Religious Confession


Consensus among Christians started crumbling in the Middle Ages. The Reformation of the sixteenth century saw the emergence of different religious confessions and faith communities, and the period as a whole was characterized by theological-dogmatic disputes. The Religious Peace of Augsburg (1555), which relied on the principle Cuius regio, eius religio (“whose realm, his religion”), gave territorial princes the right to determine the religious confession (either Protestant or Catholic) of their territories and subjects. Both were legally recognized. “German” became an exclusive category and one suggestive of confessional demarcations when it was used to shield Protestants from the universal rule of the pope and the church that professed loyalty to him. For Catholics, the Reformation represented the disintegration of Christian unity; they viewed it as a transgression that would ultimately bring divine punishment for Germany. By the late 19th century, notions of nation and religion had changed fundamentally, but their interrelationship still played a crucial role in both Germany and Austria alike. During the Franco-Prussian War of 1870–71, popular writings exhorted Germans to overcome confessional-regional differences—in this case with Catholic Bavaria—in the common struggle for their nation. The situation was similar in Austria, where the proponents of a Greater German solution agitated against the Catholic Church. Small-state patriotism and loyalty to Germanness were no longer opposites, according to the “Away from Rome” [“Los von Rom”] movement, but rather belonged together in the fight against excessive subservience to the pope, ultramontanism.


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