“A swift and sure peace”: the Peace of Westphalia 1643 -
Initiated by the Pope Urban VIII (1623 – 1644).
Saw it as his responsibility to end the shedding of Christian blood
Since 1634 – urged France, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire to resolve their
differences as he feared that the Thirty Years War (1618 – 1648) would allow the
Ottoman Turks to seize Christian territory.
Both before and during the Congress of Westphalia, the idea of uniting the
Christian powers and launching a new crusade against the Ottomans never
Overtime, “Christendom” was no longer uniformly Catholic.
Sweden, Dutch Republic, several German principalities – Protestant participants
in the war and did not recognise the pope’s authority.
Popes and their representatives not only refused to meet with Protestant
ambassadors in any official capacity but declined to negotiate in the same place
where the Protestant envoys had assembled – the Protestant city of Osnabruck.
All-Catholic Congress met in the Catholic city of Cologne.
The papal envoys and those of other Catholic powers converged on the Catholic
city of Munster, 30 miles away.
The two parallel series of negotiations – collectively known as the “Congress of
Westphalia” – by far, the largest – as well as the longest lived – peace conference
held to that date.
representing 194 European rulers (almost 150 German)
France played the key role in getting the Protestants to the conference –
although a Catholic power, its strategy in the war depended for success on
The Habsburgs (Spanish and Austrian) fighting together would have
overmatched an isolated France, so the French insisted on the conduct of
Catholic and Protestant negotiations with as much coordination as possible.
Catholic papacy participated in the negotiations as mediator, but its refusal to
deal directly with the Protestant state, whether on foreign policy issues or on the
settlement of the Empire’s own political awareness, rendered it powerless to
prevent the Catholics from making major concessions to their Protestant enemies
in return for a settlement.
Pope Innocent X (1644 – 1655)
November 1648, issued a bull, “Zelo domus Dei”, formally condemning the Peace
of Westphalia just concluded and refused to recognise its legitimacy thereafter.
Peace of Westphalia 1648 – the papacy declared the treaties null and void, and
set itself squarely against established international law.
Gradually, Catholics saw that they must exclude and declare of no effect any
papal declarations nullifying the treaties.
Origin of a specific “anti-protest” clause in the Peace of Westphalia, which
declared in advance that any denunciation of the treaties would be invalid.