The Peace of Westphalia

Entry of the envoy Adriaen Pauw
Entry of the envoy Adriaen Pauw
High Resolution (71 KB)

Exchange of the ratification documents
Exchange of the ratification documents
High Resolution (49.5 KB)

On October 24, 1648, as the treaties concluding the Peace of Westphalia were signed in Münster and Osnabrück , a war that had decimated the German population by almost 40 per cent, came to an end.

This peace treaty restored the old rights of the imperial estates, outlined the German emperor´s regional cessions to France and Sweden and defined the future denominational position and the responsibilities of the imperial authorities within the empire.

This peace treaty granted France the possession of the bishoprics of Metz, Toul and Verdun. In addition to that, France obtained from Habsburg the earldoms of Upper and Lower Alsace, the Sundgau and the governmental rights over 10 Alsatian imperial cities. The fortresses of Breisach and Pinerolo and the occupational rights in Philippsburg (near Bruchsal) fell to France, too.

Sweden´s territorial gains of the war were the isles of Usedom, Rügen and Wollin, the region of Vorpommern (Western Pomerania) including the Oder mouth and Stettin, the city of Wismar, and the dioceses of Bremen and Verden/Aller as imperial fiefs with seat and vote in Parliament. The empire had to raise 5 million "Reichstaler" for reparation payments.

Brandenburg obtained the bishoprics of Cammin, Minden and Halbestadt, the territory of Hinterpommern (Eastern Pomerania) and the candidacy for the principality of Magdeburg. In exchange for Wismar, Mecklenburg received the bishoprics of Schwerin and Ratzeburg. Saxony was allowed to keep the Lausitzen (Upper and Lower Lusetia). Hessen-Kassel obtained the Abbacy of Hersfeld and the County of Schaumburg.

Bavaria kept the Upper Palatinate and ist right to elect the German king, but the Rhine Palatinate and the new electoral rights thereof were returned to Karl Ludwig, son of Friedrich V.

The emperor had lost power, electors and princes obtained rights equal to his. The princes received the right to form alliances at their own discretion, either among themselves or with other powers. The emperor´s foreign policy was bound to the approval of Parliament. The imperial cities represented the third power in Parliament, next to the princes and electors.

The denominational regulations of the Peace of Westphalia bear a principle that still effects our time. The old sentence "cuius regio, cuius religio" (to each region, its religion) had stated that the polulace had to adopt the belief of the rulers. In the Peace of Westphalia, it received an important extension: The denominational status quo of the bishoprics and their seisin was calculated in relation to the "average" year of 1624 and frozen. Since then, the distribution of the denominations in Germany has hardly changed. Subsequently, religious quarrels were settled diplomatically in Parliament by the denominational bodies of the corpus catholicorum and evangelicorum.


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