THE WAGES OF WEAKNESS THE RISE AND FALL OF THE PROTESTANT REFORMATION IN SIXTEENTH-CENTURY AUSTRIA  PETER THALER In medieval Western Europe, religion and politics were deeply intertwined. Roman-Catholicism gradually established itself as the sole legitimate expression of metaphysical thought. The remaining pagan hold-outs in northern and eastern Europe were converted by force, unless their political elites had sensed early enough that religious adaptation formed the only alternative to political subjugation. Polities that were dominated by non-Christians, such as the Islamic entities of the Iberian peninsula, were by de?inition not a part of the Western community, whose preferred self-designation was Christendom; they could, however, be seen as terrae irredentae to be liberated. Yet, also Christian heterodoxy was successfully suppressed or marginalized, and non-Christian minorities such as Jews could be tolerated as guests, but not as integral parts of society. Notwithstanding social and regional idiosyncrasies, Western Europe has never been more cohesive in public religious expression.1 At the same time, the Catholic Church exercised great in?luence on the political life of Western European societies. The church legitimized the Christian ruler, who in turn de?ined himself as defender of church and faith. Although this symbiotic interdependence was not without con?lict and subject to continual adaptation, it remained a centerpiece of Western society and its power structure. As a consequence, any fundamental challenge to the religious monopoly of the Catholic Church could not but impact the very nature of European society. Even if the Protestant Reformation disrupted this medieval unity of church and state, religion and politics remained strongly connected.2 Monarchs and dynasties became of paramount signi?icance for the ultimate success or failure of Protestant movements. In the southern outskirts of the continent, neither the monarchy nor the broader populace were appreciably touched by the new reli1 For an introduction to late-medieval Christianity, see Rapp: L’Église; Swanson: Religion and Devotion, and Bossy: Christianity in the West. The regional diversity of observance can be seen in such works as Duffy: The Stripping of the Altars. 2 For recent overviews of the reformation era, see Cameron: The European Reformation; Tracy: Europe’s Reformations; MacCullough: Reformation; and Lindberg: The European Reformations.