Cuius regio, eius religio

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Cuius regio, eius religio , also cuius regio, illius religio ( Latin for whose territory, whose religion , in the linguistic usage at the time was often wes the prince, of the faith ), is a Latin expression that says that the ruler of a country is entitled todictatethe religion for its residents. It is the short form of the Peace of Augsburg laid down legal principle that is largely up to the Peace of Westphalia was (→ Assekurationsakte ) . The Latin idiom was given by Joachim Stephani, a law professor from Greifswald minted in 1612.

Starting point up to the Reformation

Since the emergence of the state in ancient times, state power has been understood as a divine foundation (→ divine right ). On the one hand, it was the task of the state to ensure the protection and dissemination of the recognized (state) religion. On the other hand, deviating from the respective state religion called the legitimacy of the state into question. The rulers therefore considered themselves obliged and entitled to enforce the state-recognized religion. Examples of this connection between state and religion can be found in ancient Egypt (godlike position of the king), ancient Greece ( Asebie ) or in the imperial cult of the Roman Empire . Christianity had been the state religion in the Roman Empire since 380 and also served as the basis of legitimation for secular rule. In the Holy Roman Empire , Catholic Christianity was in fact the state religion until the beginning of the early modern period. Heresy , i.e. religious deviations within the church, was persecuted according to imperial law. At the time of the Reformation in 1517, the custody and preservation of the state religion were the norm and any other state of affairs was fundamentally inconceivable. The exception was the more or less tolerated Jewish religion .

Imperial crisis due to the Reformation

In the course of the Reformation after 1517, large stretches of land in Western, Northern and Central Europe became Protestant . This broke the religious unity of the empire. The Emperor Charles V , who ruled in the Holy Roman Empire , some of the princes and large parts of the princely clergy did not join the Reformation. The Diets between 1527 and 1545, the Religious Discussions between 1540 and 1546, the Schmalkaldic War 1546/47 and the Augsburg Interim in 1548 were unable to restore this. This meant that a jointly binding right against heresy was de facto no longer enforceable at the imperial level. This regulation (later called Cuius regio, eius religio ) was the answer to the imperial constitutional crisis that Protestants could not be excluded from rule in the empire despite religious deviations.

Legal proposition

In the course of the Reformation, the principle of authoritarian determination of religion under the name Ius reformandi was redrafted in Germany. With the Passau Treaty of 1552 and the Augsburg Religious Peace of 1555, a political stalemate between emperors, Lutheran and Catholic rulers of the Holy Roman Empire was used as an opportunity to suspend persecution for heresy against the Lutherans. The authoritarian determination and supervision of religion was not abolished, but shifted to the level of the territories. In these there was still an officially enforced religion. Initially, only Catholics and Lutherans were recognized within the meaning of the Augsburg Religious Peace (cf. § 17). The Peace of Westphalia in 1648 then included the Reformed denomination in the guarantee.

This core aspect of Ius reformandi was popularized in 1610 by the Pomeranian canonist Joachim Stephani with the sentence “ cuius regio, eius religio ”.

The Ius emigrandi (right to emigrate) in § 24 of the Augsburg Religious Peace was closely related to the legal sentence Cuius regio, eius religio . According to this, subjects who did not want to follow the denomination of the sovereign could emigrate accompanied by their family and taking their property with them. The subjects thus had the right to evade a forced change of denomination. However, for reasons of faith, this emigration could only be carried out if all sovereign obligations had been discharged; for example through ransom from a serfdom , which could mean economic ruin.



An important exception to the "Cuius Regio principle" was in the form of the reservatum ecclesiasticum "Spiritual reservation". He regulated that a Roman Catholic, spiritual ruler lost his possessions and sovereign rights if he became Protestant . It happened when, for example, the Archbishop of Cologne and Elector Gebhard Truchsess von Waldburg changed his denomination to transform Kurköln into a secular and hereditary principality , and the Truchsessian War began. In such a case, the cathedral chapter or the monastery convent then had to choose a Roman Catholic successor. To compensate for the disadvantage, which was the Protestants by the priests of title, gave King Ferdinand I. The so-called declaratio ferdinandei off by the rights of landsässigen Protestant knights and towns were secured in ecclesiastical territories.

Imperial cities

After the Reformation, there were often several denominations in the imperial cities . It was here that first “state” and social models developed, which could do without a uniform religion determined by the authorities and prescribed by the state. These included, for example, simultaneous churches or denominational proportional representation in the municipal bodies such as in the southern German imperial cities . There were cities in which up to four “religions” officially existed side by side, such as Frankfurt am Main : Roman Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed and Jewish.


In the duchies of Kleve, Jülich and Berg , which were combined in personal union , the sovereign refrained from prescribing his subjects their denomination. As a result, the Protestant faith prevailed in the parts of the rulership on the right bank of the Rhine and the Catholic faith on the left bank. However, minorities of the other denomination remained on both sides.


The situation in the Prince Diocese of Osnabrück was quite complicated : During the 16th century. there were no clearly assigned denominational relationships here. In many parishes, Catholic and Lutheran ideas were mixed. Only in the 17th century was there a clear commitment to a denomination everywhere. In the Peace of Westphalia, each parish was then assigned a denomination, whereby the confession of the pastor, who was active in the parish in 1624 (→ normal year ) , was decisive. 27 parishes were defined as Catholic, 19 as Lutheran; seven parishes were defined as mixed denominational. In these cases the local churches were mostly simultaneous churches . The regulations for the free exercise of religion by the two denominations set out in the "Perpetual Capitulation" (Capitulatio Perpetua Osnabrugensis) in 1650 remained valid until 1802. The Osnabrück Monastery was thus one of the few territories of the Old Kingdom without a uniform denominational definition.

Evaluation and impact

The Cuius Regio principle means the fundamental legal recognition that a change of denomination - even if initially only for sovereigns and only for individual denominations - was possible and legal. After the break up of denominational unity in the course of the Reformation, religious peace was initially established temporarily and finally in the Peace of Westphalia. The question of truth was suspended at the imperial level and it was turned to procedures with which the two denominations could deal with one another, such as the itio in partes . As a result, the first secularization of state power was achieved at the level of the empire and a prerequisite for the modern, free state in its beginnings was developed.

In addition to this constitutional effect, the principle also had an impact on the sphere of individual law: The ius emigrandi gave the individual an individual area of ​​freedom in religious matters for the first time, although the exercise was made difficult by high material obligations. It thus represents a forerunner of today's freedom of religion or conscience. In the individual parts of the empire was in the course of the 18th / 19th. Century the possibility of tolerating several denominations in one state was made possible by political constraints and the Enlightenment that was effective in the 18th century . This development ultimately led to the individual right to religious freedom in the 19th century constitutions .

Outside the Holy Roman Empire

In France , denominations could only coexist at times in the 16th century. The “Sun King” Louis XIV ended religious tolerance in 1685 with his edict of Fontainebleau , true to the formula: “  un roi, une loi, une foi  ” (German: “One King, One Law, One Faith”).

In Great Britain , constitutional relics of the principle cuius regio, eius religio are still in force. The denominational sovereign is here the monarch in connection with the parliament ( King-in-parliament ). In the context of its right to determine the succession to the throne, it continues to exclude persons who belong to or have belonged to the Catholic Church from the line of succession through the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement . These restrictions do not automatically apply to their descendants or if the spouse converts during an existing marriage. The freedom of belief of the subjects was not always guaranteed for Catholics and radical Protestants ( dissenters ), but was granted since the 18th century.

In many other European kingdoms the denomination of the head of state is also constitutionally prescribed, for example in the Netherlands (Calvinist), Sweden (Lutheran), and Spain (Catholic).

Individual evidence

  1. Capitulatio Perpetua Osnabrugensis. Issued again by order of a Rev. Cathedral Chapter. Without location 1766 ( digital copy of the SLUB ; further digital copy of an impression in the Privilegia Caesarea Civitatis Osnabrugensis from 1717 in the ULB Münster ).
  2. see: Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde : The emergence of the state as a process of secularization. In: Secularization and Utopia. Ebracher studies. Ernst Forsthoff on his 65th birthday. Kohlhammer, Stuttgart a. a. 1967, pp. 75–94 (Also in: Ernst-Wolfgang Böckenförde: State, Constitution, Democracy. Studies on Constitutional Theory and Constitutional Law (= Suhrkamp-Taschenbuch Wissenschaft 953). Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1991, ISBN 3-518-28553 -X , pp. 92-114).
  3. Huguenots on, accessed on May 7, 2018