in Zürich
in Geneva

Reformation in Strassburg

A.) The Free Imperial City of Strassburg

Strassburg was a free Imperial city, the seat of a bishopric and the economic center of the central Alsace (Elsass) region, a region which was politically fragmented, even more than usual for regions of the Holy Roman Empire for which political fragmentation was characteristic. Since 1459 Strassburg had a printing press within her walls. With a population of about 16,000 in 1444 and 22,000 at the end of the 16th, Strassburg was one of the larger cities of the Holy Roman Empire. The city being located on the banks of the Rhine, trade was of major importance.

B.) The Reformation in Strassburg

Both Luther's 95 Theses and the German bible translation spread quickly. The reformation was introduced gradually in Strassburg, between 1523 and 1534; a CHURCH ORDINNANCE was enacted in 1534 after a 1533 disputation headed by the city council. During the process of the reformation of Strassburg the city council remained in control; iconoclastic riots were quickly terminated, a polemic publication ridiculing Martin Luther (Tomas Murner, Vom Grossen Lutherischen Narren - of the great Lutheran fool) was immediatelt confiscated (1522). The city council avoided to permit individual reformers to establish influence/authority in the city's administration (historically, the city had gained her independence by breaking out of the control of the bishop); reformers could implement reforms, formulate policies only with the permission of the council. According to the 1534 Church Ordinnance, preachers were appointed by the city council; the latter administrated church property.
It should be noted that a Catholic minority remained in the city; several monasteries continued to exist (the city had taken over only those which had emptied by and large due to an exodus of monks and nuns converting to protestantism).
The main protagonists of the reformation were MARTIN BUCER, WOLFGANG CAPITO and CASPAR HEDIO. Martin Bucer pursued a line of not breaking with Martin Luther, yet keeping in contact with Zwingli. Strassburg (Bucer) presented her own compromise solution at the DIET OF AUGSBURG 1530, the Confessio Tetrapolitana, but withdrew it in favour of Melanchthon's AUGSBURG CONFESSION. In 1536, Strassburg officially adopted Lutheranism. Regarding the church administration, however, Strassburg went her own way, establishing the offices of pastors charged with preaching, of doctors charged with teaching, of presbyters (elders) who, together with the pastors were responsible for public morale, and of deacons in charge of charity. JEAN CALVIN, who stayed in Strasburg 1538-1541, came to know this organization and later was to implement it in Geneva.
JAKOB STURM reformed the Strassburg school system, distinguishing pre-school education, elementary and secondary education; the high school founded in 1536, in the former Dominican monastery; it was to be elevated an academy in 1559, a university in 1621.
The Alsace was one of the theatres of the GERMAN PEASANTS WAR; in January and February 1525 rebellious peasants demanded that radical priest Klemens Ziegler, who was imprisoned in Strassburg, was set free; the peasants took Zabern in April, but were defeated by the Duke of Lorraine in May. The Alsace was home to a community of Anabaptists; Martin Bucer participated in a number of public disputations with them in 1526-1533. The fact that Strassburg did not simply, once and for all, decided for one interpretation and declared the other heretic proves a certain degree of tolerance in the city.
During the SCHMALKALDIC WAR (1546-1547) Strassburg had to submit to a number of Imperial demands, among which was the readmission of Catholic religious services (masses); Martin Bucer and other prominent protestant leaders fled the city. In 1551 the city accepted the Augsburg Interim.

In the course of history, Strassburg was annexed by France (1681); the city, German and protestant in character in 1545, saw the German and protestant elements diminish over time, the French and Catholic elements increase. The historic legacy of the Strassburg reformation, lie in her impact on Genevan Calvinism and on the Church of England (Martin Bucer spent the last years of his life in England).

History of the University of Strasbourg, from Strasbourg University
Biography of Jakob Sturm, from BBKL
Biography of Wolfgang Capito, from BBKL
Biography of Kaspar Hedio, from BBKL
A Chronology of Martin Bucer
Bishopric of Strassburg, from New Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia; from Catholic Encyclopedia
History of Strasbourg
Biography of Johannes Sturm, from BBKL, in German, bibliography
REFERENCE Wolfgang von Wartburg, Geschichte der Schweiz (History of Switzerland), München : Oldenbourg 1951
Mark Greengrass, The Longman Companion to the European Reformation c.1500-1618, Harlow (Essex): Longman 1998, pp.86-88, 106, KMLA Lib.Sign. 374.06 GB 121
Francis Rapp, Strassburg. Hochstift und Freie Reichsstadt (Strassburg, Stift and Free Imperial City), in : Die Territorien des Reichs im Zeitalter der Reformation und Konfessionalisierung (The Territories of the Empire in the Era of Reformation and Confessionalization, 1500-1650); Vol.5 : Der Südwesten (the South West), Münster : Aschendorff 1993, pp.72-95, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on January 9th 2003, last revised on November 15th 2004

Click here to go Home
Click here to go to Information about KMLA, WHKMLA, the author and webmaster
Click here to go to Statistics

Impressum · Datenschutz