Catholics in Schleswig-Holstein
Since the end of the Thirty Years War freedom of worship was eliminated in Schleswig-Holstein. Protestantism was the overriding religion of the population. Catholics were in the minority, but present. Lutheran ministers were required to give a report (Visitationsprotokolle) of people of other faiths within their parishes. In the 16 and 1700s there existed four so called “Priviligierte Orte” (privileged places) were Catholic priests were allowed to administer. They were Altona, Glückstadt, Friedrichstadt and Nordstrand. The priests were not permitted to minister outside the boundaries of these four towns. Therefore, Catholics who did not live within these four places had to walk long distances to attend a sermon, get married, have a baptism or be present at a funeral.
There are two reasons why Catholics had a presence in Schleswig-Holstein. Several wars in the 17th and 18th century brought with them Catholic soldiers, who stayed put after they served their time. During the Northern War alone (around 1700) approx. 7000 soldiers mainly from Münsterland were looked after by the priests of the above mentioned privileged places.
Catholics had to function under various constraints. They were not allowed to proselyte and if they married a person of another faith had to marry Lutheran and their children had to become Lutherans. If they did not comply, they had to leave the country without their families. Catholic merchants, craftsmen and artists were given residence, if they contributed financially or through their craft. 50.000 priests left during the French Revolution, but were denied entrance in Schleswig-Holstein. 400 of them lived in Altona as refugees.
Holstein granted Catholics freedom of worship in 1863. After the war between Prussia and Austria against Denmark Schleswig followed suit in 1864.
In the 20th century the percentage of Catholics rose following WWII. Today 7% of the whole population in Schleswig-Holstein is Catholic.
Monsignore Peter Schmidt-Eppendorf "Die Geschichte der katholischen Kirche in Schleswig-Holstein von der Reformation bis zur Gegenwart" in Nordelbische Genealogentreffen, Ricklingen, 2003