Catholicism and civic identity in Cologne, 1475-1570

Gibbs, Janis Marie, Department of History, University of Virginia
Midelfort, H C E, Department of History, University of Virginia
Osheim, Duane, Department of History, University of Virginia
Crocker, J. Christopher, Department of Anthropology, University of Virginia
Rosenfeld, Sophia, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia

The city of Cologne was known as the bulwark of Catholicism in northwestern Germany during the age of the Reformation. The city remained resolutely Catholic during the religious upheavals of the sixteenth century. Cologne's Catholicism was an integral part of its urban culture. The city's history, traditions, image, constitution, laws, and institutional structure became elements in the construction of a self-conscious civic identity by the residents of Cologne. The increasingly dominant characteristic of Cologne's identity was a strong sense of sacred community within the Catholic tradition.

Cologne's residents demonstrated their sense of Catholic community by enforcing rules concerning belief and action and by participating in rituals, including baptism, communion, funerals, processions, and masses. Many rituals had combined civic and religious significance. The construction of the rituals demonstrated the increasing strength of the links between Catholicism and a distinctive Cologne identity as the sixteenth century progressed.

Cologne's Catholic civic identity, which developed beyond traditional common legal and economic interests which linked urban dwellers, permeated the political, social and cultural life of the city. Using published city council records, as well as unpublished city council records, city proclamations, and criminal investigation records, I have examined the ways in which the Cologne government defined membership in the civic community, and the penalties it imposed on dissidents. The city's use of banishment as a punishment in religious cases provided a graphic iii demonstration of the separation from the community produced by religious dissent. The city's responses to the challenges of the sixteenth century-- Protestantism, including Lutheranism, Anabaptism, and Calvinism, the Archbishop of Cologne's attempt to exercise control over the city, and the threat presented by immigrants who did not share the city's sense of identity-- developed throughout the sixteenth century. The complex intermingling of religious and civic identity helps to explain why Cologne, the largest of Germany's imperial cities, did not follow the path of many German cities and adopt the Protestant Reformation.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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