Friday, January 20, 2012

Frederick III's Iconoclasm (Theonomy Applied)

Frederick III, "the Pious"
Frederick III (1515-1576), "the Pious," ruled 1559-1576 as the Elector Palatine of the Rhine, a German Principality. (Frederick III is also known for commissioning the writing of the Heidelberg Catechism.) In A House Divided, Andrew L. Thomas discusses  Frederick III's iconoclasm:

"Frederick III's model was the biblical king Josiah who abolished idolatry and restored true worship among the ancient Israelites. In a protocol to his sons and trusted advisors in 1564, Frederick III admonished them to be diligent against Satan as defenders of the faith and to follow the example of King Josiah. In 1565, Frederick III ordered the removal of altars, crucifixes, and other "idolatrous" works from the churches within a month. ... Confiscated liturgical dress was also supposed to be given over to the poor, and ones made from expensive textiles were to be sent to Heidelberg. In stark contrast with Bavarian Wittelsbachs' patronage of monastic orders, Frederick III abolished 40 monasteries in his territories. Although a number of them were already abandoned, Frederick III used physical force against the remaining monks and nuns who refused to give up their clerical attire and attend Protestant sermons. ...

"An example of Frederick's zeal against recalcitrant monks was an occasion in 1565 when he dealt with the refusal of the monastery of Sinsheim to abolish the mass. He sent handworkers into the building to rip out the altars, panels, wooden images and take these, along with books and similar items, and burn them in his presence. Indeed, Frederick III personally participated in iconoclast visitations of the churches. For example, it is recorded that he once used his own fist to punch through a painted crucifixion scene in the room of the prioress of Liebenau. The action at Liebenau demonstrates how much the ideal of Wittelsbach leadership had been confessionalized, because Dorothea of Wittelsbach (1439-1482), a granddaughter of Ruprecht King of the Germans, had actually been a prioress there. Frederick III's grandson, Frederick IV, followed in his grandfather's footsteps by personally exhorting the inhabitants of Heidelberg to overcome their weaknesses at the time of the visitations of 1593-5. He did the same in the Upper Palatinate from 1596 and 1598. However, the use of force to Calvinize the Palatinate made it even harder for Lutherans to accept Calvinist claims of irenic Protestantism."[1]


     [1] Andrew L. Thomas, A House Divided: Wittelsbach Confessional Court Cultures in the Holy Roman Empire, c. 1550-1650 ( BRILL, 2010), 111, 112. Frederick III also enacted laws against blasphemy and failure to attend church services (Ibid., 110).

Note about the Theonomy Applied Series: In quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily endorse every aspect of that law as biblical, whether it be the prohibition, sanction, court procedure, etc. Rather, we are merely showing the more or less attempt to apply biblical law in history, whether or not that application was fully biblical. Moreover, in quoting any particular law, we do not necessarily consider those who passed and/or enforced such a law as being fully orthodox in their Christian theology. Professing Christian rulers in history have ranged in their theology from being orthodox (that is, Reformed Protestants) to heretical (for example, Roman Catholics). 


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