At the end of the 16th century Saxony was awarded the honorary title "Motherland of the Reformation". Here Martin Luther received great support from the electors, who helped his ideas to a breakthrough. Although the title might suggest it, he was not exclusively protected even in the "motherland of the Reformation", but met with fierce resistance in isolated cases. Thus, after the Leipzig Disputation of 1519, George the Bearded became a fierce opponent of Luther. To strengthen Catholicism, the Duke of Saxony passionately supported the canonization of Bishop Benno of Meissen and fought against the spread of Protestant ideas until the end of his life. However, he was unable to stop the wave that had broken out, so that it also reached his duchy. It was here that Henry the Pious introduced the Reformation after the death of his brother in 1539.
Preservation of catholic islands in the Lausitz
Protestantism spread almost everywhere in the entire territory of present-day Saxony. Not so in the Lausitz. Since the region did not belong to the duchy of Saxony, Catholic islands were created here. It is particularly remarkable that two Cistercian nunneries from the 13th century survived the turmoil of this time. Thus the monastery St. Marienthal in Ostritz in Eastern Saxony today fulfils its original purpose just like the monastery St. Marienstern in Panschwitz-Kuckau. Around the small village near Bautzen, the Sorbs still keep their Catholic customs alive - much to the delight of many guests, who arrive especially at Easter to participate in the traditional sowing or Easter riding. The pilgrimage church in nearby Rosenthal and the cemetery in Ralbitz are also worth seeing representatives of Catholicism in Lusatia.
While those Sorbs who lived around the monastery of St. Marienstern remained true to their faith, the Reformation ideas met with great approval in large parts of their settlement area. Thanks to the wise policy of the Catholic clergyman Johan Leisentritt, progressive solutions were found in Lusatia for the discrepancy between the denominations. Since 1524, for example, St. Peter's Cathedral in Bautzen has been used by Catholics and Protestants alike. It thus became the first simultaneous church in Germany. Today, only a grille in the middle of the church marks the border between the two sides. A progress in the sense of tolerance - because once a wall separated the believers.
New upswing for Catholicism
It was the great ambitions of August the Strong that brought Catholicism in Saxony to new heights. In order to become king of Poland, the elector made enormous efforts. He not only invested large parts of his fortune in the necessary bribes, but also converted to the Catholic faith. In order not to upset his people, August the Strong first had his uncle secretly teach him the Catholic faith. After he converted to Catholicism in 1697, the Elector also waived his right to force the Saxons to change their faith. Despite this indulgence, he became increasingly alienated from his people. The depiction of August the Strong on the Princely Procession should also be seen in this light. Here his horse tramples on the Luther rose, one of the symbols of the Reformation.
As a result of the electoral conversion of faith, many Catholics came to the Dresden court. Initially, Holy Mass was held provisionally in the redesigned court chapel. It was only the son of August the Strong, King August III, who had the Court Chapel, the first Catholic church in Saxony after the Reformation, built from 1739 onwards. Whoever visits this late baroque building, which appears so magnificent from the outside, will be surprised by its simplicity inside. Worth seeing is above all the large Silbermann organ, which survived the Second World War unscathed and now sounds regularly. Of historical importance is also the crypt, which is located under the court church. Among other things, the capsule with the heart of August the Strong is kept here. In addition, all the Catholic members of the House of Wettin were buried in the church after George the Bearded, who was the last Wettin in Meissen Cathedral. Irony of history: Until the end of the First World War, these remained nominally the head of the Evangelical Lutheran Church of Saxony and thus "guardians of Protestantism".