Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque: Religious Identity in Southwest Germany, 1550-1750

Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque: Religious Identity in Southwest Germany, 1550-1750

Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque: Religious Identity in Southwest Germany, 1550-1750

Catholic Revival in the Age of the Baroque: Religious Identity in Southwest Germany, 1550-1750

Synopsis

This book seeks to explain the origins of the Catholic identity of the population of southwest Germany between 1550 and 1750. Many studies of this subject credit rulers and church leaders with creating and enforcing religious identity in Germany "from above." In contrast, this study argues that there were important local and religious reasons why people came to consider themselves loyal Catholics; and in order to understand the origins of Catholic identity, it examines the nature of "Baroque Catholicism"--including the significance of pilgrimages, processions, confraternities, and other religious ceremonies.

Excerpt

It is possible to identify a number of fundamental characteristics of popular religious practice in the Catholic villages and towns of Southwest Germany. Throughout the early modern period, but particularly in the century after 1650, popular Catholicism centered around public and often dramatic practices, especially pilgrimage, processions, and the festivals of the liturgical year, many of which were associated with the immenselypopularcult of the Virgin Mary. This dramatic religious style, which we tend to associate with Baroque Catholicism, was complemented by a commitment to regular daily and weekly church services which fed the popular appetite for the other central cult, that of the Eucharist.

Much of popular Catholicism remained communal and public. In the eighteenth century there was, however, a trend toward more individual and private religious devotion. Such devotions were part of pilgrimage piety, included in regular parish services, and could be found within confraternities. The prayers of the Rosary, most often practiced by women in small groups or individually, spread quickly and widely in this part of Germany and served as a kind of benchmark of more individualized devotional practices.

Despite the growing popularity of individual devotional practices, which were generally promoted by the clergy, popular Catholicism never succumbed to the other efforts by lay and clerical elites to regularize, systematize, and simplify religious practice. Instead, Catholic practice in Southwest Germany became ever more diverse and elaborate after 1650. Peasants and townspeople built more churches and chapels, they went on new pilgrimages, supported additional holidays and new saints, embraced additional devotions, and attended more frequent church services. When “Josephine” and “enlightened” reformers complained in the late eighteenth century about the great quantity of church services and the time people needed to participate in them, they were not necessarily exaggerating.

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