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The Kulturkampf – Political Cartoon of 1875

Introduction

When Bismarck became Chancellor of Germany in the 19th century, one of his most important aims was to unite the country. To maintain that unity, he would not withstand anything that threatened it. The Catholic Centre party was at odds with Bismarck, and the stakes were high (Retallack, 2018). The type of battle Bismarck was used to was a political one. He had to look for means to counter the Catholic Centre party affiliated with the church. To oppose the Catholic Centre party, he had to weaken the church’s influence. Some measures that undermined the church’s influence included mandatory civil marriages and school inspections. This led to high tension between Germany and the Catholic hierarchy, as portrayed in the cartoon of Bismarck and Pope Pius IX while playing a chess game. Therefore, this essay will examine the cartoon and describe the tension between the church hierarchy and Germany.

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The Cartoon and Tension between Germany and the Catholic Church Hierarchy

1875 marked the lowest point in the history of relations between Prussia and the Catholic Church. That same year, the Pope issued an encyclical declaring that the Kulturkampf laws (cultural struggle laws) promulgated by Prussian Minister of Culture Adalbert Falk were unconstitutional and non-binding on Catholic priests (Simon, 2021). A campaign against priests was launched as a result, with the Prussian government threatening to withhold all government subsidies from those who did not sign an official written declaration stating that they would adhere t-o the laws of the land.

In the satirical journal Kladderadatsch’s cartoon Zwischen Berlin und Rom (Between Berlin and Rome), this increased conflict between state and church is depicted as a chess game, illustrating the tensions between the two institutions. Bismarck and Pope Pius IX are the main characters (1792-1878, elected 1846). Pope Pius IX puts it in the caption that the last move was certainly unpleasant for him. He further states that the game was not over yet because he still had a great move. Bismarck tells him that at that point, he (the Pope) had already lost – at least for Germany. He tells him that that will be the Pope’s last move, and then he will have failed. There is also a set of papal chess pieces displayed next to Bismarck’s right hand, “interned.” These “interned” chess pieces represent church property that the Prussian state has seized. Bismarck also has the queen and other chess pieces labeled “press,” bearing the emblem of other legal paragraphs designed to reduce the clerical influence.

Among the Pope’s tools are papal encyclicals, syllabi (such as the Syllabus of Errors, published in 1864), and the threat of ex-communication. One of his pieces is inscribed with the letter “W” in honor of the leader of the Center Party, Mr. Ludwig Windthorst (1812-1891). Both Pope Pius IX and Bismarck wanted to prove their superiority over the other. When one makes a move, the other counters it, as portrayed in chess. This showed how far the tension between Germany and the Catholic Church hierarchy had sprung.

Conclusion

In conclusion, there is tension arising between the Prussian state and the Catholic church. Prussian Minister of Culture Adalbert Falk set laws better known as Kulturkampf laws (cultural struggle laws) which caused Pope to issue an encyclical declaring these laws unconstitutional and non-binding on Catholic priests (Simon, 2021). To counter this, the Prussian government officials threatened to withdraw government subsidies on all Catholic priests unless they declared in writing that they would adhere to these laws. The cartoon portraying the chess game between Bismarck and Pope Pius IX illustrates this tension between the Prussian government and the Catholic Church hierarchy.

References

Retallack, J. (2018). Forging an empire: Economy, society, culture, and politics, 1866–1890. In Germany’s Second Reich (pp. 3-43). University of Toronto Press.

Simon, W. M. (2021). Germany in the Age of Bismarck. Routledge.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, October 21). The Kulturkampf – Political Cartoon of 1875. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/the-kulturkampf-political-cartoon-of-1875/

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StudyCorgi. "The Kulturkampf – Political Cartoon of 1875." October 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-kulturkampf-political-cartoon-of-1875/.

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StudyCorgi. 2022. "The Kulturkampf – Political Cartoon of 1875." October 21, 2022. https://studycorgi.com/the-kulturkampf-political-cartoon-of-1875/.

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StudyCorgi. (2022) 'The Kulturkampf – Political Cartoon of 1875'. 21 October.

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