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Between State and Church

Confessional Relations from Reformation to Enlightenment: Poland – Lithuania – Germany – Netherlands


Wojciech Kriegseisen

The different theoretical notions and practices of the relations between the state and religious communities in early modern Europe constitute one of the most interesting problems in historiography. Moving away from a simple «toleration» versus «non-toleration» dichotomy, the author sets out to analyse the inter-confessional relations in selected European territories in a «longue duree» perspective, between Reformation and Enlightenment. Outlining the relations between the state and the different Churches (confessions) in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the Holy Roman Empire of Germany, and the Northern Netherlands serves to highlight the specificity of Northern Netherlands serves to highlight the specificity of «free» (non-absolutist) composite states, where the particularly complex process of defining the raison d’etat determined the level of religious toleration that was politically feasible and socially acceptable.
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Chapter 3: The Reformation (1548–1573)


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Chapter 3: The Reformation (1548–1573)

Sigismund Augustus’s accession to the throne in 1548 has long been regarded as marking the beginning of the Reformation in the Kingdom of Poland1. In the seventeenth century, Stanisław Lubieniecki wrote: “Hujus itaque Gloriosissimi et Optimi Regum temporibus, Deus reformationis initium in regno fieri voluit, ut nemini salva tanti Regis reverentia tantum opus impedire liceret.”2 It bears repeating, however, that there are no recent monographs exploring the history of the Polish Reformation, and synthetic works merely outline the state of research in the field3 or gloss over Polish and Lithuanian matters altogether4. It appears obvious that the dynamic nature of Reformation processes was enhanced by the hopes that many had in gaining favours from the king, whose court attracted not only Protestant ministers5 but also such influential Protestant figures as Andrzej Frycz Modrzewski (Andreas Fricius Modrevius); Jost Ludwik Decjusz (Jost Ludwig Dietz); Grand Treasurer of the Crown Jan Lutomirski; two Jan Trzecieskis, father the son; and, first and foremost, Mikołaj Radziwiłł “the Black”, the most powerful Lithuanian magnate6. The process set in motion after 1548 reached its apogee during the years of Jan Łaski’s (John a Lasco’s) intense organisational ← 363 | 364 → activity (1556–1560)7, and came to an end in 1573. This last date is crucial not only because it marks the signing of the Warsaw Confederation,8 but also because it was then that Evangelicals in practice abandoned their dream of turning the...

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