The Second War of Kappel

A.) Causes for the War

The FIRST WAR OF KAPPEL was not satisfactory to HULDRYCH ZWINGLI and his supporters in ZÜRICH, who still were determined to spread the reformation to the cantons of eastern Switzerland. Force was used to dissolve the abbey of ST. GALL, the abbey's subjects placed under the administration of a bailiff appointed by Zürich. The forest cantons were concerned about the extension of Zürich power. Zwingli again agitated against the forest cantons who 'continued refusing to accept the gospel'. Disappointed about the lacking enthusiasm among his supporters, Zwingli offered to resign, but was persuaded to stay. In May 1531 Zü'rich again forbade the sale of corn (wheat) to men from the forest cantons - a measure resented by Zwingli, because it would hit the poor.

B.) The Second War of Kappel, 1531

On October 9th 1531, the men from the forest cantons (Uri, Unterwalden, Schwyz, Zug, Luzern), desparate because of the lack of bread, 8000 men strong, marched on Zürich. The city council was taken by surprise; a small force including Zwingli himself and many councilmen marched out to meet the enemy - without awaiting the assembly of the full Zürich force, which would have taken some time, but would have given Zürich a superior force in numbers.
The two forces met at Kappel on October 11th, where insults were exchanged - the Catholics calling the Zürichers 'chalice thieves', the Zürichers their opponents 'traitors' and 'meat traders' (in reference to the mercenary trade). In the ensuing battle, the forest canton forces defeated the small Zürich contingent and put it to flight. Huldrych Zwingli and several of Zürich's councilmen lay slain on the field.

C.) The Second Peace of Kappel

For Switzerland the second Peace of Kappel has the relevance the PEACE OF AUGSBURG has for the Holy Roman Empire. The two confessions - protestant and catholic - recognized each other; the decision regarding the confession was up to the Canton government. In territories dependent on the Swiss federation, the situation was to remain as it was; conversions were only permitted if the community was to return to the Catholic fold.
Although the Catholic cantons within the Swiss Federation made up only a minority, the treaty gave Catholicism a position of advantage. It was to determine the relations between the two confessions for the next centuries to come.

Kappel 1531, from Historiske Slag, in Danish

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on February 1st 2003, last revised on November 17th 2004

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