ERNEST THE CONFESSOR AND THE REFORMATION IN BRUNSWICK-LUENEBURG: Duke of Brunswick-Lüneburg, known as "the Confessor;" b. at Uelzen (20 m. s.s.e. of Lüneburg) June 26, 1497; d. at Celle Jan. 11, 1546. In 1512 he was sent to the court of his mother's brother, the elector Frederick the Wise, at Wittenberg, and received instruction there from Georg Spalatin; he remained at Wittenberg through the beginning of the Reformation. In 1520 his father, Henry, associated with himself in the government his two sons, Otto and Ernest, and abdicated the same year. By the retirement of Otto in 1527 Ernest became sole ruler. The condition of his domain was not prosperous. Political considerations doubtless furthered the introduction of the Reformation; it offered opportunity to restrict the privileges of the nobles and the clergy and to increase the revenues from church and monastery property. The forerunner of the Reformation in Lüneburg was a certain Wolf Cyclop, a physician from Zwickau, who was not free from the Zwickau enthusiasm (see ZWIKAU PROPHETS). Saner men followed him, such as Gottschalk Cruse, Heinrich Bock, and Matthäus Mylow. Ernest was inclined to move slowly, but in 1525 the Peasants' War gave him occasion to call upon the monasteries for lists of their property and to require them to admit Protestant preachers; he promised the elector of Saxony to stand by the Protestant cause. After an attempt of the Roman Catholic party to reinstate his father in 1527 had failed, his course became more decided. In July, 1527, the first book of discipline was adopted, drawn up by the preachers of Celle. At a diet in August of the same year it was ordered that "God's pure word should be preached everywhere without additions made by men." Between 1527 and 1530 Lutheran preachers were introduced in most parishes, and into the monasteries, not in all cases without compulsion. Ernest went to Augsburg in 1530 and signed the Confession. He brought back Urbanus Rhegius (q.v.), who worked for the spread of the Reformation (after 1541 as superintendent) and introduced it into the city of Lüneburg. The largest and richest monastery in the land, St. Michael's in Lüneburg, accepted the new order after the death of Abbot Boldewin in 1532. Rhegius died in 1541 and was succeeded by Martin Ondermark, who completed the former's work.
In general it may be said that the preachers were well disposed to the reformed religion, while the people held to the old and only gradually adapted themselves to the new. During the Schmalkald War the land remained true to the Gospel. After 1530 Ernest was the most influential prince of North Germany. He sent Rhegius to Hanover when the Reformation there threatened to become revolution and restored order. In the cities of Westphalia he strengthened the Protestant party against both the Roman Catholics and the enthusiasts, although his efforts were vain in Münster. His influence was also felt in Pommerania and Mecklenburg, in Hoya, and in East Friesland. His most effective work probably was accomplished by his restless activity for the Schmalkald League. He induced the North German cities, Hamburg, Bremen, Brunswick, Göttingen, and others to join, and he often became the successful mediator when a rupture was threatened between the overcautious elector of Saxony and the headstrong Philip of Hesse. While Ernest sometimes used harsh measures to accomplish his will, and was actuated by a desire to exalt his position as ruler as well as by higher motives, yet, on the whole, he was faithful to his motto, aliis inserviendo consumor. His four sons at his death were still minors, but the Protestant Church of Lüneburg was so firmly established that it could survive the regency and the unhappy time of the Schmalkald War, and to this day the church life of Lüneburg bears the character impressed upon it by Ernest the Confessor.