men. The Kingdoms of Sweden and Denmark, at that time stretching over the Nordic and some of the Baltic and at that time not so "small powers", already from the 1530´s embraced Luthers teacings. The later personally interfered against peasants risings, and on an intellectual level against some of the humanists of the time, and even against some of the new sciences, especially Copernicus heliocentric theory.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 11:59
Originally posted by 4ZZZ 4ZZZ wrote:

Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

One thing that needs to be kept clearly distinct is that the issue is not Protestant vs Catholic even in a religious sense.
 
The much more complicated issue is Lutheran vs Calvinist vs Roman Catholicism vs Gallicanism. Reginmund's point about more personal  responsibility for salvation doesn't really apply to Lutheranism. And Gallicanism explains to some extent the fact that France fought on the so-called 'Protestant' side.


Reginmund's reply tended to make sense to me but then I have only read a little on Lutheranism. On the highlighted point can I ask why?
 
Because Lutheranism is an episcopalian church with a hierarchy much the same as that of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches. (Which is one of the reasons major rulers were attracted to Lutheranism: it provided a body that they could control as head, just as the Queen is head of the Church of England.)
 
The 'more personal' - i.e. less institutionalised - approach to salvation was a feature of some congregationalist teaching, but strict Calvinism with its fundamental belief in predestination doesn't really have a 'personal approach' either.
 
I don't think at he time of the 30 years war we are talking about Lollards or Quakers or Unitarians. The Levellers were the right time, but confined to England afaik.
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 12:49
Originally posted by gcle2003 gcle2003 wrote:

Because Lutheranism is an episcopalian church with a hierarchy much the same as that of the Roman Catholic, Anglican and Orthodox churches. (Which is one of the reasons major rulers were attracted to Lutheranism: it provided a body that they could control as head, just as the Queen is head of the Church of England.)
 
The 'more personal' - i.e. less institutionalised - approach to salvation was a feature of some congregationalist teaching, but strict Calvinism with its fundamental belief in predestination doesn't really have a 'personal approach' either.
 
I don't think at he time of the 30 years war we are talking about Lollards or Quakers or Unitarians. The Levellers were the right time, but confined to England afaik.
 



Okay. So, to put it into simplistic terms, could it be suggested that the mass conversion to Lutheranism by the peasant classes went along the same lines as that of the reformation in say England? Yes there was a change in the hierarchy, movement away from a faraway pope to a closer more visible leader in the king, but it was easy to convert as little was lost on a local front?

Embarrassed I hope that question makes sense. I know what I want to ask but I do not think I am articulating myself very well. British and WW2 history has dominated my life and this is an entirely new area of learning for me.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote gcle2003 Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 13:50
I think that's pretty true of the initial trend. It's worth distinguishing (both in the UK and Europe) between the way peasants behaved and the way urban commoners behaved. Urban commoners tended to be the ones who developed the non-Lutheran Protestant beliefs. These came later than the Lutheran reformation but they were established before the 30 Years War.
 
In the century in the run-up to the War, you also had the levelling Anabaptist movement, probably originally an urban movement, though it spread to the countryside. The Anabaptists (roughly speaking think Amish or Mennonite) were pretty well persecuted by everybody, Roman Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 14:28
What everyone apparently wishes to forget is that by the outbreak of the The Thirty Years War, what one would identify as the period of the Reformation was over! Technically, one can not throw the pall of religious ideology over this conflict nor speak of the mass conversion of peasants to Lutheranism (for goodness sakes has everyone forgotten Luther's own stance in the Peasant's War). Gcle was correct in his reservations above and interestingly one can say that at Westphalia even the mention of religion, if not an afterthought, was principally a political affirmation for the strengthening of executive power (wherever claimed) over local dissidents. The notion that began this thread--that in 1618 the Holy Roman Empire and the "Roman" Catholic Church were somehow integrally related--is rather far-fetched. Much better to accept the mosaic of contradictions summarized here:
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 17:13
I too have some reservations about the idea of sudden "mass-conversions" of the peasantry. I think those living in towns and cities may have been as important, at least in the early stages, and with the reservation that things may have been different depending on location. The lutheran reformation was at least some places very much something who came "from above": the king or prince, though very actively supported by some groups. There was at least some use of force involved by the same kings or princes, and the whole populations did not at all at once abolish all "old" or "catholic" practices.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 21:19
drgonzaga in defence of myself I am not too sure that there is much to forget as I never knew in the first place haa haa Embarrassed Confused. This is genuinely a new area of learning for me. 

Wilson makes it very clear that the term Holy Roman Empire is related to the the empire seeing itself as the successor of Rome after the fall so I understand that. As to the war itself he makes it abundantly clear that this is a complicated beast in the preface alone. He says "to cover all aspects" a knowledge of 14 Euro languages through to there being 4000 titles on the Peace Of Westphalia alone makes this for a complex subject. I am only nearing the end of Chapter 4 The Turkish Wars And Its Consequences and as much as I am enjoying the subject it is challenging to say the least.


If I may quote the last sentence in my original post I asked "When Luther began the reformation in the early 1500's there was seemingly a mass conversion to Lutheranism. I understand that various theological arguments broke out, Indulgences for example was a major complaint against the Roman Church, but what was it that made the peasant masses initially move away from the past to protestantism? Considering the ruling classes were seemingly Catholic and most peasants  were illiterate and relied on Priestly education why the mass conversion in the early 1500's?"  All my answers to any replies to me are based on that question.

If there was no "mass" conversion as has been suggested in this thread what happened? I am genuinely curious.   



  
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 22:26
Well, to paraphrase Voltaire this strange beast was hardly holy, rarely Roman, and emphatically not an empire! Any pretense at solidity and unity certainly faded by the time of the Guelphs and Ghibellines and even the notion of "reformation" as an original idea with Luther is way of base. The history of the Franciscan Order is ample proof that the Church itself had a long history with regard to theological contretemps. There the reason behind the purported comment by Pope Leo X on hearing of the the to-do at Wittenberg: Oh no not another monkish controversy! I have mentioned the two Gs because those struggles were essentially replicated in the early 16th century with respect to the political and never actually settled. If one wishes to be cynical here one could say that what the papacy granted to the Trastamaras in the 15th century they were loath to grant to the petty princelings of the German periphery. The figure to examine here is the person and actions of Charles V between 1521 and 1549.
 
As for "mass conversions" such in a sense is an inapplicable premise since as with Luther, most people followed the decisions undertaken by their local religious institutions. After all, many of the Lutheran pastors, just as with Luther himself, began life as Catholic clerics or products of Catholic institutions. Pehaps you should read up on the Disputation of Leipzig and the intricacies personified by the career of Melanchthon (Phillip Schwartzerdt).
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote fantasus Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 27 Jan 2011 at 22:31
Originally posted by 4ZZZ 4ZZZ wrote:

drgonzaga in defence of myself I am not too sure that there is much to forget as I never knew in the first place haa haa Embarrassed Confused. This is genuinely a new area of learning for me. 

Wilson makes it very clear that the term Holy Roman Empire is related to the the empire seeing itself as the successor of Rome after the fall so I understand that. As to the war itself he makes it abundantly clear that this is a complicated beast in the preface alone. He says "to cover all aspects" a knowledge of 14 Euro languages through to there being 4000 titles on the Peace Of Westphalia alone makes this for a complex subject. I am only nearing the end of Chapter 4 The Turkish Wars And Its Consequences and as much as I am enjoying the subject it is challenging to say the least.


If I may quote the last sentence in my original post I asked "When Luther began the reformation in the early 1500's there was seemingly a mass conversion to Lutheranism. I understand that various theological arguments broke out, Indulgences for example was a major complaint against the Roman Church, but what was it that made the peasant masses initially move away from the past to protestantism? Considering the ruling classes were seemingly Catholic and most peasants  were illiterate and relied on Priestly education why the mass conversion in the early 1500's?"  All my answers to any replies to me are based on that question.

If there was no "mass" conversion as has been suggested in this thread what happened? I am genuinely curious.    
 
One example of what happened (though I do notr remember all details): In 1536 the lands belonging to the Kingdom of Denmark (Contemporary Denmark, southern Sweden, Norway, a part of northern Germany and some smaller possessions) were "reformed" by the king, by the way the winner in an internal contest for power. He was supported by people educated in theology, and some part of the urban populations (citizens, though the wast majority at that time were not citizens, only the privileged minority). At about the same time there was peasants uprisings in parts of the realm, crushed by professional armies, called in by the nobility and lead by the man who became king.
So, though the new movement were popular at least among some parts of the population support from above was very important too, or perhaps even decisive. Perhaps Denmark and Sweden were the leading lutheran powers at that time, since the protestants in Germany were split between smaller principalities. I think the educated and urban parts of population were most affected, and most active.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Oct 2011 at 14:42
The book I mentioned in the original post, Europe's Tragedy is still being read by me. As I said elsewhere a complicated subject to say the least. I actually stopped after Part One and read up on the Reformation and have only recently begun the book again from the start after a break. 

I am not too keen to start a thread on what is really a question about a slight error in the book ( or in defence of the author on the part of the publishers or on my lack of ability to take this complicated subject in) so thought it worthwhile posting here.  

Due to the scope of the subject the historical characters seem to reoccur so consequently the index, to refer back to their initial occurrence, is vital for a lay person such as my self.  A Colonel/General called Taupadel has received many mentions in various battles and also as a hostage swap for Klaus Dietrich Sperreuter a Swedish turncoat. The problem I have is that Taupadel has not received a mention in the index and I am not finding very much of interest on the WWW concerning this individual. I suspect that there may be more information on him in German literature. Not speaking German, if anyone does do any of you have any information as to this individual? Thanks in advance.
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (2) Thanks(2)   Quote drgonzaga Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 28 Oct 2011 at 18:36
Why Georg Christof von Taupandel should incite further curiosity other than as an archetype for the "middling sort" that participated in The Thirty Years War strikes me as rather curious. Of course, the problem you encounter may be a result of the variant spellings of the name [Taupadel or Taubadel or Taupadell] but, as one can easily infer we are discussing the patterns that emerged in the latter phase of this polymorphous struggle after 1631. Of course, your difficulty might also be the product of his constant identification as a "Swede" rather than a Saxon caught in the vagaries of loyalties subsequent to the invasion of Saxony by Tilly in 1631. In a way, one can say he was a "protege" of Bernard of Saxe-Weimar and despite your "weakness" in German there is a biography on the Internet:
http://www.koni.onlinehome.de/ausfuehrliche-biographien/taupa-lang.htm 
 
 
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Post Options Post Options   Thanks (0) Thanks(0)   Quote 4ZZZ Quote  Post ReplyReply Direct Link To This Post Posted: 29 Oct 2011 at 01:05
I am a curious type by nature.  Also I am told that curiosity killed the cat so with that in mind I had better watch myself.  My weakness for the German language is profound to the point that I will seek a translation into strine of the link you have kindly provided. Thank you drgonzaga.

Edited by 4ZZZ - 29 Oct 2011 at 01:06
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