Refugees and the recasting of the reformation: the case of Frankfurt am Main, 1550-1618

Maximilian Scholz

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“Refugees and the Recasting of the Reformation” sheds new light on the historical process now known as “confessionalization.” Confessionalization describes a process - which began in the late sixteenth century and affected every post-Reformation church - whereby political and religious leaders used tools of social discipline to define and defend the boundaries of their communities and, in so doing, begin to construct states. “Refugees and the Recasting of the Reformation” reveals that it was the arrival of refugees that prompted rulers to begin this process of boundary formation. The displaced people living in Frankfurt had initially been welcomed in the name of Protestant solidarity, yet their very presence began to fracture Protestantism. Frankfurt’s rulers came to the conclusion that the newcomers did not share the same religion as the city, and animosity and new social boundaries followed. By 1608, the situation had turned violent. To survive in this newly troubling time, the community of refugees developed new institutions, such as bible study groups and a consistory to monitor and correct people’s behavior. These institutions remain hallmarks of modern Protestantism, and it is accurate to depict modern Protestantism - with its confessional divides and intramural strengths - as partly the result of Europe’s first refugee crisis. 

Representative publication:

Scholz, M. M. (2019). Religious refugees and the search for public worship in Frankfurt am Main, 1554–1608. Sixteenth Century Journal, 50(3), 765-782.

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