1454-1522 1557-1660

Reformation in Danzig, 1522-1557

After a period of strong growth, early in the 16th century the city council of Danzig experienced financial problems, a debt crisis. The populace, especially the guilds, hitherto excluded from participation in the city administration, attempted to use the opportunity to force access to it. Then, in 1522, the Hanseatic cities fought a war against Denmark; Danzig, too, equipped a fleet. The purpose was to get the old Hanseatic privileges in Denmark confirmed; yet the expedition failed, and the expenses for the equipment of the fleet added to the city's financial burden.
Burgomaster Ferber, held responsible for the fiasco, fled the city, without resigning from office. A disunited, split municipal administration faced the arrival of reformatoric ideas and agitators.
Radical preacher JAKOB HEGGE found a large and growing audience for his reformatoric sermons held outside the city walls (summer 1522); reacting on political pressure, and against explicit orders by the King of Poland and the Bishop of Leslau, the city council reluctantly permitted him to preach in St. Mary's (Sept. 1523); an iconoclastic mob went from church to church, destroying numerous images and sculptures. Hegge was persuaded to leave the city; the city council decided to no longer oppose the reformation. They invited Dr. ALEXANDER SVENICHEN, a moderate with sympathies for Lutheranism, who had studied in Wittenberg, to preach in Danzig's main church. The people of Danzig met in August 1524 on St. Elizabeth's churchyard and elected a captain and twelve treasurers - representatives which were to supervise the activities of the city council. They also appointed protestant preachers for the city's other churches, St. Catherine's, St. John's, St. Bartholomew's, St. Barbara's and St. Peter's. On Jan. 25th the city council attempted to disempower the captain and his treasurers; the result was a riot, and the next day the city council had to give in, had to accept the demands of the people, formulated in a 'letter of articles', which included administrative reforms as well as the stipulation, that the reformation was to be introduced unconditionally.
In April 1526 King SIGISMUND of Poland visited Danzig, at the head of 8,000 troops. All churches were again handed over to Catholic priests; the King published a constitution for the city which reestablished Catholicism as the official confession (STATUTA SIGISMUNDI). Lutheran publications were confiscated and burnt, the spread of such publications prohibited; Lutherans had to leave town within two weeks.
The royal visit had an unintended consequence; the opposing parties within Danzig recognized that their struggle permitted an outsider, the king, to interfere in the city's affairs, and it was the city with all her population which was at risk to lose privileges or money. The city council regained control of affairs; Catholicism remained the official confession for the following years.
In 1529 the "English Sweat", an epidemic disease, killed c. 3,000 within 3 days. The Diet of West Prussia 1530 forbade the settlement of Jews; Danzig in 1530 forbade Jews to reside in the city.
In 1548 the Polish Sejm had elected a new king, SIGISMUND AUGUST. Danzig's city council and the king soon were on a confrontation course; Sigismund August appointed his chancellor STANISLAS HOSIUS (who was to be a leading participant in the COUNCIL OF TRENT) Bishop of Warmia (1550), in violation of the right of the Warmia cathedral chapter; the city council of Danzig protested. When the King visited Danzig in summer 1552, he was asked to permit the introduction of the reformation in the city, which he rejected, as well as political amendmends to the Danzig constitution. Since 1529 PANKRATIUS KLEMME preached the Lutheran way at St. Mary's, as successor to the late Dr. Svenichen; his services were well-frequented, while the Catholic masses saw diminishing audiences. P. Klemme is regarded the reformer of Danzig. In 1539 the city council closed down irregular schools and established PARISH (elemetary) SCHOOLS (a Lutheran policy); in 1558, in the facilities of the Franciscan monastery, a GYMNASIUM (high school) was founded.
In Poland itself King Sigismund August experienced stiffening opposition among the Polish nobility; he finally permitted Danzig to introduce the reformation (July 5th 1557), which was formally done on October 31st 1557. Danzig's hinterland, however, remained Catholic.

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Biography of Pankratius Klemme, from BBKL, in German
DOCUMENTS Coat of Arms, from International Civic Heraldry
REFERENCE Erich Keyser, Danzigs Geschichte, (Danzig 1928) Reprint Hamburg : Danziger Verlagsgesellschaft Paul Rosenberg, undated (History of Danzig), 300 pp.
Hans Georg Siegler, Danzig - Chronik eines Jahrtausends (Danzig - Chronicle of a Millennium; a timeline), Düsseldorf : Droste 1990, in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 9th 2002, last revised on November 11th 2004

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