But there were also political events that threatened the confessional balance within the European concert of powers. In the decades after 1648, the revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685 had severely hurt the position of Protestantism in western Europe. In a similar manner, the Habsburgs set out to strengthen Catholicism in east-central Europe. After they had consolidated the rule of the Catholic Church in Bohemia, they reclaimed, step by step, the Alpine provinces for the Catholic religion. By 1700, after the Turks had been defeated and large parts of the Balkans were opened to Habsburg influence, the Habsburgs' main aim was to support the Counter-Reformation in the Kingdom of Hungary. Once again, the leaders of Hungarian Calvinism were determined to resist. In the early seventeenth century, Count Gabor Bethlen and Duke George Rakoczi had led, though unsuccessfully, many of their Calvinist countrymen in an uprising against the Habsburg policy of Counter-Reformation, and now, in 1703, so did Duke Francis Rakoczi. By 1711, Vienna had succeeded in suppressing the opposition, bringing continued misery to the Protestants in Hungary. Their situation improved somewhat three decades later as Empress Maria Theresa showed a certain degree of respect for Hungarian Protestants. But it was not until 1782, that is two years after she had passed away, that her son, Emperor Joseph II pronounced his famous Toleration Edict that provided for confessional autonomy within the Habsburg Empire, including confessional autonomy for Hungarian Protestants.
The Habsburg Counter-Reformation was no less aggressive in Silesia. After 1648, with the exception of two small duchies and the city of Breslau, freedom of religion was no longer granted to Silesian Lutherans. While three so-called peace churches (Friedenskirchen) were entrusted to them, a total of over 1,200 Protestant churches were reclaimed for Catholic worship and incorporated into Catholic congregations. In the following decades, some 200,000 Silesian Lutherans decided to emigrate. Many others remained and attended secret Lutheran services in the woods (Buschkirchen), and some Lutherans regularly travelled long distances to attend services across the border in a neighbouring Lutheran territory. Help came late, and unexpectedly, from a power that had rescued Protestantism in central Europe before. In 1707, the Swedish king Charles XII, backed by a strong army, forced Emperor Joseph I to sign the convention of Altranstadt. This treaty guaranteed the return to Lutherans of 130 formerly Protestant churches that had been expropriated in Silesia and the establishment of an additional six new churches (so-called Gnadenkirchen). Also, schools for Protestants were reopened. Through these measures, Protestantism in Silesia was saved several decades before Frederick the Great annexed Silesia in 1740. It is also important to note that the Habsburg
Was this article helpful?