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The term Peace of Westphalia denotes the two French-language peace treaties of Osnabrückmarker (15 May 1648) and Münstermarker (24 October 1648) that ended the Thirty Years' War (1618–48), in the Holy Roman Empire, and the Eighty Years' War (1567–1609), between Spainmarker and the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands. The Peace of Westphalia treaties involved the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III (Habsburg), the Kingdoms of Spainmarker, Francemarker, Swedenmarker, the Dutch Republic and their allies, the Princes of the Holy Roman Empire, sovereigns of the Free imperial cities.

The treaties resulted from the first modern diplomatic congress, thereby initiating a new political order in central Europe, based upon the concept of a sovereign state governed by a sovereign. In the event, the treaties’ regulations became integral to the constitutional law of the Holy Roman Empire. Moreover, the Treaty of the Pyrenees (1659), ending the Franco–Spanish War (1635–59), is considered part of the Peace of Westphalia, with which were ended the European wars of religion.


Peace negotiations between France and the Habsburgs, provided by the Holy Roman Emperor and the Spanish King, were to be started in Cologne in 1636. These negotiations were blocked by France.

Cardinal Richelieu of France desired the inclusion of all its allies, whether sovereign or a state within the Holy Roman Empire. In Hamburgmarker and Lübeckmarker, Sweden and the Holy Roman Empire negotiated the Treaty of Hamburg. This was done with the intervention of Richelieu.

The Holy Roman Empire and Sweden declared the preparations of Cologne and the Treaty of Hamburg to be preliminaries of an overall peace agreement. This larger agreement was to be negotiated in Westphalia, in the neighbouring cities of Münstermarker and Osnabrückmarker. Both cities were to be maintained as neutral and demilitarized zones for the negotiations. Münster was, since its re-Catholization in 1535, a strictly mono-denominational community. It housed the Chapter of the Prince-Bishopric of Münster. Only Roman Catholic worship was permitted. No places of worship were provided for Calvinists and Lutherans.

Osnabrück was a bidenominational Lutheran and Catholic city, with two Lutheran and two Catholic churches for its mostly Lutheran burghers and exclusively Lutheran city council and the Catholic Chapter of the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück with pertaining other clergy and also other Catholic inhabitants. In the years of 1628-1633 Osnabrück had been subjected by troops of the Catholic League and the Catholic Prince-Bishop Franz Wilhelm, Count of Wartenberg, imposed the Counter-Reformation onto the city with many Lutheran burgher families being exiled. While under following Swedish occupation Osnabrücks's Catholics were not expelled, but the city severely suffered from Swedish war contributions. Therefore Osnabrück hoped for a great relief becoming neutralised and demilitarised.

Both cities strove for more autonomy, aspiring to become Free Imperial Cities, so they welcomed the neutrality imposed by the peace negotiations, and the prohibition of all political influence by the warring parties including their overlords, the prince-bishops.

Since Lutheran Sweden preferred Osnabrück as a conference venue, its peace negotiations with the Empire, including the allies of both sides, took place in Osnabrück. The Empire and its opponent France, including the allies of each, as well as the Republic of the Seven United Netherlands and its opponent Spain (and their respective allies) negotiated in Münster.


The peace negotiations had no exact beginning and ending, because the participating total of 109 delegations never met in a plenary session, but dropped in between 1643 and 1646 and left between 1647 and 1649. Between January 1646 and July 1647 probably the largest number of diplomats were present. Delegations had been sent by 16 European states, sixty-six Imperial States, representing the interests of a total of 140 involved Imperial States, and 27 interest groups, representing the interests of a variety of a total of 38 groups.

The French delegation was headed by Henri II d'Orléans, duc de Longueville and further comprised the diplomats Claude d'Avaux and Abel Servien. The Swedes plenipotentiaries sent Johan Oxenstierna, the son of chancellor Axel Oxenstierna, and Johann Adler Salvius. The head of the delegation of the Holy Roman Empire for both cities was Count Maximilian von Trautmansdorff; in Münster, his aides were Johann Ludwig von Nassau-Hadamar and Isaak Volmar (a lawyer); in Osnabrück, his team comprised Johann Maximilian von Lamberg and Reichshofrat Johann Krane, a lawyer. The Spanish delegation was headed by Gaspar de Bracamonte y Guzmán, and besides included the diplomats and writers Diego de Saavedra Fajardo, and Bernardino de Rebolledo. The nuntius of Cologne, Fabio Chigi, and the Venetianmarker envoy Alvise Contarini acted as mediators. Various Imperial States of the Holy Roman Empire also sent delegations. Brandenburg sent several representatives, including Vollmar and Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal. The Republic of the Seven United Netherlands sent a delegation of eight, and Johann Rudolf Wettstein, the mayor of Baselmarker, represented the Old Swiss Confederacy.


Internal political boundaries

A simplified map of Europe after the Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
Historical map
The power taken by Ferdinand III in contravention of the Holy Roman Empire's constitution was stripped and returned to the rulers of the Imperial States. This rectification allowed the rulers of the Imperial States to independently decide their religious worship. Protestants and Catholics were redefined as equal before the law, and Calvinism was given legal recognition. Also, each of the 400 or so princes of the Holy Roman Empire were given equal authority to that of the Emperor, de-centralizing the government and effectively ending the power of the Holy Roman Empire.

The Holy See was very displeased at the settlement, with Pope Innocent X reportedly calling it "null, void, invalid, iniquitous, unjust, damnable, reprobate, inane, empty of meaning and effect for all time".


The main tenets of the Peace of Westphalia were:

  • All parties would recognize the Peace of Augsburg of 1555, in which each prince would have the right to determine the religion of his own state, the options being Catholicism, Lutheranism, and now Calvinism (the principle of cuius regio, eius religio).
  • Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.
Holy Roman Empire in 1648.

There were also territorial adjustments:
*Whether or not the city of Bremenmarker was included in Swedish Bremen-Verden remained disputed. Facing the Swedish take-over, Bremen had claimed Imperial immediacy, which was granted by the emperor and thus separated the city from the surrounding bishopric with the same name. Sweden understood that Bremen was nevertheless to be ceded to her, and started the Swedish-Bremen wars in 1653/54.
*The treaty also delegated the determination of the Swedish-Brandenburg border in the Duchy of Pomerania to the parties. At Osnabrück, both Sweden and Brandenburg had claimed the whole duchy, which was under Swedish control since 1630 despite legal claims of Brandenburgian succession. While the parties settled for a border in 1653, the underlying conflict continued.
*The treaty ruled that the Dukes of Mecklenburg, owing their re-investiture to the Swedes, cede Wismarmarker and the Mecklenburgian port tolls. While Sweden understood this to include the tolls of all Mecklenburgian ports, the Mecklenburgian dukes as well as the emperor understood this to refer to Wismar only.
*Wildeshausenmarker, a petty exclave of Bremen-Verden and fragile basis for Sweden's seat in the Westphalian circle diet, was also claimed by the Bishopric of Münster.

See also


  1. Konrad Repgen, 'Negotiating the Peace of Westphalia: A Survey with an Examination of the Major Problems', In: 1648: War and Peace in Europe: 3 vols. (Catalogue of the 26th exhibition of the Council of Europe, on the Peace of Westphalia), Klaus Bußmann and Heinz Schilling (eds.) on behalf of the Veranstaltungsgesellschaft 350 Jahre Westfälischer Friede, Münster and Osnabrück: no publ., 1998, 'Essay Volume 1: Politics, Religion, Law and Society', pp. 355-372, here pp. 355seq.
  2. Konrad Repgen, 'Negotiating the Peace of Westphalia: A Survey with an Examination of the Major Problems', In: 1648: War and Peace in Europe: 3 vols. (Catalogue of the 26th exhibition of the Council of Europe, on the Peace of Westphalia), Klaus Bußmann and Heinz Schilling (eds.) on behalf of the Veranstaltungsgesellschaft 350 Jahre Westfälischer Friede, Münster and Osnabrück: no publ., 1998, 'Essay Volume 1: Politics, Religion, Law and Society', pp. 355-372, here p. 356.
  3. Treaty of Munich 1648
  4. Barro, RJ and McCleary, RM Which Countries have State Religions? Page 5. - URL Accessed 7 November 2006
  5. [World religions and democracy, Larry Jay Diamond, Marc F. Plattner, Philip J. Costopoulos, 2005]
  6. Section 28
  7. Gross, Leo (1948), "The Peace of Westphalia" The American Journal of International Law 42(1):20–41

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