Back to the video list: German History


After Martin Luther's Reformation the Roman Curch and especially the Habsburg dynasty tried to re-catholise the Holy Roman Empire and Europe. This process lasted over centuries from 1545 bis 1781.

Also of interest could be the following video documentaries:






  • Date: 1545 – 1781
  • Location: Holy Roman Empire
  • Start: Council of Trent
  • End: Patent of Tolerance by Joseph II


Parties & Persons Involved

  • Society of Jesus
  • Holy Roman Empire with emperor & territorial princes
  • Additionally: further European powers



  • The Protestant faith is established in wide parts of the Holy Roman Empire after Martin Luther’s reformation
  • The Protestant territories strive after more independence
  • The authority of the emperor decreases
  • The emperor faces growing difficulties to justify his position as overlord of the empire
  • Need for reforms in the Catholic church



Theological Dimension of the Counter-Reformation

  • From 1534: Ignatius of Loyola establishes the Society of Jesus – main objectives: strict orientation towards the Bible (see Luther), but also absolute discipline to church & pope
  • From around 1550: Jesuits spread that the salvation exclusively lies within the Catholic church – through sermon, literature, theatre & education
  • 1545-1563: Council of Trent leads to reforms of the Catholic church which esp. strengthen the role of pastoral care (amongst others system of indulgences, episcopate & training of priests)


Political Dimension of the Counter-Reformation

  • 1531: Establishment of the Schmalkaldic League & growing tensions between emperor & imperial estates
  • 1546-1547: Schmalkaldic War – Emperor defeats the Protestants & gains influence
  • 1555: Augsburg Settlement – Cuius regio eius religio
  • From 1576: Oppression of Protestants, esp. in the Habsburg ancestral lands
  • 1583-1588: War of Cologne – Cologne & other northern territories remain Catholic & allies of the emperor
  • 1618-1648: Thirty Years’ War
  • 1781: Patent of Tolerance by Joseph II – End of the counter-reformation


Consequences & Impact

  • Long-term establishment of Protestant & Catholic areas in Germany / Europe
  • The German states gain power whilst the emperor loses influence
  • The denominations are less important in the further development of Germany
  • First precondition for the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire