Diet of Augsburg

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Saxon chancellor Christian Beyer proclaiming the Augsburg Confession in the presence of Emperor Charles V, 1530 Augsburger-Reichstag.jpg
Saxon chancellor Christian Beyer proclaiming the Augsburg Confession in the presence of Emperor Charles V, 1530

The Diet of Augsburg were the meetings of the Imperial Diet of the Holy Roman Empire held in the German city of Augsburg. Both an Imperial City and the residence of the Augsburg prince-bishops, the town had hosted the Estates in many such sessions since the 10th century. In 1282, the diet of Augsburg assigned the control of Austria to the House of Habsburg. In the 16th century, twelve of thirty-five imperial diets were held in Augsburg, a result of the close financial relationship between the Augsburg-based banking families such as the Fugger and the reigning Habsburg emperors, particularly Maximilian I and his grandson Charles V. Nevertheless, the meetings of 1530, 1547/48 and 1555, during the Reformation and the ensuing religious war between the Catholic emperor and the Protestant Schmalkaldic League, are especially noteworthy.

Imperial Diet (Holy Roman Empire) general assembly of the Holy Roman Empire

The Imperial Diet was the deliberative body of the Holy Roman Empire. It was not a legislative body in the contemporary sense; its members envisioned it more like a central forum where it was more important to negotiate than to decide.

Holy Roman Empire Varying complex of lands that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe

The Holy Roman Empire was a multi-ethnic complex of territories in Western and Central Europe that developed during the Early Middle Ages and continued until its dissolution in 1806 during the Napoleonic Wars. The largest territory of the empire after 962 was the Kingdom of Germany, though it also came to include the neighboring Kingdom of Bohemia, the Kingdom of Burgundy, the Kingdom of Italy, and numerous other territories.

Augsburg Place in Bavaria, Germany

Augsburg is a city in Swabia, Bavaria, Germany. It is a university town and regional seat of the Regierungsbezirk Schwaben. Augsburg is an urban district and home to the institutions of the Landkreis Augsburg. It is the third-largest city in Bavaria with a population of 300,000 inhabitants, with 885,000 in its metropolitan area.



Emperor Charles V could not bring himself to openly discuss the matters of religious dispute and cause for division throughout Europe so he often stayed away from the sessions of the Diet. Instead he sent his younger brother Ferdinand I to have authority over discussions.

Ferdinand I, Holy Roman Emperor king of Bohemia and Hungary

Ferdinand I was Holy Roman Emperor from 1556, king of Bohemia and Royal Hungary from 1526, and king of Croatia from 1527 until his death in 1564. Before his accession, he ruled the Austrian hereditary lands of the Habsburgs in the name of his elder brother, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor. Also, he often served as Charles' representative in Germany and developed encouraging relationships with German princes.

The Diet was organized into three separate colleges: Prince-electors, ecclesiastical and secular sovereigns, and imperial cities. However, unlike other diets, the Diet did not possess fixed rules or methods to conduct. Tradition for the Diet of Augsburg began to emerge in the 1530s and the sessions were to be conducted under these guidelines. Either the emperor or the estates organized day-to-day business of the diet and the proposito functioned as the agenda for the Diet but could be easily altered by the convention.

Prince-elector members of the electoral college of the Holy Roman Empire

The Prince-electors of the Holy Roman Empire, or Electors for short, were the members of the electoral college that elected the Holy Roman Emperor.

Prince-bishop bishop who is a territorial Prince of the Church

A prince-bishop is a bishop who is also the civil ruler of some secular principality and sovereignty. Thus the principality or prince-bishopric ruled politically by a prince-bishop could wholly or largely overlap with his diocesan jurisdiction, since some parts of his diocese, even the city of his residence, could be exempt from his civil rule, obtaining the status of free imperial city. If the episcopal see is an archbishop, the correct term is prince-archbishop; the equivalent in the regular (monastic) clergy is prince-abbot. A prince-bishop is usually considered an elected monarch.

The business of the Diet was conducted on three levels; the committees, the colleges, and the plenary session. The plenary sessions or colleges created the committees; this level was staffed by members and/or experts of the Diet. The committees would prepare material that would be discussed by colleges and once acted upon, the issue entered the plenary session stage, however this was only ceremonial during the Diet of Augsburg.

The issue would continue to be discussed independently then collectively by the College of Electors and College of Sovereigns. Once they were able to confer on a decision the College of Cities would be informed. If they also agreed to the decision this would become a final decision and passed to the Emperor. If the Emperor approved this recommendation he could adopt it but if there were any issues or concerns he would send it back and the process would start again.

Augsburg Confession

Confutatio Augustana and Confessio Augustana being presented; this picture is somewhat ahistorical because a written copy of the Confutatio was never provided by the Catholics; rather they had to go off of stenographers they had brought with them just in case the Catholics wouldn't give them a copy. Confutatio Augustana and Confessio Augustana.jpg
Confutatio Augustana and Confessio Augustana being presented; this picture is somewhat ahistorical because a written copy of the Confutatio was never provided by the Catholics; rather they had to go off of stenographers they had brought with them just in case the Catholics wouldn't give them a copy.

The 1530 Imperial Diet of Augsburg was requested by Emperor Charles V to decide on three issues: first, the defense of the Empire against the Ottoman threat; second, issues related to policy, currency and public well being; and, third, disagreements about Christianity, in attempt to reach some compromise and a chance to deal with the German situation. The climate during this time was vastly different from what we see today when the Lutheran church moved to reformation at the assembly of Augsburg.[ clarification needed ] The Diet was inaugurated by the emperor on June 20. It produced numerous outcomes, most notably the 1530 declaration of the Lutheran estates known as the Augsburg Confession (Confessio Augustana), a central document of Lutheranism that was presented to the emperor.

Lutheranism form of Protestantism commonly associated with the teachings of Martin Luther

Lutheranism is a major branch of Western Christianity that identifies with the teaching of Martin Luther, a 16th-century German reformer. Luther's efforts to reform the theology and practice of the church launched the Protestant Reformation. The reaction of the government and church authorities to the international spread of his writings, beginning with the 95 Theses, divided Western Christianity.

Augsburg Confession

The Augsburg Confession, also known as the Augustan Confession or the Augustana from its Latin name, Confessio Augustana, is the primary confession of faith of the Lutheran Church and one of the most important documents of the Protestant Reformation. The Augsburg Confession was written in both German and Latin and was presented by a number of German rulers and free-cities at the Diet of Augsburg on 25 June 1530.


The Ninety-five Theses, published by Martin Luther in 1517, had sparked the Reformation in the German lands and an increasing number of princes turned Protestant. After the Great Peasants' Revolt was suppressed, the 1530 Diet was convoked to calm rising tensions over Protestantism, especially due to fears of the Ottoman advance; the forces of Sultan Suleiman I had almost taken the Habsburg residence Vienna in 1529 and Emperor Charles V wanted Christianity to unite against the invasions. After the 1521 Diet of Worms had imposed an Imperial ban on Martin Luther and his tracts, problems of enforcement emerged, as Charles' wars against France and commitments in the rest of his empire prevented him from focusing on German religious problems.

<i>Ninety-five Theses</i> Disputation by Martin Luther on indulgences

The Ninety-five Theses or Disputation on the Power of Indulgences is a list of propositions for an academic disputation written in 1517 by Martin Luther, professor of moral theology at the University of Wittenberg, Germany. They advanced Luther's positions against what he saw as the abuse of the practice of clergy selling plenary indulgences, which were certificates believed to reduce the temporal punishment in purgatory for sins committed by the purchasers or their loved ones. In the Theses, Luther claimed that the repentance required by Christ in order for sins to be forgiven involves inner spiritual repentance rather than merely external sacramental confession. He argued that indulgences led Christians to avoid true repentance and sorrow for sin, believing that they could forgo it by purchasing an indulgence. They also, according to Luther, discouraged Christians from giving to the poor and performing other acts of mercy, believing that indulgence certificates were more spiritually valuable. Though Luther claimed that his positions on indulgences accorded with those of the Pope, the Theses challenge a 14th-century papal bull stating that the pope could use the treasury of merit and the good deeds of past saints to forgive temporal punishment for sins. The Theses are framed as propositions to be argued in debate rather than necessarily representing Luther's opinions, but Luther later clarified his views in the Explanations of the Disputation Concerning the Value of Indulgences.

Martin Luther Saxon priest, monk and theologian, seminal figure in Protestant Reformation

Martin Luther, was a German professor of theology, composer, priest, monk, and a seminal figure in the Protestant Reformation.

Protestantism Division within Christianity, originating with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church

Protestantism is the second largest form of Christianity with collectively between 800 million and more than 900 million adherents worldwide or nearly 40% of all Christians. It originated with the 16th century Reformation, a movement against what its followers perceived to be errors in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestants reject the Roman Catholic doctrine of papal supremacy and sacraments, but disagree among themselves regarding the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist. They emphasize the priesthood of all believers, justification by faith alone rather than also by good works, and the highest authority of the Bible alone in faith and morals. The "five solae" summarise basic theological differences in opposition to the Roman Catholic Church.

In 1529, however, the emperor signed a successful peace treaty with France. After these successes, Charles aimed to assert his control over what he saw as German religious heresies. [1] [ page needed ] At the Diet of Speyer, the Edict of Worms was affirmed, resulting in the Protestation at Speyer enacted by the Lutheran princes.

The Diet of Speyer or the Diet of Spires was a Diet of the Holy Roman Empire held in 1529 in the Imperial City of Speyer. The Diet condemned the results of the Diet of Speyer of 1526 and prohibited future reformation. It resulted in the Protestation at Speyer.

Protestation at Speyer

On April 19, 1529, six princes and representatives of 14 Imperial Free Cities petitioned the Imperial Diet at Speyer against an imperial ban against Martin Luther, as well as the proscription of his works and teachings, and called for the unhindered spread of the evangelical faith.


The Augsburg Confession was intended “to be an expression of the faith of the universal Church, and thus a basis for a reconciliation between the Lutheran Reformers and the Roman Church.” It had been prepared by Philipp Melanchthon and Johannes Brenz at the behest of Elector John of Saxony. Based on Melanchthon's earlier Article of Schwabach, it contained twenty-one succinct articles of faith to show that the doctrines preached did not violate the norms that were traditionally present as well as justifications for the changes in worship and life that occurred from abusive traditions.

The Confession was presented to the emperor on June 25. During the Diet, Melanchthon withstood a variety of attacks while formulating the text. According to Joachim Camerarius, his first biographer, he “did not bend the truth to win favor or meet objections; at the same time he avoided unnecessary conflict”. Camerarius also mentions that during the diet, Melanchthon cried when hearing his work during this intense time of negotiations.

There has been a long dispute regarding the Augsburg Confession and what type of confession it truly is. One suggestion is that it is a political and theological confession, which established the Protestant church. A second view is that it is a catholic confession that dispensed with minor teachings such as penance. During the 16th century the tensions and relationship that existed between the Emperor, the Pope, the German Princes and the Protestants were quite complex. The confessions of the early centuries of the church were evoked by the Protestant Reformation and of the tensions that existed in the Church. The confession represented Protestant beliefs during the time of intense political and religious pressures. The Confession did discuss the basis and role of the papal authority in the Church “but it was decided not to incorporate a statement of the Lutheran position on the papacy in the confession in order to avoid upsetting Charles V and running the risk that he might simply refuse to negotiate with the Lutheran part at the Diet”.

Martin Luther’s contribution

At the time of the Diet of Augsburg, Martin Luther was an outlaw of the Empire and as a result was unable to be present at the Diet. Staying at the Veste Coburg, he made himself present through a variety of publications including the composition of Admonition to All the Clergy Assembled at Augsburg. Five hundred copies were quickly sold and circulated around during the Diet. A member of the Saxon group, Justus Jonas wrote that Luther’s work seemed inspired while “rebuking the haughtiness of the higher clergy, forcefully asserting ‘the article on necessity,’ and reducing the opponents to silence”.

Further, Luther’s impact was evident in August 1530 with the increased resistance of the Protestants to demands for concessions in the later stages of negotiations. Luther was able to read Melanchthon’s confession at an early stage, and admitted that he could have never written it in such a finely-argued way. He did later note that there “was no article on purgatory and no unmasking of the papal Antichrist”. During mid-July 1530 Luther was reported as having told a number of friends that he had no expectation that the Diet would lead to any sort of agreement between the two sides.

The General Synod of the Lutheran church accepted the twenty-one doctrinal articles with the Abuses altered.

Augsburg Interim

Following the Diet of Augsburg in 1530 was the Nuremberg Religious Peace which gave the Reformation more time to spread. At the end of this was the Schmalkaldic War and the ensuing Augsburg Interim in 1548 which was the imperial decree given by Charles V after his army won against the Schmalkaldic League during the Schmalkaldic War of 1547/48. The tensions between Charles V and the German Lutheran princes were finally resolved with the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, which formally acknowledged Protestantism as a legitimate religion of the Empire.

After his victory over the Schmalkaldic League, Charles V convened the Diet of 1547/48 (geharnischter Reichstag), where the Augsburg Interim was proclaimed. This attempt to give Catholicism the priority was rejected by many princes, though, and a resolution of the confessional tensions was only achieved at the session in 1555, where the Peace of Augsburg was concluded. The treaty acknowledged the Augsburg Confession and codified the cuius regio, eius religio principle, which gave each prince the power to decide the religion of his subjects.

The decrees of the Council of Trent were acknowledged by the Catholic princes of Germany at the Diet of Augsburg held in 1566.


  1. Macdonald, Stewart (2000), Charles V: Ruler, Dynast and Defender of the Faith, 1500-58.

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