It is well known that Germany is denominational divided. This comes from the time of Reformation and esp. the Peace of Augsburg 1555, when the right of each prince of the Empire to decide over the denomination in their territory (at least of the Third Estate) is defined. The most of today's Catholic regions were (more or less) Protestant at some point, but their princes managed to recatholise them during the "Counter-Reformation" esp. with help of the Jesuits later on.

This leads to the question, if there were any region that did not need to get recatholised, but stayed Catholic the whole time. In detail I mean:

  1. "the whole time" is between 1500 and 1800 or an earlier date, when modern religious freedom came in force.
  2. "Protestant" means to have a officially protestant pastor and/or known Protestant noblemen living there.
  3. "region" means a connected area in the Holy Roman Empire following administrative or ecclesiastical borders and including at least one parish (Kirchspiel, Pfarrbezirk)

I know (2) is bit difficult to identify in the beginning of the reformation, but I think, we can deal with this.

Answers should give only one region. The biggest region (per area), that is properly explained, will get the checkmark. Of course an detailed explanation why we won't find such a region is correct too.

map of denominational situation 1560

In the map we see that (nearly) the whole Empire (the rest of Europe is not interesting for me) was some kind of disputed between the denominations or fully protestant in 1560. But this map has no high resolution. I search for local spots that resisted the reformation. More accurate: that never recognised the exercise of the Protestant religion.

  • 3
    Yes, Spain, Italy, Portugal, etc. VTC for no research. – Tomas By Apr 26 '20 at 12:43
  • 7
    Roughly half of it, starting with what is now modern Austria and Bavaria. that's what the Thirty years War was all about. – Pieter Geerkens Apr 26 '20 at 12:43
  • Something like "What was the largest contiguous area in the Holy Roman Empire be to remain Catholic" would make a much more accurate headline given the actual request you are making. – Brian Z Apr 26 '20 at 12:44
  • 7
    @TomasBy: Eek! None of Spain or Portugal were ever in the H.R.E. - despite being at times part of a personal union with the Empire. – Pieter Geerkens Apr 26 '20 at 12:44
  • 1
    @PieterGeerkens good point, I was about to delete the comment as I realised it myself. – Tomas By Apr 26 '20 at 12:45

Short Answer:

The Holy Roman Empire was larger than you might think, even in 1789, and included lands in France and Italy that might possibly never have had any Protestant clergy.

There were many ecclesiastical states ruled by Roman Catholic clergy remaining in the Holy Roman Empire in 1789. Most of the prelates who ruled those states would have been strongly opposed to Protestantism, though there were examples of prelates who didn't oppose it. Any ecclesiastical state which had an unbroken succession of anti Protestant rulers from three centuries since the Reformation might possibly never have had a single Protestant pastor in a single parish. The ecclesiastical states seem like a good place to look for parishes without Protestant pastors for 300 years.

Long Answer:

In 962 Otto I the Great, the mighty King of the East Franks or Germany and of Italy or Lombardy, was crowned Emperor in Rome. From 962 the positions of King of Germany and King of Italy were attached to the position of Emperor. In 1032 Emperor Conrad II acquired the Kingdom of Arles or Burgundy and from 1032 the position of King of Arles or Burgundy was attached to the position of Emperor.

The Kingdom of Arles or Burgundy included western Switzerland and the southeastern sixth of Modern France. The Kings of France gradually acquired various fiefs in the Kingdom of Burgundy over the centuries. And it is common for historical maps to show such fiefs as being in the Kingdom of France and no longer in the Holy Roman Empire after being acquired by the King of France. But is it accurate?

I note that the title of the King of France in the Kingdom of France was King of France and of Navarre. Here is an example from 1690 in the Reign of Louis XIV:

(Jan 1690) [5: tome 23 (1883); p.503] < Louis XIV (+1715), King of France 1643 > Louis, par la grace de Dieu roy de France et de Navarre


But in Provence and Forcalquier in the Kingdom of burgundy in the Holy Roman Empire the title of the King of France was King of France and of Navarre, Count of Provence, Forcalquier and adjacent Lands. Here is an example from 1789:

(Mar 1789) [3: p.164; Doc.# LXXXIII] < Louis (+1793), King of France (Louis XVI) [1774-1792]; Count of Provence [1774-1789] > Louis, par la grace de Dieu, roy de France et de Navarre, comte de Provence, Forcalquier et terres adjacentes


In Dauphine the title was King of France and of Navarre, Dolphin of Viennoise, Count of Valentinois, Diois. Example from 1789:

(July 1789) [55: p.9] < Louis (+1793), Dolphin of Viennois; King of France (Louis XVI) [1774-1792] > Louis par la grâce de Dieu Roi de France et de Navarre, Dauphin de Viennois, Comte de Valentinois et Diois


So it seems to me that a lot more of the Kingdom of Burgundy remained in the Holy Roman Empire than most historical maps show.

In Italy, lands that remained part of the Holy Roman Empire until the French Revolution included Piedmont, Genoa, Modena, Montferrat, Mantua, Parma, the Grand Duchy of Tuscany, etc.

Ecclesiastical states which lasted until the French Revolution included The Archbishoprics of Salzburg, Trier, Mainz, & Cologne; the Bishoprics of Augsburg, Bamburg, Brixin, Constance, Eichstatt, Friesing, Hildesheim, Liege, Paderborn, Passau, Regensburg, Speyer, Strasborug, Trent, Worms, and Wurzburg; plus 23 imperial abbeys in the Bench of Swabian Prelates and 19 imperial abbeys in the Bench of Rhenish Prelates.



Since most of the prelates who ruled those states would have fought strongly against the reformation (though there ae examples of prelates who didn't), a state where each and every clerical ruler for 300 s years was strongly opposed to the Reformation might not have ever had a single Protestant pastor in any parish. Thus the individual history of each of those states, and especially whether all of the rulers strongly opposed the Reformation, would be a strong clue to which of them would most likely have had parishes that never had Protestant pastors.

  • Yes that are candidates to look for, but it is not clear any of this fiefs remained catholic the whole time. For example in Cologne there were strong protestant movements and it got almost reformed in the 1540s. Large parts of Mainz got reformed and some stayed even till the end. In France there were a eight wars between catholics and protestants. Can you point me to any single parish that remained catholic? – K-HB Apr 27 '20 at 19:00
  • @K-HH No, I am not an expert on the history of individual states in the Holy Roman Empire, let alone on parish level history. But if the Italian fiefs of the Holy Roman Empire count for your question I have the impression that there was very little Protestant activity in Italy. In any case you will have to find states that were consistently Catholic and anti Protestant to start a search for a parish that was consistently Catholic for 300 years. – MAGolding Apr 28 '20 at 19:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.