Liturgy, Politics, and Salvation: The Catholic League in Paris and the Nature of Catholic Reform, 1540-1630

By Baumgartner, Frederic J. | The Catholic Historical Review, October 2000 | Go to article overview

Liturgy, Politics, and Salvation: The Catholic League in Paris and the Nature of Catholic Reform, 1540-1630


Baumgartner, Frederic J., The Catholic Historical Review


Liturgy, Politics, and Salvation: The Catholic League in Paris and the Nature of Catholic Reform, 1540-1630. By Ann W Ramsey. (Rochester, NewYork: University of Rochester Press. 1999. Pp. xiii, 447. $99.00.)

Interest in the French Catholic League remains strong nearly forty years after social historians began to investigate the social tensions and divisions they deemed responsible for its formation. More recently the focus has been on the religious motivation of the Leaguers. Ann Ramsey has made a major contribution in demonstrating further the religious factors in the League and showing that the era of the League was a crucial phase in the transformation of Catholic piety. She has analyzed over 1,200 wills from Catholic testators from 1543-44, 1590, and 1630 to trace the changing nature of Catholic devotion. She uses 1543-44 because the testators represent a generation of Catholics still largely traditional in their religion. Over half of her wills come from 1590, when there was an extraordinarily high mortality rate in Paris because of Henry of Navarre's siege of the city; they allow the author to examine Catholic devotion at the height of Leaguer control of Paris. The year 1630 provides her with a point sufficiently far into the era of Catholic reform to provide a legitimate comparison.

What Ramsey looked for in the wills was evidence of performativity, immanence, and transcendence. By performativity she means those acts of religious ritual and symbolism such as providing for banquets, the ringing of church bells, and the presence of the poor in conjunction with funerals that confirm the presence of the spiritual within the physical world. It is very closely tied to immanence, for which the doctrine of transubstantiation is the most powerful example. Not only the Protestants but also the Council of Trent to a large extent sought to reduce the traditional Catholic sense of immanence and make the divine more transcendental, that is, removed from the physical world. Ramsey's analysis of the wills from 1543-44 in respect to the acts that the testators requested be carried out after their deaths reveals that Parisians were still traditional in their approach to religion.

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