The Augsburg Confession in the Acton library

In 1530 one of the most important documents for the Lutheran Reformation was presented at the Diet of Augsburg: the Augsburg Confession. In an attempt to calm the tension surrounding the rise of Protestantism, Charles V had called upon the princes and rulers in the Holy Roman Empire to declare their religious convictions in order to settle the conflict. Since Martin Luther himself could not risk attending the Diet in person as he was banned, it was Philipp Melanchthon who led the group of theologians presenting the Confession which was a declaration of the Protestant faith. The UL holds well over 100 books about the Augsburg Confession. Most of these are contemporary academic works, but we also have antiquarian holdings, several of which are part of the Acton Library.


item no.1 in Acton.d.34.616

The original Latin text of the Augsburg confession can be found in Acton.d.34.616. The first item in this volume, Nohtwendige Vertheidigung des Heiligen Römischen Reichs evangelischer Chur-Fürsten und Stände Aug Apffels is a defence of the Augsburg Confession and the Religious Peace of Augsburg by Matthias Hoë von Hoënegg, written in 1629 at the command of the dukes of Saxony, Gülich, Cleve and Berg. He was a strict Lutheran, more opposed to other forms of Protestantism than to Catholicism, but wrote this work against “jesuitic blasphemy”. The volume also includes a parallel translation into German (pages 38-149) which is then immediately followed by the “necessary defence” of the Confession. The same volume also includes a text by Andreas Fabricius who argues against the Augsburg Confession in Brill auff den Evangelischen Augapffel : Das ist ; Richtige, bestendige Ableynung, vnd in Gottes Wort wolgegründte Refutation, deren im Augapffel Augspurgischer Confession, samptlicher gesetzter Artickul (item no. 2 in Acton.d.34.616).

The Confession was not able to iron out the two parties’ differences and accordingly led to further arguments. Being very opposed to the Reformation, Johann Cochlaeus is among the writers who published analyses and statements about the Confession from a Catholic point of view. After some struggles to have his first three Philippics published, he eventually succeeded in getting Philippicae Quatuor Iohannis Cochlei, in Apologiam Philippi Melanchthonis ad Carolum V… (Acton.d.5.134) printed in 1534. Cochlaeus had been present at the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, and, having hoped for several years to be able to have a personal debate with Luther himself, tried to come to an agreement at the Diet with Melanchthon instead. They met, but could not settle their differences and from that point on Cochlaeus regarded Melanchthon as the worst enemy of the Catholic Church. Cochlaeus’ Phillipica Quatuor was consequently directed against the Reformation and Melanchthon himself, and was addressed directly to the Holy Roman Emperor, Charles V.


Philippica Quinta (Acton.d.5.135)

In 1544, Cochlaeus issued the sixth (and second last) volume of the Philippics, Philippica Sexta (Acton.d.5.135). Whereas the earlier volumes can be read individually without further knowledge of the other Philippics, the sixth Philippic has a strong link to its predecessors and relies heavily on knowledge of the fifth. Originally published in 1539, but reissued briefly before the printing of Phillipica Sexta, Philippica Quinta can be found in the same Acton Library volume. As a result of the Reformation in Cologne, Philippica Sexta is very much a “response to a response to a response” (Ralph Keen: Johannes Cochlaeus. Page 54), in which Cochlaeus replies point by point to Melanchthon’s Responsio Philippi Melanthonis ad scriptum quorundam delectorum à Clero Secundario Coloniae Agrippinae. However, Melanchthon’s Responsio was a defence addressed to the clergy; he never responded to Cochlaeus’ accusations. The complete Philippics I-VII can be found in the edition with commentary by Ralph Keen (61:01.b.4.55-56).

The UL also has a copy of a 24-page edict about the Religious Peace and the Augsburg Confession written by Holy Roman Emperor Ferdinand II in 1624. He was a strict Catholic and therefore aimed to counter-reform Lutheran parts of his kingdom. He had been engaged in a war to reclaim his possessions in Bohemia since 1618 and was backed by the Catholic League and the Kings of Spain and Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth. His attempt to convert back large parts of Bohemia and Austria was largely successful and caused Protestantism to almost disappear in these regions during the following decades. The edict, printed as Der Röm. Kays. auch zu Hungarn vnd Böheimb Kön. May. etc. Ferdinandi II. Aussspruch, Decision, vnd Kayserlich Edict, uber etliche Puncten den Religion-Frieden, sonderlich die Restitution der geistlichen Güter betreffendt in Acton.b.34.117, was ordered to be published widely in an attempt to reinforce the Catholic Counter-Reformation.

Two more examples of books in the Acton Library related to the Augsburg Confession are the Acta in conuentu Ratisbonensi continentia haec quae sequuntur (Acton.d.5.77) and Observationes historicas et criticas de subscriptione Augustanae Confessionis (vol. 19 in Acton.b.54.48). The former is a result of the 1541 Diet of Regensburg, attended by Melanchthon for the Protestants. Melanchthon was also involved in the resulting publication Alle Handlungen die Religion belangend, so sich zu Worms, vnd Regensburg, auff gehaltenem Reichstag, des M.D.XLI. jars zu getragen (Acton.d.5.396). The latter, however, is a thesis by Johann David Koehler, written in 1730, 200 years after the Confession, which demonstrates the ongoing importance of the topic throughout the centuries. Even though the Acton Library contains a large amount of our antiquarian holdings regarding the Augsburg Confession, a substantial number can be found outside of it. Our holdings about the Confession can best be viewed by searching the relevant subject headings.

Stephanie Palek

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