Building Heaven in Hell’s Despite: The Early History of the Reformation in the Towns of the Low Countries
BETWEEN 1 July 1523, when the protomartyrs of Protestantism were burnt in the market-place at Brussels, and the summer of 1566 more than 1,300 people are known to have been sentenced to death in the Low Countries for offences against the anti-heresy edicts. Indeed, if the repression in Flanders and the cities of Antwerp and Tournai was typical, the real total of those prosecuted may have been five to ten times as high.1 The judicial slaughter of Anabaptists in south Germany and Austria between 1527 and 1533 and the Marian persecutions in England may be more notorious, but in both cases the fury soon abated.2 Valois France might seem to offer a closer parallel, for here, as in the Habsburg Netherlands, the ruler remained hostile to heresy. Yet the religious policy of the French king was swayed by considerations that counted for little with either Charles V or his son Philip. As a Renaissance prince Francis I protected the evangelicals at court when the sorbonisies accused them of heterodoxy, and even after the Affair of the Placards the king’s need of support from the Lutheran princes of the Empire obliged him to mitigate the persecution from time to time.3 By contrast the Protestant Reformation in the Low Countries proceeded in prolonged defiance of the State: a circumstance which goes far to explain why the Reformed Churches never enjoyed the same constitutional standing within the United Provinces as the Church established in England by the Crown-in-Par- liament.
KeywordsCharles Versus Religious Policy Chief Town Public Execution German Town
Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.