Lucas Cranach (II): The siege of Wolfenbüttel (1542)

(Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam, The Netherlands)
 
This engraving by the German artist Lucas Cranach the Younger (1515–1586) shows an eposide of the Schmalkaldic War (1546-1547). This war was fought between the Holy roman empire against the so-called Schmalkaldic League - an defensive alliance of several protestant rulers (such as Saxony, Hesse, the Palatinate, Bremen, Lübeck) within the Holy Roman Empire pledging to defend each other should their territories be attacked by the Holy Roman emperor. The catholic Holy Roman emperor Charles V was busy fighting wars with other countries so the Schmalkaldic League had free reign in the beginning. When in 1544 the Italian wars ended Charles V started to gather a alrge army to attack the Schmalkaldic League to bring them back under central Imperial authority. After several sieges the Schmalkaldic War was quickly decided by the victory of the Spanish-Habsburg army of Charles V at the battle of Mühlberg (2 April 1547). In theory this brought the cities of the protestant Schmalkaldic League back to catholic control but in practice this was not the case. At the Peace of Augsburg (1555) the Protestant religion was officialy recognized by Charles V - allowing the rulers within the Holy Roman Empire to choose either Lutheranism or Roman Catholicism as the official confession of their state. The depicted siege of Wolfenbüttel (today the city is known for the liqueur Jägermeister) in this engraving took place several years before the official start of the war. The catholic Henry V, Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg and Prince of Wolfenbüttel, was attacked by forces of the Schmalkaldic League when Henry V, trying to support Charles V, attacked the protestant city of Goslar. the entire Principality of Wolfenbüttel was occupied by the Schmalkaldic League, with Wolfenbüttel almost completely destroyed. Engraving from 1542.

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