German religion is the source of a cultural north and south split. Remnants of the Thirty Years War, fought between Protestants and Catholics, exist today. Weather, landscape, and other factors reinforce the divide between Northern and Southern Germany.
After major meetings in Heidelberg and Munich, I suggested a future meeting in Berlin to a southern Germany colleague. His response, “Why would anyone want to meet in Berlin?” An odd response, given Berlin is Germany’s new capital. A better understanding of German history explains why the Deutsch in the south prefer their geography.
When Martin Luther pounded his objections to Catholic practices on the door of the Worms Cathedral in 1517, his hammer permanently cracked German religion. The Reformation Movement led to the Thirty Years War, a vicious conflict between the new Protestants and the Catholics aligned to the Holy Roman Empire. French, Scandinavian, and British armed forces joined Northern Germany. Austria, Spanish, and Italian forces sided with Southern Germany. By the end of the Thirty Years War, violence and disease decimated 15% or more of the German population. The majority of Catholics squeezed into two current southern states, Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria.
The German religion divide continued to separate north and south. Protestant northerners are considered sterner and serious with a stricter and more disciplined work culture than their more fun-loving southern neighbors. Each region celebrates different rituals during holidays, like Christmas.
Weather and landscape play a role in the divide. Southern Germany is warmer and sunnier. The rolling landscape becomes foothills to the Alps, which sculpture the southern border. North Sea and Baltic winds disrupt Northern Germany weather. A heavier population squeezes into a flatter and more industrialized landscape.
The North-South German divide is not acrimonious. It is a matter of pride and preference as to where Germans chose to live, work, and travel. Religious tolerance is high.
In Heidelberg, one of the warmest destinations in Southern Germany, lies the Church of the Holy Spirit. Above it is Heidelberg Castle, partially destroyed during the Thirty Years War. For most of its 500 years of existence the Church of the Holy Spirit served both Catholic and Protestant congregations. Despite warfare and geographic difference, German religion is sometimes ecumenical.