Peace of Augsburg

1555. An agreement reached after the defeat of the emperor Charles V* by Protestant princes in Germany (1552). A preliminary settlement negotiated with his brother Ferdinand at Passau in 1552 recognized all secularizations of church lands and approved the principle of a religious peace. Failing to capture Metz in 1553, Charles left Germany and commissioned Ferdinand to settle affairs at the Diet of Augsburg.

The terms of the peace were: (1) Lutheran princes, imperial knights, and free cities were guaranteed security equal to that of the Catholic estates. Cities could permit both faiths if they were already established; (2) the peace applied only to Catholics and those Protestants who adhered to the Augsburg Confession.* “Sacramentarians” (Calvinists) and “Sectarians” (Anabaptists) were excluded; (3) each estate or prince determined the religion of his domain and all subjects must conform (Cuius regio, eius religio was the term later used by jurists). Dissenters could sell their property and emigrate with their families; (4) all church lands secularized prior to 1552 would remain in Protestant hands; (5) an “ecclesiastical reservation” provided that archbishops, bishops, and abbots who turned Protestant lost their dignity and rights, and the chapters would select an orthodox successor.

The peace is significant because it meant that both the political unity of Germany and the medieval unity of Christendom were permanently shattered. The power granted secular rulers to control religious matters in their domains weakened genuine Christianity in Germany. The exclusion of Calvinism and vagueness of the ecclesiastical reservation made the settlement fragile, but its principles held until the Peace of Westphalia* in 1648.

See M. Simon, Der Augsburger Religionsfriede (1955), and H. Holborn, A History of Modern Germany, vol. I, The Reformation (1959).