Imperial Cities and Religious Conflict

Mühlhausen/Thuringia, 8th – 10th February 2016

The fourth academic conference organised by the Mühlhausen-based Research Working Group on the History of the Free Imperial Cities, in cooperation with the Friedrich Christian Lesser Foundation, the town of Mühlhausen, the Protestant Parish of Mühlhausen, the Catholic Parish of Saint Joseph of Mühlhausen, and the Historical Society of Mühlhausen (Mühlhäuser Geschichts- und Denkmalpflegeverein e.V.)

Conference Topic

„Darum sey es jetzt auch an dem, dass man sich absöndere von Anderen in dieser Stadt, und sammle eine reine Kirche und Gemeinde der rechten Kinder Gottes.“ (“Therefore we shall separate ourselves from the others in this town and establish a pure and righteous church and community of God’s children.”) Huldrych Zwingli (1484–1531), reformer of the Imperial City of Zurich, had great difficulty refuting the positions of other reformer who demanded religious plurality. There are many, he wrote in 1525, who have already taken this position. The unity of the city – not just regarding its religion – seemed endangered, and now it was Zwingli’s turn to urge his congregation to be forbearing.

The Reformation was neither the first, nor was it the last religiously motivated social movement, which exacerbated already existing conflicts within the cities and forced them to work towards a re-foundation of the social and political order. The Reformation stood in a long tradition of performative articulations of discontent and the religious self-empowerment of oppositional groups. Likewise, the attempt to replace the urban sacred space, marked by local and situational plurality, with a more hegemonic model, had its predecessors – and of course its imitators.

The 2015 conference of the Mühlhausen Research Working Group will discuss how in the Imperial Cities, with their special constitutional conditions, religious plurality gave way to religious dissonance, and finally resulted in religious conflict. In a wider sense, the change in Imperial Cities of notions of sacred plurality, as well as homogeneity, during the Age of Reformation will be diachronically contextualised and analysed.

… conference programme