3 Strasbourg


   Soon after its appearance in Germany and Switzerland, Protestantism found strong support in the Free Imperial City of Strasbourg in Alsace. Strasbourg had been a publishing center since 1459.
   As early as 1522, the city council, which had in the past proved its independence of the resident Catholic bishop, confiscated an anti-Lutheran volume. It acted to maintain civil peace while conservatives and reformers fought for support among the people. As reformers attempted to introduce changes, they, too, had to obtain the council's approval.
   The full acceptance of Protestantism was somewhat delayed by the spread of the Peasants war to Alsace. During the next several years, Martin Bucer held a variety of public debates with the Anabaptists, who had found a home in Strasbourg after being driven from Switzerland. Only in 1534, after many disputations, did the council make a final choice for Lutheranism over the Catholic and Anabaptist alternatives.
   Martin Bucer, Wolfgang Capito (1478-1541), and Caspar Hedio (1494-1552) had led the Protestant cause in the city. Bucer took a mediating position between Martin Luther and Ulrich Zwingli. He presented a compromise alternative to the Augsburg Confession of Faith in 1530, termed the "Confessio Tetrapolitana," but soon withdrew it in favor of the Lutheran document. In 1536, two years after the council's acceptance of the reformers, Strasbourg adopted a unique state church organization with pastors (who preached), doctors (who taught), presbyters/elders (who together with the pastors were responsible for public morale), and deacons (who handled charitable efforts). John Calvin, who lived in Strasburg (1538-41) during his brief exile from Geneva, found this polity to accord with his own proposals in his 1536 Institutes of the Christian Religion, and he copied it upon his return to Geneva.
   During the Schmalkaldic War (1546-47), when Catholicism briefly reasserted it dominance throughout much of Germany, Strasbourg was forced to submit to a number of demands by the Holy Roman Emperor, including the reinstitution of Catholic religious services. Martin Bucer and other prominent Protestant leaders fled the city. Bucer spent his last years in England.
   In 1551, the city accepted the Augsburg Interim, an attempt by the Holy Roman Emperor to mediate the Lutheran and Catholic positions. The interim was superseded by the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which allowed local choice on religion (between Lutheran and Catholic faith).
   Protestantism remained dominant until the 1681 annexation by Louis XIV's France. From that time, two distinct trends have been evident: the rise of French over German, and the rise of Catholicism over Protestantism. The Protestant heritage has survived in the region in two churches, the Reformed Church of Alsace and Lorraine, and the Church of the Augsburg Confession of Alsace and Lorraine. Alsace and Lorraine have the largest Protestant minorities of any region in present-day France.
   Further reading:
   ■ Jean-Jacques Bauswein and Lukas Vischer, eds., The Reformed Family Worldwide: A Survey of Reformed Churches, Theological Schools, and International Organizations (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans, 1999)
   ■ G. R. Elton, The New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 2 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990)
   ■ D. F Wright, Martin Bucer: Reforming Church and Community (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

Encyclopedia of Protestantism. . 2005.

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