Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Thomas Müntzer and the German Peasants' War (Germany)

Thomas Müntzer was born in Stolberg in the Harz mountains. Not much is known about his early life, but in 1506 he started his studies in Leipzig and in 1512 he moved to the university in Frankfurt an der Oder. In 1513 he was ordained a priest in the Diocese of Halberstadt. In the following years he preached in various towns. In 1520 he came to Zwickau and preached at the Saint Catharine's Church before he was expelled from the town in 1521. In the following years he once again wandered around different towns including Prague, Jena, Erfurt and Weimar. In Allstedt in 1524 he gave his famous Sermon to the Princes. Afterwards he was forced to flee and settled in Mühlhausen. 

At the beginning Thomas Müntzer was a dedicated supporter and admirer of Martin Luther, but compared to Luther Müntzer was more radical and Luther later dissociated from Müntzer.

East German stamps showing parts of the Peasants' War Panorama
in Bad Frankenhausen

The Saint Mary's Church in Mühlhausen was built in the 14th century to compete with the Erfurt Cathedral. It is the second largest church in Thuringia and is said to be a masterpiece of the Gothic style. Thomas Müntzer became pastor of the church in 1525. Since 1975 it houses a museum about Thomas Müntzer.

In 1524 the peasants started to revolt against their landlords sparked by social hardship and grievances in the ruling classes and inspired by the Reformation and especially Martin Luther's On the Freedom of a Christian. Despite the strong reference to the Reformation, Luther, Melanchthon and other reformers condemned the behaviour of the peasants and supported the ruling princes. At this time Luther and Müntzer dissociated, as Müntzer supported the ideas of the peasants. In many parts of the German Empire the peasants assembled in "Bauernhaufen" and started the fight. As the peasants were poorly armed, the princes did not have big problems in defeating them. The Battle of Frankenhausen, fought in Thuringia on 15 May 1525, was the largest and final battle of the German Peasants' War. Thomas Müntzer was arrested after the battle and later executed. Until September 1525 all fightings ended. Up to 100000 peasants lost their lives and actually none of their goals was achieved.

The German Peasants' War was of great importance to the conception
of history in East Germany describing it as the greatest
revolutionary attempt in the German history. 
The Twelve Articles were worked out in Memmingen in March 1525 and included the peasants' demands of the Swabian League. They are considered to be the first draft of human rights and civil liberties in Europe.

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

500 Years Reformation (Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Lithuania)

5. Papa non vult nec potest ullas penas remittere preter eas, quas arbitrio vel suo vel canonum imposuit. - Der Papst will und kann keine Strafen erlassen, außer solchen, die er auf Grund seiner eigenen Entscheidung oder der der kirchlichen Satzungen auferlegt hat. - The pope neither desires nor is able to remit any penalties except those imposed by his own authority or that of the canons.
10. Indocte et male faciunt sacerdotes ii, qui morituris penitentias canonicias in purgatorium reservant. - Unwissend und schlecht handeln diejenigen Priester, die den Sterbenden kirchliche Bußen für das Fegefeuer aufsparen. - Those priests act ignorantly and wickedly who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penalties for purgatory.
21. Errant itaque indulgentiarum predicatres ii, qui dicunt per pape indulgentias hominem ab omni pena solvi et salvari. - Deshalb irren jene Ablaßprediger, die sagen, daß durch die Ablässe des Papstes der Mensch von jeder Strafe frei und los werde. - Thus those indulgence preachers are in error who say that a man is absolved from every penalty and saved by papal indulgences.
36. Quilibet christianus vere compunctus habet remissionem plenariam a pena et culpa etiam sine literis veniarum sibi debitam. - Jeder Christ, der wirklich bereut, hat Anspruch auf völligen Erlaß von Strafe und Schuld, auch ohne Ablaßbrief. - Any truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without indulgence letters.
41. Caute sunt venie apostolice predicande, ne polulus false intelligat eas preferri ceteris bonis operibus charitatis. - Nur mit Vorsicht darf der apostolische Ablaß gepredigt werden, damit das Volk nicht fälschlicherweise meint, er sei anderen guten Werken der Liebe vorzuziehen. - Papal indulgences must be preached with caution, lest people erroneously think that they are preferable to other good works of love.
62. Verus thesaurus ecclesie est sacrosanctum euangelium glorie et gratie dei.- Der wahre Schatz der Kirche ist das allerheiligste Evangelium von der Herrlichkeit und Gnade Gottes. - The true treasure of the church is the most holy gospel of the glory and grace of God.

These are just six of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Theses, that he posted at the doors of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on 31st October 1517. But has he really posted his theses at the doors of the Castle Church? Today historians are not sure if he really posted them, but it is sure that Martin Luther sent his Disputatio pro declaratione virtutis indulgentiarum to Albert of Brandenburg, the Archbishop of Mainz and Magdeburg, to start a academic disputation about the sale of indulgences. After the Archbishop did not answered the letter, Luther gave the theses to some friends, who published them unknown to Luther and thus started a public disputation in the whole Empire. No matter if Martin Luther posted them at the doors of the Castle Church or just sent them to Albert of Brandenburg, the "Thesenanschlag" became a foundation myth of the Reformation. During the jubilee year 2017 everybody is talking about this important event in World's History and the whole year is filled with special events and celebrations in Germany and Europe. 

Theses Doors in Wittenberg

One of the biggest events for the jubilee was the German Evangelical Church Assembly. It was held in Berlin and Wittenberg between the 24th and 28th May and was attended by over 100000 visitors including Barack Obama. The assembly was accompanied by concerts, open forums and services. Simultaneously there were "Church Assemblies on the Way" in Dessau-Roßlau, Eisleben, Erfurt, Halle, Jena, Leipzig, Magdeburg and Weimar.

For the jubilee a group of Postcrossers organised a series of Meet-ups at important places in Martin Luther's life. The Meet-ups were or will be held in Eisleben (18th February), Erfurt (15th July), Wittenberg (14th October) and Eisenach (2nd December).

To commemorate 500 years Reformation in 2017 Brazil and Germany issued a joint stamp showing Martin Luther. Other special stamps were issued in Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Estonia, the Faroe Islands, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Kosovo, Latvia, Lithuania, Namibia, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia and the Vatican. Some of these I have in my collection, some others I am still missing. If I get a new one in the next time I will add it to this post. Also if I see another stamp I do not know about yet I will add it to the list.

Brazil and Germany (issued 13-04-2017)

Austria (issued 24-01-2017)

Belgium (issued 12-06-2017)

Croatia (issued 04-10-2017)

Estonia (issued 27-05-2017)

Hungary (issued 20-04-2017)

Italy (issued 24-04-2017)

Lithuania (issued 07-01-2017)

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen (Austria, Croatia, Hungary)

Maria Theresa was born on 13th May 1717 as second child of Emperor Charles VI. Her older brother was born in 1716, but died in the same year. Already in 1713 Charles VI had issued the Pragmatic Sanction to ensure that the Habsburg hereditary possessions could be inherited by a daughter. Nevertheless Maria Theresa was not prepared to be a ruler and only got the normal education of a female royal. In 1736 she married Francis Stephen and together they had 16 children. Her father died in 1740 without a male successor and so Maria Theresa became the new ruler of the Habsburg dominions. Although the Pragmatic Sanction was recognised by the other European powers during the life of Charles VI, many of them raised claims to parts of the Habsburg Empire. In the War of the Austrian Succession (1740-1748) Maria Theresa, backed by Great Britain and the Netherlands, was able to defend her title against Bavaria, France, Prussia, Saxony and Spain. In the contemporaneous First and Second Silesian Wars she lost Silesia to Frederick II of Prussia, her greatest rival for most of her reign. She also lost territories in Italy to Spain. In 1745 her husband became Holy Roman Emperor. Still on war she started to reform the Habsburg Empire. One of the major changes was the abolition of the estatist government in favour of centralism and absolutism. She also reformed the state finances, the army, the judicial system, the education and the economy. After Prussia had formed an alliance with Great Britain, Maria Theresa brought forward alliances with France and Russia. This became known as Diplomatic Revolution. In the Seven Years' War (1756-1763) Maria Theresa tried to regain Silesia, but failed. In the First Partition of Poland in 1772 she acquired Galicia for the Habsburg Empire. The death of Francis Stephen in 1765 was very hard for her. Their son Joseph became new Holy Roman Emperor and co-regent of Maria Theresa, although their relationship was conflictual. Maria Theresa died on 29th November 1780. She was the last sovereign and only female ruler of the House of Habsburg. Furthermore she is considered to be one of the most important rulers of the era of Enlightened Absolutism, although she was still characterised by Catholicism and the Baroque tradition.

To commemorate the 300th birthday of Maria Theresa in 2017 a joint issue of souvenir sheets was issued by Austria, Croatia, Hungary, Slovenia and Ukraine. The Czech Republic also issued a single stamp about her.

Francis Stephen was born in 1708 as fourth son of Duke Leopold of Lorraine. In 1723 he met Charles VI for the first time and in 1724 he moved to Vienna. In 1729 his father died and he became Duke of Lorraine. As Charles VI supported the marriage of Maria Theresa and Francis Stephen, Francis Stephen was convinced to assign the Duchy of Lorraine. As Maria Theresa was very likely to inherit the Habsburg Empire from her father, a husband without considerable political power was necessary for her to preserve the equilibrium of the European powers. Francis Stephen and Maria Theresa married in 1736. Despite the politics behind their marriage it was also a love match. In 1737 he got the Grand Duchy of Tuscany as compensation for Lorraine and in 1745 he became Holy Roman Emperor as Francis I. He was in charge of the financial affairs of the new House of Habsburg-Lorraine, which he managed well until his death. The House of Habsburg-Lorraine, which Francis Stephen and Maria Theresa founded, ruled until 1918. As he was not fully stretched as Holy Roman Emperor and co-regent of his wife, he had much time to spend on his personal interests, the natural sciences and his collections of coins and minerals. Francis Stephen died in 1765.

The Schönbrunn Palace was built between 1638 and 1643. From 1743 it was enlarged and rebuilt in the Baroque style at the behest of Maria Theresa. Until 1918 it was the residence of the Austrian Emperor. Today it is one of the most visited sights in Austria. Since 1996 are Palace and Park of Schönbrunn on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Imperial Palace of Innsbruck is a former Habsburg residence. Its construction started in the 15th century. Between 1754 and 1773 the palace was transformed and renovated in the Baroque style at the behest of Maria Theresa. In 1765 the wedding of Maria Theresa's son Leopold was celebrated in Innsbruck and during the celebrations Francis Stephen died. Afterwards Maria Theresa decided to turn the Imperial Palace into a memorial site and representational building in honour of her husband. Today it is considered to be one of the most significant cultural buildings in Austria and was preselected for the European Heritage Label.

Schloss Hof was purchased by Prince Eugen in 1726 and he left it to a niece in his will. Maria Theresa bought it in 1755. In 1766 Maria Christina, the favourite daughter of Maria Theresa, married in the palace.

For the 300th birthday of Maria Theresa a big four-part special exhibition is shown in Austria. One of the venues is Schloss Hof.

Friday, 20 October 2017

The Life of Martin Bucer (Germany)

Martin Bucer was born in 1491. At the age of 15 he joined the Dominican Order and in 1517 he started his studies at the University in Heidelberg, where he met Martin Luther in 1518. He joined the Reformation and left the Dominican Order in 1521. He was later forced to flee to Strasbourg and helped to introduce the Reformation to the Alsace. In the following years he tried to mediate between the different parties of the Reformation. He took part in the Marburg Colloquy and was one of the authors of the Confessio Tetrapolitana in 1530. In 1536 he was one of the signers of the Wittenberg Concord. With the Ziegenhain Order of Discipline in 1539 he created the basis for the Confirmation in the Lutheran Church. In 1549 he was exiled to England and became Regius Professor of Divinity in Cambridge. Martin Bucer died in 1551. 

Thursday, 12 October 2017

The Laufmaschine of Karl Drais (Germany, Switzerland)

Karl Drais was born in 1785. He was a member of an influential family and his godfather was Grand Duke Karl-Friedrich of Baden. Actually he had a job in forest administration, but in 1811 he went off duty from active service to concentrate on inventions while still continuing to collect his salary. The most famous invention of Drais is the Laufmaschine or Draisine, the earliest form of the bicycle. His first reported ride took place in Mannheim on 12th June 1817. Although being of noble birth he was a fervent liberal and supported a revolution in Baden. During the Baden Revolution in 1848 he even gave up his title of Baron. After the revolution collapsed, he was in a very bad position and his pension was confiscated. Karl Drais died penniless in 1851 in Karlsruhe.

To commemorate the 200th anniversary of the Laufmaschine in 2017 special stamps were issued in Bosnia-Herzegovina (Croatian Post), Germany and Switzerland. 

Wednesday, 11 October 2017

The Meiji Period (Japan)

The era of Emperor Meiji from 1868 to 1912 became known as Meiji Period. During the Meiji Period Japan underwent major changes in its social structure, internal politics, economy, military and foreign relations. Japan changed from an isolated feudal state to a modern great power. Important events during the Meiji Period were the restoration of the practical imperial rule, the abolition of the feudal order, the introduction of the compulsory education, the abolition of the treaty ports, the industrialisation, the constitution of 1889, the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895, the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905 and the expansion of Japan to Korea, the Ryūkyū Islands, southern Sakhalin and Taiwan. 

The Tomioka Silk Mill was established in 1872 by the Japanese Government with machines from France. It marks Japan's entry into the modern and industrialised era and also illustrates Japan's desire to quickly start a mass production of silk. Since 2014 is the Tomioka Silk Mill with its Related Sites on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution are since 2015 on the UNESCO World Heritage List. They bear testimony to the rapid industrialisation of the country during the Meiji Period, through the development of the iron and steel industry, shipbuilding and coal mining. In this period Japan sought technology transfer from Europe and America and adapted this technology to the country’s needs and social traditions. Japan is considered to be the first country where the transfer of Western industrialisation to a non-Western nation was successful.

The Glover's Residence was built by the Scottish merchant Thomas Blake Glover. It is the oldest Western style house surviving in Japan and known as setting of the opera Madama Butterfly.

Not everyone in Japan was pleased with the direction the nation had taken. The Saga Rebellion was an uprising of former samurais in Kyushu in 1874 against the Meiji Government, which was led by Etō Shimpei and Shima Yoshitake. It ended with a victory of the government and an end of the rebellion. The issues which led to the uprising remained unresolved.

The Saga Castle was burned down during the Saga Rebellion and was rebuilt between 2001 and 2004. It is the largest wooden castle reconstruction in Japan and was listed as one of the 100 Fine Castles of Japan. It houses the Saga Castle History Museum.

The Meiji Period was followed by the Taisho Period.

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Martynas Mažvydas and the Lithuanian written language (Lithuania)

Martynas Mažvydas was born around 1510 and spent his childhood in Vilnius. When the ideas of the Reformation reached Lithuania, he started to support them, but as he met refusal and persecution in his homeland, he followed an invitation of Duke Albert of Prussia to come to Königsberg. In 1546 he began his studies at the University of Königsberg and in 1547 he published there his first book, Catechismusa Prasty Szadei, a Lithuanian version of Luther's Catechism and the first book in the Lithuanian language. Due to this he is considered to be the father of the Lithuanian written language. He was appointed a priest in Ragainė in 1549 and during the rest of his life he published more books in Lithuanian. Martynas Mažvydas died in 1563.

Memorial of Martynas Mažvydas in Klaipėda,
unveiled in 1997