Swiss history: How the ‘sausages affair’ triggered the protestant reformation

Swiss history: How the 'sausages affair' triggered the protestant reformation
The 100 metres long monument in Geneva depicts Protestant Reformation figures. Photo by Fabrice Coffrini / AFP
Switzerland is a country of rules and regulations, but it was actually an illegal consumption of meat that ignited the Reformation in the 16th century.

In 1522, the so-called “Affair of the Sausages” led to the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland — the religious revolution that spread throughout Catholic Europe.

Switzerland played a pivotal role in that upheaval.

And it all started with some smoked sausages.

In 1522, Huldrych Zwingli, a pastor of the Grossmünster in Zurich, criticised the practice of fasting during Lent. At that time, breaking fast went not only against the dogma of the Roman Catholic Church, but it was illegal as well.

One day during the Lent season, Zwingli was at the house of a Protestant sympathiser when the men present there ate some pork sausages.

There was no Twitter or Instagram in those days, but the sausage eaters made sure the news of their deliberate act of defiance spread around town.

When it did, all hell broke loose — figuratively speaking, of course. Zwingli took the opportunity to defend his friends’ action, delivering a sermon entitled “Regarding the Choice and the Freedom of Foods”. In it, he declared: “If you want to fast, do so; if you do not want to eat meat, don’t eat it; but allow Christians a free choice”. 

Such a statement did not sit well with the Catholic Church hierarchy. The Bishop of Konstanz was so upset by the incident and Zwingli’s defense of it, that he called for new laws banning the preaching of Protestant ideas in Switzerland. 

That, however, did not happen, and the sausage incident won wide popular support for Zwingli’s cause. By 1525, the Reformation became firmly established in Switzerland. 

READ MORE: Swiss history: How the army attacked Liechtenstein three times — by mistake





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