Divided Protestantism and Silent Churches

Divided Protestantism and Silent Churches February 3, 2017

Diarmaid MacCulloch (Reformation: Europe’s House Divided) points to the “bizarre fortunes” of the Bremen Cathedral to illustrate the “stand-off and ill-will between the two Protestantisms,” Lutheran and Reformed:

With its crucial position in the north-west of the German lands, [Bremen] had once been the very heart of early medieval Christianity’s first mission to the peoples of north Germany and Scandinavia. Bremen went over in the 1530s to the Lutheran cause against the opposition of its Catholic archbishop, but by 1561 the growth of Reformed belief among the merchant elite delivered control of the city into Reformed hands, after fierce intra-Protestant disputes inevitably centring on the Eucharist. The aristocratic canons of the Cathedral, however, remained staunch Lutherans: the resulting clash between city and Cathedral authorities closed the doors of the building to worshippers. For an astonishing seventy-seven years after 1561, the vast church, locked and silent, cast its shadow over the busy life of the two principal city markets, the medieval treasures of its interior preserved unused though undefaced. Only in 1638 did the intervention of Danish Lutheran troops force the Reformed city authorities very grudgingly to allow the large number of convinced Lutherans in the city to use the Cathedral once more for Evangelical worship.

The apparent premise being: Better a silent Cathedral than a Lutheran one.

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