COLOGNE. The city of Cologne (German Köln), recognized by Emperor Frederick III as an imperial free city in 1475, was an important center of trade, manufacturing, intellectual life, and religious life. Cologne, the largest of the imperial cities in early modern Germany, probably had a population between 35,000 and 40,000 people in the sixteenth century. The population declined in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries and recovered at the end of the eighteenth century.
The city's location on the left bank of the Rhine made it a center of trade, and it benefited by requiring Rhine shippers to offer goods for sale before they could pass through the city. Taxes on trade goods were a major source of income. Textile manufacturing was Cologne's most important industry, and the city was home to three women's textile guilds (yarn makers, silk makers, and gold spinners) as well as the more common men's craft organizations. Cologne also became an important printing center in the sixteenth century.
Cologne's political structure was established in 1396, when twenty-two political corporations (Gaffeln) agreed on a new constitution (Verbundbrief). The corporations elected representatives to the council, and two mayors were elected for staggered terms. This constitutional system, as formally amended in 1513, remained in effect until the French occupation of Cologne in 1794.
The relationship between the civic government and the power of the archbishop of Cologne was strained. The archbishop's residence was outside the city, but archbishops always sought to assert authority over the city. While the city council maintained political authority, some elements of legal jurisdiction were shared between civic courts and archiepiscopal courts.
There were uprisings in Cologne in 1513 and 1525. The city adopted reforms, and reaffirmed its governmental structure. In 1513, dissatisfaction with the government's attempt to control the Gaffeln erupted into rebellion when city officials tried to arrest a member of the stonemasons' Gaffel, who had taken refuge in the convent church of St. Maria im Kapitol. Representatives of the Gaffeln united to reaffirm their rights. They elected a new city council, condemned corrupt city councillors, and arrested and executed the two mayors. The new council reaffirmed the constitution of 1396 (Verbundbrief) by attaching a new sworn document (the Transfixbrief ), which reaffirmed the principles of the 1396 constitution. The new council of 1513 also reaffirmed the importance of the Gaffeln and condemned civic corruption.
While scholars disagree about whether the uprising of 1525 was influenced by the teachings of Luther, city officials in 1525 believed that the uprising that broke out in Cologne was directly related to the unrest in southern Germany. The uprising had a distinctly local cast, as rebels claimed their rights under the 1396 constitution and the 1513 Transfixbrief. The articles of the Cologne rebels included demands for both economic and religious reforms. The city government defused the uprising by agreeing in principle with almost everything the rebels demanded, and by referring some of the religious demands to the archbishop. The city's 1525 decision to extend protection to the clergy in return for payment of taxes perhaps prevented anticlerical unrest during the sixteenth century.
During the Reformation, Cologne remained steadfastly Catholic, in spite of the efforts of two archbishops who had become Lutherans, Hermann von Wied (deposed 1546) and Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg (deposed 1583), to impose Protestantism on the city. The city's nineteen parish churches, along with other churches, chapels. and religious foundations provided a wealth of religious resources. The cathedral housed the relics of the three Magi, and there were many confraternities and voluntary religious associations. The University of Cologne had a relatively conservative faculty, which publicly burned Luther's works in 1520. Recent scholarship suggests that there was also a significant humanist presence at the University of Cologne. The influence of the university extended to the city's parishes because university positions often carried associated prebends in parish churches.
Cologne was a stronghold of the Catholic reform movement. The Jesuits, under Peter Canisius, established a house in Cologne in 1543, and the Carthusian cloister also served as a center of Catholic reform.
In spite of the government's efforts to maintain religious purity, refugees from the Netherlands moved to Cologne, and the late sixteenth century saw the establishment of an illegal but permanent Protestant community. Protestants did not gain full civil rights until 1797. In 1632, Swedish troops occupied the city of Deutz, across the Rhine, but aside from bombarding Deutz, Cologne did not participate actively in the Thirty Years' War or suffer significant damage. During the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, it suffered more seriously from repeated outbreaks of plague and a general decline in economic condition. The city was occupied by French Revolutionary armies in 1794.
See also Frederick III (Holy Roman Empire) ; Free and Imperial Cities ; Peasants' War, German .
Ennen, Leonard. Geschichte der Stadt Köln, meist aus den Quellen des Kölner Stadt-Archivs. 5 vols. Cologne, 1863–1879. Although it is old, this is still the most comprehensive history of Cologne.
Fuchs, Peter, ed. Chronik zur Geschichte der Stadt Köln. Band 2, Von 1400 bis zur Gegenwart. Cologne, 1991. This volume contains a detailed chronology of Cologne's history, as well as valuable essays by many of the best German historians working on Cologne.
Scribner, Robert W. "Why Was There No Reformation in Cologne?" Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research 49 (1976): 217–241.
Janis M. Gibbs