The interruption to our cruise caused by flood damaged Locks required a ship change involving a couple of hours on a coach so we were offered a tour of the preserved, walled mediaeval city of Rothenburg ob der Tauber as a bonus.
It is an amazing city. We agreed we would love to stay a couple of days just looking around. It remains fully walled, 500 years after the introduction of explosives and artillery caused most cities to demolish such fortifications. Shops proudly identify that they were established in the 12th Century!
A high, hilltop position, thick high walls, towers and positions to fire down on your attackers, helped keep towns safe before the arrival of the artillery
It was visiting the Lutheran Church of St James that made me think about what Christian Liberty means … And costs.
The Church of St James (Jakob) is more than 700 years old. For 200 years it was Roman Catholic. For 500 years it has been Lutheran. Why the change?
When Martin Luther published his theses against the sale of indulgences in 1517 and refused to backdown to the Popes authority at the Diet at Wirms in 1521 he was proclaiming his liberty as a Christian to interpret God’s Word. What followed was The Thirty Year War. This outcome cannot be blamed on Luther. There were similar social, political factors at work here that later produced revolutions in France, England and America without the religious overtones. Nonetheless, Luther’s stand for liberty against religious corruption and abuse of power was the trigger that resulted in enormous bloodshed and social division in the waring Princedoms that made up what we now call Germany. After 30 years, war, disease and forcible migration had reduced the population by 30 to 60%.
A suitable solution was found With Germanic efficiency in “religious freedom” – but not in the individual sense that Luther saw it.
The Peace of Westaphalia, signed between May and October 1648, ,, involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, of the House of Habsburg, the Kingdom of Spain, the Kingdom of France, the Swedish Empire, the Dutch Republic, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, and sovereigns of the free imperial cities. Rottenburg was one of these.
These treaties initiated a new system of political order in central Europe, later called Westphalian sovereignty, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign and establishing a prejudice in international affairs against interference in another nation’s domestic business. The treaty not only signaled the end of the perennial, destructive wars that had ravaged Europe, it also represented the triumph of sovereignty over empire, of national rule over the personal writ of the Habsburgs. The treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire, and stood as a precursor to later large international treaties and thereby the development of international law in general.
The main outcomes affecting religion were:
All parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism.
Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.