The Wars of Religion 1530–47

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Map Code: Ax02410

Germany was the heartland of the Reformation, which began in 1517, and many princes of the Holy Roman Empire converted to the Protestant cause, leading to intermittent religious conflict. In 1531 the Lutheran territories of the Empire formed a defensive league, the Schmalkaldic League, to resist any attempt to enforce the decisions of the Diet of Augsburg (1530), which had given Protestant territories a deadline by which they should return to Catholicism. There were two phases to the conflict that followed. In the south and initial League offensive caught Emperor Charles V off-guard in Regensburg and he escaped the League’s forces by out-manoeuvring them before joining forces with papal troops. The second phase of the war shifted to the north, when Duke Maurice of Saxony invaded the lands of his rival and stepbrother, the Protestant John Frederick I. At the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547 the Imperial troops destroyed the scattered Protestant formations and John Frederick was taken prisoner. Magdeburg then became the centre of Protestant resistance, propagating the Lutheran message. The Peace of Augsburg (1555) created the legal conditions for Protestants and Catholics to co-exist. Princes were allowed to choose between Lutheranism and Catholicism as the religion of their domain, and their decision applies to their citizens (cuius regio, eius religio: “whoever rules, his the religion”.)

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