Back to the video list: German History


After Luther's Reformation the protestant denomination spread in the Holy Roman Empire during the 16th century. When the prince-bishop Gebhard von Truchsess attempted to convert Cologne into a Protestant principally the Cologne war broke out. The Roman Church, the emperor and his allies could prevail in the end and secure their influence in the north-west of the empire.






  • Date: 1583 – 1588
  • Location: Electorate of Cologne (Holy Roman Empire)
  • Start: Deposition of the bishop of Cologne Gebhard von Walburg
  • End: The Netherlands end their engagement in the war / Re-Catholisation of Cologne


Parties & Persons Involved

  • Gebhard Truchsess von Walburg (1547 – 1601)
  • Electorate of Palatinate
  • Netherlands
  • House of Wittelsbach / Duchy of Bavaria
  • House of Habsburg / Spanish Troops



  • Catholic church is (potentially) threatened in the Holy Roman Empire
  • Early phase of the Counter-Reformation
  • House of Habsburg is in conflict with the Netherlands
  • The house of Habsburg / the Emperor has strong ambitions to increase its / his power
  • The house of Wittelsbach / Duchy of Bavaria has strong ambitions to increase its power



  • 19 Dec 1582: Bishop Gebhard converts to the Evangelic faith
  • 02 Feb 1583: Gebhard marries the Protestant Agnes von Mansfeld & is removed from his position as bishop
  • 23 May 1583: Diocesan chapter elects Ernst of Bavaria as bishop
  • May – Dec 1583: Gebhard fights Bavarian & Spanish troops with support of Palatinate troops
  • 17 Dec 1583: Gebhard loses Godesburg & flees to Werl
  • 1584 - 1585: Gebhard flees to the Netherlands after defeats in Westphalia & the loss of Recklinghausen
  • 1585-1588: Gebhard carries on fighting with support of troops from the Netherlands
  • 1588: Gebhard looses Bonn & the Netherlands end their engagement which means the end of the war


Consequences & Impact

  • The position of the Catholic church is strengthened in the north-west of Germany
  • Ernst of Bavaria is established as Bishop of Cologne
  • The positions of the houses of Wittelsbach (Duchy of Bavaria) & Habsburg (Emperor) are strengthened
  • Solving religious conflicts by violence is perceived as a possible option (precondition for the Thirty Years' War)