Austria Church History
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The Catholic Church prevailed in the Austrian Empire for many years prior to the Protestant Reformation in the early 1500s. At about that time, many important records began to be kept by Church officials concerning land, tax, court and other civil affairs. The Reformation provided much of the impetus for the widespread recording of parish registers even in the predominantly Catholic areas of Austria. Some early Protestant records date from 1523, and early Catholic records from 1560. The strong Catholic orientation of the Habsburg Dynasty succeeded in returning the Czech and Hungarian lands to the Catholic fold after a century of Protestant record keeping there. The Thirty-Years’ War 1618-1648 and other conflicts caused extensive damage to records in many areas.
Early in the 1400s reformer John Huss in Bohemia succeeded in creating a climate for change. His movement and the United Brethren who broke from the Hussites in 1467 preceded the general Reformation that engulfed Europe during the years 1520-1560. Lutheranism followed by Calvinism became popular in Bohemia and Moravia, as well as in Slovakia, Hungary and Transylvania. Unitarianism was popular in Transylvania. Anabaptists, Orthodox adherents and Jews were also prevalent. Ottoman rule in Hungary brought Muslim subjugation to all of these denominations in the 1600s. Lutheranism became strong in Slovenia and Salzburg in the 1520s, but was not so widespread in other western areas which remained primarily Roman Catholic.
The Catholic Counter-Reformation succeeded in regaining the entire territory for Catholicism. At that time, many Czech Protestants fled to Germany, and Lutherans, particularly Salzburgers, went to Prussia and Germany. Reformed Protestants went to Hungary, Poland and Transylvania. Hungary continued a Protestant tradition despite the Catholic status of the Empire. Orthodox adherents were prominent in Bukovina, Croatia and Slavonia, although they also were compelled to pledge their loyalty to the Pope in the 1600s, thus forming the Uniat or Greek-Catholic denomination. Jews were prevalent in Galicia and Bukovina.
In 1880, 78% of the population of Austria-Hungary was Roman Catholic, 10% Protestant, 6% Orthodox, 5% Jewish, and 1% Muslim. In 1991 religious affiliation in Austria was 89% Roman Catholic, 6% Protestant, 2% Muslim, 1% Orthodox, and 2% other.
The Roman Catholic Church has 2 archbishoprics and 7 bishoprics in Austria. The Protestants are primarily of the Augsburg (Lutheran) or Reformed (Calvinist) confessions. Several smaller independent groups include Mennonites, Huguenots, Baptists, Seventh-Day Adventists, Methodists, Apostolics, Jehovah’s Witnesses, etc.
REFORMATION IN AUSTRIA
|Brethren 1467-||Bohemia, Moravia||1620|
|Lutherans 1523-||Austria, Salzburg, Slovenia Bohemia, Moravia Hungary, Slovakia Banat, Transylvania||1627|
|Reformed (Calvinists) 1526-||Hungary Banat, Transylvania||1627|
|Hutterites (Anabaptists) 1528-||Moravia||1620|
|Orthodox 1586-||Banat, Transylvania Slavonia (Croatia) Galicia||1697 (Uniat)|
|Old Catholics 1872-||Austria|
- The Family History Department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, “Family History Record Profile: Austria,” Word document, private files of the FamilySearch Content Strategy Team, 1987-1999.