Counter-Reformation not only produced mass emigration and widespread despair in Silesia but, in opposition to Catholic Vienna, also an impressively rich Silesian literary culture. Of the many Silesian poets of the pre-1740 era, perhaps Andreas Gryphius was the most talented.

As these examples demonstrate, the consolidation of Protestantism in central Europe was challenged by a series of attempts to continue the Counter-Reformation even after the peace treaty of Westphalia. At the same time, however, we should note that Protestantism blossomed in some states of Europe that had, each in a different manner, a strong influence on confessional matters in the region. With the support of absolutism, Lutheranism in both Sweden and Denmark developed a strong tradition that was not weakened as Pietism replaced Lutheran orthodoxy. But there were also other ways of influencing Protestantism in central Europe. In close relation, not to absolutist princes, but to the estates, Protestantism became a strong force in the Netherlands. On the other hand, the Protestant cantons of Switzerland had to fight several battles before they were able to defend their confessional autonomy. Perhaps nothing inspired Protestants on the European continent more than the success of Puritanism in England. English Puritanism provided a rich source of edifying literature. In most cases, these books were brought to central Europe via the Netherlands. Puritanism also served as an example that Protestantism could be successfully defended in the arena of power-politics.

The consolidation of Protestant states in post-1648 Europe should be seen, therefore, as a process that occurred on two levels - the level of European politics and the level of popular religion. First, at the level of European politics, the rise of the Protestant powers helped to stabilize Protestantism as a whole. In direct and indirect ways, both Sweden and Denmark continued after 1648 to provide protection to Protestantism in central Europe, and so did the Netherlands, though mainly as an economic power and as a centre of culture. After 1689, Great Britain became the premier Protestant power in Europe, joined, a few decades later, by the new Kingdom of Prussia. By 1700, and certainly by 1740, we can therefore observe a kind of double confessional balance of power in Europe: first, and most notably, within the Holy Roman Empire; but also among the leadingpowers of Europe, whose influence helped to reinforce the first. Second, under the protection of the Protestant powers and when no longer threatened by the forces of the Counter-Reformation, Protestantism was consolidated at the level of popular religion. During the first half of the eighteenth century, Protestantism became an undisputed way of life for people in many parts of central Europe. So much so, that when the

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment