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Truly romantic: the world-famous ruins

Heidelberg Palace

Ausschnitt aus dem Titelbild; Foto: Johannes A Lasco-Bibliothek, Emden
From the Electoral Palatinate out into the world

The "Heidelberg

Catechism"

The "Heidelberg Catechism" was established in 1563, commissioned by Prince-Elector Friedrich II von der Pfalz. As one of the most important confessional documents of the Reformed church, it found wide application following its acceptance at the Synod of Dort in 1618/19.

Portrait of Zacharius Ursinus. Image: Wikipedia, public

Ursinus carried out the commissioned work.

A unified doctrine for the Electoral Palatinate

With his commissioning of Zacharias Ursinus, a student of Phillipp Melanchthon, Prince-Elector Friedrich III initiated the drafting of the "Heidelberg Catechism." It was his intention that this would further his predecessor's reformation efforts. Simultaneously, he hoped to reconcile the conflict in the Electoral Palatinate surrounding the various reform movements through a unified doctrine. The first edition appeared in the spring of 1563 entitled "Catechism or Christian instruction, as practiced in the churches and schools of the Electoral Palatinate."

Prince-Elector Friedrich III, statue on the Friedrich Building at Heidelberg Palace. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

The prince-elector concerned himself with faith in the Electoral Palatinate.

Spreading the doctrine

The third edition of the "catechism" was accepted into the Electoral Palatinate's church order in November 1563, and is therefore the most commonly found edition. This new order now applied to the entire Electoral Palatinate. Unfortunately, Friedrich III's goal of anchoring a unified doctrine within his realm failed due to a lack of willingness in the Upper Palatinate. However, the "Heidelberg Catechism" quickly gained currency in other territories through missionaries, trade and emigration.

The Synod of Dort (1618/19), 17th-century engraving. Image: Wikipedia, public

The "Heidelberg Catechism" was accepted in Dordrecht.

Incitations for the Reformed believers

In 1618/19, the National Synod of Dort declared the "Heidelberg Catechism" as the new doctrine and book of the Reformed church. The many cited bible passages were intended to inspire independent bible study and thought, and as an expression of the gospel. It still finds criticism and acceptance today, prompting people to perpetually ask and answer questions.

View across Heidelberg Palace into the Neckar valley. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Günther Bayerl

From Heidelberg out into the world.

A small book with a large influence

The "Heidelberg Catechism" was an influential work, even at its inception and, within a few decades, became the most important lesson book for Reformed Christians. Following the Synod of Dort, the book gained currency worldwide as a symbol of awakening and change in Europe, America and Asia. To this day, the "Heidelberg Catechism"—now translated into more the 40 languages—steers the lives of more than 20 million people.