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1575 - The introduction of the Reformation

7226187150 a73edf21cc o copieThe first evangelical service held in Colmar took place on 15 May 1575, at 8 o´clock in the morning, in the Franciscan church, which had lain empty for the previous thirty years. A large number of the city´s governing class was present. As no minister had yet been appointed to the Protestant community, the minister of Jebsheim, Jean Cellarius, officiated. The decision to allow the service to go ahead had only been taken the day before, when the City council had met under the chairmanship of Obristmeister Michel Buob to give its unanimous vote of approval.

It was a long wait for the Colmar Protestants, who had thought the Reformation would be introduced in 1525, some 50 years before. The public authorities had shown a singular mastery of procrastination, surrounding themselves with a panoply of judicial precautions before finally giving the go-ahead at the last moment. Colmar was known as "eine spät Reformationsstadt", a late Reformation city. The city´s rulers had long prevaricated, leaving Colmar half a century behind Strasburg and Basel in joining the Reformation. It would take the city another fifty years to decide between Luther and Calvin.

In 1525, the peasants´ war had come to its tragic end and this cooled Colmar´s ardour for introducing the Reformation. The public authorities were not in favour of the Reformation, even though part of the population showed sympathy for the new ideas. Farckall´s Lutheran publications, the problem with Hans the preacher and the innkeeper Bader´s incitements to sedition showed that Colmar still had a toe placed firmly in the waters of the Reformation.

It was not until the Peace of Augsburg in 1555, however, that the Reformation started to gain wider acceptance in Colmar despite the fact that it had been widely introduced in the surrounding areas. Through a decree issued in 1538, the Public authorities had managed to gain control of administering the possessions and regulating the practices of the clergy. The Reformation had also lost ground through the excesses of the Anabaptists and the counter-reformation work of Catholics like Jean Fabbri, the Dominican preacher of St. Martin and the Augustinian prior Jean Hoffmeister.

The city´s situation finally began to change with the Peace of Augsburg. This peace officially recognised the coexistence of Catholicism and Lutheranism throughout the Empire, the introduction of the Reformation in Haguenau in 1565 and the new governing body in Colmar in 1564, which brought in new faces and new ideas. From then on, there was no danger, either politically or domestically, in introducing the Reformation.