Lutheran churches during the Thirty Years War

Bridget Margaret Heal*

*Corresponding author for this work

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Literary and artistic sources from the era of the Thirty Years’ War provide vivid accounts of the destruction and desecration churches. This essay looks beyond these highly emotive accounts, and explores the fate of churches in Electoral Saxony, one of the worst-affected areas of the Holy Roman Empire. It considers patterns of destruction, and argues that the plundering and desecration of Lutheran churches by Swedish troops was especially shocking to contemporaries. After the war, the reconstruction and refurbishing of churches was a key part of recovery. Records emphasize the importance of local, communal endeavours in restoring what had been lost, from whole buildings to furnishings such as altarpieces and liturgical vessels. Wartime destruction reinforced Lutheran proclivity for well-ordered and ornate places of worship. The essay ends with a consideration of war-time commemoration, investigating the extent to which the traumas of the period registered in the material fabric of Saxony’s churches.
Original languageEnglish
Article numberghae009
JournalGerman History
Issue number2
Early online date3 Apr 2024
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 3 Apr 2024


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