Protestant Reformation and Switzerland c.1600 AD

I’ve been doing some research for a potential project I’m considering.

Most of you will not know that I was raised a Methodist, which is a Protestant Christian faith. I am fairly knowledgable about my faith, though I do not attend church and rarely act like I know my soul is headed to hell for all the bad thoughts I have.

Some of you may know that I lived in Switzerland for a few years. I thought I learned quite a bit about that country while I lived there, but today I discovered how little I knew of both the Protestant Reformation and the history of Switzerland. The two are so closely entwined as to make them nigh inextricable. From my study, it appears that the urban Swiss were tired of sending their young men to war for the Pope and anyone else who had a coin or two to rub together.

This was all well and good for the city-dwellers, but the more remote cantons of the original confederation had no trade routes to subsidize their meagre farming and few trades to engage in, and therefore took service as mercenaries in the armies of foreign lands.

The urban Swiss adopted the Protestant faith, which did not accept the idea of purchasing indulgences (A strong underpinning of that era’s military service: you get forgiveness of sins if you fight in God’s name, under this sanctioned Prince). Protestantism therefore rendered military service to a Catholic Prince in killing other Christians an unforgivable sin.

What followed in the area that would one day become Switzerland was an odd grab for power. Church lands were taken by the civil governments, even in Catholic Cantons, to better protect against the adversary of the moment.

Fueling this at the time was the social requirement common through Europe that the ruled conform to the religion of the ruler. Even in the cities and Cantons ruled by councils, this meant that the ruling council’s religion dictated what a resident’s religion must be. You were allowed to emigrate, but if your method of kneeling before God wasn’t the boss’, that was your only option other than persecution and confiscation of property.

There is a little blurb about the Anabaptists in the material, about how the chose to use the bible as the sole arbiter of social requirements. They refused to pay taxes or submit to courts, with the result that both Catholics and more mainstream Protestants persecuted them. Yet more proof that the standout nail gets hammered first and hardest.

The less populous and Catholic Cantons had the military might and know-how, and used it to good effect, cementing control over their own territory and occasionally clobbering an urban center to show them who was boss. They eventually became so good at it that non-german, states nearby started asking for membership when under threat from local powers such as Savoy.

I am not sure where this is going, but I did find it fascinating reading, and will continue to study it, as time allows.Most of this information was gained through about an hour’s worth of reference reading on the almighty Wikipedia.

Man, the internet is something else.