Augsburg, Peace of


Augsburg, Peace of
   By the mid-16th century, Lutheran leaders were firmly in control of Scandinavia and most of northern Germany. While the Catholic Holy Roman emperors had at times scored marked successes against Protestant strongholds, all their victories proved temporary. Three decades of war and the deaths of tens of thousands had had almost no impact. One attempt to resolve the issues, the Augsburg Interim of 1548, had proved a failure.
   In 1554, Charles V, unable to resolve the situation by either war or religious diplomacy, turned the problem over to the Imperial Diet. The timing proved bad for the Roman Catholic Church. Pope Julius III died just a month after it began. His successor lived only a month, and the diet's work was largely concluded before Paul IV (1555-59), who would eventually emerge as a forceful leader of the Counter-Reformation, could make his presence felt.
   Thus the German princes hammered out an agreement on their own. Promulgated in September 1555, it allowed each of the many rulers to choose freely between Lutheranism or Catholicism. The main provision read: "In order to bring peace to the Holy Roman Empire of the Germanic Nation ... let neither his Imperial Majesty nor the Electors, Princes, etc., do any violence or harm to any estate of the empire on the account of the Augsburg Confession, but let them enjoy their religious belief, liturgy and ceremonies as well as their estates and other rights and privileges in peace."
   Each ruler would be considered head of the local church and would choose the people's religion. Those who disagreed could move to another land. Calvinists (centered in Switzerland), Socinians, and Anabaptists were not included in the accord.
   The Peace of Augsburg, limited though it was, was an important step in the development of religious toleration and then religious freedom in Europe and was the first time Protestants received legal recognition from Catholics. It would not be until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 that the Calvinists would receive such recognition.
   The Peace of Augsburg did not end religious conflict in Europe. The Counter-Reformation was soon fighting to reclaim territory from Protestants where possible; it managed to stop the Protestant advance in many countries. Protestants on their part worked to win over isolated Catholic territories within Germany. But the Peace did establish a time of relative calm during which Lutherans could concentrate on nurturing church life rather than merely surviving as a movement.
   See also Lutheranism.
   Further reading:
   ■ Roland H. Bainton, The Reformation of the Sixteenth Century. (Boston: Beacon Press, 1952)
   ■ Harold J. Grimm, The Reformation Era, 2nd ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1973)
   ■ Hans J. Hillerbrand, The Reformation: A Narrative History Related by Contemporary Observers and Participants (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1981).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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