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The Peace Festival in Augsburg on August 8 has been Germany’s only municipal public holiday since 1950. Also known as the “Augsburg High Peace Festival,” this annual festival is only celebrated in Augsburg, a city with Roman Catholic roots that once forbid its citizens the right to practice the Christian faith as Protestants. The bitter divide between Roman Catholics and Protestants has a long ignoble history, which makes the festival even more significant in our world where passionate religious beliefs still lead to wars not just between nations, but within families.
History of Peace Festival in Augsburg
Few subjects can turn an otherwise pleasant conversation into a heated argument like religion and politics. Most of us have been well-advised to avoid bringing up either topic at family gatherings, in the workplace, or just about any casual setting. Yet the people of “Augsburg, the City of Peace,” demonstrate every year that peace is absolutely attainable when we set aside our differences and instead focus on what we all have in common.
Nearly half of Augsburg’s population today is made up of migrants from all over the world, with a broad swath of diverse religious faiths and practices. Given the city’s early history of religious persecution, it is notable that today the entire city of Augsburg closes shop for the day to participate in the city’s mandate to continue their historic peaceful coexistence based on the pursuit of religious freedom. In a modern world where discussions about religious freedom and tolerance are more often avoided and even excluded from public debate, the people of Augsburg put the right of every individual to practice their faith freely front and center during Augsburg’s annual celebration of peace.
Augsburg, Germany was essentially ground zero for the growing political conflict left in the wake of the Christian Reformation movement in Europe in the early sixteenth century. The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V outlawed the burgeoning Lutheran church in 1521, but the Lutheran movement continued to flourish until 1529 when Charles declared that Catholicism was to be restored everywhere in Germany. German princes and estate owners loudly and publicly denounced the Emperor’s decree. This is where the term Protestant was coined, referring to the princes and estate owners who protested the Emperor’s decree. In 1531 Charles ordered all Lutherans to reunite with the Catholic church, causing Protestants to grow more defiant.
By 1552, Charles acquiesced and accepted the existence of the rapidly expanding evangelical church, promising to settle the controversy. But it was not until 1555 that peace was established between the Lutherans and Catholics with The Augsburg Declaration of Religious Freedom in the city of Augsburg. The declaration guaranteed Protestants the right to practice their faith in the city of Augsburg. But the peace accord only included Lutheran Protestants, although it did permit other Protestant citizens like the Calvinists to relocate their families to other regions where their faith was more compatible with local doctrine.
In 1629, seventy-four years after winning the legal right to practice their faith, Lutheran Protestants were again banned from practicing their faith in Augsburg, until the Peace of Westphalia was signed in 1648, reinstating the original 1555 Augsburg Declaration of Religious Freedom.
Protestants organized the first “Augsburg High Peace Festival” in 1650, two years after the Peace of Westphalia, as their commitment to carry forward the peaceful coexistence of “Augsburg, the City of Peace,” for future generations. Today the festival is an interreligious and intercultural celebration, preceded by a week of cultural events leading up to the holiday on August 8.
Peace Festival in Augsburg timeline
Lutheran Protestants are guaranteed the right to practice their faith in the city of Augsburg, Germany.
Protestant citizens of Augsburg are the first to commemorate the end of religious oppression, two years after winning equality with the Roman Catholic church.
By decree of the Bavarian state parliament, August 8 is declared a state holiday within the city boundaries of Augsburg.
The Augsburg Peace Prize is awarded every three years to an individual who has been influential in stimulating and facilitating interfaith dialog.
Peace Festival in Augsburg FAQs
Where in Germany is Augsburg?
Augsburg is a city in southern Germany in the state of Bavaria that was founded by the Romans in 14 B.C.
What are the Bavarian countries?
Bavaria is one of 16 states in the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) of which Bavaria is the largest, covering nearly one-fifth of the total land area of Germany. Bavaria is in the southern part of Germany and borders Austria, the Czech Republic, and Switzerland. Its neighboring German states are the FRB states of Baden-Wuerttemberg, Hesse, Thuringia, and Saxony.
How far is Augsburg from Munich?
The distance from Augsburg to Munich is 57 kilometers or 35 air miles. The closest major airport is Munich.
How to Observe Peace Festival in Augsburg
Listen to vintage peace ballads
Classic peace ballads never lose their appeal from one generation to the next. Their timeless messages are as relevant today as they were when first recorded. Today is a good day to create your own playlist of classic peace ballads. Start your list with one of our favorite peace ballads, ”Blowin’ in the Wind,” recorded by Bob Dylan in 1963. If you are lucky enough to own any of these poignant ballads on vinyl or compact disc, then you are already rockin’ for peace.
We can all be advocates for peace by focusing on what we have in common rather than what makes us different. Today is a good day to make mend broken relationships and give peace a chance.
Discuss the importance of religious tolerance
Negotiating peace in a restless world is a skill that can and should be taught at an early age. The Peace Festival in Augsburg is a perfect way to introduce children to the importance of respecting the rights of others to choose how to express their religious faith.
Five Inspiring Quotes About Peace
”Let us forgive each other - only then will we live in peace"
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.”
Proverbs 17:28, Biblical Proverb
“Even a fool, when he holds his peace, is counted wise.”
“Peace is not absence of conflict, it is the ability to handle conflict by peaceful means.”
“Five great enemies to peace inhabit with us: avarice, ambition, envy, anger, and pride. If those enemies were to be banished, we should infallibly enjoy perpetual peace.”
Why Peace Festival in Augsburg is Important
The celebration of religious freedom
The Augsburg Peace Festival reminds us that religious freedom is a priceless treasure. The intentional open dialog between different faith communities in the city of Augsburg every year seems almost counterintuitive in the face of increasing intolerance for religious freedom in many parts of the free world. The festival delivers a powerful message of hope we all need.
It proves that lasting peace is possible
The annual Augsburg Peace Festival demonstrates that long-lasting peace is possible when we respect our differences but focus on our commonalities for the good and advancement of everyone.
Peace inspires creativity
The suffering of religious martyrs and mankind’s hunger for peace and freedom has inspired artists, poets, writers, dancers, and musicians to create some of the world’s most captivating and magnificent masterpieces. The Augsburg Peace Festival integrates the creative and performing arts into its educational outreach programs to positively influence future generations and the world with impactful messages of tolerance and peace.
Peace Festival in Augsburg dates