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As we take stock of the three centuries that preceded the Swedish invasion, two themes predominate. In the first case, the dominant principle of government in upper Franconia was that governance was local (örtlich). In the administration of their domains, the princes followed the pattern of the Hohenstaufen emperors, delegating authority to the level below them; meanwhile, local elites sought to transform delegated powers into expressions of their own status and lordship. If anything, this tendency intensified over time. In the fourteenth century, execution of the Landfriede was delegated to the princes; in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, resolution of religious crises was, first unofficially, then officially, passed down to the territories. The downward shift of the burden of religious reform to communities and householders, evident from the 1570s onward, was an extension of what had been the common practice of governance in the empire from the time of the Hohenstaufen. It is in this deeply ingrained habit of passing the responsibility for the execution of policy downward that the formative–and disruptive–power of the princes and the emperors becomes most visible. On account of this practice, all officials were to a degree “princely,” owing their powers and privileges to the prince. At the same time, officials tended to view their offices as recognition of their status and estate. This set into motion one of the principle dynamics of state formation; the tension between the prince and those entrusted with the task of governance.
The religious history of upper Franconia during the first decades of the confessional era presents a complex and often contradictory set of images. Events in both the Hochstift Bamberg and the Hohenzollern Oberland make it difficult to perceive a clear alliance between ecclesiastical and state interests either at court or in the villages. The reform of marriage and the formation of the clerical estate both reveal deep fissures within the ecclesiastical regime and between secular and spiritual officials. The experience of pastors at the local level argues against an alliance of “pulpit and administration (Kanzel und Amtshaus) that engendered social control.” Reforms took place within a matrix containing a variety of powers and interests: the prince, secular officials, ecclesiastical officials, communal officials, nobles, families, and foreign powers, to name a few. At the center of the matrix stood the parish clergy, constantly pulled by the shifting and contradictory demands of the various powers. Pastors could not simply spread the “orders” of the central regime down to its subjects so long as local officials, patrons, nobles, and the parish community refused to cooperate. And, as we have seen, the central regime did not always hold a consistent vision of the “proper order.” Local conditions were hardly conducive to the imposition of alien religious and social norms; divisions within the regime prevented the articulation of an unambiguous definition of norms in the first place.
Viewed from the perspective of officials in Bamberg and Kulmbach, two issues stood out in the parochial disputes of the 1560s and 1570s. Throughout the second half of the sixteenth century, increasingly greater emphasis was given to replacing the old priesthood with better-trained, orthodox pastors. It was on the shoulders of the new priesthood, men born and raised after the Lutheran Reformation, that the burden of enforcing the new confessional norms was laid. In the confrontations between the new clergy and their flocks, serious questions arose concerning the moral character of the laity. And although a number of peasant failings–superstition, addiction to gossip, drinking, blasphemy, and so on–are recorded by ecclesiastical officials, one particular fault took center stage: sexual immorality. Caspar Günther and Johann Prentel both discovered that of all their duties, the reform of marriage was the most likely to provoke anger and resentment.
The education of pastors and the reform of marriage have often been considered two aspects of the same phenomenon: the formation of the modern state and society. Insofar as the clergy were in a “strategic position,” it was important to ensure that clerics were well trained, not simply instructed in orthodox doctrine, but also trained to serve as effective administrators within the confessional state. The transformation of the “peasant clergy” of the Middle Ages into the self-consciously professional clerical order of the eighteenth century is generally understood as an essential stage in the evolution of modern bureaucracies.
The formation of the territorial state provides a central–if not the central–dynamic in the history of late-medieval Germany. The charters and other documents collected in the protocol books of the vicar general's court provide ample evidence for the growth of the territorial state from the mid-thirteenth century onward. They indicate a demographic shift in the later Middle Ages, as new settlements were founded and some older ones were abandoned. They show the final dissolution of the manorial constitution and the emergence of free villages and towns. In the patterns of endowments and patronage, they chart the rise of the territorial nobility and the third estate. The development of the territorial state is often taken as a sign of political chaos–the codification of anarchy–following the death of Frederick II. In truth, the process of territorial state formation was well under way during the reigns of the later Hohenstaufen emperors. Far from serving as indicators of political collapse, the emergence of the territorial states revealed a growing sophistication of governance. Jan Dhondt's characterization of the rise of territorial principalities in post-Carolingian Neustria may well be used to describe the situation in post-Hohenstaufen upper Germany: the rise of territorial states marks an intensification of lordship on the local level.
But there was more to the development of the state than politics. The charters preserved in the Protokollenbücher suggest that the line between secular and spiritual lordship was often difficult to discern.
When the Swedes entered Bamberg in February, 1632, they encountered a scene of horror. For two decades the Hochstift had been the scene of one of the most ferocious witch-hunts in history, one that claimed perhaps as many as a thousand lives. Our treatment of the witch-hunts in Bamberg must here be brief, but at the outset several points of clarification are in order. The phenomenon of witchcraft per se is not our concern here. Few of those accused seem to have had any genuine interest in the magical arts. The records in Bamberg reveal very little about any sort of “magic folk culture” other than the widespread assumption among people at all levels of society that there was such a thing as magic and that it could be efficacious. The trials were largely the product of a system of inquisitorial justice, in which the indiscriminate use of torture and unquestioned acceptance of denunciations obtained on the rack and in the lye bath drove the process forward. Our concern here will be with the ideological and institutional implications of the trials and what the “witch-craze” in upper Franconia can tell us about the larger questions of reformation and the development of the state.
In his survey of the witch trials in southeastern Germany, Wolfgang Behringer noted certain patterns that seem common to the region. The major trials occurred within a very narrow time frame, lasting from roughly 1560 to 1630.
Religious reform and the rise of the territorial state were the central features of early modern German history. Reformation and state-building, however, had a much longer history, beginning in the later Middle Ages and continuing through the early modern period. In this insightful new study, Smith explores the key relationship between the rise of the territorial state and religious upheavals of the age, centering his investigation on the diocese of Bamberg in upper Franconia. During the Reformation, the diocese was split in half: the parishes in the domains of the Franconian Hohenzollerns became Lutheran; those under the secular jurisdiction of the bishops of Bamberg remained Catholic. Drawing from a broad range of archival sources, Smith offers a compelling look at the origins and course of Catholic and Protestant reform. He examines the major religious crises of the period - the Great Schism, the Conciliar Movement, the Hussite War, the Peasant's War, the Thirty Years' War, and the Witch Craze - comparing their impact on the two states and showing how events played out on the local, territorial, and imperial stages. Careful analysis of the sources reveals how religious beliefs shaped politics in the emerging territorial principalities, explaining both the similarities as well as the profound differences between Lutheran and Catholic conceptions of the state. William Bradford Smith is professor of history at Oglethorpe University.
About the same time that Friedrich Förner penned his visitation report, Paul Reinel, a Lutheran deacon in the town of Selb, sat down to record his thoughts on the course of religious reform. His reflections took the form of the Annotationes, a manuscript history of Selb from earliest times down to the present. A basic theme of Reinel's history was that his village had always been Christian. In ancient times, “all of Germany was corrupted with heathen superstition and idol worship.” Consequently, one might think that Reinel's ancestors were pagans and polytheists as well. Reinel argues that this was not true, since “at the time of the Apostles this place was an utter wilderness and wasteland.” Christianity came to Selb from Regensburg in the person of Lucius Cyrenaus, a figure mentioned in Acts 13. Lucius established a mission in Regensburg, one that was later taken over by Saint Emmeram. According to Reinel, by a.d. 700, Christianity had a firm footing in the Danube valley, and it was only after that time that Christian settlers came from Regensburg to Selb. But even though “our forefathers in this place were not heathens but Christians,” Reinel admits that their religion “was not entirely pure.” The reason was simple: “[U]ntil the year 1517, Christ was much betrayed, and soiled and buried under popish human doctrines.” Priests were more concerned with ceremonial objects than Gospel truths. For them, “Christ in Christianity was like a fifth wheel on a wagon.”
In his ecclesiastical history of the town of Selb, Paul Reinel noted that until the year 1517 the gospel of Christ lay buried under papist lies and human teachings. After cataloging the extent and depth of popish errors, he announced how Martin Luther, “the third Elijah and prophet of the German lands,” revealed God's true word. Some three hundred pages later, in his chronicle of world affairs, Reinel described two events that occurred in 1517: the birth of Johannes Streitberger, general superintendent of the Lutheran church in the Oberland after 1560, and the misadventures of Jordan Prantner, vicar of Selb, and his mistress. No mention is made of Luther or Wittenberg. The next entry in the chronicle that concerns religion is a brief notice on the peasant “bloodbath” that began in 1524.
Reinel's account of the early years of the Reformation suggests that in his own researches he faced much the same problem as do modern scholars: how to relate the changes in religion on the local level with the larger course of the Lutheran Reformation. For Reinel, two events clearly stand out–Luther's protest of 1517 and the Peasants' War of 1524–25. But although the latter event is easily reconciled with local history, the former seemed to have no appreciable impact. Rather, a careful reading of Reinel's history would suggest that a reformation of the sort that Peter Blickle described was already at work well before 1517 and continued on until the publication of the first reformed church ordinances in the later 1520s.
The history of the late-medieval reformatio in the lands of the Franconian Hohenzollerns illustrates the tensions inherent in magisterial attempts at religious reform. As in Bamberg, the process of religious reform during the fifteenth century was closely tied to the problem of territorial consolidation. The Hohenzollern domains comprised a series of small lordships strewn across Franconia, stretching from the Swabian Alb in the west to the Bohemian Forest in the east. For administrative purposes, the lands were organized into three regions: the Niederland in middle Franconia, the Unterland in the upper Aisch valley, and the Oberland. The latter, in the highland region of upper Franconia, was poor but strategically vital, lying across the main lines of communication between Bohemia and the Rhineland and between Brandenburg and Bavaria. The Hohenzollerns had sought to capitalize on their relationship with the emperors to consolidate their domains and acquire the Upper Palatinate, but the ambitions of Charles IV and the house of Wittelsbach ultimately frustrated their plans. Although the acquisition of Brandenburg by Margrave Friedrich I certainly raised the dynasty to new heights, in the short term it merely exacerbated the fragmentary nature of the Hohenzollern domains. Friedrich I passed to his son Albrecht Achilles a motley collection of lands with no common identity except the person of their prince.
Religious reform and the rise of the territorial state mark the two distinguishing characteristics of German history in the transition between the Middle Ages and the modern world. But just as 1517 no longer stands as the beginning of the Reformation, neither does 1555 mark the beginning of territorial state building. The twin processes of religious reform and territorial formation have a much longer history, beginning in the later Middle Ages and continuing through the early modern period. The essential relationship between the rise of the territorial state and the reform movements of the fourteenth through the early seventeenth centuries provides the primary focus of this study. Our investigation centers on the diocese of Bamberg in upper Franconia. During the Reformation, the diocese was split in half: the parishes in the domains of the Franconian Hohenzollerns became Lutheran, while those under the secular jurisdiction of the bishops of Bamberg remained Catholic. The history of the region provides an excellent opportunity to compare the origins and course of Catholic and Protestant reform in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. In particular, what this book seeks to understand is the role that religious reform played in the formation of the territorial state. Although much of recent scholarship has explored the impact of the sixteenth-century reformations on the development of the modern state, our concern here is rather with the ways in which those reform movements were themselves inseparable from the historical circumstances that gave rise to the territorial state.
The formation of the territorial state in upper Franconia was connected to a broader transformation of society at the local level. That transformation, moreover, had significant religious overtones, so much so that we have been able to describe local changes as manifestations of the late-medieval reformatio. As suggested in that claim, however, the reforms we observed in towns and villages such as Marktschorgast and Gefrees did not occur in a vacuum. In this chapter and the next, we will sketch out the specific events that drove the reform movements, first in the Hochstift Bamberg and then, in the next chapter, in the Hohenzollern lands. In both territories, events on the imperial stage in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries had a significant impact on both political consolidation and religious reform. Franconia figured prominently in the political system of the Luxemburg emperor Charles IV. Under Bishop Lamprecht von Brunn, Bamberg played a leading role in the imperial Landfriede. The various crises that followed Charles' death, however, fundamentally altered the nature of both imperial and regional politics. Before 1378 the emperors were primarily interested in restoring imperial authority and maintaining the peace. The Great Schism, the collapse of imperial authority under Wenceslas and Ruprecht, the outbreak of the Hussite War, and a range of local rebellions that accompanied these events were catalysts for a much more ambitious program of religious and political reform than would have been conceivable a century earlier.