The Twilight of Westphalia

Arguably one of the most significant dates in the history of Western Civilization, October 26, 1648 marked the official end to the Thirty Years War. Launched in 1618 following Austria’s invasion of Protestant Bohemia, the conflict’s origins more significantly dated to 1517 when Wittenberg monk Martin Luther rejected Pope Leo X’s sale of indulgences to peasants in return for salvation by hammering his Ninety-Five Theses to the monastery’s door in response. More than a century of wars and revolutions by conscientious objectors and nation-states followed, ending with the ratification of the Peace of Münster which ended one of history’s bloodiest wars and Protestant Reformation by crippling papal hegemony over the continent. In its place was the establishment of the Westphalian Order which resulted in both a radically redrawn map of Europe along ethnic and religious lines and the mass migration of Europeans to the American colonies in search of religious freedom and economic opportunity.

For the first time since World War II, a political order that has maintained Europe’s balance of power for nearly 400 years faces a new existential crisis though powerful globalists’ greed and total disregard of the many historic conflicts still burning hot through economic and multicultural integration. Margaret Thatcher, during her 1988 speech to the College of Europe at Bruges, Belgium, protested her opposition to a federal Europe, but to no avail.

“However far we may want to go, the truth is that we can only get there one step at a time. And what we need now is to take decisions on the next steps forward, rather than let ourselves be distracted by Utopian goals. Utopia never comes, because we know we should not like it if it did. Let Europe be a family of nations, understanding each other better, appreciating each other more, doing more together but relishing our national identity no less than our common European endeavour.”

The East/West Schism and “Balkanization” of Southern Europe

Christianity had already experienced one prior schism prior to the Reformation as a result of the Norman occupation of Southern Italy during the 1040’s. As the region’s new political body, it replaced Greek bishops with Latin clergy, vesting all ecunumenical authority in Rome which divided Rome from its Eastern Orthodox base in Constantinople. Michael I Cerularius,  the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople (1043-59), protested to Pope Leo XI over the Latin abolition of using unleavened bread during the Eucharist, clerical marriage, the issue of papal supremacy over the Orthodox Church, the sudden disregard of the filioque clause which described the double procession of the Holy Spirit, and fasting on the Saturday Sabbath.

Michael Cerularius and Leo XI
Pope Leo IX and the Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael I Cerularius.

In 1054, Leo IX forwarded a letter addressed to both Cerularius and Bulgaria’s Archbishop Leo of Ohrid in response to a letter by Leo, Metropolitan of Achrida, to John, Bishop of Trani (in Apulia), that categorically attacked the new Latin customs that differed from those of the Greek. Citing the “Donation of Constantine” — the forged Roman imperial decree by which the 4th century emperor Constantine the Great allegedly transferred ecunumenical authority over Rome and the western Roman Empire to the papacy — to demonstrate the Holy See possessed both an earthly and a heavenly imperium (the royal priesthood) over their Greek counterparts in Constantinople while condemning Greek Orthodoxy as the great source of heresy in Christianity’s history. He emphasized aggressively that the Bishop of Rome’s primacy surpassed that of the Patriarch of Constantinople as the lone apostolic successor to the Apostle Peter in the Church.

The Patriarch’s immediate reply to Leo IX’s letter was to address him as “brother” rather than “father,” with some historians suggesting it may have prompted Leo XI to quickly dispatch Cardinal Humbert of Silva Candida to confront Cerularius. Upon Humbert’s arrival in April 1054, Cerularius refused to entertain his guest and instead, kept the papal representative waiting several months with no audience. Finally, on 16 July 1054, Humbert issued the notice of excommunication against Cerularius, though because of Leo IX’s death over three months prior nullifying the papal bull, the event initially proved to be much ado about nothing. Cerularius returned the favor by issuing his own order of excommunication for the pope.

Fall of Constantinople in 1453
Siege of Constantinople, from Bibliothèque nationale manuscript Français 9087 (folio 207 v). The Turkish army of Mehmet II attacks Constantinople in 1453. Some soldiers are pointing canons to the city and others are pulling boats to the Golden Horn.

While negotiations between Rome and Constantinople continued and the invasion of Constantinople the Muslim Turks forced an uneasy alliance between Rome and Orthodox prior to Pope Urban II’s launch of the Crusades in 1095, relations continued to deteriorate. Violent anti-Latin protests and the Catholic league’s siege of the Byzantine capital in 1204 made clear by 1234 that the Church had experienced its first true political division on account of their irreconcilable differences between the Latins and Greeks after Rome’s concern over the resurgence of Arianism nearly led to the addition of “Son” to the Nicene Creed, which the Greeks believed would diminish the individual properties of God as three individual Persons. Just fourteen years after another fruitless debate at the 1439 Council of Florence, the Muslim Ottoman Turks sacked Constantinople and toppled Byzantium. By the 17th Century upon the Ottomans’ failure to conquer Catholic Europe, the Balkan Peninsula the last caliphate conquered and annexed resulted in the ethnic and political balkanization of Southern Europe, and was completed following the empire’s dissolution in 1923 after losing during World War I.

The Protestant Reformation Through the Peace of Westphalia

“AMONG those monstrous evils of this age with which I have now for three years been waging war, I am sometimes compelled to look to you and to call you to mind, most blessed father Leo. In truth, since you alone are everywhere considered as being the cause of my engaging in war, I cannot at any time fail to remember you; and although I have been compelled by the causeless raging of your impious flatterers against me to appeal from your seat to a future council—fearless of the futile decrees of your predecessors Pius and Julius, who in their foolish tyranny prohibited such an action—yet I have never been so alienated in feeling from your Blessedness as not to have sought with all my might, in diligent prayer and crying to God, all the best gifts for you and for your see. But those who have hitherto endeavoured to terrify me with the majesty of your name and authority, I have begun quite to despise and triumph over. One thing I see remaining which I cannot despise, and this has been the reason of my writing anew to your Blessedness: namely, that I find that blame is cast on me, and that it is imputed to me as a great offence, that in my rashness I am judged to have spared not even your person.”

— Letter of Martin Luther to Pope Leo X. Martin Luther (1483–1546). Concerning Christian Liberty. The Harvard Classics. 1909–14.

Martin Luther
Martin Luther (1483-1546), German professor of theology, composer, priest and monk responsible for start of the Protestant Reformation.

The audacity of Martin Luther’s crusade against the Church led to his own excommunication by Pope Leo X in 1521. The chief catalyst leading to the birth of Protestantism, Luther was a professor of biblical interpretation at the University of Wittenberg. Years of studying the Bible led him to condemn the Holy See for its sale of indulgences in exchange for the promise of Heaven. In 1517, he nailed to the monastery’s door his Ninety-Five Theses in protest to the Holy See’s corruption.

Tensions and conflict led to resulted in a long, bloody series of violent persecutions of religious dissidents and warfare, culminating with the 1618 Austrian Habsburg invasion of neighboring Bohemia in order to impose Roman Catholicism on their Protestant subjects. The Thirty Years War, which pitted German Protestants against their Catholic foes that included France and Habsburg-controlled Spain, set the tone for the Great Northern War launched in 1701 that embroiled Sweden, Denmark, Poland, the Netherlands, the Swiss Confederation and Russia.

95 Theses
A copy of the ninety-five theses which Martin Luther nailed to the door of his monastery at Wittenberg in protest of the sale of indulgences in the Roman Catholic Church, dated 31 October 1517.

The peace of Westphalia opened in Münster and Osnabrück December 1644. In attendance were no fewer than 194 nation-states represented by 179 plenipotentiaries, the Papal Nuncio (the future Pope Alexander VII) and Venetian ambassador from the Italian Papal States. The most profound event to alter the course of Western civilization finally concluded at 2 o’clock in the afternoon Saturday, October 24, 1648, resulting in a fundamentally redrawn map of Europe based on mutual national and cultural traits.

The Treaty of Münster, which end the war except between Spain and France, impacted the following actors:

  • Switzerland was granted independence from Austria.
  • The Netherlands were granted independence from Spain.
  • German municipalities finally achieved autonomy.
  • Sweden was granted territory and a lump sum payment in cash.
  • France annexed the long-coveted territory of Alsace-Lorraine.

The Westphalian order effectively eradicated the Church’s corrupt autocracy after a millennium of political repression, persecutions of anyone condemned for heresy, and bloody warfare in the name of Christ. Evil, whether it manifests in the form of left-wing atheism or God’s name, is the natural barrier to a utopian world. Russell Kirk explains that “Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created,” and because the European Union was designed as a secular road map towards a world and future governed by a global technocracy of bankers, software conglomerates, big oil and “elected” bureaucrats in the name of economic cooperation, the agenda to coerce Europe’s beautiful cultural and ethnic variety into a single-minded federation of states deprives its various peoples of their very humanity, language and culture and at the same time, prevents the possibility of an economically and financially stable climate. As John Randolph of Roanoke, the conservative cousin of Thomas Jefferson, noted, “Providence moves slowly, but the devil always hurries,” where all utopian designs for a radically transforming societies built into secular paradises have time and again succeeded at engineering an undemocratic “terrestrial hell” whose population learns to love an enlightened despot.


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