Devotional Cultures of European Christianity, 1790-1960

By Heimann, Mary | The Catholic Historical Review, July 2013 | Go to article overview

Devotional Cultures of European Christianity, 1790-1960


Heimann, Mary, The Catholic Historical Review


Late Modern European Devotional Cultures of European Christianity, 1790-1960 Devotional Cultures of European Christianity, 1790-1960. Edited by Henning Laugerud and Salvador Ryan. (Dublin: Four Courts Press. Distrib. ISBS, Portland, OR. 2012. Pp. x, 209. euro29,95; $45.00 paperback. ISBN 9781-84682-303-9.)

This fine collection of scholarly essays, most of which were first delivered as workshop and conference papers, explores a variety of devotional cultures and devotional objects in Europe from the end of the French Revolution to the eve of the Second Vatican Council. Devotional Cultures of European Christianity, 1790-1960, opens with two excellent scene-setting pieces, one Protestant and one Catholic. The Protestant case study is an exploration by Arne Amundsen of the "devotion of the simple and pure" in the Haugean movement in Norway, a movement reminiscent of Pietist and Evangelical movements elsewhere.The Catholic case study is a characteristically thoughtful discussion by Sheridan Gilley of "Devotions and the Old Rite" as practiced in Britain, especially Ireland, from the long nineteenth century to the 1960s. Gilley's rejection of simplistic dichotomies between supposedly popular and voluntary as opposed to official and imposed devotions during the nineteenth-century Catholic restoration exposes the limitations of Weberian analysis as well as more recent, instrumentalist interpretations of widespread shifts in religious behavior.

Catholic devotional themes raised by Gilley are explored further in the collection in essays by Brendan McConvery on the effect of Redemptorist missions in spreading religious conformity (and arguably Catholic guilt) throughout Ireland and by Sarah Maclaren on the beatification of pious Italian housewives as a means of combating secularism. A further two articles focus on devotional objects popularly believed to have miraculous properties: Eli Seland looks at how Marian apparitions were represented on "miraculous" and other medals, whereas Ewa Klekot examines the use of paper or fabric Sacred Heart scapulars by soldiers in the Spanish Civil War to stop bullets.

Catholic and Protestant denominational rivalries are explored by Peter McGrail in an analysis of English hymnody; by Frances King in a richly illustrated micro-study of sectarian emblems displayed in Northern Irish homes; and by Henrik von Achen in a particularly fine exploration of medieval revivalist art and architecture across Europe that shows how neo-Gothic, as the self-consciously Christian style of the nineteenth century, sought to reenchant a secularized, postrevolutionary world. …

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