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History of money. The Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)

In the first half of the 17th century, a large part of Europe was plunged into the chaos of bloody conflict, which ingloriously went down in history as ”the Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648)”. It changed the image of the old continent for a long time. These changes caused by the war referred first of all to the sphere of politics, culture, religion, economy and territorial borders. Its extremely brutal character had the strongest impact on the life of ordinary people. Millions died during warfare, rape and plunderage, and due to hunger and disease. Villages and towns became deserted, and huge stretches of regions teeming with life so far become depopulated. The world had never seen such an equally ruthless and cruel hell of war. Stories about this war scared the hearts of listeners. Only World War One and Two defined this idea anew. The source of these unusual events appeared in the first half of the 16th century, when the Holy Empire of the German Nation (The German Reich) was a mosaic of conflicted kingdoms, duchies and city-states.
The main reason of discord was division into Protestants and Catholics. In the Kingdom of Bohemia, Saxony, in Silesia and northern duchies Protestantism was dominant. Bavaria, Austria and numerous other, especially southern duchies were Catholic. The waged wars were to be finished by the Peace of Augsburg signed in the year 1555. The peace principles provided the co-existence of Catholicism and Lutheranism side by side. However, the governing principle was ”whose realm, his religion” (cuius regio, eius religio). Thus, the decision about religion in a given state was made by its ruler. In spite of the peace of Augsburg, the Catholic Habsburgs who wielded imperial power aimed at stopping the Reformation in Germany and at strengthening their political position, so they supported their Catholic vassals. In response, Protestants established the Protestant Union (Evangelical Union) in 1608, which was to represent their interests in the Imperial Diet (Reichstag). Besides religious freedom, the Union members demanded setting free from the Habsburg rule. The events in the Protestant city of Donauwörth, where Catholicism was forced on the residents, were the reason for forming the Union. The Union was conducted by Rhine palatine Frederick V. Protestants started to look for allies in the states hostile toward the powerful House of Habsburg, whereas in 1609 the Catholic states founded the Catholic League conducted by Maximilian I, Duke of Bavaria. Religious intolerance was increasing. Protestants were persecuted in the Catholic states, and Catholics in the Protestant states. Thus, two enemy camps were formed within the Empire. A war ”was in the air”. The spark that ignited the war was the event that went down
in history as ”the Defenestration of Prague” – in the year 1618, during a quarrel between Bohemian Protestants and representatives of Emperor Matthias Habsburg, two imperial representatives were thrown from the window of Hradcany Castle. The subsequent complicated, extremely dynamic course of the war was focused within 4 main stages, named
nowadays after the states involved, i.e.:

Bohemian-Palatinate period (1618–1624)

Danish period (1625–1629) Swedish period (1630–1635)
French-Swedish period (1635–1648)
Finished with the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the Thirty Years’

War was the first European military conflict. The majority of more important states participated directly or indirectly in this war. Undoubt-edly it was a religious war, but an equally important reason for its outbreak was the fight of the states for hegemony. This war devastated all the German states and Bohemia. Casualties in certain regions of the Empire were even 50% of the population. About eight million people were killed, mainly civilians. Due to the war, the political image of Europe changed durably. France became the biggest power. Alsace and the cities of Metz and Verdun were annexed to France. Sweden gained the southern coasts of the Baltic, including Western Pomerania and many ports, e.g. Szczecin. Saxony gained Lusatia, and Brandenburg – the eastern part of Western Pomerania. Though Austria lost control over German states, it strengthened its position in Hungary and Bohemia. Most states belonging to the Empire achieved actual sovereignty. It is noteworthy here that they relinquished it partially only in the second half of the 20th century, in connection with the formation of the European Union. The Peace of Westphalia ended also in Germany the period of huge religious conflicts.

The exhibition presents the main monetary systems functioning in Europe in the 17th century, with special emphasis on the period of the Thirty Years’ War (1618 – 1648), and it shows the economic functions of money at that time. The exposition describes in an accessible way the history of money and the cultural-historical context, in which it was functioning. It shows not only coins but also militaria, daily necessities, and paintings. Multimedia programs and presentations complement the educational character of this exhibition, which is directed to all people interested in
numismatics and the history of Europe in the modern period.


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Designed: Jimpenny / Programmed: FreshData