Pollonan Wars of Religion

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Pollonan Wars of Religion
Part of Alisnan wars of religion
Depiction of the Defenestration of Pisek
DateSeptember 1580 – November 1601 (21 years and 2 months)
LocationMoravia (Pollona)

Catholic - Protestant truce

Protestants Moravia Státníci Catholics
Casualties and losses

The Pollonan Wars of Religion refers to a period of civil unrest and wars between Catholics and Protestants for control of the Moravian Empire between 1580 and 1601. Social instability wrought by the Protestant Reformation, combined with the death of Emperor Borhumir in 1576, triggered a 21 year struggle over the succession. An estimated two million people died from the violence, famine, and disease, making it one of the bloodiest theaters in the Alisnan Reformation. The power struggle within the Royal Family involved the highest levels of the Moravian aristocracy.

After Borhumir's death in 1576, the Calvinist nobility lead an unsuccessful attempt to deny his Roman Catholic son, Prince Konrad, the throne. Emperor Konrad's persecution of leading Protestants sparked low-level sectarian violence. In 1580, four years into his reign, Konrad's brother Johan (a leading Calvinist) mounted a successful coup. For the next twenty years the factions loyal to Prince Konrad and Prince Johan fought to install their favored candidate on the throne. Foreign allies provided financial and military assistance to both sides: Prince Konrad and the Catholics were supported by XXXX, while XXXX supported the Protestants. Each successful deposition forced a new religion on the Empire, leading to a collapse of state control. The struggle continued even after Konrad died in battle and Johan was assassinated.

The final 'victory' went to the Státníci, a group of leading moderates who believed in the necessity of a strong, centralized state. The Státníci worked to balance the religious factions and maintain social cohesion, while simultaneously supplanting powerful Moravian aristocrats. Princess Katerina, a leading Státníci, ended the succession dispute upon her coronation in 1601. The Empress ratified a new religious settlement with the creation of the Moravian Episcopal Church in 1604. In promising toleration for minority Christian sects, persecution of heretical Christian denominations declined.

The Pollonan Wars of Religion began the permanent decline in the power of the nobility. Between 10-20% of the nobility were killed during the civil war, many from leading noble houses. In the aftermath, the College of Princes, which had previously elected Moravian Emperors, was abolished. Power in Moravia moved to the monarch and the Convention of Estates.

The Moravian Empire fell into protracted period of social and economic decline over this period, not recovering from the conflict until the mid-17th century.



Heretical sects had garnered attention in the Moravian Empire long before the Protestant Reformation. In the 13th and 14th centuries, the Drevians and the Estites challenged church doctrine and proposed reforms of the laity, garnering significant popular backing in the rural provinces. Waves of provincial rebellions and brutal crackdowns followed, and on each occasion these sects failed to garner lasting traction.

Immediately prior to the Reformation, the Moravian Catholic Church was one of the most expansive dioceses in Alisna. The Church owned approximately one quarter of all land in modern-day Pollona, and was the nation's largest employer. The most prized lands were the provinces and cities governed by the Prince-Bishoprics, such as XXXX and XXXX. In addition, the Church had free reign over its canon law, and maintained a close relationship with the Imperial Court. But, by the 16th century the Catholic Church was rocked by scandals and corruption. Modern sources estimate 2/5ths of church income was lost to fraud between 1540 and 1570. Rumors of Bishop's robbing local parishes and maintaining extravagant manors provoked outcry, and lead directly to a Brno mob murdering of Prince-Bishop XXXX in 1552. A Papal Commission in 1566 set up to investigate these corrupt practices never reported. Bishop Urbach of Pisek was unexpectedly demoted after complaining to the Pope about the sale of indulgences in 1557; Urbach later testified before the 1558 Moravian Convention.

Simultaneously, the Church hierarchy found itself locked in bitter political struggles. Moravian Bishops inherited longstanding disputes over territory following the 1515 diocese reorganization. Factions, centered around one Church leader or another, fought for the titles of Archbishop and Papal Legate. In the country as a whole, the Church hierarchy was highly unpopular, just at the moment leading Protestants challenged the Church's authority.

Humanist traditions were first introduced to Moravia in the 1540s, during Emperor Krištof's reign. Centered in the universities, the ideas of the literate, intellectual class were further circulated by the printing press. The Pollonan Reformation originated within "Puritan" Reform Societies in the theological colleges of Brno, Kralove, Darkovijal, and Pisek. These groups called for no theological break with the Church, only a reorganization, or "purification" of its processes and structures. In response, the Catholic Church attempted to shut down the societies. Undeterred, the Purtains publicly spread their ideas, with their new theology disseminating to commoners, petty laity, and the nobility. By 1570, as much 25-35% of the general population held Puritan sympathies.

In 1563, representatives of Moravian Puritan groups met at a council in Marianske, which published the Marianske Petition. The petition addressed the Archbishop of Moravia Ivan Ljavinec-Piętak and, surprisingly, Emperor Borhumir. The council denounced religious corruption and the Church's deviation from scripture. The Marianske Petition proposed several reforms: printing translations of the Bible, prohibiting indulgences, destroying church icons, ending simony (the sale of church positions), electing laity by local congregations, and simplifying liturgical ceremony. The Marianske Petition called for passive civil disobedience: a "protest," against the Church's continued "perversion of the faith." Opponents of the petition derided the signatories as "Protestants."

In response to the Marianske Petition, Archbishop Piętak called for Puritan works to be burned and excommunicated the Marianske signatories. Piętak announcement was vehemently resisted by the rural clergy. The crisis finally caught the attention of the Imperial Court and Emperor Borhumir in 1567. Initially the Emperor was wholly disinterested in the Reformation, but now saw the Catholic-Puritan split as a threat to his authority. Thus in 1567, the Emperor granted clemency to any Puritans who renounced heretical beliefs. Those who did not repent were to be fined, imprisoned, or executed. 150 Puritans were imprisoned or executed, far more renounced their faith. The Imperial Government however, continued to unofficially tolerate the Puritans, in part due to Puritan sympathies in Imperial Court and Borhumir's distrust of Piętak. The Puritan movement went underground, where it radicalized.

By the 1570s, the "Puritan Threat" dominated politics in the Moravian Church. After intense lobbying from Archbishop Piętak, the Pope issued an encyclical titled Misericordia Dei ("Mercy of God") in 1572. The Pope formally excommunicated all Moravian Puritans and any Moravian Catholics with Puritan sympathies. In response, 6 pro-Puritan bishops announced a counter-excommunication of the Pope and all members of the Moravian Catholic Church. By 1575, the Moravian Puritans became their own Christian denomination, resembling many of the other Protestant movements in Alisna.

The Succession

Since the foundation of the Moravian Empire in 1495, imperial succession customs largely followed those of neighboring Swabia. The Emperor was notionally 'appointed' by a council of local rulers and nobility known as the College of Princes. This Electoral College acted as a consultative body and rivaled the (still novel) Convention of Estates. The nobility saw the growing power of the Convention, with its popular elections, as a threat. In the 20 years before the Wars of Religion, leading nobles worked to abolish the Convention, but had been unsuccessful.

Given the emperor's influence and patronage, the reigning Emperor in practice guaranteed the election of his heir: by custom his eldest son. By tradition, Moravia was therefore a hereditary monarchy. However, the College of Princes could defy the Emperor's will regarding the succession, or under ancient custom 'revoke his appointment'. These powers however, had never been exercised.

Upon Borhumir's death, his 21 year old son Prince Konrad was expected to succeed to the throne. Konrad's council was fervently Catholic. If Konrad died without a male heir, the crown would pass to his brother: Prince Johan, a noted Puritan. However, Borhumir's eldest child was the 24 year old Princess Katerina. In Moravia, no woman had ever been considered a candidate for the throne. Thus Katerina and her heirs were technically excluded from the succession.


The five years leading up to the first Princes War were dominated by questions of religion. By now Puritans and Catholics fought for primacy within the Imperial Court. Though Catholic himself, Emperor Borhumir resisted pressure to dismiss heretical councilors or to outlaw Puritanism. The Church's incompetence infuriated the Emperor, seeing their corruption as a reflection on his rule. In addition Borhumir's wife, Valérie of Hlinsko, his second son Prince Johan, and his court favorite, Comptroller XXXX of XXXX, were known Puritans. In his dying days, the Emperor attempted one last reconciliation the faiths, but this was scuttled after the Pope threatened his excommunication.

Exclusion Crisis

By February 1576, Borhumir was clearly dying of tuberculosis. The council began preparations for his son, Konrad, to succeeded him, summoning the College of Princes to Kralove. However, many courtiers expressed concern with the succession. Konrad: vain, distant, and a fervent Catholic, advocated a very tough crackdown on Protestants. His marriage to Margaret of Morieux (though happy) was unpopular with the anti-Morivaine nobility. Lastly Konrad advisors, like XXXX, Duke of XXXX and the Lord Chamberlain XXXX, were deeply distrusted by the Protestants. Sensing the unease, leading Protestants within the court sought to deny Prince Konrad the throne, precipitating a political struggle known as the Exclusion Crisis.

The 25 Electors of the College of Princes met in the Imperial Palace on 17 March 1576. King-ELector XXXX of Votaz, champion of the Exclusionist cause, opened by questioning Konrad's suitability to lead given the socio-poliitcal crisis. The speech reveled a general anxiety among the Electors of the succession, and, in a boost to the Exclusionist cause, deliberated giving the throne to Konrad on terms. Given the sensitivity of the discussion, the College sat in closed session for the rest of the Spring, while the pro-Konrad and Exclusionist factions fought behind the scenes for the Elector's votes. Though originally a majority, the Exclusionists split along Catholic / Protestant lines and could not agree on a single alternate candidate. Emperor Borhumir, still very much alive, summoned the College to his residence and demanded they confirm his rightful heir: Konrad. When the Borhumir finally died on 25 May 1576, the Electors voted decisively to coronate Konrad as the new Emperor, without terms (though expecting the usual payment of cash bribes).

Emperor Konrad

Coup of September 1580


First Princes War

Emperor Johan

Defenestration of Pisek



Second Princes War


Bishop's Coup


Royal Force

Massacre at Gremwald

Third Princes War

Disappearance of Prince Eduard


Day of Idols

Kralove Uprising

Assassination of Johan

Fourth Princes War


Coronation of Katerina

2nd Marianske Conference

Estates Convention of 1605