51 out of the 65 Imperial Cities became Protestant at some stage, by 1555 most of the imperial cities had adopted Lutheranism. Lutheranism gained popular support from below, for example in the city of Ulm 87% of the citizens voted in favour of the Reformation in 1530. Other factors influencing the spread and success of Luther’s ideas in Germany include the princes, peasants and the printing press.
The imperial cities were not under control by princes. Votes occurred for the citizens in the cities to choose what religion they would adopt and the majority vote won. Lutheranism was popular in the cities because anti-clericalism and nationalism had become strong in the cities. The population in cities was dense therefore ideas spread fast. Also, there were high literacy rates in the cities and a tradition of learning, therefore Luther’s publications such as his 95 theses and pamphlets were read by many of the citizens in the cities.
Lutheranism was popular in the cities because some cities had to accept Lutheran preachers merely because there was no alternative. Such as in Strasbourg in 1523, the preacher Matthew Zell was dismissed, but only other Protestants could be found to replace him. Eleven imperial cities joined the Schmalkaldic League in 1531, including Strasburg, Ulm and Bremen. The Schmalkaldic League was formed by the princes and other delegates in response to Charles V’s threat to stamp out Lutheranism.
The princes supported Lutheranism and helped spread his ideas, one reason being for material gain. They could take over Church lands or use the money for the benefit of their subjects, for example Philip of Hesse used 65% of his revenues for charitable deeds and the upkeep of the Lutheran Church. Another reason is for independence, for example Frederick of Saxony may have wanted to demonstrate his independence and authority as a Prince since he defied the Holy Roman Emperor. Without you Frederick supporting Luther he could have been executed for being a...