GHDI logo

The Religious Peace of Augsburg (September 25, 1555)

The Diet of Augsburg (1555) is widely viewed as the turning point between the tumultuous age of the Protestant Reformation in the German lands and the subsequent era of confessional formation and negotiation. In the wake of two wars – the Schmalkaldic War of 1546-47 and the Princes' War of 1552 – King Ferdinand and the leading princes decided to move toward a negotiated, provisional arrangement of the religious question. The Diet of Augsburg was important in many respects, but its central achievement was its provisions on religion, “the Religious Peace.” Briefly stated, the Religious Peace made political restoration possible by accepting what had previously been regarded as an impossibility – namely, religious diversity. But, in fact, it actually decreed the toleration only of those who accepted the Confession of Augsburg (1530), the definitive Lutheran doctrinal statement. Officially, the Empire remained a Catholic polity in communion with Rome. Among the many religious peaces negotiated in the wake of the Reformation, the Imperial solution – which everyone agreed should only apply until a general restoration of Christian unity – was distinguished by its recognition of the Empire's peculiar political character. With certain exceptions, the right of reformation [ius reformandi] belonged solely to the princes and other members of the Imperial Diet, who enjoyed the right to require their subjects to accept their official religion or emigrate. Although the Peace was broken in the early seventeenth century, it was restored (and opened to the Reformed or Calvinist confession) by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648. It remained the fundamental law of the Empire's regime of confessional coexistence until 1803.

print version     return to document list previous document      next document

page 1 of 3

[Preamble] We, Ferdinand, by God's grace king of the Romans and at all times conserver of the Empire, king of Germany, Hungary, Bohemia, Dalmatia, Croatia, and Slavonia, infant of Spain, archduke of Austria, duke of Burgundy, Brabant, Styria, Carinthia, Carniola, Luxembourg, and Württemberg, Upper and Lower Silesia, prince of Swabia, [ . . . ] proclaim publicly and make known to everyone. The Roman Imperial Majesty [Charles V], our dear brother and lord, has decided that, for urgent reasons but chiefly because the decisions, ordinances, and recesses of the Holy Empire have not achieved the desired and needed effect. The Holy Empire's estates have remained continually in bitterness and distrust toward each other, from which much evil has arisen in the Holy Empire, and above all the administration of justice has produced many complaints and deficiencies, Therefore, in response to the Treaty of Passau [1552], His Majesty called a Diet to meet on August 16, 1553, in His, Our, and the Holy Empire's city of Ulm, which he intended to attend by God's grace in person. [ . . . ]

§§ 1-13. [The king explains why he was not able to meet with the estates, as originally announced, at Ulm in August 1553. For pressing military and other reasons, the Diet had to be transferred to Augsburg in December 1554.]

§ 14. [General Mandate for Law and Order] We therefore establish, will, and command that from henceforth no one, whatever his rank or character, for any cause, or upon any pretense whatsoever, shall engage in feuds, or make war upon, rob, seize, invest, or besiege another. Nor shall he, in person or through any agent, descend upon any castle, town, manor, fortification, village, estate, hamlet, or against the will of the other seize them wickedly with violence, or damage them by fire or in other ways. Nor shall any one give such offenders counsel or help, or render them aid and assistance in any other way. Nor shall one knowingly or willingly show them hospitality, house them, give them food or drink, keep or suffer them. But every one shall love the other with true friendship and Christian love. It is provided also that no estate or member of the Holy Empire shall deprive or cut off any other estate from free access to provisions and food, or interfere with its trade, rents, money, or income; for justice should be administered not irregularly but in suitable and fixed places. In every way shall His Imperial Majesty, and We, and all the estates, mutually adhere to all the contents of this present religious and general constitution for securing the peace of the land.

§ 15. [Protection of the Adherents of the Confession of Augsburg] And in order that such peace is respected and maintained despite the religious chasm, as is necessary in the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation and between his Roman Imperial Majesty and Us, on the one hand, and the electors, princes, and estates of the Holy Empire of the German nation, on the other, therefore His Imperial Majesty, and We, and the electors, princes, and estates of the Holy Empire will not make war upon any estate of the empire on account of the Augsburg Confession and the doctrine, religion, and faith of the same, nor injure nor do violence to those estates that hold it, nor force them, against their conscience, knowledge, and will, to abandon the religion, faith, church usages, ordinances, and ceremonies of the Augsburg Confession, where these have been established, or may hereafter be established, in their principalities, lands, and dominions. Nor shall We, through mandate or in any other way, trouble or disparage them, but shall let them quietly and peacefully enjoy their religion, faith, church usages, ordinances, and ceremonies, as well as their possessions, real and personal property, lands, people, dominions, governments, honors, and rights. Further, a complete peace within the disputed Christian religion shall be attained only by Christian, friendly, and peaceful means through his Imperial and Royal Majesties, the honorable princes, and by threat of punishment for breach of the Public Peace.

first page < previous   |   next > last page