Multiconfessionalism and Interconfessionality: Religious “Toleration” in Royal Prussia, Lithuania, and the Ruthenian Lands

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The last Lithuanian statute wrote into law the toleration that had been agreed among the Christian denominations at the Confederation of Warsaw in 1573. This, and a long tradition of coexistence between the religions in the Grand Duchy, where a majority of Christians were Orthodox, provided fertile ground for religious diversity throughout the whole of the early modern period. The early Lutheran Reformation reached Lithuania from Germany, but Scottish and English Presbyterianism, Antitrinitarians, Brethren and Socinians from Italy, Bohemia, Moravia, Switzerland and Poland equally left a mark. In a case study, this chapter
discusses the religious patronage networks that encouraged the settlement and spread of these religious groups by focusing on the protection provided by the Protestant line of the Radziwiłł family of Birże and Dubinki. While the influence of reformers and scholars such as Philipp Melanchthon, Andreas Volanus, and international Calvinist links to Germany, the Netherlands and the British Isles created the cultural environment for the spread of the Reformation, economic and political patronage consolidated interconfessional communities on the Radziwiłł estates. They increasingly came under threat from a proactive post-Tridentine Catholic church that used the same means that had once led to the considerable
influence of the Reformation in the Grand Duchy. This raises the question of the larger picture of the success or failure of the Protestant Reformation in Europe: why did the Commonwealth’s multi-confessional traditions, magnate confessionalization and patronage at a private level not suffice in order to create institutionalized Protestant churches in the Commonwealth?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMulticultural Commonwealth
Subtitle of host publicationPoland-Lithuania and its Afterlives
EditorsStanley Bill, Simon Lewis
Place of PublicationPittsburgh PA, USA
PublisherUniversity of Pittsburgh Press
Number of pages21
ISBN (Print)9780822948032, 0822948036
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 1 Feb 2021
EventMulticultural Commonwealth: : Diverse Identities in Poland-Lithuania - Sidney Sussex College Cambridge UK, Cambridge, United Kingdom
Duration: 14 Dec 201715 Dec 2017

Publication series

NameRussian and East European Studies


ConferenceMulticultural Commonwealth:
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address


  • Poland-Lithuania
  • Religion
  • Reformation
  • multi-cultural
  • toleration
  • interconfessionality


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