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Blaschke, Karlheinz [Hrsg.]
Moritz von Sachsen – Ein Fürst der Reformationszeit zwischen Territorium und Reich. Internationales wissenschaftliches Kolloquium vom 26. bis 28. Juni 2003 in Freiberg (Sachsen).
Leipzig: Sächsische Akademie der Wissenschaften (in Kommission bei Steiner, Stuttgart) 2007. 336 S. gr.8° = Quellen und Forschungen zur sächsischen Geschichte, 29. Geb. EUR 84,00. ISBN 978-3-515-08982-1.
Susan C. Karant-Nunn
This volume brings together the selected findings of 16 tried-and-true experts on Saxon and central European history as presented at a 2003 Leipzig conference marking the 450th anniversary of the death of Wettin Elector Moritz of Saxony at the age of 32. We are accustomed to thinking of Mozart and Schubert as prodigies of youthful creativity, but probably not of most territorial princes. Almost all of the contributing authors regard Moritz, if not as a genius on par with these composers, at least as one of the trend-setting, Empire-altering figures in what was, they affirm, already a watershed era, the 16th century. The inclusion of a greeting from the head of the still existing House of Wettin prepares the reader for the celebration ahead. It is by no means an indiscriminate laudation. Yet, in general, these scholars marvel at this young prince’s ability to advance the fortunes of the Albertine branch of the dynasty amid formidable complexities ranging from encroaching Ottomans and religious revolution to Charles V and his brother Ferdinand’s conflicting ambitions. The authors’ judgments are at odds with the Ernestine-disseminated, long-persistent image of the »treacherous« Moritz as displaced-Elector Johann Friedrich’s Judas.
It might be helpful to the non-initiate first to read Helmar Junghans’s introduction to the development of published sources related to Moritz, which is placed second-to-last. Critical editions reaching from that of Friedrich Hortleder (1617/18) to the penultimate volume of Politische Korrespondenz des Herzogs und Kurfürsten Moritz von Sachsen (1998; »die ... gar nicht hoch genug einzuschätzen ist« [Enno Bünz, 98]) formed the substructure of many of these articles.
Most essays take up different aspects of Moritz’s life and career, including his personality and his embattled relationship with his domineering mother Katharina von Mecklenburg (Johannes Herrmann); and his warm if politically costly in-law connection to Landgrave Philipp of Hesse (Manfred Rudersdorf). Having precociously absorbed the lessons learned at the courts of Albrecht von Brandenburg, Duke George »the Bearded«, and Elector Johann Friedrich »the Constant«, he was astonishingly able, on the death of his aged father Heinrich in 1541, to fix his eye on that principle that several writers agree was the North Star of his brief reign: overcoming the deleterious effects of the Wettin Land Division of 1485 (Thomas Nicklas, Reiner Gross, Karlheinz Blaschke). He could be flexible and readily delegate authority over church/theology (Günther Wartenberg) and education (Winfried Müller) as long as these institutions had their desired effects of fostering order, loyalty, and a source of new bureaucrats. Reiner Gross informs us precisely on the expansion of offices; and Christian Winter on the deployment of princely advisors. Moritz perceives the use of the evangelical faith that he can make within the Empire, however, including in his tricky maneuvering between Charles V and Ferdinand, and as a defender of Lutheranism he plays a leading part in securing the Passauer Vertrag of 1552 (Alfred Kohler).
Equally crucial to attaining the overriding goal of Albertine elevation were adequate finances. Uwe Schirmer makes illuminating use of the one year’s (1549–1550) account book that survives. For so an ambitious prince, a net income of 433,000 florins might have been higher than his peers’, but it could not rival the resources of Charles V. Moritz increased collections but incurred a »mountain of debt«. – One of only three contributions not relying on governmental documents and letters is Gabriele Haug-Moritz’s study of the images of Moritz presented in the new published media, especially the single-page sheet and the pamphlet. These could not always be controlled and offer the conflicting views of Moritz as Judas or as the pacifying king ( rex pacificus), the negative side winning numerically. The other two drawing upon »other« media are Martina Fuchs (the portrayal of Moritz in modern German literature) and Heinrich Magirius (sculptural monuments commemorating Moritz).
A troubled concept running through these pages is that of modernization. Karlheinz Blaschke declares at the outset, »Die Beiträge gehen auf die bekannte Tatsache der Modernisierung des Staatsaufbaus ein ...« (19). Manfred Rudersdorf tacitly echoes this theme; there is a subtle sense throughout this book in which the Lutheran faith, the founding of schools, the division of governmental responsibilities, diplomacy and calculation, the exploitation of printing all are seen to embody progress. This is, of course, measuring the past by our own dimensions, which in view of the triumph of the principle of small states (Kleinstaaterei; Herrmann 119) in the Empire, runs counter to trends elsewhere in Europe, outside of Italy. States, however miniature, did become rationalized, but their rulers were as bent on the accumulation of personal power as ever a medieval potentate, governing his domains from horseback (»sein Land vom Sattel aus regiert hat«; Schirmer 145).
A topic unfortunately missing from these proceedings, and presumably from the congress itself, is Moritz’s policies toward the urban centers of his lands. If, as Blaschke maintains, Saxony was as highly urbanized as Flanders (22), then an essay on this theme was a desideratum. Helmut Bräuer, a specialist apparently not invited to this gathering, could easily have provided one.
Moritz was a bright, intellectually absorbent, strategizing, and determined young man who left his imprint beyond all contemporary expectations. It is ironic that he represented himself as the champion of liberty in opposition to a »tyrannizing« Holy Roman Emperor. In assessing the distance between his day and our own, we might remember that his definition of liberty is distinctly not our own.