In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Augsburg

  • Introduction
  • Overviews
  • Published Sources
  • Biographical Resources
  • Augsburg on the Eve of the Reformation
  • Renaissance Humanism
  • Social Groups and Urban Life
  • Communication and Information
  • The Reformation: Theological and Political Aspects
  • The Reformation: Social and Cultural Aspects
  • The Radical Reformation
  • The Arts in Reformation Augsburg I: Renaissance Painting and Drawing
  • The Arts in Reformation Augsburg II: Architecture, Music, and Luxury Crafts
  • After the Reformation: Confessionalization and Coexistence

Renaissance and Reformation Augsburg
Mark Häberlein
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 May 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 May 2020
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780195399301-0444


The imperial city of Augsburg figures prominently in the history and historiography of the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation for several reasons. First, Augsburg was an eminent center of printing, artistic production, and humanist learning which also evolved into a major communication hub in the course of the sixteenth century. Second, the city’s name is associated with several crucial events of the period, such as Martin Luther’s interview with Cardinal Cajetan during the imperial diet of 1518; the Augsburg Confession, a Protestant statement of faith penned by Luther’s collaborator Philipp Melanchthon and presented to Emperor Charles V during the imperial diet of 1530; the Augsburg Interim, an essentially Catholic formulation of religious doctrine with some concessions to Protestants that the emperor imposed on the Holy Roman Empire in 1548; and the Religious Peace of Augsburg, a settlement between the emperor (represented by his brother, King Ferdinand) and the empire’s estates during the imperial diet of 1555. Third, Augsburg exemplifies the complexity of religious reform in some German communities. While cities such as Nuremberg or Zurich became associated with one particular strand of reform—Lutheranism or Zwinglianism—early on, various groups rivaled for ascendancy from the 1520s to the 1550s. Followers of Martin Luther were sidelined by adherents Ulrich Zwingli and the Strasbourg reformer Martin Bucer during the 1530s, and Anabaptists attracted a sizable following until the city government cracked down on them in the late 1520s. Meanwhile, the presence of prominent families such as the Fuggers and their close ties to the emperor ensured the survival of a Catholic minority. After years of hesitation and compromise, the city council adopted Protestantism officially in 1534–1537, prohibiting the Mass and dissolving the monasteries. Yet, after the defeat of the Schmalkaldic League in 1547, Emperor Charles V reintroduced Catholic worship in Augsburg and changed the city constitution, giving Catholic patricians (who were his strongest supporters) a disproportionate share of council seats and high administrative offices. The Religious Peace of Augsburg finally provided safeguards for Catholic minorities in imperial cities, thus paving the way for the institutionalized coexistence of the Lutheran and Catholic faiths in Augsburg. Fourth, historians of culture, gender, the urban poor, and marginal groups began to mine the extraordinarily rich holdings of Augsburg’s city archives in the final decades of the 20th century. They found that the city’s tax and court records contain a wealth of information on the common people, who left few records of their own. Augsburg has thus become the focus of a number of innovative studies that explore the social and cultural dimensions of the urban Reformation. It is due to these works that we know more about craftsmen, women, the poor, and the delinquent in Augsburg than in most other 16th-century German cities and towns.


At the beginning of the 20th century, the Munich-based historian Friedrich Roth wrote a four-volume history of the Reformation in Augsburg that remains the most comprehensive work on the topic until the present day. Research subsequently languished for more than half a century, receiving fresh impulses only from the debate about Bernd Moeller’s book Imperial Cities and the Reformation (1962), the rise of social history, and the founding of the University of Augsburg in 1970. Wolfgang Reinhard, professor of early modern history in Augsburg from 1977 to 1990, supervised several dissertations on the imperial city, as did Rolf Kießling, professor of Bavarian and Swabian history in Augsburg from 1994 to 2007. Kießling wrote several books and numerous articles on late medieval and early modern Swabian cities. From the 1970s onward, the city’s rich archival holdings have also attracted numerous international scholars who have made substantial contributions to the history of early modern Augsburg in general and the period of the Protestant Reformation in particular.

  • Gier, Helmut, and Reinhard Schwarz, eds. Reformation und Reichsstadt: Luther in Augsburg. Augsburg, Germany: Wißner, 1996.

    Catalogue of an exhibition organized by Augsburg’s City and State Library on the local impact of Martin Luther and the Reformation. In addition to survey essays by Reinhard Schwarz and Rolf Kießling, contains essays by Johannes Burkhardt on Luther and the large merchant companies and by Hans-Jörg Künast on Luther and the local printing trade.

  • Gottlieb, Gunther, ed. Geschichte der Stadt Augsburg: 2000 Jahre von der Römerzeit bis zur Gegenwart. 2d ed. Stuttgart: Theiss, 1985.

    Published on the eve of the 2,000th anniversary of Augsburg’s founding, this volume—edited by a group of historians who were then teaching at the University of Augsburg—covers the city’s entire history from its prehistoric and Roman origins to the 20th century. Demographic, social, economic, and cultural developments are thoroughly examined. The Reformation is covered in chapters on ecclesiastical life (by Herbert Immenkötter, pp. 391–412) and on Augsburg in its wider political context from 1490 to 1555 (by Heinrich Lutz, pp. 413–433).

  • Grünsteudel, Günther, Günter Hägele, and Rudolf Frankenberger, eds. Augsburger Stadtlexikon. 2d ed. Augsburg, Germany: Wißner, 1998.

    The Stadtlexikon was initially published on the occasion of Augsburg’s 2,000th anniversary in 1985, but this second, expanded edition clearly supersedes the original version. It contains chronological and thematic surveys of the major epochs and themes of Augsburg’s history, including the Reformation era (by Rolf Kießling, pp. 61–74), as well as alphabetical entries on persons, places, churches, public buildings, and social, political, and cultural institutions, etc. The entire work is also accessible online.

  • Tlusty, B. Ann, and Mark Häberlein, eds. A Companion to Late Medieval and Early Modern Augsburg. Leiden, The Netherlands, and Boston: Brill, 2020.

    The first comprehensive survey of Augsburg’s premodern history, in English, covering demographic, economic, social, constitutional, political, legal, intellectual, artistic, and cultural developments from c. 1400 to 1800. A chapter by Michele Zelinsky Hanson explicitly deals with the Reformation, but additional information can be found in the chapters on “Politics under the Guild Regime” (by Christopher W. Close), “Politics under the Patrician Regime” (by Häberlein and Barbara Rajkay), “Catholic-Protestant Coexistence” (by Marjorie E. Plummer and Tlusty), and “Learned Culture” (by Wolfgang E. J. Weber).

  • Historisches Lexikon Bayerns.

    This online historical dictionary includes two useful surveys of the political and social development of Augsburg, both written by Christof Paulus: “Augsburg, Reichsstadt: Politische und soziale Entwicklung” and “Augsburg, Reichsstadt: Territorium und Verwaltung.”

  • Jesse, Horst. Die Geschichte der Evangelischen Kirche in Augsburg. Pfaffenhofen, Germany: Ludwig, 1983.

    Although now a bit outdated, this book (written by a former Lutheran pastor) still offers a thorough account of Augsburg’s ecclesiastical history from the Middle Ages to the 20th century. More than one hundred pages (pp. 52–159) are devoted to the period from Luther’s stay in Augsburg in 1518 to the Religious Peace of 1555.

  • Kirmeier, Josef, Wolfgang Jahn, and Evamaria Brockhoff, eds. “. . . wider Laster und Sünde”: Augsburgs Weg in die Reformation; Katalog zur Ausstellung in St. Anna, Augsburg, 26. April bis 10. August 1997. Cologne: DuMont, 1997.

    In 1997, the Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte (House of Bavarian History) organized an exhibition on Augsburg in the Reformation era. The catalogue contains an excellent survey of Reformation Augsburg (by Rolf Kießling), an article on the “south German way to the Reformation,” which oscillated between Lutheran and Zwinglian positions (by Rudolf Freudenberger), a biographical sketch of the Reformed theologian Wolfgang Musculus (by Rudolf Dellsperger), and a description of St. Anna’s Church (by Andreas Hahn).

  • Link, Andreas. “Augsburg: Wolfgang Musculus.” In Europa Reformata: Reformationsstädte Europas und ihre Reformatoren. Edited by Michael Welker, Michael Beintker, and Albert de Lange, 35–44. Leipzig: Evangelische Verlagsanstalt, 2016.

    Brief account of the Reformation in Augsburg. After an initial period of religious diversity, intense communal participation, and official hesitation to implement far-reaching changes, the theologian Wolfgang Musculus became the leading spokesman for religious reform upon the models of Zurich and Strasbourg in the 1530s and 1540s.

  • Roeck, Bernd. Geschichte Augsburgs. Munich: C. H. Beck, 2005.

    A brief, readable book that covers the first two millennia of Augsburg’s history on roughly two hundred pages. The Protestant Reformation is sketched in a concise chapter (pp. 107–119).

  • Roth, Friedrich. Augsburgs Reformationsgeschichte. 4 vols. Munich: Ackermann, 1901–1910.

    Although written long before the advent of modern social and cultural history, Roth’s work remains the essential starting point for research on the Reformation in Augsburg, due to its sheer comprehensiveness and extensive use of primary sources. It is still quoted widely in recent publications. Available online.

  • Zorn, Wolfgang. Augsburg: Geschichte einer europäischen Stadt. 5th ed. Augsburg, Germany: Wißner, 2011.

    A concise history of Augsburg from Roman times to the 20th century, originally published in the 1950s. Integrates the events of the Reformation into a narrative of major developments in 16th-century Augsburg.

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