163 tional policy. The confessional offensive that also reached Austria Anterior in the second half of the sixteenth century could therefore focus most of its attention on the consolidation of popular piety and its adaptation to tridentine doctrine rather than on the subjugation and conversion of Protestant recalcitrants. In the remaining subdivisions of the Habsburgs’ Alpine patrimony, however, Protestantism became the majority religion, even if exact numbers are dif?icult to ascertain and the initial lack of a Protestant church structure delayed a clearcut denominational break.12 A sizeable segment of the population held intermediary or ambivalent religious views, which bridged the theological divide. With the gradual formation of parallel ecclesiastical spheres, however, this group was shrinking. The archduchy of Austria formed cradle and core of the hereditary lands, which gave it special signi?icance and visibility for the dynasty. All the more notable is the breakthrough of Protestantism in large parts of the territory. Due to the sharp edicts and prohibitions against heterodoxy, religious dissenters proceeded cautiously, which made the passage from reformist Catholicism to explicit Protestantism almost imperceptible. Since it occurred under the roof of the established church, doctrinal differentiation proved dif?icult to control, unlike the clear break with ecclesial institutions undertaken by the Anabaptists. Even if pastors openly or implicitly preached Lutheran doctrine, they formally remained within the existing church structure and subordinate to the sitting Catholic bishop. Most of them continued to de?ine themselves as proponents of the one and Catholic church, albeit in its true and unadulterated form; at the same time, many pretridentine Catholics adopted individual symbols of reform as well. The absence of separate ecclesial structures with ?irm hierarchies and ordinances allowed broad doctrinal diversity among self-declared followers of the new creed. The resulting openness constituted both a strength and a weakness. On the one hand, it provided ample room for individual identi?ication with the reform movement. On the other, it presaged the internal con?licts and ?issures that weakened Austrian Protestantism in later decades, not least of all between doctrinal moderates and the more fundamentalist followers of Matthias Flacius.13 By the middle of the century, a dissimilation into separate confessional communities was well on its way. At territorial diets, demands to hear the pure gospel gave way to demands to legalize the Augsburg Confession.14 In this process, most 12 Almost all Protestants in the Austrian lands were Lutherans, so that both terms can largely be used interchangeably in this article. For an examination of the few representatives of Austrian Calvinism and their role in Protestant politics, see also Thaler: ‘Conservative Revolutionary’, 544-564. 13 For the Istrian-born theologian Matthias Flacius, see Olson: Matthias Flacius, and Preger: Matthias Flacius. For Flacian tendencies in Lower Austria, see Reingrabner: ‘Zur Geschichte’, 265-301. 14 See Reingrabner: ‘Die kirchlichen Verhältnisse’, 14.
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