Dissemination and Contemporary Impact of the Reformation in a European Context

Verein für Reformationsgeschichte; Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte, Mainz; Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies at the University of Arizona
07.06.2012 - 09.06.2012
Elizabeth Ellis-Marino, Department of History, University of Arizona

The conference “Dissemination and Contemporary Impact of the Reformation in a European Context” was co-sponsored by the Verein für Reformationsgeschichte, the Leibniz-Institut für Europäische Geschichte, Mainz, and the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies at the University of Arizona. It brought together scholars from eight countries and various academic fields including history, musicology, art history, and theology.

Introductions and welcome were given by the co-directors of the conference, Irene Dingel of the IEG and Ute Lotz-Heumann of the Division for Late Medieval and Reformation Studies. The co-directors emphasized the goals of the conference as examining the transmission of the Reformation and the impact thereof in a trans-national European context. The conference was divided into three large thematic sections, with three to four panels in each section.

The first thematic section dealt with methods of communication, media and discourses of the Reformation, and had four panels, each of two papers. The first panel was concerned with the transmission of Reformation ideas in and through writings for and about the princely and noble class of Europe. IRENE DINGEL (Mainz) directed attention to Protestant and Catholic funeral sermons as a means of communication in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century German and French speaking territories. She analyzed biblical typologies and their use for regulatory models in the early modern period in a comparative perspective. Clearly, these models crossed spatial and confessional boundaries in order to uphold ideas of “good order” or "virtues" in both Protestant and Catholic contexts. In the period discussed, sermons were predominately stylized, rather than discussing the individuality of the deceased.

SUSAN RICHTER (Heidelberg) examined the transmission of Protestant ideas in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century princely testaments. With their often-formalized statements of faith, testaments served to re-enforce the canon of knowledge for the new religion and defined expectations for princely successors. Testaments served as a way of creating some continuity between generations within a princely house and as a medium of communication between Europe’s Protestant dynasties. The fact that Danish and then Swedish testaments followed German models gives a view into their spread in Europe.

The second panel discussed the dissemination of Reformation ideas in and through popular religious literature. UTE LOTZ-HEUMANN (Tucson, AZ) spoke about strategies used by preachers in the spread of Protestant ideas among the people, using the discourses related to Lutheran miraculous healing springs. Reformers enthusiastically embraced these healing waters as Lutheran healing wells, but at the same time were careful to emphasize the act of healing as a gift of God, rather than the water itself or a saint. Lutheran preachers writing about holy wells are an example of the educated adopting the modes of popular culture, while at the same time modifying them to fit reformed worldviews and theology.

MARY JANE HAEMIG (St. Paul, MN) tracked the spread of the ideas of Haustafel literature through German and English sermons and devotional literature. Printed Haustafel literature, which describes in detail the ideal relationships between not only members of a household, but also of people of differing ranks in society, expanded in Germany in the second half of the sixteenth century. Haustafel content was also transmitted across Europe, particularly through prayer books, which were translated into most European languages. Haustafel forms became so ingrained into devotional literature that they appear in missionary literature translated into Native American languages.

The third panel concentrated on the confessionalization of two literary genres and their spread across Europe. MATTHIAS POHLIG (Münster) discussed the question "what is confessional historiography?" from three angles: First, he argued that historiography in the sixteenth century was not completely confessionalized; second, he showed that Protestants had a greater affinity to history-writing than Catholics; and third, he emphasized that the Reformation resulted in the confessional fragmentation of historiography in Europe, while at the same time forging inner-confessional cooperation across national and territorial borders.

HENNING P. JÜRGENS (Mainz) examined the development and spread of hymnbooks and psalters in a European context. In the early Reformation, spontaneous song was a means of building and strengthening Lutheran identity. Songbooks, begun as a deliberate effort at catechization by Luther, then became key to developing Lutheran liturgy. Lutheran influence on the Reformed tradition can be seen in the development of songbooks in Strasbourg, which traveled across the Francophone world of the Reformed, primarily in the form of psalters.

The fourth panel dealt with artistic and musical production as a reflection of a growing confessional identity. JÜRGEN HEIDRICH (Münster) pointed to the teaching and performance of music as a key aspect in the development of a Lutheran tradition. Luther’s dictum that music was "optima ars" led to a high regard for music and musical education in the Lutheran church. In his paper, Heidrich examined the career of Johann Walter, Luther's musical "advisor" and the first cantor at the Torgau town choir.

RUTH SLENCZKA (Berlin) problematized the idea of the “Reformation of the image” by examining the works and the funeral sermon of Lucas Cranach the Younger. The emphasis in Cranach’s funeral sermon is not on what he painted, but rather his artistic achievements. In addition, the mentality of the artist, that is his fearlessness of the power of images, is held up as an example for the sermon’s audience. Slenczka argued that art expertise could be either Catholic or Protestant. Nevertheless, the clear theological underpinnings of most of Cranach’s work as well as his funeral sermon were Lutheran. Cranach therefore represented a combination of the trans-confessional Renaissance aesthetic and Lutheran theology.

The second thematic section examined the participants and human mediators of this transmission, and had three panels. The first panel dealt with conditions for the spread of the Reformation. WOLF-FRIEDRICH SCHÄUFELE (Marburg) emphasized the role of the so-called “pre-reformers,” especially the Waldensians, Hussites, and Lollards. Particularly their emphasis on vernacular scriptures can be seen as a forerunner of Reformation ideas. Although the theology of these groups was not identical to that of the reformers, Schäufele argued that their activities helped to ease the reception of Reformation ideas, and the networks through which these ideas spread.

CHRISTOPHER CLOSE (Philadelphia, PA) argued for the consideration of the region (here defined as multiple interlinking political entities) as a paradigm of historical analysis by examining two cross-confessional alliances: the Union of Utrecht in the Low Countries, and the Landsberg League in upper Germany. Urban reformers recognized that the success of the Reformation in their city depended on general peace in the region around it. Therefore, Protestant city fathers were willing to make alliances with local powers, be they Catholic or Protestant, under the banner of “peace and tranquility”.

The second panel dealt with actors and their communications in the Reformation’s spread. ALEXANDER SCHUNKA (Erfurt) presented two perspectives on religious exiles in the Reformation: On the one hand, religious exiles were perceived (and styled themselves) as "witnesses of the faith" and they often served as mediators between their old and new homes. On the other hand, one should not forget the practical aspects of migration which often involved economic and social considerations which concerned religious and "regular" migrants alike.

The magisterial end of the spread of the Reformation was emphasized by JOHANNES WISCHMEYER (Mainz) in his examination of the development of church ordinances. As documents that brought together theology and liturgical questions with prescriptions for practice and lifestyle, church ordinances were developed in nearly every Protestant territory in Europe. Church ordinances were mostly drawn up by university professors, most notably Philipp Melanchthon and Johannes Bugenhagen. They were the result of negotiations between different actors, especially the political authorities and the reformers, and there was a lively exchange of these documents in Europe.

In the third panel DUANE CORPIS (Ithaca, NY) reminded the audience of the ambiguities of the word “convert.” While we speak of reformers such as Luther having a “conversion experience,” the dominant meaning of the English verb “to convert,” meaning to change allegiance from one religion to another, does not apply to these early breakthroughs. The variety of German words used for the reformers' experiences, both in primary sources and secondary literature, gives some idea of its ambiguity. Corpis argued for more linguistic clarity on the part of English-language Reformation scholars.

The third thematic section dealt with the spatial and ritual dimensions of the Reformation's transmission in everyday life and had three panels. SUSAN KARANT-NUNN (Tucson, AZ) discussed the use of the parsonage as a Protestant model and public space. In reaction to the famously immoral lifestyle of the pre-Reformation parish priest, the reformers sought to transform the pastor’s household into a microcosm of the Christian ideals of society. The pastor and his family were expected to keep their distance from the village's inhabitants and to act as disciplining agents in their rural environment.

The second panel dealt with courts and universities as confessional spaces in Europe. CHRISTIAN WIELAND (Freiburg) presented the cases of two noble women whose personal religious convictions differed from their husbands': Renée de France used her position as a member of the French royal house to protect Protestants in Ferrara. When her husband (the Elector of Brandenburg) converted to the Reformed faith, Anna of Prussia, who asserted her Lutheran faith, became a symbol of Lutheran identity in the territory. Wieland discussed the ways in which these women protected their religious convictions and negotiated their places at court.

MARKUS WRIEDT (Frankfurt am Main) charted the changes in university culture across the Reformation period. Throughout the period, reforms brought about by late Humanism were in tension with the confessionalization process. This tension is best examined in the every day culture of the academy, especially in the interactions between the city and the university.

The fourth panel dealt with the social consequences of the Reformation across Europe. SEBASTIAN SCHMIDT (Trier) examined the Reformation’s and Counter-Reformation's effects on poor relief. He argued that, although ideas about poor relief based on the concept of the "worthy poor" had existed since antiquity and Catholic territories also put them into practice in the early modern period, Protestant territories were more thorough in their implementation and enforcement of these ideas.

RAYMOND MENTZER (Iowa City, IA) examined the methods of carrying out church discipline in Lutheran and Reformed communities. While the Lutherans' use of regular visitations of pastors and parishes by clerical authorities made for a much more "public" process of disciplining, the Reformed use of community members as church elders allowed church discipline to be more private as well as “regular and relentless". Although both Lutherans and Reformed shared the same underlying pastoral concerns, their approaches were fundamentally different.

The final panel dealt with the effects of the Reformation on worship spaces. RENATE DÜRR (Tübingen) discussed the organization of Lutheran worship spaces. She argued that worship spaces were constituted through negotiations and actions, and that each local congregation appropriated its worship space in a specific way. Whether renovated medieval churches or newly built gathering places, the Lutheran worship spaces of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were increasingly perceived as dwelling places of God, and therefore as sacred spaces.

MARIA CRĂCIUN (Cluj, Romania) used extant art-historical evidence to evaluate the implementation of the Reformation in Transylvanian Lutheran Churches. Although the Saxon Lutherans of Transylvania looked towards the traditional Saxon homelands for guidance, local conditions, including the presence of Catholics and Reformed in the area, gave Romanian Lutheranism a distinct flavor. Vestments and traditional songs persisted, and much medieval art was repurposed rather than removed from the church spaces, but subtle changes like the removal of halos and the addition of chalices conveyed the Lutheran message of images.

Closing commentary was given by THOMAS KAUFMANN (Göttingen). He noted that Reformation history stands at a crossroads. In the aftermath of the development of the confessionalization thesis, the traditional foci of Reformation history (for example the Reformation’s interactions with Humanism and the Peasants’ War), the centrality of Reformation theology, and the longue durée perspective have lost their importance. In their place, Reformation historians have employed cultural history, which this conference was a reflection of. Kaufmann identified three central points of the discussion about the impact of the Reformation in Europe: first, the Reformation and medieval Europe; second, innovation and processes of formation as a result of the Reformation; third, Reformation and the nobility.

Conference Overview:
Section I: Communication, Media, and Discourses

Chair: Christoph Strohm

Irene Dingel (Mainz): Biblische Typenbildung und gute Ordnung in Leichenpredigten

Susan Richter (Heidelberg): "Den Fueßstapften unseres Herrn Vatters nachgehend" — Kommunikation, Rezeption oder Ablehnung reformatorischen Gedankengutes in Fürstentestamenten

Chair: Sievert Angel

Ute Lotz-Heumann (Tucson, AZ): Strategien bei der Verbreitung reformatorischer Inhalte: Die Anpassungs- und Aneignungsleistungen protestantischer Pfarrer des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts im Dialog mit der Volksreligiosität

Mary Jane Haeming (St. Paul, MN): Haustafel Literature and its Dissemination in Europe

Chair: Maciej Ptaszyński

Matthias Pohlig (Münster): Was ist konfessionelle Geschichtsschreibung? Konfessionsvergleichende und europäische Beobachtungen

Henning P. Jürgens (Mainz): Das Evangelium singen — Gesangbücher und Psalter im europäischen Kontext

Chair: Bridget Heal

Jürgen Heidrich (Münster): Der Beitrag der Musik zur Bildung reformatorischer Identitäten

Ruth Slenczka (Berlin): Konfessionalisierung der Kunst: Gab es eine lutherische Renaissance?

Section II: Actors and Mediators

Chair: Kaspar von Greyerz

Wolf-Friedrich Schäufele (Marburg): Wegbereiter der Reformation? "Vorreformatorische" religiöse Bewegungen und ihre Anhänger im 16. Jahrhundert

Christopher Close (Philadelphia, PA): The Reformation as Regional Event: Urban Magistrates and the Politics of Alliance

Chair: Christopher Brown

Alexander Schunka (Erfurt): Migranten als Glaubenszeugen und Vermittler. Zum Verhältnis von religiösem Exil und protestantischer Kommunikation in Europa

Johannes Wischmeyer (Mainz): Verantwortungsträger zwischen Theologie, Jurisprudenz und Politik. Die Architekten evangelischer Kirchenverfassungen

Chair: Luka Illić

Duane Corpis (Ithaca, NY): The Role of Converts for the Reformation in Europe

Section III: Spaces and Rituals in Everyday Life
Susan C. Karant-Nunn (Tucson, AZ): Das evangelische Pfarrhaus als christliches Modell und öffentlicher Ort

Chair: Christophe Duhamelle

Christian Wieland (Freiburg): Spielräume und Grenzen religiöser Selbstbestimmung der Fürstin im konfessionellen Zeitalter: Renée de France und Anna von Preußen

Markus Wriedt (Frankfurt am Main): Bildungslandschaften zwischen Späthumanismus und Reformation. Evangelische Universitäten als Zentren der Entstehung einer akademischen Konfessionskultur

Chair: Guido Marnef

Sebastian Schmidt (Trier): Ist die Reform der Wohltätigkeit im 16. Jahrhundert ein Ergebnis der Reformation? Zur Auswirkung der Reformation auf die Praxis der öffentlichen Fürsorge in Westeuropa

Raymond Mentzer (Iowa City, IA): The Practice of Church Discipline in Lutheran and Reformed Areas

Chair: Olga Fejtová

Renate Dürr (Tübingen): Die Gestaltung evangelischer Kirchenräume: Zum Verhältnis von Norm und Praxis in den Kirchweihpredigten

Maria Crăciun (Cluj, Romania): Lutheran Liturgical Practices in European Comparative Perspective

Tagungsbericht: Dissemination and Contemporary Impact of the Reformation in a European Context, 07.06.2012 – 09.06.2012 Eisenach, in: H-Soz-Kult, 10.09.2012, <www.hsozkult.de/conferencereport/id/tagungsberichte-4377>.