Militärhistorisches Museum der BundeswehrLandesamt für Archäologie - SachsenArchäologisches Landesmuseum Brandenburg im Paulikloster
1636 - Trailer

The Thirty Years War

The Thirty Years War, from 1618 to 1648, began as a religious conflict. Two hostile military alliances, the Catholic League and the Protestant Union, had emerged within the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and they now fought for supremacy in Europe. The confessional antagonism within the Empire was exacerbated by the dynastic rivalry between the Habsburg monarchies and France. Together with their allies among the German states, the Habsburg powers of Austria and Spain fought against France, which formed alliances with Denmark, Sweden and the Netherlands.

For thirty years armies marched all over the Holy Roman Empire and left trails of devastation behind them (Sebastian Vrancx, Camp scene, courtesy of the Hamburger Kunsthalle).

The conflict is divided into four consecutive phases named after the main opponents of the Habsburg emperor. The “Swedish War” began with that country’s entry into the conflict in 1630. Early successes were followed by a series of defeats and by 1636 the Swedish-led forces were close to collapse. Following their victory at Wittstock, the Swedes regained the upper hand and the war continued for another 12 years.

When the war ended in 1648, there was no clear victor. The treaties of Münster and Osnabrück, which together formed the Peace of Westphalia, put an end to the hostilities and to the atrocities committed against the civilian population. However, in many areas it took more than a century to heal the economic and social wounds caused by the fighting.