Aachen religious unrest - Aachener Religionsunruhen

The time of the Aachen religious unrest or also Aachen religious turmoil , as mentioned in the current history books, means a period from around 1530 to around 1614 in which there were sometimes massive and civil war-like disputes with mutual successes between the Catholic and Protestant citizens of the Free Imperial City of Aachen came. These unrest had a significant impact on the economic and social life of Aachen and could only be contained through repeated measures by the emperor and through military support of troops loyal to the emperor.


Around 1530, the Reformation gradually began to gain a foothold in Aachen . Initially, only a few Aacheners, mostly members of the influential Wollenambacht (cloth makers' guild) and the Kupferschlägerambacht, as well as families of traders and scholars, joined this new faith. In the following years, well-respected Protestant cloth-making families from the counties of Flanders and Artois as well as the Duchy of Limburg , from which the radical Reformation Anabaptists came, also settled in the city.

Melchior Colyn(1500–1559), who had been elected mayor of Aachen for a year more than ten times between 1532 and 1558, was tolerant of these religious changes, although he himself always remained connected to the Catholic faith. He campaigned for these immigrants to be granted civil rights on October 4, 1544, as well as suitable rooms for living and working and any necessary loans to be granted. With this support, they founded small craft businesses, joined the corresponding guilds, where they met families from Aachen who had also converted, and led their own, albeit limited, religious life. But soon the citizens of Aachen, especially those from the old aristocratic class, complained as well as influential city councilors the "decline of the Catholic faith". They stalked the Protestants with abusive letters and slander and they were then temporarily excluded from all public offices. A mayor, Adam von Zevel († 1580), elected from the ranks of the immigrant families of clothiers, only took his oath of office in 1552 on the condition that necessary steps had to be taken to exercise tolerance towards the Protestant faith. Up to Kaiser then swore his oath of office in 1552 only on condition that the necessary steps to exercise tolerance towards the Protestant faith were to be taken. Up to Kaiser then swore his oath of office in 1552 only on condition that the necessary steps to exercise tolerance towards the Protestant faith were to be taken. Up to KaiserCharles V got around about the unrest that was beginning and Mayor Melchior Colyn pleaded with the Roman-German King and later Emperor Ferdinand I in the context of the negotiations on the peace of religion in Augsburg in 1555 for the freedom to practice religion.

Although after the Augsburg Religious Peace it was permitted to profess either the Catholic or Protestant faith, the council, which was still predominantly Catholic, could not be induced to show a minimum of tolerance and courtesy. When, for example, the following year the foreign cloth workers appointed a French clergyman at their own expense under the pretext that they did not understand the German preachers and under the protection of Zevel, who was elected mayor for the second time, they were denied this on January 26, 1556. In the same year, the Reformation Anabaptists from the Aachen Empire were also madebanished. With these constant quarrels, the mutual reenactments continued. Influential rulers such as King Philip II of Spain , who particularly persecuted the Dutch fleeing the newly founded Spanish Netherlands and mostly Calvinist , interfered with threatening letters. But also the Dukes of Jülich , who were responsible for Aachen as bailiffs , tried again and again to hinder the free exercise of religion, which was then officially forbidden for the first time by Emperor Ferdinand I himself in 1560.


As early as 1559 the Protestant members left the council and Mayor Zevel retired to his estate "Gut Kuckum" in Bardenberg . Nevertheless, in the following years, due to a further influx of foreign immigrants, now mainly from the Dutch, who fled from the notorious new governor, Fernando Álvarez de Toledo, Duke of Alba , the proportion of Protestants increased, including a large one Amount of Calvinists, not particularly respected by the Lutherans eitherjoined. Around 1570 the Dutch exile community in Aachen alone comprised around 3,000 people, making it the third largest in Germany after Wesel and Emden. They thanked the incumbent mayor with a valuable and labeled mug [1] . The whole situation in Aachen now led to the fact that on July 23, 1574, the supporters of the new doctrine at the city council were able to elect Reformed people to the council. From 1576 onwards, thanks to the significant support of the guilds, the council was even temporarily occupied by a majority of Protestants.

In the period that followed, one Lutheran and three Reformed congregations emerged. They set up their places of prayer in rented or acquired houses, of which the Klüppel semi-detached house later served as the central prayer house of the Reformed community from 1588. Nevertheless, the majorities in the council changed constantly. In the spring of 1580, the Reformed petitioned the council in which they categorically demanded the free exercise of their faith and attempted to have the imperial ban of 1560 declared invalid. The city council did not comply with this, even under pressure from Duke Wilhelm V von Jülich, and repeated warnings from the new emperor Rudolf II remained.not from. Ultimately, violent riots broke out, during which the Protestants seized the Aachen town hall and the city treasury and marched through the streets noisily, some Catholics being slain and others wounded. Before the scheduled date, the Protestants elected Johann von Lontzen and Simon II von Engelbrecht, two mayors from their ranks, in May 1581 , the Catholics Albrecht Schrick and Johann Fiebusalso juxtaposed two own candidates, of which only Lontzen and Fiebus were confirmed in a new election. As the excitement increased with each passing day, many respected Catholics emigrated and several Catholic councilors fled to Jülich. The Protestant majority of the council now for the first time and officially allowed the practice of Protestant worship services and meetings that had been practiced for many years. In 1581, Emperor Rudolf II decreed that the councilors had to profess Catholic doctrine, that the evangelical councilors had to be removed from the council and that the effects of the destruction had to be removed and, in order to implement his measure, omitted the city from loyal Spanish troops under the direction of the Bishop of Liège, DukeErnst von Bayern , occupy. Even a delegation in 1582 under the leadership of the former Aachen mayor Matthias Peltzer to the Reichstag in Augsburg , where the Aachen problem was on the agenda, could no longer change the disadvantaged situation for the Reformed.

Due to the politically and religiously tense situation of the last few years and the economic disadvantages that were felt despite the temporary majority in the council and ultimately also because of the siege of Aachen, many reformed families of craftsmen and traders such as the Pastor , Peltzer , Schleicher , Amya and Lynen families decided , Prym and parts of the von Trier bell foundry family or the de Spina family of doctors to leave the city for the most part and move to neighboring Burtscheid , the nearby Republic of the United Netherlands , to Hamburg and Lübeck (familyLeers ) or to the nearby towns of Stolberg and Monschau , where these families then built up successful branches of industry. Conversely, this led to an economic bleeding out of the city and to financial impoverishment, from which the city would only recover after the French occupation, despite small booms.

Bonifacius Colyn (1533–1608), son of the former mayor Melchior Colyn, himself remained faithful to Catholic doctrine all his life, but just like his father tolerant of people of different faiths, was asked by the evangelical fellow citizens as their envoy to the emperor for a mitigation to advertise the punitive measures. After the following negotiations with the emperor and the Catholic councilors who evaded to Jülich and with the compromise to adhere to the conditions of the Augsburg religious peace, a phase of relative calm followed and the imperial troops finally withdrew six months later.

But the mutual dislike ran deep and the unrest continued unabated. Again and again there were taunts and excesses, from one side as well as from the other side, but now the majority of Aachen's Catholic citizens were being pursued. However, since Aachen was surrounded by predominantly Catholic principalities, their attacks on Protestant salesmen in turn resulted in a form of economic blockades for the city's residents. This Catholic "encirclement" and a lack of external support for the Protestants, with the exception of the Electors of the Palatinate and a few others, were decisive factors in the fact that the Reformation could not be implemented in the long term. Nevertheless, the city council remained firmly in Protestant hands for the next few years. Further negotiations,Ulm , Speyer and Heilbronn followed, whereby a consolidation of the situation for the Protestants and an official confirmation of the continued free practice of their religion were negotiated. Although this calmed the situation in the city itself, the emperor disliked the confessional changes in “his” imperial city, which, as the coronation city of the German kings, was particularly close to the Catholic Church.

Finally, the city of Aachen already declared in 1593 Rudolf II. His 1591 threatened outlawryHowever, this was only carried out five years later and after further tough and fruitless negotiations in July 1598 and again through the massive deployment of troops loyal to the emperor. The decision of the emperor was a logical consequence of the past few years, and with it the weak and religiously neutral-minded emperor followed the pressure of his numerous Catholic sovereigns. The years of disregard for his various decrees and the almost anarchic-looking conditions in Aachen ultimately tipped the scales to finally enforce the earlier decree of 1560. The evangelical council then resigned and the still predominantly evangelical citizenry was a city council consisting solely of Catholics under the leadership of the mayor Albrecht Schrick, who was deposed in 1581, against a vehement representative of Catholicism. The evangelical citizens were from now on excluded from any say and all their preaching houses and schools were closed. Many leading Protestants and officials were expelled and, in return, all displaced Catholics were brought back. In addition, the new council demanded heavy fines from the approximately 126 prominent outlaws. Further conflicts were therefore predetermined under these conditions. In addition, the new council demanded heavy fines from the approximately 126 prominent outlaws. Further conflicts were therefore predetermined under these conditions. In addition, the new council demanded heavy fines from the approximately 126 prominent outlaws. Further conflicts were therefore predetermined under these conditions.


After the violent implementation of the imperial ban in 1598, the respected goldsmith Johann Kalkberner now developed into the spokesman for the Protestants who remained in Aachen. Although in the meantime he was prosecuted for his leadership with a short term imprisonment and penalties in kind, Kalkberner managed to reorganize the Protestants in the following years. He benefited from the fact that the childless Duke of Jülich-Kleve-Berg, Johann Wilhelm , died in 1609 and the succession of rule over the bailiwick of Aachen could only be clarified through the Jülich-Klevian succession dispute . Both successor aspirants were Lutherans , with Jülich-BergWolfgang William of Neuburg prevailed, which, however, even in 1626 to Catholicism converted . The Catholic “belt” around Aachen was thus interrupted for the time being and thus initially no longer any direct danger to the imperial city.

After the Catholic city council arrested some Protestant citizens who had attended Protestant church services in the surrounding area in 1611 and wanted to withdraw their citizenship, this time with the help of Kurbrandenburg troops and with tolerance by the new ruler of Jülich- Berg, Wolfgang Wilhelm von Pfalz-Neuburg, on July 5, 1611, on the renewed storming of Protestants on the town hall and the Aachen Jesuit College . The two incumbent mayors and the Jesuit fathers were captured. Every citizen had to swear loyalty and obedience to the new mayor Johann Kalkberner. Some former officials managed to escape from Aachen, including the former Catholic mayor,Joachim Berchem , who reported the recent incidents in Aachen to the emperor. The emperor repeatedly urged the Protestants to obey, but died a few months later in 1612, as did his loyal follower, Ernst von Bayern, who had been feared in Aachen since his invasions in 1581 and 1598. After the death of the old emperor, the Elector of the Palatinate and responsible imperial vicar Friedrich V.first a decision in favor of the Protestants. They were allowed to officially practice their religion again alongside the Catholics and participate in council elections. After the Protestants again held the majority of the council, they in turn pursued the Catholics and prevented them from establishing a secure existence or from carrying out their official business.

The new Emperor Matthias , an advocate of the Counter Reformation , could not agree with these events in Aachen and, after months of negotiations, imposed a second imperial ban on Aachen in August 1614, which was supposed to restore the conditions of 1598. This decree was passed through a commission, this time supported by a Spanish army from the Netherlands under the command of the Marquis Ambrosio Spinola . Given the more than 16,000 soldiers in front of the city walls, the city council had to admit defeat without a shot being fired. Two years later, harsh sentences were passed against the Protestants. Two citizens were sentenced to death and 77 families were exiled.

former column of shame on the market square

As a warning to the population, a " pillar of shame " was erected on the market square in 1616 for the leader of the Protestant uprising, Johann Kalkberner , which was only removed by the French in 1793 [2] . It bore the inscription:

"So let / that this Rempublicama) / The throne / Spretis Sacraeb) Caesareaec) Majesty / awe / Evertere are trying
to / condemnation of memory / John Kalckbernerd) / In the last tumultuous year mdcxii) / This prompted / Between the traitors / leaders / pillar by decree / 500 (ominorum) f) Subdelegatorumg) sac (RAE) h) Cats (area) Maiest (Mis) / erected bidding / 3. Day of December, 1616

Translation : So perish those who seek to overthrow this community and this royal seat by despising the ordinances of the Holy Imperial Majesty. In the damnable memory of Johann Kalckberner, the leader of the last tumult, who had been conjured up between the enemies here in 1611, it was ordered that this column be erected on the 3rd day before the Nones of the Holy Imperial Majesty's emissaries December 1616. "

Through this entire situation the economic life in Aachen was repeatedly weakened and a renewed strengthening of Protestantism in Aachen seemed hardly possible anymore due to the events, although there were still isolated attempts to bring about this. In fact, the Roman Catholic denomination was to remain the only dominant religion until the end of the Old Kingdom. Since the Protestants could not form their own congregations, most Lutheran and Reformed residents now mainly joined the congregations in Vaals and the surrounding area or Burtscheid. This led to the construction of the Hervormde Kerk in Vaals in 1649 with German liturgical language, and in 1667 the Waalse Kerkfor the French-speaking believers who moved from Wallonia and in 1737 for the construction of the Evangelical Lutheran church De Kopermolen , also for the German population.

Religious freedom was finally introduced in Aachen only with the invasion of the French in the course of the First Coalition War and the associated occupation of the left bank of the Rhine .



Individual evidence

  1. ^ Beaker with inscription for the city of Aachen, entry in the inscription catalog Aachen, DI 32, City of Aachen, number 71 + (Helga Giersiepen)
  2. pillory for Johann Kalkberner; Entry in the inscription catalog Aachen, DI 32, City of Aachen, number 106 + (Helga Giersiepen)