Reformation and Thirty Years War

Guide to Berlin - Reformation and Thirty Years War

Reformation and Thirty Years War

The decisive event of the 18th century occurred in 1539. Elector Joachim II partook of both the Catholic and the Protestant Communion, thus bringing the Reformation to the Electorate of Brandenburg. His father had been a relentless enemy of the new teaching, but Joachim II pushed the Reformation forward prudently and with moderation. In this way he spared his little state the disruption religious fanaticism caused in other parts of Germany. From 1555 on the individual rulers of the German states determined the confession for their domain on the principle cuius regio, eius religlo". The still modest residence of the Elector in Berlin became a metropolis of Protestantism and has remained so ever since. The spirit, climate and atmosphere of this city and the mentality of as inhabitants (with its good and bad sides) can only be understood in the light of four hundred years of uninterrupted Protestantism.

Under Joachim II and his successors the town also experienced a bold architectural development. The great architect of the Renaissance, Caspar Theyss, built a castle on the Spree and a hunting lodge (still standing today) by the Grunewald Lake for the Elector.

The gradually increasing power of the Hohenzollerns also strengthened the position of the residence Berlin. Commerce and trade flourished. At the beginning of the 17th century the population of Berlin had reached about 10,000. The Thirty Years War (1818-48) brought a terrible set-back. Elector Georg Wilhelm, one of the weakest rulers from the House of Hohenzollern, vacillated between both sides without committing himself to either. Because its geographical location made it a convenient rallying point for military campaigns in all directions, the Mark of Brandenburg was used by both the Kaiser and the Swedes for assembling their troups. In the course of the changing fortunes of the war Berlin was often forced to pay indemnity to both sides. Attacks on the civilian population and plundering by bands of soldiers gone wild were the order of the day. By the end of the war the population had dropped to 6,000.

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