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  • Augsburg, Religious Peace of

    lang=EN-US style='font-size:10.5pt;font-family:"Meridien-Medium","serif"; color:black'>(1555)

    The DIET OF AUGSBURG met from February to

    September 1555. The diet decided that both

    Lutheranism and Catholicism were to be officially

    recognized religions in the Empire. Only

    those Lutherans, however, who accepted the

    statement of faith in the AUGSBURG CONFESSION

    of 1530 were permitted the legal right to exercise

    their religion, although it was not a modern

    policy of religious toleration. Neither Calvinists

    nor Zwinglians called Sacramentarians, nor

    Anabaptists called Sectarians, were given the

    legal right to practice their faith. Freedom of

    conscience for individual Germans to pursue

    their own religious convictions was not recognized,

    while the princes and territorial knights

    were granted the right to decide on which religion

    could be practiced in their territories. Individual

    subjects and their families were allowed

    234 Augsburg, Diet of

    to emigrate, but this was not easy in an agrarian

    economy. They had to sell their properties

    and pay a tax to be released from feudal services

    to which they still might be obligated. Nonetheless,

    this probably saved many of strong religious

    convictions from the Inquisition in Catholic

    areas and Protestant jails in Lutheran territories.

    The prince could also change the religion of his

    territory and had the right to administer its religious

    affairs. Yet the rights and privileges of the

    prince was limited to his territory; neither was

    he allowed to protect his coreligionists elsewhere

    nor engage in missionary activity. These

    rights and obligations were later to be defined as

    He who owns the land determines its religion

    (Cuius regio, eius religio).

    The peace was a political solution to the

    intractable religious divisions caused by the

    Reformation. Ferdinand, the brother of CHARLES

    V, had become king of Hungary and Bohemia,

    and archduke of the Habsburg possessions. Ferdinand

    had been given authority to act and settle

    as Charles already in 1554 had begun to

    divest himself of his dignities as emperor. Many

    princes did not attend, and most sent diplomatic

    representatives to the diet. Nevertheless, the

    rights granted to the princes were extended to

    the imperial nobility, while free cities had to

    observe certain provisions. For instance, where

    Catholic churches and monasteries had been

    reopened in a number of cities that were predominantly

    Protestant, the imperial cities were

    obligated to allow and protect the rights of the

    Catholic minority to worship there.

    Catholics were especially insistent that the

    ecclesiastical principalities not be secularized.

    Protestants already controlled the secular college

    of electors, while the college of princes

    had a Catholic majority. It is true that many of

    the bishops and abbots had proven themselves

    incompetent in the fight against the spread of

    PROTESTANTISM. The emperor willingly suspended

    the jurisdiction of the bishops over

    Protestant territories, but not in Catholic lands.

    The bishops had stood out as the symbols of

    the union of imperial and hierarchical authority

    in the HOLY ROMAN EMPIRE. In order to prevent

    the further secularization of Catholic

    Church properties, the Ecclesiastical Reservation

    was formulated, which stated that

    Catholic archbishops, bishops, and abbots

    could not force their subjects to convert to

    Protestantism as a secular prince could, but

    had to vacate their offices and lose their

    benefices, rights, and privileges. An orthodox

    successor could be chosen by those responsible.

    Lutherans, of course, opposed the Ecclesiastical

    Reservation, but the emperor insisted,

    and it was promulgated on imperial authority

    and not included in the Augsburg Treaty. The

    reservation saved many Catholic properties

    and was partly responsible for the survival of

    Catholicism. Protestants, however, continued

    to secularize bishoprics and abbeys, especially

    in northern Germany. In order to get the

    acquiescence of Protestants to the Ecclesiastical

    Reservation, Ferdinand in a secret document

    did declare that the ecclesiastical estates

    that had already introduced Protestantism

    should be maintained. More than any other

    decision at the diet the ecclesiastical reservation

    saved the ecclesiastical principalities for

    another 250 years and contributed substantially

    to the survival of German Catholicism.

    The Religious Peace of Augsburg failed to

    restore the unity of Christendom. Protesters and

    heretics now for the first time obtained equal

    status with the established church. The emperors

    had failed to regain the monarchical power

    they lost in the 13th century and neither the

    Protestant nor Catholic princes were brought

    under imperial control, and the divisions between

    the princes deepened. The Peace of Augsburg

    also furthered the process whereby the

    religious issues and struggles of the Reformation

    became political. Little attention was paid to the

    sincere practice of religion, while sweeping

    authority was given to secular princes to determine

    religious faith in their territories. The

    Reformations ideal of freedom of conscience

    was now violated by the authoritarian state. The

    political consequence for the Empire was its disintegration

    into territorial units, each with its

    absolute ruler.

    Augsburg, Religious Peace of 235

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