1902 Encyclopedia > Germany > Germany - Religion

(Part 14)



the official census it has been usual to return the religion creed of the inhabitants, though a few states, such as Prussia and Hamburg, omitted this particular in 1875. Official estimates indeed have been made of the religious profession of the people in these states for 1875 also, but only the census of 1867 and that of 1871 can be accurately compared. The number of persons styling themselves of no religion, or refusing to state their religion, is very small. The following table gives the results of the three last enumerations:—


Almost two-thirds of the population belong to the Evangelical Church, and rather more than a third to the Church of Rome. The dissenters are very inferior in numbers, amounting to only about 100,000 souls, but the Jewish element, represented by half a million (1 _ per cent.), is more considerable than in any other state of West, North, or South Europe. The following table gives the proportion of Protestants, Catholics, and Jews in every 1000 inhabitants:—


The Protestants have increased in number by 0·4 per cent. of the population since 1867. This increase, however, must not be attributed to conversions, but rather to the greater increase of population in the Protestant provinces of Germany as compared with the Catholic ones; though at the same time the official returns of Prussia that conversion to the rival communion is much more frequent with Catholics than with protestants. Three states in Germany have a decidedly predominant Catholic population, viz., Alsace-Lorraine, Bavaria, and Baden; and in four states the Protestant element prevails, but with 23 to 33 per cent. of Catholics, viz., Prussia, Würtemberg, Hesse, and Oldenburg. In Saxony and eighteen minor states the Catholics number only from ·1 to 3·3 per cent. of the population. The following table gives the respective numbers of Protestants and Catholics according to the census of 1871:—


From the above figures little can be inferred as to the geographical distribution of the two confessions. On this point it must be borne in mind that the population of the larger towns, on account of the greater mobility of the population since the introduction of railways and the abolition of restrictions upon free settlement, has become more mixed,—Berlin, Leipsic, Hamburg, &c., showing proportionally more Catholics, and Cologne, Frankfort, Munich, &c., more Protestants than formerly. Otherwise the geographical limits of the confessions have been but little altered since the Thirty Year’s War. In the mixed territories those place which formerly belonged to Catholic princes are Catholic still, and vice versa. Hence a religious map of South Germany looks like an historical map of the 17th century. The number of localities where the two confessions exist side by side is small. Generally speaking, South Germany is predominantly Catholic. Some districts along the Danube (province of Bavaria, Upper Palatinate, Swabia), in southern Würtemberh and Baden, and in Alsace-Lorraine are entirely so. These territories are bordered by a broad stretch of country on the north, where Protestantism has maintained its hold since the time of the Reformation, including, Baireuth or eastern Upper Franconia, Middle, Franconia, the northern half of Würtemberg and Baden, with Hesse and the Palatine. Here the average proportion of Protestants of Catholics is two to one. The basin of the Main is again Catholic from Bamberg to Aschaffenburg (western Upper Franconia and Lower Franconia). In Prussia the western and south-eastern provinces are mostly Catholic, especially the Rhine province, together with the government districts of Münster and Arnsberg. The territories of the former principality of Cleves and of the countship of Mark (comprising very nearly the basin of the Ruhr), which went to Brandenburg in 1609, must, however, be excepted. North of Münster, Catholicism is still prevalent in the territory of the former bishopric of Osnabrück. In the east, East Prussia (Ermland excepted) is purely Protestant. Catholicism was predominant a hundred years ago in all the frontier provinces acquired by Prussia in the days of Frederick the Great. Buy since then the German immigrants have widely propagated the Protestant faith in these districts. A prevailingly Catholic population is still found in the district of Oppeln (89 per cent.) and the countship of Glatz, in the province of Posen (64 per cent.), in the Polishspeaking "circles" of West Prussia, and in Ermland (East Prussia). In all the remaining territory the Catholic creed is professed only in the Eichsfeld on the southern border of the province of Hanover, and around Hildesheim.

Protestant Church.—The adherents of Protestantism are divided by their confessions into Reformed and Lutheran. To unite these the "church union" has been introduced in several Protestant states, as for example in Prussia and Nassau in 1817, in the Palatinate in 1818, and in Baden in 1822. Since 1817 the distinction has accordingly been ignored in Prussia, and Christians are there enumerated only as Evangelical or Catholic. The union, however, has not remained wholly unopposed,—a section of the more rigid Lutherans who separated themselves from the state church being now known as Old Lutheras. In 1866 Prussia annexed Hanover and Schleswig-Holstein, where the Protestants were Lutherans and Hesse, where the Reformed Church had the preponderance. The inhabitants of these countries opposed the introduction of the union, but could not prevent their being subordinated to the Prussia oberkirchenrath (high church-council), the supreme court of the state church. Subsequently the official returns have been thus classified:—


The separatists are thus not numbered among dissenters. A synodal constitution for the Evangelical State Church was introduced in Prussia in 1875. The oberkirchenrath retains the right of supreme management. The ecclesiastical affairs of the separate provinces are directed by consistorial boards. The parishes (pfarreien_ are grouped into dioceses (sprengel), presided over by superintendents, who are subordinate to the superintendent-general of the province. Prussia has sixteen superintendents-general. The ecclesiastical administration is similarly regulated in the other countries of the Protestant creed. Regarding the number of churches and chapels Germany has no exact statistics, but in 1867 it was estimated that here were 12,959 places of worship in Prussia.

Roman Catholic Church.—There are six archbishoprics within the German empire:—Breslau (where the archbishop has the title of prince-bishop), Gnesen-Posen, Cologne, Freiburg (Baden), Munich-Freising, and Bamberg. The eighteen bishoprics are—Ermland (see at Frauenburg, East Prussia), Kulm (see at Pelplin, West Prussia), Fulda, Hildesheim, Osnabrück, Paderborn, Münster, Limburg, Treves, Metz, Strasburg, Spires, Würzburg, Ratisbon, Passau, Eichstädt, Augsburg, Rottenburg (Würtemberg). An apostolic vicariate exists in Dresden. In recent years numerous convents especially in Prussia, have been suppressed. The order of the Jesuits is interdicted in Germany.

Old Catholics.—After the infallibility of the pope had been proclaimed as a dogma by the Vatican council in 1871, several communities as well as individuals declared their secession from the Roman Church. They are called Old Catholics, and they have selected a bishop who has been acknowledged by most of the states. At the 1st of January 1877 the denomination had 121 congregations with 56 clergymen and 16,557 adult male adherents, so that we may fairly estimate the total number of Old Catholics at a little more than 50,000.

The number of Greek Catholics was 2660 in 1871.

Dissenters.—There is no uniformity in the state returns of the several denominations, and detailed statements are wanting for Würtemberg, Alsace-Lorraine, and eight of the lesser states. In the sixteen remaining states there were in 1875 21,000 Mennonites (particularly in East and West Prussia and the Palatinante), 10,451 Baptists, 3000 Irvingites, 4000 Herrnhuter (Moravian brethren), and 1600 members of the Church of England. The Mennonites had increased from 14,000 in 1871. Besides these there were about 6800 German Catholics, 3600 Freethinkers, and more than twenty-five sects represented by from 100 to 500 members.

Jews.—It is in the towns that the Jewish is chiefly to be found. They belong principally to the mercantile class, and are to a very large extent dealers in money. Within the last thirty years their wealth has grown to an extraordinary degree. They are increasingly numerous in Hamburg, Berlin, Frankfort, Breslau, Königsberg, and Fürth. Though still, in fact at least, if not also by law, excluded from many public offices, especially from commands in the army, they nevertheless are very powerful in Germany, the press being for the most part in their hands. Some towns of the Marienwerder and Posen districts contain from 20 to 30 per cent. of Jews. By far the greater number are found among the Slavs in the east; in the west they appear chiefly in Hesse, Baden, and Alsace.

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