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"Between Berlin and Rome" (1875)

The year 1875 saw relations between Prussia and the Catholic Church reach an all-time low. In February of that year, the Pope had issued an encyclical declaring that the Kulturkampf laws [cultural struggle laws] issued by Prussian Minister of Culture Adalbert Falk were invalid and non-binding on Catholic priests. In response, the Prussian government began a campaign to deprive all priests of government subsidies unless they provided a written declaration that they would observe the law of the land. In the cartoon Zwischen Berlin und Rom [Between Berlin and Rome], published in the satirical journal Kladderadatsch, this high-stakes conflict between church and state is depicted as a chess game. The players are Bismarck and Pope Pius IX (1792-1878, elected 1846). The caption reads: [Pius IX]: “The last move was certainly unpleasant for me; but the game is not up yet. I still have a very nice move in petto!” [Bismarck]: “That will be your last one, and then in a few moves you will have lost – at least for Germany.” Next to Bismarck’s right hand are papal chess pieces that have been “interned,” representing Church possessions confiscated by the Prussian state. Bismarck’s queen is Germania; another of his pieces is labeled “press,” and his pawns bear the insignia of other legal paragraphs (§§) designed to diminish clerical influence. The Pope’s resources include papal encyclicals, syllabi (e.g. the Syllabus of Errors, 1864), and excommunication. One of his pieces is marked “W” for the Center Party leader Ludwig Windthorst (1812-1891).

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© Bildarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz