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Seminar 17: Deciding on faith in sixteenth-century cities

Discussion topics

- Why did most imperial free cities adopt the Reformation, but some not?

- What were the pros & cons of changing your religion?

- Who made this important decision?


Key source


Core readings




Further reading (recommended in bold)

Brady, T. A. Jr, Ruling Class, Regime and Reformation at Strasbourg 1520-55 (1978)

Chrisman, M. U., Strasbourg and the Reform (1967)

Christ, Martin, 'The Failure of the Reformation in Schwäbisch-GmündLink opens in a new window', in: Reinvention: a Journal of Undergraduate Research 5 (1/2012)

" , 'The Town Chronicle of Johannes Hass: History Writing and Divine Intervention in the Early Sixteenth CenturyLink opens in a new window', in: German History 35 (1/2017), 1-20 [advance online publication, December 2016]

" , Biographies of a Reformation. Religious Change and Confessional Coexistence in Upper Lusatia, 1520-1635 (Oxford, 2021)

Close, C. W., The Negotiated Reformation: Imperial Cities and the Politics of Urban Reform 1525-1550 (2009)

Dickens, A. G., The German Nation and Martin Luther (1974)

Dunwoody, Sean, Passionate Peace: Emotions and Religious Coexistence in Later Sixteenth-Century Augsburg (Leiden: Brill, 2022)

Grimm, H., Lazarus Spengler: A Lay Leader of the Reformation [Nuremberg] (1978)

Hamm, B., Lazarus Spengler (Tübingen, 2004) [in German]

Moeller, B., Imperial Cities and the Reformation: Three Essays (1972)

Ozment, S.,The Reformation in the Cities: The Appeal of Protestantism to Sixteenth-Century Germany and Switzerland (1975)

Schilling, H., ‘The Reformation in the Hanseatic CitiesLink opens in a new window’, Sixteenth Century Journal 14 (1983)

Scholz, Maximilian M., Strange Brethren: Refugees, Religious Bonds and Reformation in Frankfurt 1554-1608, Studies in Early Modern German History (Charlottesville, 2022)


Essay titles


  • Assess the late medieval roots of the urban Reformation in Germany.
  • Why was the early Reformation so successful in German towns?
  • To what extent did theological doctrines reflect the socio-political background of the reformers?
  • Was the German Reformation an ‘urban event’?


Inscription commemorating the beginning of the Reformation at the Grossmünster church in Zurich (pic: Christian Bickel, 2007)


St Lorenz Nuremberg

West facade of St Laurence, Nuremberg, one of the imposing parish churches of this imperial free city. Pic: Jailbird 2006 (Creative Commons)