« Prev The Reformation in North Germany Next »

§ 96. The Reformation in North Germany.

In Magdeburg the doctrines of Luther were preached in 1522 by Melchior Mirisch, an Augustinian prior, who had studied at Wittenberg. The magistrate shook off the authority of Archbishop Albrecht, invited Luther to preach in 1524, and secured the services of his friend Nicolaus von Amsdorf, who became superintendent, and introduced the, necessary changes. During the Interim troubles the city was a stronghold of the Lutheran party headed by Flacius, and laid under the imperial ban (1548). In the Thirty Years’ War it was burnt by Tilly (1631), but rose anew from destruction.757757    Seckendorf, I. 246. Wolter, Gesch. der Stadt Magdeburg (1845); Hoffmann, Chronik der Stadt Magdeb. (1850, 3 vols.); Rathmann, Gesch. Magdeb.; Preger, Matth. Flacius Illyricus und seine Zeit (Erlangen, 1859-1861).

In Magdeburg appeared the first Protestant church history, 1559–1574, in thirteen folio volumes, edited by Flacius, under the title "The Magdeburg Centuries,"—a work of colossal industry, but utilizing history for sectarian purposes against popery. It called forth the Annales of Baronius in the opposite interest.

Breslau and Silesia were reformed chiefly by John Hess, who studied at Wittenberg, 1519, a friend of Luther and Melanchthon. He held a successful disputation in Breslau in defense of the Protestant doctrines, 1524.758758    Of this disputation Luther reported to Spalatin, May 11, 1524 (De Wette, II. 511): "Vratislaviæ disputatio Joannis Hess processit feliciter, frustra resistentibus tot legatis regum et technis episcopi."

Kaspar Schwenkfeld von Ossig (1490–1561), a nobleman in the service of the Duke Frederick II. of Liegnitz, was one of the earliest promoters of the Reformation in Silesia, but fell out with Luther in the eucharistic controversy (1524). He had peculiar views on the sacraments, similar to those of the Quakers. He also taught that the flesh of Christ was deified. He founded a new sect, which was persecuted in Germany, but is perpetuated among the Schwenkfeldian congregations in Eastern Pennsylvania.759759    Professor Hartranft, D. D., of Hartford, Conn., a descendant of the Pennsylvania Schwenkfelders, has investigated the Schwenkfeld literature at Breslau, and issued a prospectus for its publication (1887).

Among the later leaders of the Protestant cause in Breslau must be mentioned Crato von Crafftheim (d. 1585), who studied at Wittenberg six years as an inmate of Luther’s household, and became an eminent physician of the Emperor Maximilian II. His younger friend, Zacharias Ursinus (d. 1583), is one of the two authors of the Heidelberg Catechism. Crato belonged to the Melanchthonian school, in distinction from the rigid Lutheranism which triumphed in the Formula of Concord.760760    Köstlin, biography of Hess in the "Zeitschrift des schlesischen Geschichtsvereins," vol. VI. Gilett, Crato von Crafftheim und seine Freunde, Frankfurt-a.-M. 1860, 2 parts. A very learned work. To Ursinus we shall return in the history of the Reformation in the Palatinate. In the cities of the Hanseatic League the Reformation was introduced at an early period.

Bremen accepted Protestantism in November, 1522, by calling Heinrich Moller, better known as Heinrich von Zütphen (1468–1524), to the parish of Ansgari, and afterwards two other Protestant preachers. Moller had studied at Wittenberg, 1515, and taken a degree in 1521 under Melanchthon. He was prior of an Augustinian convent at Dort, and preached there and in Antwerp the doctrines of the Reformation, but had to flee for his life. He followed an invitation to preach in Ditmar, but met with opposition, and was burnt to death by a fanatical and drunken mob excited by the monks. Luther published an account of his death, and dedicated it to the Christians in Bremen, with an exposition of the tenth Psalm. He rejoiced in the return of the spirit of martyrdom, which, he says, "is horrible to behold before the world, but precious in the sight of God."761761    Vom Bruder Heinrich in Ditmar verbrannt, Wittenberg, 1525, in the Erl. ed. XXVI. 313-337; in Walch, XXI. 94 sqq. Comp. Paul Crocius, Das grosse Martyrbuch, Bremen, 1682. Klaus Harms, Heinrich von Zütphen, in Piper’s "Evang. Kalender," 1852.

In 1527 all the churches of Bremen were in charge of Protestant pastors, and afterwards divided between the Lutheran and Reformed Confessions. The convents were turned into schools and hospitals.

Hamburg, which shares with Bremen the supremacy in the North German and maritime commerce, followed in 1523. Five years later Dr. Bugenhagen, called Pomeranus (1485–1558), was called from Wittenberg to superintend the changes. This Reformer, Luther’s faithful friend and pastor, had a special gift of government, and was the principal organizer of the Lutheran churches in Northern Germany and Denmark. For this purpose he labored in the cities of Braunschweig (1528), Hamburg (1529), Lübeck (1530–1532), in his native Pomerania (1534), and in Denmark, where he spent nearly five years (1537–1542). His church constitutions were models.762762    Printed in Richter, Die evang. Kirchenordnungen, vol. I. C. Bertheau, Bugenhagen’s Kirchenordnung für die Stadt Hamburg vom J. 1529, 1885. L. Hänselmann, B.’s Kirchenordnung f. d. Stadt Braunschweig, 1885. Frantz, Die evangelische Kirchenverfassung in den deutschen Städten des 16. Jahrh., Halle, 1876. Vogt, Johannes Bugenhagen Pomeranus, Elberfeld, 1867. The year 1885, the fourth centennial of Bugenhagen’s birth, called out several popular sketches of his life by Knauth, Petrich, Zitzlaff, and Hering (1888). See also O. Vogt, Bugenhagen’s Briefwechsel, Stettin, 1888.

Lübeck, a rich commercial city, and capital of the Hanseatic League, expelled the first Lutheran preachers, but recalled them, and removed the priests in 1529. Bugenhagen completed the work.

In Braunschweig-Lüneburg, Duke Ernst the Confessor favored the new doctrines in 1527, and committed the prosecution of the work to Urbanus Rhegius, whom he met at the Diet of Augsburg, 1530.

Rhegius763763    So he spells his name (Rieger in German), not Regius (König). (1489–1541) belongs to the second class of Reformers. He was the son of a priest on the Lake of Constance, educated at Lindau, Freiburg-i.- B. (in the house of Zasius), and Ingolstadt under Dr. Eck, and ordained priest at Constance (1519). He joined the humanistic school, entered into correspondence with Erasmus, Faber, and Zwingli, and became an imperial orator and poet-laureate, though his poetry is stiff and conventional. He acquired the doctorate of divinity at Basel. He was called to Augsburg by the magistrate, and labored as preacher in the Dome from 1523 to 1530. He passed from Romanism to Lutheranism, from Lutheranism to Zwinglianism, and back to a moderate Lutheranism. He sympathized most with Bucer, and labored afterwards for the Wittenberg Concordia. The imperial prohibition of Protestant preaching, June 16, 1530, terminated his career in Augsburg, though he remained till Aug. 26, and conferred much with Bucer and Melanchthon.

He now entered upon his more important and permanent labors as general superintendent of Lüneberg, and took the leading part in the Reformation of Celle, Hannover, Minden, Soest, Lemgo, and other places; but he gives a doleful description of the moral condition. He attended the colloquy at Hagenau, and died soon after his return, May 27, 1541.

He wrote two catechisms and several devotional books. In his earlier career he was vain, changeable, and factious. He lacked originality, but had the talent of utilizing and popularizing the new ideas of others. Luther gives him the testimony: "He hated not only the popish abominations, but also all sectaries; he sincerely loved the pure word, and handled it with all diligence and faithfulness, as his writings abundantly show."764764    Rhegius, Opera latine edita, Norimb. 1561; Deutsche Bücher und Schriften, Nürnb. 1562, and again Frankf. 1577. Döllinger, Die Reform. II. 58 sqq. Uhlhorn, Urbanus Rhegius, Elberfeld, 1862, and his sketch in Herzog2, XIII. 147-155.

The Dukes of Mecklenburg, Heinrich and Albrecht, applied to Luther in 1524 for "evangelists," and Luther sent them two Augustinian monks. Heinrich favored the Reformation, but very cautiously. The university of Rostock, founded 1419, became at a later period a school of strict Lutheran orthodoxy.

« Prev The Reformation in North Germany Next »
VIEWNAME is workSection