Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Eagle and the Cross: Jesuits in Late Baroque Prague

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Eagle and the Cross: Jesuits in Late Baroque Prague

Article excerpt

The Eagle and the Cross: Jesuits in Late Baroque Prague. By Paul Shore. [No. 16 in Series 3: Original Studies Composed in English.] (St. Louis: Institute of Jesuit Sources. 2002. Pp. xiii, 267. $22.95 paperback.)

It is a difficult task to study the old Society of Jesus in early modern Bohemia. Relatively few records of the mid-eighteenth century are extant in the Historical Archives of the Jesuits in Rome, and the archive of the former Bohemia Province is scattered today in several holdings in Prague and Vienna. Moreover, Czech historians have not generally looked kindly on the Society, identifying it with repressive Habsburg rule and the suppression of Czech language and culture after the Battle of White Mountain. Anyone who approaches the task needs a good command of Latin, German, and Czech, as well as a good knowledge of the general history of the Society. For these reasons, Shore has restricted his investigation to the last three decades of the old society in Prague.

This informative and competently researched study is divided into eight chapters. An introductory chapter discusses the limitations of the highly formalistic Jesuit sources, especially the Annual Letters (a point repeated several times in later chapters), and outlines the themes to be followed in the book. Chapter Two, entitled "From Victory to Crisis (1556-1765)," gives a sketch of the history of the Society in Counter-Reformation Bohemia, and emphasizes the privileged position the Jesuits enjoyed in consolidating Habsburg rule and Tridentine Catholicism in an erstwhile Hussite and Protestant country. A subsequent chapter surveys the literature on the Baroque and offers interesting and insightful discussion of Baroque mentality and culture, with its many contradictions and tensions. The next four chapters arrange material gleaned from the author's diligent perusal of Jesuit sources and group the large amount of information into four themes: missionary and religious work (Chapter Four), relationship with Jews (Chapter Five), the education endeavor of the Jesuits (Chapter Six), and individual biographies of leading Prague Jesuits (Chapter Seven). A final chapter traces the fortunes of individual members after the dissolution of the Society and offers reflections on the character of the pre-suppression Order. …

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