1506-1552 1598-1618

Bavaria, 1552-1598

Duke Wilhelm IV. had died in 1550; he was succeeded by his brother Albrecht V. (1550-1579). In contrast to his father, the young Duke for some time failed to take sides in the religious conflict. In 1552/1555 the religious conflict, within the Holy Roman Empire was solved according to the formula cuius regio, eius religio; the territorial lord was to determine the confession of his subjects (Treaty of Passau / Religious Peace of Augsburg). In 1555, Bavaria joined the League of Heidelberg, an alliance of German princes directed against the House of Habsburg.
In the 1550es, Lutheran practices (communion in both kinds for laymen; priest marriage) spread in Bavaria; in 1557, the city council of München appointed a Lutheran priest at a local church. When Duke Albrecht V. requested an extraordinary tax of 200,000 fl., the diet in return demanded the recognition of the legitimacy of communion in both kinds for laymen, of priest marriage (1553). The decision was postponed; the money was granted. Church visitations were begun in 1558, intended to cover Bavaria in her entirety. Duke Albrecht appealed to the Council of Trent to grant communion in both kinds for laymen (1562). A group of Bavarian noblemen in 1563 demanded religious service to be held in German language, priest marriage and communion in both kinds for laymen to the recognized. Duke Albrecht, fearing control to slip away, treated these noblemen as conspirators and took action; the conspirators were arrested; the resistance broken. The position of the Duke vis-a-vis the Estates was strengthened. The opportunity for Bavaria to turn Lutheran had passed and would not return. In 1566, 1570, 1572, 1577, the Estates agreed to pay the debt the Ducal administration had accumulated; in 1577 the Estates formally requested, for the following 12 years, not to be called any more. This marked the first step toward absolutism.
In 1571, Duke Albrecht forbade communion in both kinds; professed Lutherans were expelleed from Bavaria. The University of Ingolstadt, run by the Jesuits, became the center of the Counterreformation in Bavaria; in 1559 Albrecht V. had called the Jesuits to München. With most competing princely dynasties Lutheran, the Bavarian Catholic Wittelsbach Dynasty used the opportunity to place members on the sees of numerous remaining Catholic bishoprics : 1566 Freising, 1573 Hildesheim etc.
Duke Albrecht V. died in 1579 and was succeeded by his son Wilhelm V. (1579-1598). In 1583 he supported his brother Ernst in the Cologne Stift Feud; Ernst simultaneously became bishop of 5 dioceses, among them the Princebishopric of Cologne. Many of the princebishoprics in northwestern Germany turned into a Bavarian secundogeniture, as succeeding bishops mostly were elected from members of the House of Wittelsbach, until into the 18th century. Under the circumstances, being Catholic provided clear advantages to the dynasty, and Bavaria, on the Imperial diets, pursued an explicitly Catholic policy.
Ducal policy had been deficitary for decades. In 1593 the state debt had reached 4.8 million Guilders; Duke Wilhelm attempted a financial reform. Duke Wilhelm V. died in 1598 and was succeeded by his son Maximilian I. (1598-1651),

Bavarian History, from Catholic Encyclopedia, 1914 edition
Michael Henker, Bayern im Zeitalter von Reformation und Gegenreformation (16./17. Jahrhundert) (Bavaria in the Era of Reformation and Counterreformation), in : Politische Geschichte Bayerns (Political History of Bavaria), posted by HDBG, in German
DOCUMENTS Image of Albrecht V., posted by Prof. Schmid, Univ. of Regensburg
Image of Wilhelm V., posted by Prof. Schmid, Univ. of Regensburg
REFERENCE Territorien-Ploetz : Geschichte der Deutschen Länder (History of the German Territories), Vol.1, Würzburg 1964, in German
Andreas Kraus, Geschichte Bayerns von den Anfängen bis zur Gegenwart (History of Bavaria, from the origins to the present day), München : Beck (1983) 2nd edition 1988, in German

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First posted on November 6th 2003, last revised on November 11th 2004

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