Skip to main content

Mühlberg 1547 – the Reformation takes a setback

Museum in Mühlberg/Elbe (Image: photothek/Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung)

European history was made close by the town of Mühlberg an der Elbe. On the morning of 24 April 1547 the armies of a Catholic alliance under Emperor Charles V met the Protestant Schmalkadic League led by the Saxon Electoral Prince John Frederick I. The prince is said to have been attending an Evangelical service as the imperial Catholic troops crossed the Elbe. Outnumbered by about 17,000 foot soldiers and 10,000 cavalry, the 7,000 Protestants were forced to surrender. The prince was taken captive and lost large parts of his territories to the emperor’s ally, Duke Moritz of Saxony. The Schmalkadic League, formed in the Thuringian town of Schmalkaden as a defensive alliance by Protestant princes and cities in 1531, disbanded – the Reformation suffered its first great setback.

“Heart of Jesus”, came glasswork window from the Catholic chapel in Mühlberg Palace, 1903 (Image: photothek/Ostdeutsche Sparkassenstiftung)

This event, which would decisively impact on the course of the Reformation, is the main focus of the museum opened in April 2015. One of the Central German sites of the Reformation, it has been awarded the EU Heritage Label. Visitors can find out why Emperor Charles V reached his zenith at Mühlberg and why the Spanish swam across the Elbe in April. It is also worth taking the time for a tour of the medieval twin town, where you can find such places of interest as the former Cistercian convent, which has been preserved together with its impressive convent church, abbess’s house, refectory, gatehouse and priory.