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Political and Religious Consolidation under Leopold
Reconstruction of the social, political, and economic infrastructure destroyed by the Thirty Years' War began during the reign of Ferdinand III (r. 1637-57) and continued through the reign of his son, Leopold I (r. 1658-1705). Central to the restoration of the Habsburgs' social and political base was the reestablishment of the Roman Catholic Church. But the Habsburgs did not seek to make the church an independent force within society. They found no contradiction between personal piety and use of religion as a political tool and defended and advanced their sovereign rights over and against the institutional church.
The Habsburg effort to establish religious conformity was based on the model already implemented in Bohemia. Closure of Protestant churches, expulsions, and Catholic appointments to vacated positions eliminated centers of Protestant power. Reform commissions made up of clergy and representatives of local diets appointed missionaries to Protestant areas. After a period of instruction, the populace was given a choice between conversion and emigration--an estimated 40,000 people emigrated between 1647 and 1652.
The reestablishment of Catholic intellectual life and religious orders and monasteries was a key component of Habsburg Counter-Reformation policies. The Jesuits led this effort, and their influence was broadly disseminated throughout Central European society, owing to their excellent schools, near monopoly over higher education, and emphasis on lay organizations, which provided a channel for popular devotional piety. Benedictine, Cistercian, and Augustinian monastic foundations were also revitalized through the careful management of their estates, and their schools rivaled those of the Jesuits.
Through the court's patronage of the arts and religious orders and through public celebrations, both secular and religious, the dynasty transmitted a worldview based on the values of the Counter-Reformation. These values, rather than common governmental institutions and laws, gave the Heriditary Lands a sense of unity and identity that compensated for the continued weakness of administrative bodies at the center of Habsburg rule.
Source: U.S. Library of Congress