Matthias Flacius Illyricus
Prominent Istrians

Confessionalism vs. Humanism:
Matthias Flacius' Reaction to the Leipzig Interim

by Bodo Nischan

In the aftermath of the Protestants' defeat in the Schmalkaldic War (1547) Emperor Charles V, determined to use his victory to restore the Catholic church and to consolidate his imperial position in Germany, issued a Formula for Reformation and then pressed the Protestant princes assembled at Augsburg to accept it as a religious compromise formula. While conceding clerical marriage and communion under both kinds, the interreligio imperialis (or Augsburg Interim) was little more than a thinly veiled reformulation of the old faith and therefore resented by most Evangelicals. Philip Melanchthon, the Lutheran humanist from Saxony, sought to make the formula more palatable to fellow Protestants by preparing a slightly modified version of the Interim.

The Philippistic compromise, soon dubbed the Leipzig Interim, claimed to uphold the evangelical doctrine of justification by faith alone yet also retained traditional Catholic ceremonies under the rubric of "adiaphora" (indifferent matters). Melanchthon's formula immediately was opposed by more ardent confessionalists, chief among whom was Matthias Flacius Illyricus, a young Croatian who had studied at Wittenberg University. Flacius, whose uncle Fra Baldo Lupino had suffered persecution and death in Venice because he was a Lutheran, opposed all compromise with the old church. He condemned Melanchthon's formula as unevangelical insisting that "in casu confessionis et scandali nihil est adiaphoron." Flacius' writings quickly turned what had up to then been a somewhat abstract theological discussion into a lively debate that would have profound theological and political repercussions.


  • Second Conference on Renaissance Studies, Tradition and Innovation in 15th Century Ferrara and Italy, East Carolina University - University of Ferrara, Greenville, NC; March 21-22, 1996; Sponsored by The Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program, College of Arts and Sciences, East Carolina University - Bodo Nischan, "Confessionalism vs. Humanism: Matthias Flacius' Reaction to the Leipzig Formula" (Abstract of paper) - (web page is no longer available)

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Created: Friday, September 20, 2002;. Last Updated: Thursday September 27, 2012
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