until 1500 History of Italy 1577-1622

Graubünden 1500-1577

The mercenary trade proved to be a threat to the cohesion of Graubünden; in case of the Italian Campaign of French King Charles VIII, the Upper Federation permitted the French to recruit mercenaries in her territory, while the other two federations leaned toward an Austrian alliance. The Bundestag of 1500 issued the Pension Decree, which forbade the individual federations to enter into agreements with foreign powers concerning the recruiting of mercenaries, reserving such matters for the Bundestag to decide.
In 1512 the Swiss Federation decided to take action against the French, which held on to Milan. The Swiss requested of Graubünden to join in the operation. Graubünden, technically allied to France, decided to join. Bormio, the Valtellino, Chiavenna and the 3 Pleves were occupied and annexed - as subject territories, without representation in the Graubünden Bundestag.

Graubünden was home to a large group of Waldensians, the German-speaking Walser. The Walser elected their own priests and administrated their own church affairs.
In the 1520es, the ideas of the reformation spread, and a number of priests in Graubünden were open to the ideas of Luther and Zwingli. In 1523 Johannes Comander, a close acquaintance of Huldrych Zwingli, was appointed priest at St. Martin in Chur. In a 1525 letter, Zwingli called on the three federations (i.e. entire Graubünden) to permit free preaching of the gospel. The Ilanz Articles of 1524 established the autonomy of the parish; every priest was to administrate the parish revenue and to conscientiously fulfil his duty. The parishioners were entitled to dismiss priests who neglect their duty and to fill vacant positions. The authority of church courts was limited to matters involving marriage; other matters were to be handled by a secular court. Court sessions were to be held in German instead of Latin.
While the Ilanz Articles did not formally introduce the reformation, the parish autonomy traditional to Waldensian communities now was extended to all parishes; the Catholic church hierarchy (bishops etc.) was abolished. The articles were intended to address the worst scandals, and as such were supported by many Catholics opposing the reformation.
Abbots of monasteries now complained about the peasants refusing to pay dues and tythes. The bishop's residence in Chur even was attacked on June 16th 1525. The question of the tythes, of vital importance for the traditional church organization, became the focus of a major dispute. Anabaptists appeared in Chur. The Bundestag of 1526 openly took position against the Anabaptists.
Condottiere Gian Giacopo de Medici, called the Medeghin, held the castle of Musso and from there molested Graubünden merchants. In 1525, while a force of 6,000 Graubünden soldiers served in the camp of the French army near Pavia (and suffered defeat at the hands of the Imperial forces), the Medeghin occupied Chiavenna and raided the Valtellino (the First Musso War, 1525-1526). A truce was signed and Graubünden applied for the assistance of the Swiss Federation, which at that time was dominated by the Catholic Cantons. The latter promised their assistance under the condition that Graubünden would remain loyal to Catholicism.
The Chur Cathedral Chapter accused Johannes Comander, hoping the Bundestag to depose him. Instead the Bundestag called for a disputation to be held Jan. 7th 1526 at Ilanz. Comander had 18 theses published, which questioned confession, purgatory, celibacy, holy mass and the institution of papacy. The disputation ended without a decision being made. The (Swiss) Catholic Cantons tried to interfere and coerce a decision in favour of the Catholic side; Graubünden did not respond; the desired Swiss military assistance against the Medeghin did not materialize.
The Bundestag of 1526 decreed the 1526 Ilanz Articles, which deprived the Bishop of Chur (regarded a foreigner by Graubünden, suspected of sympathizing with Austria and regarded a traitor for not signing the Ilanz Articles of 1524) of the complex of rights which hitherto allowed him to interfere in the affairs of various communities. Episcopal officials were excluded from holding federal offices. The communities' right to freely elect their priests was limited, as the indigenate was introduced. A candidate could only be elected Bishop of Chur with the approval of the League of the House of God. The administration of the monasteries was placed under state supervision; they were forbidden to accept novices. Thus they were intended to be phased out. Other articles dealt with the reduction and even termination of feudal dues of any kind.
In 1531 Condottiere Medeghin invaded Valtellino, starting the Second Musso War (1531-1532). The Graubünden troops suffered an initial defeat, but then forced him to withdraw. In 1532 peace was signed, according to which the Medeghin kept the 3 Pleves, but returned Chiavenna to Graubünden. The Duke of Milan formally ceded Chiavenna, Valtellino and Bormio.
Bishop Paul Ziegler already in 1524 had fled Chur. He refused to accept the Ilanz Articles of 1524 and 1526 and petioned to King Ferdinand for help. Graubünden, which recently had deprived the nobility and the established church (diocesis, cathedral chapter, monasteries) of a considerable part of their revenues, distrusted these feudal lords. When secret letters were found by Bishop Paul, of which it was assumed it was addressed to Theodor Schlegel, Abbot of St. Lucy, and the rumour of a conspiracy spread. An armed force moved toward the Fürstenburg with the intention to arrest Bishop Paul, but he escaped before their arrival (1528). On January 1st 1529, Abbot Schlegel was arrested on behalf of the city council of Chur; he was accused of having planned to betray the administration of the bishopric into the hands of Count Wolfgang Dietrich of Hohenems, a nobleman of whom Graubünden feared he intended to force them to submission. Abbot Schlegel, after having been tried, tortured and sentenced, was publicly executed on January 28th 1529.
Where the Bishop of Chur still owned the right to appoint the local Ammann, the right was purchased by the community; so by Greifenstein in 1537. Similarly some communities bought that right from noble landlords, so Misox and Calanca in 1549. In some communities, such rights continued to be practised into the 17th century.
In Graubünden the decision to implement the reformation or not lay with the individual parish. In Chur, holy mass was forbidden in 1527; the images were removed in 1528. In some communities, iconoclastic riots took place; in many others, the reformation was implemented peacefully, in some not at all. First the reformation spread quickly in the German-speaking 10 Districts Federation. In 1537 the Bundestag charged Johannes Comander and a number of other reformers to take charge of the supervision of the preachers; this resulted in the establishment of the Rhaetic Protestant Synod. In 1539 the holdings and revenues of the monasteries of St. Lucy and St. Nicholas in Chur were rededicated; the Nicholas School was founded. In 1551 the preachers at Chur were charged to compile a confession, the Confessio Rhaetica (in 1566 replaced by Heinrich Bullinger's Confessio Helvetica).
In the Italian and Romansch speaking regions of Graubünden, the reformation had made slow progress. This changed, when Italian protestants fled persecution in Italy; a number of those came to Graubünden and preached in Italian-speaking communities (since c. 1530) such as Poschiavo (1547). A 1537 disputation resulted in the introduction of the reformation in the (Romansch speaking) Lower Engadin (1538-1545); in the (Romansch speaking) Upper Engadin it was introduced in 1554-1577. Sermons were held in Romansch, which was developed into a written language, much to the credit of Johann Travers, the reformer of the Upper Engadin. Much of the Upper Federation, Bormio, Chiavenna and the Valtellino by and large held on to Catholicism.
In 1541 Bishop Paul Ziegler died, and the Cathedral Chapter, in accordance with the Ilanz Articles of 1526, elected a native candidate, with the approval of the League of the House of God. The Catholic hierarchy thus accepted the conditions the state had set, and religious tension in Graubünden decreased during the term of office of Bishop Johannes Iter (1541-1549). His successor Thomas Planta (1549-1565), by excessive spending, again caused resentment, and a Bundestag decision of 1561 required him to regularly account for his expenses.
The French-Habsburg conflict over Milan in 1535 had been decided in favour of the latter. Graubünden now was of importance to the Habsburgs, as her roads provided for the transit between Milan and Tyrol, and her young men continued to be valued as mercenaries. Even after the Austrian and Spanish lines of the Habsburg Dynasty were split in 1556, they continued to cooperate, and the connection of Spanish Milan with Austrian Tyrol via Graubünden remained of strategic importance. On the other hand, French diplomacy aimed at gaining Graubünden as an ally, in order to cut that connection and to tap the pool of Graubünden mercenaries. In Graubünden, caused by the influx of foreign money, two factions emerged, a French Faction and a Spanish-Austrian Faction. In 1565 the French alliance was renewed.
In the Valtellino, Catholic priests promoted the Counterreformation; in 1553 the Bundestag forbade the practice of the Inquisition in the Valtellino; a Jesuit school in Ponte was closed down in 1561. This brought Graubünden in conflict with the Pope. In 1570 the pope charged influential Graubünden Catholic Johannes Planta (who held the baronies of Räzüns and Hohenems) with reclaiming all the Catholic possessions and revenues which had been confiscated by the protestant reformers, and to transfer them into the hands of Catholic clerics. When J. Planta acted on this charge, the matter became public knowledge; after negotiations, Planta agreed to destroy the papal bull and to give up the title and revenue promised to his son. Now public fury against him resulted in the assembly of an armed force; J. Planta fled, but was captured; in 1572 the 70 year old was sentenced and executed.
The Bundestag of 1574 forbade the assembly of armed forces without knowledge and approval of the central authority (as happened in 1572).

Reformation in the Grisons, from Schaff, Philip (1819-1893), History of the Christian Church, Volume VIII: Modern Christianity. The Swiss Reformation. Online Book
REFERENCE Friedrich Pieth, Bündnergeschichte (History of Graubünden), Chur : Fr. Schuler 1945, 638 pp., in German

This page is part of World History at KMLA
First posted on August 16th 2003, last revised on November 10th 2004

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