Early Modern European -- Wondrous in His Saints: Counter-Reformation Propaganda in Bavaria by Philip M. Soergel

Article excerpt

Wondrous in his Saints Counter-Reformation Propaganda in Bavaria. By Philip M. Soergel.

Studies on the History of Society and Culture, 17.

(Berkeley: University of California Press. 1993. Pp. xv, 239. $38.00.)

This book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the origins and success of the Counter-Reformation in sixteenth-century Germany. Using printed pilgrimage books, Philip Soergel shows how the deeply ingrained habit of peregrination characteristic of late medieval Bavaria was revived after 1560 and transformed into the cornerstone of renewed Catholic piety. Key to this transformation was the rehabilitation of miracles and exorcisms as proof of the on-going validity of Catholic tradition. Playing on Protestant anxiety over the lack of "stunning miracles of confirmation" and a widespread fear of the devil, Bavarian propagandists promoted traditional pilgrimage practices as "spiritual medicine for heretical poison" and an antidote against diabolical attack. Buoyed by the support of the Bavarian dukes, especially Albrecht V (1550-1579), these writers fused the political and religious Interests of the duchy into a potent source of Counter-Reformation ideology.

At the core of the book and of Soergel's argument is an analysis of Martin Eisengrein's influential pilgrimage book, Our Lay at Aloetting, first published in 1571 and reprinted at least ten times before 1625. Eisengrein(1538-1578), a Lutheran convert, was a vigorous defendet of Catholic orthodoxy. Called by Albrecht V from Vienna to Bavaria, he became a member of the theological faculty at the University of Ingolstadt, provost of Altoetting, and ultimately superintendent of the University. His pilgrimage book, Soergel argues, signaled the emergence of a new genre of popular Catholic apologetics which has retained its vitality in Bavaria to the present day.

To revive the pilgrimage to Altoetting and establish a new identity for the shrine, Eisengrein created a new, mythic history that tied the cult to the earliest days of Bavatian history. …