Are the Netherlands more Catholic or Protestant?

5.1.4 Reformation and Europe: Netherlands

In the Dutch provinces1 (the Lower Burgundian rulers of the Habsburgs), the religious conflict also quickly turned into a ruling conflict and was closely related to the struggle for independence against the Spanish king.

Reformation in the Netherlands

Timetable for the Reformation in the Netherlands


After the division of the Habsburg Empire, the 17 Dutch provinces fall to Philip II of Spain


Church reorganization in the Netherlands (Spanish-Dutch hierarchy)


Tightening of the inquisition and downsizing of the dioceses, protests are rejected


Revolt of the lower nobility, active Calvinists (Geusen): pillage, iconoclasm


Duke Alba of Spain appointed as governor (military dictatorship with special courts): intensification of the persecution of Protestants


Beginning of the 80 Years War: military actions under William of Orange, raids of the Wassergeusen as a reaction to the wave of executions in the Netherlands (e.g. Egmont, Horn)


Synod of Emden


Geusen conquer various positions in the Netherlands, decision of the provinces of Holland and Zealand to take up the fight against Spain under the leadership of William of Orange


The University of Leiden is founded, which quickly becomes a center of European science and Calvinism


Ghent pacification: Unification of the country under the governorship of William of Orange against Madrid, but threatened by social and political differences between the southern and northern provinces


Founding of the Union of Utrecht (aggressive Calvinist. Wing) in response to the cath. Union of Arras through Farnese (southern provinces, Hainaut and Artois)


Declaration of Independence of the Northern Provinces (Acte van Afzwering)


Assassination of William of Orange


Moritz of Orange governor in the republic of the northern Netherlands


Conclusion of a twelve-year armistice


Synod of Dordrecht: Condemnation of the moderate Calvinists (Remonstrants or Arminians), execution of Johan van Oldenbarnevelt (the political opponent of Moritz von Orange) and life imprisonment for Hugo Grotius, from which he can flee to Paris


Spanish-Dutch Peace (Vrede van Münster): Philip IV of Spain recognizes the Northern Netherlands (Republiek der Nader Geünieerde Provinciën) as a sovereign state. The southern provinces (in principle today's Belgium) remain with Spain

Source: University of Münster.

The Netherlands, home of Erasmus of Rotterdam and the humanistic Dutch devotio moderna, was one of the cultural centers of Europe alongside Italy. In the late 15th century, the area was inherited by the Habsburg dynasty.

Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466-1536), important representative of the humanists; Portrait of Hans Holbein the Elder J .. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Charles V and above all his son Philip II of Spain, both strict Catholics connected to the dynastic tradition, persecuted the Protestants (Lutherans, Anabaptists and later Calvinists) and tried to force them back to Catholicism or to execute them.

Charles V (1500-1558), coronation as emperor in 1530, reign: 1519-1556). (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Still under the influence of the military victory in the Schmalkaldic War, Karl enforced the Burgundy Treaty in 1548, which largely spun off the Lower Burgundian dominions from the empire and thus shortened the legal protection of the subjects there.

The later attempt to transfer the Augsburg religious peace to the Netherlands also failed. The ius emigrandi religious peace did not apply to the inhabitants of the Netherlands.

With the takeover of the reign by Philip II of Spain, the religious conflict intensified and culminated in one Revolt of the Netherlands, which ushered in the decline of the Habsburg rule.

Philip II, King of Spain (1527-1598) and son of Charles V; Portrait of Titian. (Source Wikimedia Commons)

The final stone of the impetus was a restructuring of the church administration: In the Dutch provinces there was no uniform Habsburg ecclesiastical administration system until 1559 Phillip II caused the Pope to make 18 new dioceses out of the former six dioceses and these essentially to the three newly founded subordinate to Dutch archbishoprics.

In this context, the Spanish king appointed new bishops, who should also be represented in the general estates (assembly of estates) of the provinces, and downsized the dioceses. In doing so, he wanted to eliminate the corporate freedoms that had been granted to the provinces in the Great Privilege of 1477.

After the death of her father (Duke Charles the Bold of Burgundy), Mary of Burgundy (1457-1482) was the only heir to his kingdom (including the Duchy of Burgundy, Lorraine, Luxembourg and the Netherlands). Overtaxed with the political task, the young duchess had granted the Dutch provinces extensive autonomy rights in the Grand Privilege of 1477 in return for help in the fight against France. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

This project, which aimed at the establishment of a royal dominated Dutch territorial church, led to protests by the Dutch, who felt they were being patronized. Seven Dutch provinces joined in 1579 Union of Utrecht and founded the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The governor of the king, William of Orange, took over the leadership of the insurgents in the so-called Eighty Years War (1568-1648), in which, in addition to the religious question, the Independence from Spanish rule was fought.

In the Peace of Westphalia of 1648, the Netherlands was recognized as an independent state and at the same time the religious disputes ended. Religious ideas such as self-government and the majority principle of the congregations (two basic elements of the Calvinist church) combine with the Dutch constitution to form an aristocratic-republican state and thus become a political reality.