Spires, Diets of Spires, or Spire

Spires, Diets Of Spires, Or Spire (Germ. Speyer; anc. Noviomagus, afterwards Nemetes), is a city of Bavaria, at the confluence of the Speyerbach with the Rhine, once the residence of the German emperors, but now greatly reduced, having been nearly destroyed by the French in 1689. It is noted in ecclesiastical history for the meetings held there by the Reformers.

I. The first diet had been ordered to convene Feb. 1, 1526, at Esslingen, but was afterwards directed to meet at Spires on May 1. It did not begin its deliberations, however, until June 26. The situation at the time was favorable to the evangelical cause, inasmuch as the peace of Madrid, concluded between the emperor Charles V and Francis I, the king of France (January 1526), had been broken by Francis, with the consent of the pope. All Western Europe was leagued together to destroy the preponderating power of the imperial house. The Turks threatened to invade Germany, and the Torgau alliance had compacted the Protestant states into a formidable power. The Protestant princes accordingly assumed a bold attitude, and from the time of their arrival caused their preachers to hold daily services, at which thousands of people were present. The religious question was prominent from the beginning of the diet. The imperial commissioners announced that the emperor had determined to maintain the existing order in religious matters until a council should arrange a different order, and demanded that new innovations agreeable to the teaching of Luther and contrary to the Edict of Worms should not be undertaken, besides calling attention to ordinary matters pertaining to the general conduct of the empire and to its needs. Debates immediately ensued, in which the lay estates directed attention towards the many and notorious abuses existing in the Church, and the imperial cities demanded the abrogation of erroneous and dangerous customs. They asserted that it was impossible to tell when, if ever, a general Christian council might be convened. These arguments prevailed. The complaints so presented were given to a committee, which reported that baptism and the Lord's supper should alone be regarded as sacraments; that the laity should partake of the cup; and that the vernacular should be employed in the administration of the sacraments. A second committee reported, advising the exercise of liberty in the points named by the former committee, and, in addition, recommending the abrogation of celibacy and an intelligent preaching of the Word of God. At this point the commissioners introduced instructions, dated March 23, which prohibited them from accepting any action on the part of the diet that did not harmonize with the traditional doctrines and usages, and required them to promote the execution of the Edict of Worms. The elector of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse took immediate measures to depart from Spires; and the difficulties which surrounded the emperor, joined with the counsels of his advisers, now led him to employ more conciliatory language. He wrote to his brother Ferdinand that he was determined to win over the Evangelicals with kindness, aid to submit their doctrines to a council and the recess of the diet, dated August 27, decreed that a universal — or at least a national — council should be called within a year "and that in matters treated of in the Edict of Worms each state should, during the interval, behave so as to be able to render account to God and the emperor. The Evangelical cause was thus accorded a season of quiet, during which its adherents drew more firmly together, and consolidated the Church. See the Acta of the diet in Luther's Werke (Walch's ed.), 16, 243 sq.; Veesenmayer, Die Verhandlungen auf dem Reichstage zu Speyer im Jahre 1526, etc., in Vater's Archiv, 1825, 1, 22 sq.; Ranke, Deutsche Gesch. 2,354 sq.; id. Fursten u. Volker von Sudeuropa, 2, 100 sq.; Neudecker, Merkw. Aktenstücke aus dem Zeitalter d. Reformation, 1, 19 sq.

II. The second Diet of Spires was occasioned by the more favorable conditions which the political relations of the emperor assumed, in consequence of which he felt himself able to enforce what was always his real desire, the repression of the Evangelical movement in Germany. When Francis I of France sued for peace, and the pope was induced to renew amicable relations, the council promised in the recess of the first diet was no longer thought of by the emperor. He declared that he would no longer tolerate such disobedience to his commands as was manifest in the disregard of the Edict of Worms, and asserted that the existing differences in matters pertaining to the faith were the occasion from which sprang the troubles of the empire. He appointed commissaries, at the head of whom was his brother Ferdinand, and ordered the convening of a diet at Spires, to open Feb. 1, 1529. The date was afterwards changed to the 21st of that month; but the opening was delayed until March 15. The Romish party was strongly in the majority, and had been embittered by the fraud of Pack (q.v.), until its members were thoroughly determined to execute the emperor's instructions designed to overthrow the Evangelical teachings and Church order. The Evangelicals, as at the first Diet of Spires, were denied the use of a church, and were compelled to worship in their lodgings. Attendance on their services was prohibited; but congregations of over 8000 persons were, nevertheless, present at the preaching of the Word. The imperial commissaries were busily employed in sowing seeds of dissension among the Evangelicals; and failing in this purpose, they secured the exclusion of the delegates from Strasburg and Memmingen, where the mass had been prohibited.

The diet was opened by the commissaries in the spirit of the emperor's instructions. They abrogated the recess of the previous diet, on the alleged ground that it had been arbitrarily explained. The address of the commissaries was referred to a committee, in which the Evangelicals were greatly in the minority, and was of course approved. The report recommended the holding of a council in some German city, that the mass should be everywhere retained, and that it should be restored where it had been set aside; that a rigid censorship over books should be exercised; and, finally, that every form of teaching which did not recognize the real body and blood of Christ in the sacrament should be prohibited. The final item, was designed to prevent the union of Lutherans and Reformed into a single and powerful party, as the landgrave of Hesse proposed. Ferdinand exerted himself to promote the adoption of this report, and Eck and Faber (q.v.) were restlessly at work to divide the minority. The landgrave, assisted by Melancthon, was, however, successful in uniting the Evangelicals in support of a declaration directly opposed to the report of the committee in all its parts. This declaration was submitted to the diet April 12, and was of course immediately rejected by the Romish majority; and Ferdinand, in the session of April 19, even exalted the report of the committee into a recess of the diet, and commanded the Evangelicals to submit to its provisions, as having been fixed by a majority. As the minority were not prepared to yield immediately, he and his associate commissaries left the diet. The Evangelical princes at once drew up a protest against the action of Ferdinand and in harmony with their previous declaration, and caused it to be read immediately and publicly after which they demanded its incorporation into the recess. On the following day (April 20) they transmitted a more extended copy of their protest to t he imperial commissaries, which was returned to them by Ferdinand. This incident conferred on them the title of Protestants. The protest set forth that the Evangelical princes and estates could not sanction the revocation by a party vote of the recess passed unanimously at the last diet; that their opponents had conceded the correctness of Evangelical teaching in many points, and could not therefore require its rejection by those who now received it; that the papal legate had acknowledged, at the diet in Nuremberg, that the Church suffered from many evils in both head and members, and that consequently the occasion for existing differences must be found in Rome; as was also evident from the fact that the complaints of the German nation had not yet been satisfied. In the event that the recess of the former diet should. nevertheless, be recalled by the partisan majority, the signers protested before God that, for themselves and their people, they would "neither consent nor adhere in any manner whatsoever to the proposed decree in anything that is contrary to God, his holy Word, our right conscience and the salvation of our souls, and the last decree of Spires." They asked that the matter be reported to the emperor, and declared that they would in the meantime so govern their actions that they might be able to render account thereof to God and the emperor.

The recess of the diet was issued April 22 in the form already described; and three days later the Protestant princes and delegates assembled in the house of Peter Muderstatt, deacon of St. John's, to draw up — in behalf of themselves, their subjects, and all who should thereafter receive the Word of God — an appeal addressed to his imperial majesty and to a free and universal council of holy Christendom. They incorporated in it a review of the action taken by the diet, accompanied with the principal documents belonging to the case, and demanded immunity from all past, present, and future vexatious measures. They next resolved to send an embassy to the emperor, in order that the reasons from which they acted might be truthfully reported to him, and that he might be conciliated; and then they quitted Spires.

The envoys were selected at a convention held in Nuremberg May 1529, and reached the emperor Sept. 7. They were, Alexis Frauentraut, secretary to the margrave of Brandenburg; Michael von Kaden, syndic of Nuremberg; and John Ehinger, the burgomaster of Memmingen. The emperor had in the meantime concluded a treaty with the pope at Barcelona, June 29, and had concluded peace with Francis I at Cambray, Aug. 5, in each instance binding himself to put down the Reformation in Germany. The envoys immediately presented the protest, but were obliged to wait until Oct. 12 for the emperor's reply, insisting on the submission of the Protestants to the decree of the diet; on receiving which they at once read the appeal of Spires, and caused it to be taken to the emperor, who thereupon placed them under arrest. In Germany, the landgrave of Hesse had given the protest of Spires to the world in print, May 5, 1529, and the elector of Saxony May 12. See Muller, Hist. von d. evang. Stande Protest u. Appellation... dann der darauf erfolgten Legation in Spanien an k. Majest. Karl 5, etc. (Jena, 1705); Jung, Gesch. des Reichstags zu Speyer, 1529 (Strasb. and Leips. 1830).

III. The third Diet of Spires was convened to take action with reference to the necessities of the empire as against the Turks. It was opened Feb. 9, 1542, by king Ferdinand, who urged the importance of providing aid against the threatening enemy, but was met by the Evangelical estates with a declaration that they would vote no assistance save under the condition that the peace of Ratisbon (1541) should be confirmed. They asserted that many rulers did not act conformably to that agreement, and also that in suits at law before the chamber Evangelical contestants could not expect justice because of the composition of that tribunal, and they demanded that unobjectionable men should be appointed to its bench. Ferdinand could not receive such sentiments with favor, but was obliged to yield to the demands of the Protestant party through fear of the Turks.

The pope had sent cardinal Moroni to the diet to advocate the inauguration of a reform which should restore the Church to its ancient condition, and to propose, in furtherance of that purpose, the holding of a council in some Italian city. The estates rejected the latter proposition; and the Evangelical party went so far as to declare that they would never recognize a council convened and opened by the pope, though the latter had offered to substitute Trent or Cambray as the place of meeting, and the estates had decided in favor of Trent. The Evangelicals also demanded that their protest against the proposed council should be admitted into the recess of the diet. A compromise was finally adopted, and published as a recess on April 11, 1542, by which the Evangelical claims were recognized, and an armistice for five years after the war was accorded them in return for the vote of liberal aid for the prosecution of the Turkish campaign. The recess, however, provided no new guarantee that the unwilling Romanists would respect its provisions any better than those of the Ratisbon Interim (q.v.). See Sleidani De Statu Religionis et Reipubl. Comment. a Chr. Car. etc. (Frcf. ad M. 1786), p. 248 sq.; Seckendorf, Historia Lutheranismi, bk. 3, § 25, p. 382 sq.; Walch, Luther's simmtliche Schriften (Halle, 1745), 17, 1002 sq.; Schmidt, Geschichte der Deutschen (Ulm, 1783), 5, 436 sq.

IV. The aid voted at the third Diet of Spires did not enable the imperial armies to retard the progress of the Turkish conquest in Hungary; in Germany various complications had arisen through the introduction of the Protestant faith into new territories, and the opposition of the Roman Catholic estates to the execution of the Ratisbon declaration; and, finally, the war with France had become very burdensome. The emperor accordingly convened a fourth diet at Spires, on Feb. 20, 1544, and displayed unusual anxiety to secure the personal attendance of the elector of Saxony and the landgrave of Hesse — the object being to ally Germany with himself in the war against France if possible, and thus to destroy the hope of assistance from Francis I upon which the Germans counted in tile event of religious and political complications. The elector was, however, required to confine the Evangelical preaching to his lodgings, and not to use a church for that purpose. Against this demand the Protestant princes raised an emphatic protest.

The diet was opened by the emperor in person, with an address reciting the needs of the empire with reference to its foreign foes, and promising that every means should be employed to elevate the chamber into a support of public order. The Protestants refused to permit their grievances to be put off without redress any longer, and insisted that the settling of a permanent peace and of equal rights before the tribunals of justice within the empire should precede the discussion of the Turkish and French wars; but they were finally induced to discuss the two projects side by side. The result was not, however, satisfactory. The principal point at issue was, the status of persons who had gone over to the Reformation after the Augsburg Confession had been submitted. The emperor had decided that they should be excluded from the peace, and the Romish party insisted on this rule, while the Evangelicals desired its abrogation. Ultimately the elector and the landgrave returned to their homes. May 28 the emperor proposed to the estates, that the composition of the recess should be intrusted to him, and the Evangelicals consented, after they had been informed with regard to the paragraphs which were to be devoted to peace and justice, and after they had published a declaration designed to guard the provisions of the declaration of Ratisbon of the year 1541. The recess was agreed on June 10, and provided for the maintenance of an army, besides asking for a diet to be held at Worms within the year. It established peace, and enforced toleration in religious matters. The chamber was not to prosecute pending actions against the estates which adhered to the Augsburg Confession.

Neither party was satisfied with the recess. The Evangelicals drew up a protest deprecating the convening of a council by the pope, asserting that the judges of the chamber were not blameless, characterizing the oath in the Golden Bull as inadmissible. and insisting on the imperial Declaration of Ratisbon in 1541. The pope violently denounced the recess in a brief dated August 24, and Luther wrote against it the work Von dem Papstthum zu Rom vom Teufel gestiftet. See Seckendorf, Hist. Lutheranismi, bk. 3, § 28-30, p. 473-495; Sleidani De Statu Relig. etc. (Frcf. ad M. 1786), pt. 2, bk. 15, p. 328-350; Walch, Luther's sammtliche Schriften (Halle, 1745), 17, 1198 sq.; Schmidt, Geschichte der Deutschen (Ulm, 1783), 5, 469 sq.; Planck, Geschichte. des prot. Lehrbegriffs, pt. 3, 238 sq.; Von Rommel, Philipp der Grossmuthige (Giessen, 1830), 1, 476.

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