Magdeburg is not high on most people’s list of places to visit in Germany. The town was extensively damaged by wartime bombing and is only slowly recovering from 40 years of Communist neglect. Nevertheless, anyone interested in German history or the Reformation has to visit this historic city.
|Magdeburg in 1572|
Originally a trading center, Magdeburg is first mentioned in 805. Later the town became the site of a famous Benedictine monastery built by Emperor Otto I, the Great (912 – 73) in 937. It was elevated to an archbishopric in 968 and played an important role as a center for evangelism in Eastern Europe.
As a powerful and rich member of the Hanseatic League, which was a confederation of free trading cities, the city prospered. Its people welcomed the Reformation as early as 1524.
|General Johann Tserclaes Count Tilly (1559-1632)|
Almost a century later, Imperial Catholic armies under General Johann Tserclaes Tilly (1559-1632) stormed the city on May 20, 1631, after a six-month siege. At the time of the attack, the defenders were engaged in discussions about a possible surrender. They were taken by surprise and quickly overwhelmed after a fierce battle that lasted a few hours. The city fell, and Tilly retired to the cathedral to say Mass as his troops went on the rampage. A fire started and within hours destroyed the entire city, except for the cathedral and one other church. Over 30,000 people perished in the carnage and the fire.
News about the fate of Protestant Magdeburg was seized upon by the Swedish King Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632) and Protestant propagandists as an example of “Catholic barbarity” and quickly spread throughout Europe. Thus, the destruction of Magdeburg became the 17th-century equivalent of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Japan and the fate of the Jews in AuschwitzTo be continued …
|Gustavus Adolphus (1594-1632)|