Historic Osnabrück and the Thirty Years War

The most important event in the history of Osnabrück occurred on October 24, 1648 with the proclamation on the steps of the Osnabrück City Hall (Rathaus) that the Thirty Years War was over. Our tour of Historic Osnabrück on Thursday afternoon with Carol Saint-Clair began at this famous building which was completed in 1512 after 25 years of construction.

Statues adorn the front of Osnabrück's City Hall (Rathaus).

Statues adorn the front of Osnabrück’s City Hall (Rathaus).

Front entrance to the Rathaus.

Front entrance to the Rathaus.

The Thirty Years War is often considered the most horrible war in European history. It began as a war of religion, Catholics versus Protestants, and the early battles occurred in Bohemia (present day Czech Republic). Then Catholic France entered the war on the side of Sweden against Spain and the Catholic portions of Germany and things got muddled. Denmark even switched sides in the middle of the war. By the end of the war it was all about territorial power and modern European national boundaries began to take hold.

Carol explained that peace negotiations began in 1644 in Osnabruck and the neighboring city of Munster. For the most part Protestants led by Sweden met in Osnabrück and Catholics met in Munster. Both cities were classified as neutral and war-free zones. So why did it take so long to negotiate? Well, there’s a story that it took a year to just agree on the seating arrangements at the negotiation tables!

The famous chandelier in the city hall's Treaty Room.

The famous chandelier in the city hall’s Treaty Room.

Portraits of some of the negotiators. They reminded me of many of Rembrandt's famous paintings.

Portraits of some of the negotiators. They reminded me of many of Rembrandt’s famous paintings.

Detail of woodwork in the Treaty Room.

Detail of woodwork in the Treaty Room.

Model of Osnabrück in the 17th century.

Model of Osnabrück in the 17th century.

The war was fought primarily by mercenary armies who raped and plundered all over central Europe but primarily in present day Germany and the Czech Republic. When the treaties that made up the Peace of Westphalia were finally signed, one third of the population of Bohemia and about 40% of the population of present day Germany, including two-thirds of the males, were dead. One result of the treaties was that this was the last war in Europe to be fought primarily by mercenaries.

Another result of the war was the rise of France and Sweden and the beginning of the fall of Spain. The 80 year war between Spain and her northern European colonies also ended in 1648 and the northern Netherlands became the Dutch Republic. The Holy Roman Empire was also greatly weakened and Germany became a large number of small sovereign principalities, duchies and city-states whose religion depended on the whim of their respective sovereign.  Osnabrück was allowed to be one of the few places in Germany where both Protestants and Catholics were allowed and the prince-bishop alternated between the the leaders of the two religions.

The Building of Weights sits between the city hall and St Marienkirche (St Mary's Church).

The Building of Weights (now the city’s Registrar Office) sits between the city hall and St Marienkirche (St Mary’s Church).

The steeple of St Marienkirche.

The steeple of St Marienkirche.

St Marienkirche dominates the north side of Osnabrück's Marktplatz.

St Marienkirche dominates the north side of Osnabrück’s Marktplatz.

Buildings on the other side of the Marktplatz from the church.

Buildings on the other side of the Marktplatz from the church.

We toured the rest of Osnabrück’s Marktplatz after visiting the Rathaus and then walked around the Innenstadt observing several of the half-timbered buildings some of which were more than 500 years old. There aren’t too many of these buildings left. Osnabrück suffered greatly during Word War II. Apparently the city was in a direct line back to England for British bombers after bombing Berlin and if they had any bombs left over, three guesses where they unloaded.

Osnabrück History fountain.

Osnabrück History fountain.

Some of the half-timbered buildings we encountered on our walking tour.

Some of the half-timbered buildings we encountered on our walking tour.

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Some of the old buildings featured very small windows and no doors or windows at all on the ground floor.

Some of the old buildings featured very small windows and no doors or windows at all on the ground floor.

Our walk ended back at the Marktplatz. Time for dinner. No, we didn't eat here but instead walked around the corner to an Italian cafe for some pizza.

Our walk ended back at the Marktplatz. Time for dinner. No, we didn’t eat here but instead walked around the corner to an Italian cafe for some pizza.

We concluded our Osnabrück tour with Carol on Friday afternoon when we visited the interiors of both St Mary’s Lutheran Church (St Marienkirche) and St Peter’s Cathedral (Dom).

In my next posting we will visit St Andrew’s Evangelical church in Alswede — where my ancestors worshiped.

 

 

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About crowcanyonjournal

I am a family man with interests in family history, photography, history and travel.
This entry was posted in Germany, History, Travel and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Historic Osnabrück and the Thirty Years War

  1. mvschulze says:

    Fascinating glimpse into what appears to be a gem of a destination. Great historical review, (and awesome photos.) Thought provoking insights into mans too often violent and costly sacrifices. You’d think that someday we should prove better than that.

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