Magdeburg wedding

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Siege of Magdeburg
Part of: Swedish War, Thirty Years War
Engraving by D. Manasser, 1632
Engraving by D. Manasser, 1632
date May 10th July / May 20,  1631 greg.
place Magdeburg , Archdiocese of Magdeburg
Exit Destruction of the city
Parties to the conflict

Catholic League

Protestant Magdeburg


Tilly , Pappenheim

Dietrich von Falkenberg

Troop strength
24,000 2,400


25,000 inhabitants

The Magdeburg Wedding (also Magdeburg's sacrifice or afterwards in general Magdeburgise ) describes the total devastation of the city of Magdeburg on May 10th July. / May 20, 1631 greg. by imperial troops under Tilly and Pappenheim in the course of the Thirty Years' War .

The sarcastic term "Magdeburg Wedding" was coined immediately afterwards and is supposed to describe the forced marriage between the emperor and the maiden Magdeburg, which is depicted on the coat of arms of the city, which had resisted payments to the emperor for over 100 years. According to the contemporary chronicle Theatrum Europaeum , the term can be traced back to Tilly himself:

Then it was time to eat and drink / which allowed three whole days in a row / and thus the Magdeburg wedding / as it was called by Tylli / celebrated


At the time of the Reformation , Magdeburg became a stronghold of Protestantism , not least because the Archbishop of Magdeburg, Albrecht von Brandenburg, operated a lively indulgence trade and thus drew the citizens' resentment. On his behalf, the Dominican Tetzel traveled through the country as a preacher of indulgence. In 1517 Luther initiated the Reformation with his 95 theses, motivated by this . The city of Magdeburg, the cathedral seat of the archbishopric and capital of the archbishopric , committed itself to this as early as 1524 and joined the Schmalkaldic League in 1531 . After the death of Cardinal Albrecht in 1545, Magdeburg Cathedral was closed for 20 years, in 1567 it was taken over by the Protestants, like all other churches in the city.

Over the years, Magdeburg developed into the center of resistance against re-Catholicization . In "Prayer Lord God's law firm", scholars, before Catholic troops gathered Schmalkaldic War of Wittenberg had fled, and wrote anti-Catholic writings. From 1547 to 1562 Magdeburg was therefore under imperial ban . After the refusal to recognize the Augsburg interim , Magdeburg, known as the "Holy Fortified City of Protestantism", withstood a siege by imperial troops under the Protestant princes Moritz of Saxony and Albrecht Alcibiades of Brandenburg-Kulmbach for more than a year in 1550/51 . After Moritz von Sachsen had achieved the surrender of the besieged city without a fight through secret promises to the magistrate of Magdeburg, he turned against the emperor and allied himself with his enemies.

Magdeburg in the Thirty Years War

Magdeburg around 1600. Painting after an engraving by Jan van de Velde (1569–1629).

The Thirty Years' War began in 1618 with the uprising of the estates in Bohemia , after which the country was forcibly recatholized by Emperor Ferdinand II. Faith volatile exiles also reached Magdeburg. Around 1623, the city began arming for defense purposes, but the city council tried to stay out of military action. Denmark and a few Protestant princes went to war against the emperor, but the largest Protestant powers in Germany, Saxony and Brandenburg, remained neutral. Imperial troops first arrived in Magdeburg in 1625. As a result, the imperial general Wallenstein occupied all of northern Germany up to the Danish and Polish borders and drove the Danes out of the empire.

In 1626, long before the Edict of Restitution of 1629, Emperor Ferdinand II gave the Magdeburg Monastery of Our Lady back to the Premonstratensian Order , which had been abandoned in 1601 ; Zealous monks moved into the arch-Lutheran city. In 1628 the Protestant dukes of Mecklenburg were expelled and Wallenstein annexed the country for themselves. With the edict of restitution of 1629, the Catholic imperial princes decided that all church property in Germany that had been secularized since 1555 should be surrendered to the Catholic Church, including the Archbishopric of Magdeburg and the Halberstadt Monastery , which the Emperor - along with others - planned to hand over to his younger son Leopold Wilhelm .

City coat of arms with the Virgin of Magdeburg

During this time, as in many large Protestant imperial cities, there were also three parties in Magdeburg: the wealthy upper class was fearful and loyal to the emperor, the majority of the council and part of the citizens wanted “to defend the righteous in the city, but also the majesty not to provoke ... the third went all out in the resistance, first hoping to stick to the Danes, then, when the Danes failed, to stick to the Dutch and Swedes. She was the majority of the citizens, counted by heads: the fishermen, the boatmen, the craftsmen, the sack-bearers: 'the mob'. Excited clergy kept their word. ”( Golo Mann ). The old council was ousted and a new one elected, the radicals got the upper hand.

In 1629 the war led to increasing economic problems. Wallenstein had the city besieged by imperial troops under Aldringen from August to October , because they refused to pay a tribute of 150,000 thalers , but then withdrew the troops because he needed them elsewhere. As early as the summer of 1630, the strategically important Elbe fortress - the only town after Stralsund - concluded an alliance with the Swedish King Gustav Adolf when he and his troops were still encamped on the Pomeranian coast. The first Swedish soldiers soon arrived in the city, including the officer Dietrich von Falkenberg in November 1630 , disguised as a boatman. Gustav Adolf promised Magdeburg protection from the imperial troops. Falkenberg took over the fortress command and prepared the city defense. New mercenaries were recruited, the suburbs fortified and external defenses built, as in Stralsund before. However, there was a lack of money and fighters. The support in the population was rather cautious, as the majority were already tired of the war. However, there was also a pro-Swedish party dominated mainly by fanatical Lutheran clergy. Since the end of November imperial troops were lying under Pappenheim in front of the city.

General Tilly (1559-1632)
The Siege of the City (painting from 1650)

King Gustav Adolf occupied large parts of Mecklenburg in autumn . The old Bavarian General Tilly , who had meanwhile replaced Wallenstein in the Imperial High Command, went to meet him in January 1631 as far as Neubrandenburg . The king now advanced from Stettin along the Oder to Frankfurt to lure the imperial family away from Magdeburg, Tilly advanced to Brandenburg an der Havel , but left more than half of his troops at Magdeburg. The king moved to Berlin with some of his troops and covered the Oder with the rest. The imperial court in Vienna feared an advance by the Swedes via Silesia to Bohemia , or - if the Magdeburg fortress were not taken - via Dresden along the Elbe to Prague . From March 1631, Tilly therefore gathered around 30,000 men with 85 guns around Magdeburg: "If the Oder is lost, it remains to secure the Elbe by removing the large central fortress, which all Protestants look at with hope and fear."

On April 21 and April 23, on Falkenberg's orders, the suburbs of Neustadt and Sudenburg were evacuated and destroyed after they could no longer be held after Tilly's troops had moved to the left bank of the Elbe. The ruins were occupied and the siege intensified. Among other things, the Trutz Pappenheim , Magdeburger Succurs and Trutz Tilly ski jumps to the southeast of the city fell to the imperial family. There was a shortage of powder in Magdeburg.

On April 24, Tilly wrote three letters calling on Falkenberg and the council to hand over the town. On April 30, the council expressed its wish to start negotiations with the Hanseatic cities and the electors of Saxony and Brandenburg . Tilly was asked to issue the emissaries with the necessary passports. At first Tilly consented, but later withdrew from it, fearing that it was just a waste of time to enable the Swedes to move closer. He ordered a heavy bombardment of the city. On May 4th, the imperial general again called for surrender. From 10./20. May 1631 around 26,800 imperial soldiers besieged the fortress. On May 18, Tilly asked for the voluntary handover for the last time. The citizens of the city were called together in the houses of the neighborhood lords to deliberate on negotiations. The Swedish party strongly opposed negotiations. It was hoped that Swedish troops would advance under Gustav Adolf. However, since these were in a desolate condition after the conquest of Frankfurt on the Oder and difficult to maintain in their duty, the king refused to dare to advance on Magdeburg with inferior forces.

Magdeburg wedding

Storm on Magdeburg

On May 20, at 7 a.m., the first heavy gunfire began on the old town and surrounding villages. The storm on the city was to come from all sides at 6:30 a.m. However, Tilly postponed the attack for an hour without Pappenheim being informed. From 9 a.m. all imperial troops advanced. In the council meeting held at the same time, the city authorities spoke out in favor of surrender. Falkenberg, supported by the clergy and radical Sweden supporters, held against it and announced that Swedish troops would soon arrive. During his speech, which had already lasted an hour, the advance of the enemy to assault the city was reported; However, Falkenberg continued the speech. After the tower keeper of the Johanniskirche had blown the storm, the councilor Otto Gerike left the meeting to see the state of affairs for himself. Already in the Fischerstrasse he met plundering hostile Croats . He returned to the council and announced the enemy's invasion of the city. Falkenberg rode to Lieutenant Colonel Trost's regiment and led them into battle. At one point they managed to repel the intruders. Falkenberg was finally fatally hit by a bullet at the Hohe Pforte (today Neustädter Strasse ).

General Pappenheim (1594-1632)
The plundering of Magdeburg (Die Magdeburger Jungfrauen) , historical painting by Eduard Steinbrück , 1866
Tilly's entry into the destroyed Magdeburg

Fires broke out in the course of the morning and reached devastating proportions in the afternoon. In later historical research, there were occasional assumptions that Falkenberg had initiated fires in order to leave the important city to the strongly superior enemy only as a ruin. The unruly citizens of Magdeburg were considered outlawed by the imperial family ; never salaried and therefore uninhibited plundering mercenaries paid no attention to the intricacies of political attitudes of the various parties. All houses were robbed, the women raped, thousands of residents were killed regardless of age or gender - although this was forbidden under imperial law on the death penalty , but neither the Soldateska nor their troop leaders heeded, with the Pappenheim troops in particular raging. The atrocities were so numerous and so appalling in their execution that even some members of the Imperial Army wrote shocked reports about them.

"Then the people from Pappenheim / as well as the Walloons / so raged worse than Türcken on all non-Christian people / not easily given quarters / but with nidergehawen / both women and small children / also pregnant women in houses and churches / equal in clerical persons tyrranized and ravaged / dz also had a farewell from the other Tyllian people themselves. "

- Theatrum Europaeum, vol. 2, plate 1631, p. 368

Wealthy citizens could buy themselves out from imperial soldiers and leave the city under their protection. The fires that raged across the city claimed even more lives, and in the end around two thirds of the population were dead. Both sides then accused each other of having started the fire.

The acts of war and looting dragged on for several days until they were stopped on May 24th on Tilly's orders. Between 2000 and 4000 people found refuge in Magdeburg Cathedral . The cathedral remained taboo for the imperial soldiers, because Tilly was not allowed to destroy the former and future archbishop's cathedral church, and neither was the Premonstratensian monastery. The following story, which could also be legend, is passed down about the rescue of the refugees: When Tilly opened the cathedral two days after the battle, the Protestant cathedral preacher Reinhard Bake fell on his knees in front of him and carried a modified verse from Virgil about the destruction in Latin Troy, whereupon Tilly spared the citizens:

Venit summa dies, et ineluctabile fatum
Magd'burgo! Fuimus Troes, fuit Ilium et ingens
gloria Parthenopes!
“The ultimate day has come and the inevitable fate
for Magdeburg! We were Trojans , there was Ilion and the shining one
Glory to the virgin city! "

“In the Thumb churches, in a thousand women, virgins and children, few citizens and quite a few soldiers got lost / and stayed there for three whole days without eating and drinking / the Count von Tylli went through them on May 12th [Julian calendar] 2. Drum-beaters called up quarters / divide them commissbrodt / lead the burghers and men to the bishop's court in a strange way / and who were healthy or from the country / had the Thumbkirch taken out to be cleaned and cleaned again. When D. Back and his colleagues tripped him on behalf of the church / he brought them to the Vogthey mills along with your wives and children / and had them give them some food / bad enough /. "

- Theatrum Europaeum, vol. 2, plate 1631, p. 369

On the day after the conquest, the imperial general Pappenheim wrote: “I stop, over twenty thousand souls passed over it. It is certain that the destruction of Jerusalem was not seen as a growing work or punishment of God. All of our soldiers have become rich. God with us."

On May 25, a Catholic service was held in the presence of Tilly in Magdeburg Cathedral. Pope Urban VIII wrote a letter on June 24th in which he expressed his joy over the "destruction of the heretic nest".

Consequences for Magdeburg

Allegory of the mourning Magdeburg ; Part of the Luther memorial in Worms

Around 20,000 Magdeburg citizens died as a result of the war on May 20, 1631. The "Magdeburg Wedding" is considered to be the largest and worst massacre during the Thirty Years' War, which caused horror across Europe. It was said that the horror of the deeds and the horror "cannot be put into words and cannot be wept with tears". Most of the survivors had to leave the city because they lost their livelihood due to the destruction. The epidemics that followed caused further deaths. On May 9th, 1631 Magdeburg still had around 35,000 inhabitants, in 1639 there were only 450. The city, one of the most important in Germany before the war, suddenly lost its influence and was thrown back several centuries in its development. It was not until the 19th century that Magdeburg reached and exceeded the old number of inhabitants.

After the destruction of Magdeburg, the term “magdeburgize” entered the German language as a synonym for “completely destroy, extinguish” or as a symbol for “greatest possible horror”.

Consequences for political and military warfare

“Tilly wanted Magdeburg to be a lesson for all rebels and as a fixed point in the center of Germany; the living city, not the pile of rubble and corpses. He can't help the fire, however it may have happened. ”He didn't understand how to use his victory either. At first he hesitated near the dead Magdeburg, much to Pappenheim's desperation. Neither did he dare to pursue King Gustav Adolf, who would have dragged him into inhospitable, well-drained land, into impregnable positions and traps on the Oder River, nor against the Elector of Saxony, who was officially still neutral, and Tilly's sovereign Maximilian of Bavaria never wanted to drift into Gustavus Adolf's arms. He finally moved - rather out of embarrassment - against the Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, but soon returned. However, he did not dare to attack the Swedish camp at Werben an der Elbe, but instead invaded Saxony in September - against the express will of the Emperor and Bavaria - and took Merseburg and Leipzig . Thus Tilly brought about a Swedish-Saxon alliance to which he was already subject on September 17, 1631 in the Battle of Breitenfeld , where he lost all of his artillery. The Swedes moved on to Franconia and Bavaria via Thuringia, the Saxons invaded Bohemia. Only after Tilly was replaced by Wallenstein did imperial troops again occupy the city of Magdeburg at the beginning of 1632. In April 1632 Tilly was killed in the Battle of Rain am Lech and in November 1632 in the Battle of Lützen Pappenheim as well, but also King Gustav Adolf.

The Archbishopric of Magdeburg temporarily received another Catholic prince-bishop , namely the emperor's son Archduke Leopold Wilhelm , without the population being forced to convert. The impoverished country with its ruined metropolis had such a weakened position in the negotiations for the Peace of Westphalia from 1645 that it was finally awarded to the Electorate of Brandenburg in 1648 as the hereditary Duchy of Magdeburg . However, this provision came into force after the death of the last administrator , Duke August von Sachsen-Weißenfels , in 1680. Remnants of Catholic life in the form of a few monasteries persisted even after the Thirty Years' War.


At that time, the warring parties used different calendar systems. While the Catholic troops used the new Gregorian calendar, the Protestant Magdeburg citizens still rejected it and used the old Julian calendar . For this reason, different sources report different dates, May 20th (Gregorian) or May 10th (Julian).

See also


Commemorative coin from 1931
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe received the events in 1798 in his poem The Destruction of Magdeburgs .
  • Friedrich Schiller describes the looting and devastation of Magdeburg vividly in History of the Thirty Years' War (1790), first part, second book .
  • In the opera Der Freischütz (1821) by Carl Maria von Weber , the villain Kaspar emphasizes that he was a young soldier at the Magdeburg dance .
  • A. von Tromlitz deals with the events in his four-volume "historical-romantic painting from the time of the Thirty Years War" Die Pappenheimer (1829; 1st part: The renaming of Magdeburg , 2nd part: The destruction of Magdeburg ) as well as in the novella Das Asyl am Kynast (1830).
  • On the occasion of the 300th anniversary of the Weimar Republic, an official 3 Reichsmark commemorative coin with a view of Magdeburg and the inscription Rebirth after Discord and Need was issued in 1931 . The design comes from Maximilian Dasio , the edition was 100,000 pieces.
  • Gertrud von le Fort published the novel The Magdeburg Wedding in 1938 .
  • The conquest of Magdeburg is an important scene in Bertolt Brecht's play Mother Courage .
  • The German pagan metal band Helrunar processed the events in their 2015 song Magdeburg brennt .


Primary sources

  • anonymous: Actual and warranted report of the extremely miserable and pathetic siege and destruction of the famous city of Magdeburg in 1631 , without location and publisher 1688 ( digitized version )
  • Johann Philipp Abelin : Theatrum Europaeum . Frankfurt am Main 1646. Volume 2, plate 1631, pp. 366–371 ( digitized version )

Secondary literature, sorted by time

  • Jan N. Lorenzen: 1631 - The destruction of Magdeburg. In: ders .: The great battles. Myths, people, fates. Campus, Frankfurt am Main 2006. pp. 55-100, ISBN 3-593-38122-2
  • Michael Kaiser: The 'Magdeburg' Wedding (1631). Phenomena of violence in the Thirty Years War, in: Eva Labouvie (Ed.): Life in the city. A cultural and gender history of Magdeburg, Böhlau, Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2004, ISBN 978-3-412-07804-1 , pp. 195-213.
  • Hans-Christian Huf : With God's blessing to hell. The Thirty-Year War. List, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-548-60500-1 .
  • Helmut Ausmus, Manfred Wille : 1200 years Magdeburg - from the imperial palace to the state capital (4 volumes), Scriptum, Magdeburg 2000. Volume 1, pp. 518-561, ISBN 3-933046-15-7 .
  • Matthias Puhle : “… completely devastated!” Magdeburg and the Thirty Years War. Mitteldeutscher Verlag, Halle (Saale) 1998, ISBN 3-932776-62-3 .
  • Michael Kaiser: "Excidium Magdeburgense." Observations on the perception and representation of violence in the Thirty Years' War , in: Markus Meumann, Dirk Niefanger (ed.): Ein Schauplatz herber Angst. Perception and representation of violence in the 17th century, Wallstein, Göttingen 1997, ISBN 3-89244-234-7 , pp. 43–64.
  • Günter Barudio : Magdeburg's tragedy. In other words: The German War. 1618-1648. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1985, pp. 363-372, ISBN 3-10-004206-9 .


  • Manfred Köppe: This hour too. A Guericke novella. Stekovics, Halle an der Saale 2003, ISBN 3-89923-045-0

Web links

Commons : Magdeburg Wedding  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Theatrum Europaeum. Volume 2. 4th edition, Merian, Frankfurt am Main 1679, p. 369 (digitized version) .
  2. Dr. Friedrich Richter's von Magdeburg brief history of the city of Magdeburg, Verlag der Richterschen Buchdruckerei, 1834, p. 122f
  3. Golo Mann : Wallenstein. His Life , Frankfurt am Main 2016 (first 1971), p. 605 ff.
  4. Golo Mann: Wallenstein. His life. 2016, p. 720.
  5. Günter Barudio: Magdeburg tragedy. In other words: The German War. 1618-1648. Frankfurt am Main 1985. pp. 363-372, here: p. 369
  6. Barbara Stadler: Pappenheim and the time of the Thirty Years' War. P. 507
  7. Barbara Stadler: Pappenheim and the time of the Thirty Years' War. P. 513
  8. see Karl Wittich The Destruction of Magdeburg in 1631 (Berlin 1870)
  9. Verg. Aen. II 324a-326a ( full text )
  10. ADB article Bake, Reinhard
  11. Parthenope is a derivation from the Greek parthénos ("virgin"). " Maid " meant "virgin" until the early modern times; a maiden in a castle shows the Magdeburg coat of arms.
  12. a b Golo Mann: Wallenstein. His life. 2016, p. 722
  13. ^ Paul Arnold et al .: Large German coin catalog from 1800 to today. 26th edition , Battenberg Gietl Verlag , Regenstauf 2010, p. 550.
  14. ^ Helrunar - Magdeburg Burns. Accessed December 6, 2019 (German).