Towns during the turmoil of confessionalization from the 15th to the 18th centuries / Die Stadt in den Umbrüchen der Konfessionalisierung vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert

09.10.2012 - 10.10.2012
Prague City Archives, the Institute of History of Academy of Science of the Czech Republic and the Institute of International Studies of the Faculty of Social Sciences of Charles University in Prague
Martina Power, Prague City Archives

On 9 and 10 October 2012 the Prague City Archives held the 31st annual international conference that discussed the methodological and practical aspects of confessionalization in the urban environment between the 15th and the 18th centuries.

The opening lecture delivered by OLGA FEJTOVÁ (Prague) and JIŘÍ MIKULEC (Prague) focused on the theoretical and methodological framework of confessionalization. Fejtová outlined the origin of the concept associated with the research of German historians Wolfgang Reinhard and Hans Schilling. Further she concentrated on its present redefinition that has moved away from focusing solely on the role played by the ecclesiastical and political authorities, instead emphasizing the involvement of broader social stratum in the confessionalization processes and in the production of new forms of public religiosity. In the urban context, attention is paid especially to multi-confessional towns, where different religious groups co-existed and attempted to seize control over the public space. Mikulec examined the possible application of the confessionalization concept on the religious development in Czech lands. Though the adoption of the confessionalization concept from the German milieu was at first only sparse, the recent production uses the term rather extensively. In spite of that, the application of the concept helped to overcome the traditional bipolarity Catholics versus Non-Catholics and to redirect the perspective of the researchers from the legal and political aspects of confessionalization that had been rather overstressed.

Two papers in the morning section offered an international outlook. STEFAN EHRENPREIS (Munich) outlined the German research in confessionalization in the last decade. He emphasised the growing interest in the advancement of confessionalization from below (rather than from above) and identified three paradigm shifts: assessment of confessionalization in longue durée perspective up to the 18th century, focus on trans- and bi-confessional structures and study of confessional identities and cultures. LESZEK ZYGER (Torun) focused on multi-confessional society in Polish towns in the late mediaeval and early modern periods and emphasised that the two most important religious minorities – Jews and Utraquists – enjoyed the support of local aristocracy, either for economic or religious reasons.

The following section concentrated on confessionalization in Prague. JIŘÍ PEŠEK (Prague) examined the position of the Old Town chancellor Pavel Kristián of Koldín in the struggle for Bohemian confession of 1575. Though often perceived as a subversion of the Protestant unity, Koldín’s opposition to the aristocratic faction was interpreted by Pešek as an attempt to protect the privileges of Prague’s Old Town. MARTIN NODL (Prague) advocated the usage of confessionalization concept also in the study of the religious development in mid-15th-century Prague. Despite the traditional definition that sets confessionalization in the 16th and the 17th centuries, Nodl argued that the religious milieu in mid-15th-century Prague showed early signs of confessionalization: religious intolerance and the striving for social and religious disciplining of society. BLANKA ZILYNSKÁ (Prague) demonstrated that up to the defeat of the rising of Bohemian estates against Ferdinand I in 1547 the Prague council enjoyed an extensive influence over the appointing of officials in the ecclesiastical institutions.

The afternoon session was divided into two parallel sections. Section A focused firstly on monasteries and religious orders. JANA SVOBODOVÁ (Prague) identified the similarities in the ideological programs of two antagonist religious communities: the Order of Friars Minor Conventual and the Utraquists. TOMÁŠ ČERNUŠÁK (Brno) focused on the monasteries and urban society in Brno in the 16th century. Though not affected by the Hussite wars as gravely as the convents in Bohemia, Moravian monasteries suffered from isolation in a predominantly Protestant urban environment. JAN PAŘEZ (Prague) documented that the Prague Canonry of Premonstratensians at Strahov dealt with similar problems. Close proximity to overwhelmingly Protestant population in Prague caused the loss of personnel and the difficulties were overcome only at the beginning of the 17th century under the new abbot and future archbishop of Prague Jan Lohelius. Comparing the confessional changes in Mainz and Erfurt in the 16th century, MONIKA FROHNAPFEL (Mainz) assessed the divergent progress of Counter-Reformation in the Electorate of Mainz. Whereas in Mainz the archbishops supported by the religious orders succeeded in bringing the population back to Catholicism, in Erfurt the burghers opposed the archbishops’ politics, resenting not only their confessional but also their political pressure. The discussion that followed emphasised the close connection between the monasteries and the urban society. If isolated in a religiously antagonistic environment, the monasteries suffered not only material but also spiritual decline.

In the following section TOMÁŠ STERNECK (České Budějovice) analysed the co-existence of different religious groups in České Budějovice at the beginning of the 17th century. Unlike most Bohemian towns, the population in České Budějovice was dominantly Catholic and a local Lutheran minority maintained its existence only with considerable effort. PAVLA JIRKOVÁ (Prague) assessed the formal and contextual change in the testaments of burghers in Jihlava in the 16th and the 17th centuries. On the basis of donations to charitable, educational and church institutions, she examined the transforming confessional consciousness of the testators.

Parallel section B concentrated firstly on the progress of confessionalization in towns that were subjected to lay or ecclesiastical lords. JOSEF HRDLIČKA (České Budějovice) outlined the steps taken by aristocratic lords whose confession differed from the confessional character of the town. In this respect he advocated the usage of a term ‘confessional politics’ rather than ‘confessionalization’. The examples of Prague’s Old Town, Slaný and Jindřichův Hradec were used by VÁCLAV LEDVINKA (Prague) to give an extensive survey of confessional development in the different types of towns in the 15th and the 16th centuries. He identified two turning points in the dynamic of the confessional and political activities of the respective royal and noble proprietors: the 1480s and the 1490s when their activities decreased and 1590s when they increased. ZDEŇKA MÍCHALOVÁ (Brno) analysed the iconography in towns Telč and Slavonice and pointed out that despite belonging to the Catholic lord, the local frescos and sgraffiti depicted also Lutheran themes. MARIE RYANTOVÁ (Prague) examined the Counter-Reformation politics of Lobkowitz family in Sedlčany in the 17th century. Despite the early attempts, the town was successfully brought to Catholicism only in the post-White Mountain period.

In following section MARTIN HOLÝ (Prague) explored the possible application of confessionalization concept in the study of the state of education in the Czech lands in the early modern period. He noted that the confessional structure of society in Holy Roman Empire was considerably less complicated than in the Czech lands. The confessionalization concept that has been developed for the conditions of the Empire is therefore in the Czech context only of a limited use. IRIS FLEßENKÄMPER (Münster) focused on the relationship of the secular and ecclesiastical disciplination in early modern Bremen and noted that the town council exercised a significant influence over the ecclesiastical institutions.

Section A opened next day with a paper on baroque religiosity in Vienna delivered by KARL VOCELKA (Vienna). He emphasized that before 1620 Vienna was a dominantly Protestant city. Though the Counter-Reformation politics of Ferdinand I triggered a religious change, the transformation was completed only after the involvement of a broader spectrum of urban society in the confessionalization process. TOMÁŠ MALÝ (Brno) analysed the adoption of the ars moriendi rituals among the urban elites in Brno and Prague in the 17th century and documented that the increasing popularity of this cult facilitated the progress of Counter-Reformation. Contrary to the traditional belief that the Counter-Reformation advanced from its beginning violently and repressively, MAREK ĎURČANSKÝ (Prague) argued that in its first stage the authorities resorted to the tactical waiting and to the non-violent means. A similar conclusion was reached also by JAN BOUČEK (Prague), who focused on the activities of the secretary of the Bohemian chancellery Pavel Michna of Vacínov who was a strong supporter of gradual and conciliatory rather than immediate and repressive progress of Counter-Reformation.

Three papers in following section concentrated on confessionalization in Hungary, where the constant warfare with the Ottoman Empire hindered the progress of Counter-Reformation. EVA KOWALSKÁ (Bratislava) documented close contacts that the towns in Slovakia maintained with the leaders of German Reformation. The Protestant character of Slovak towns was imbedded also in their ‘Confessions’ that declared the town religious and political privileges. VILIAM ČIČAJ (Bratislava) pointed out how difficult it is to distinguish in the Hungarian context between the struggle for religious and political rights. Though traditionally associated with religious freedom, Hungary was in Čičaj’s opinion only tolerant to non-Catholic confessions. The limits of religious freedom in Hungary outlined also ISTVÁN NÉMETH (Budapest) who concentrated on the political reforms in the aftermath of the rising against the Habsburgs in 1670. The towns were placed under state control; newly installed state commissioners supervised the appointment of town councillors and guaranteed that at least half of the council was Catholic.

In the parallel section B PAVEL KŮRKA (Prague) examined the confessional self-identification of the Utraquist burghers in Prague in the pre-White Mountain period. He concluded that the Utraquists who constituted the majority of population in Prague did not feel the need to delimit themselves from other religious groups and absorbed influences from non-Catholic and even Catholic confessions. ONDŘEJ JAKUBEC (České Budějovice) concentrated on the confessional conflict in early modern Olomouc, where the confessionalization activities of Protestant council clashed with the Counter-Reformation politics of local church institutions. The co-existence of different religious groups was examined also by ÁRPÁD TÓTH (Miskolc) who focused on a small yet economically important Lutheran minority in dominantly Catholic Bratislava in the 18th century.

The following section concentrated on the religious development in Gdansk in the 17th and the 18th centuries. LILIANA GÓRSKA (Torun) examined the conflict between orthodox Lutheranism and Pietism as it was represented in the texts of controversies. SLAWOMIR KOSCIELAK (Gdansk) focused on strategies used by the Catholic minority in Gdansk to penetrate the town administration. PIOTR KOCIUMBAS (Warsaw) analysed two Lutheran musical plays produced in 1717 that ridiculed other confessions and were used to strengthen the ideological position of Lutheranism in Gdansk. All three papers documented that also in a dominantly Lutheran environment, different confession succeeded in maintaining their existence and forced the Lutheran representatives to a constant affirmation of their exclusive position.

The final session was opened by PETR VOIT (Prague) who analysed the production of religious books in Bohemia in the first half of the 16th century and emphasised that unlike in Holy Roman Empire the individual book printers in Bohemia were not confessionally specialized and produced both Catholic and Protestant texts. INGRID KUŠNIRÁKOVÁ (Bratislava) focused on the influence of confessionalization on foundation of separate Catholic and Protestant social and charity institutions in Bratislava. SIXTUS BOLOM-KOTARI (Prague) examined the everyday life of the Protestant communities in Moravia in the late 18th century and argued against the traditional conviction that the Edict of Tolerance from 1781 did not receive a significant response in Czech lands.

In concluding lecture JIŘÍ PEŠEK (Prague) emphasised that if confessionalization is accepted in its general meaning as a fundamental process of religious change accompanied by the social and confessional disciplination it can be applied also for other regions than Holy Roman Empire and other periods than the 16th and the 17th centuries. In its redefined version the confessionalization concept is therefore still seminal for the research of the historic religious development

Overall, the conference revealed one important tendency. In most of the papers the increasing interest in confessionalization from below was apparent and demonstrated that confessionalization cannot be characterized only as a doctrine enforced by the political and ecclesiastical authorities, but also as a process of religious transformation to which various social classes made an active contribution. Further, the research into towns with a seemingly homogenous confessional character showed that in spite of the confessionalization policy of either Catholic or Protestant authorities, alternative confessions succeeded in maintaining their (albeit limited) existence. Thus, the shift of focus from elites to a broader public promotes a better understanding of the complex confessional culture and loyalties of urban society in the early modern period. The conference papers will be published in the periodical Documenta Pragensia 32/2014.

Conference Overview:

Eröffnung der Tagung: Eva Semotanová, Václav Ledvinka
Moderation: Václav Ledvinka

Olga Fejtová – Jiří Mikulec: Einführungsreferat

Jiří Pešek: Die politischen Zusammenhänge in Prag bei der Bildung der Böhmischen Konfession 1575

Stefan Ehrenpreis: Deutsche Forschung zur urbanen Konfessionalisierung 2000–2011

Moderation: Václav Ledvinka

Leszek Zygner: Die multikonfessionelle Gesellschaft in den polnischen Städten des Spätmittelalters und der Frühen Neuzeit

Martin Nodl: Toleranz und Konfessionalisierung in den Prager Städten gegen Mitte des 15. Jhs.

Blanka Zilynská: Die Stadt Prag und die utraquistische Kirche: die Rolle der Ratsherren bei der Besetzung des „utraquistischen Konsistoriums“

Sektion A
Moderation: Stefan Ehrenpreis

Jana Svobodová: Die Rückkehr der Minoriten in die (post)hussitischen Städte

Tomáš Černušák: Die Kloster und Konfessionswechsel der städtischen Gesellschaft in Brünn (Brno) im 16. Jahrhundert

Jan Pařez: Das Strahov-Kloster und sein Nebenrecht in Pohořelec (Brandplatz) in der Zeit vor der Schlacht am Weißen Berg: von der Koexistenz der Religionen zum Religionsmonopol

Monika Frohnapfel: Umbrüche der Konfessionalisierung im Erzstift Mainz

Moderation: Marie Ryantová

Tomáš Sterneck: Konfessionelle Minderheit in der Stadt der „päpstlichen“ Religion. Budweiser Katholiken am Anfang des 17. Jahrhunderts und ihre politische Auftritte

Pavla Jirková: Von Sperat zu Strobach. Jihlava (Iglau) in den Umbrüchen der Konfessionalisierung vom 16. zum 17. Jahrhundert

Sektion B
Moderation: Tomáš Sterneck

Josef Hrdlička: Herrschaftliche Städte zwischen Konfessionspluralität und Adelskonfessionalisierung (1520–1620)

Václav Ledvinka: Von der Pluralität, Unbestimmtheit, Toleranz und Koexistenz bis zur Ausgrenzung, Konfrontation und Vereinheitlichung (Zu den älteren und neuen Interpretationen des Bedeutungswandels und der Wahrnehmung der Konfessionszugehörigkeit im Zentrum Prags und an der Südperipherie des Königreichs Böhmen im „langen“ 16. Jahrhundert)
Zdeňka Míchalová: Die Reflektion der Reformation (nicht nur) in den Bilderquellen der herrschaftlichen Städten von Zacharias von Hradec (Neuhaus)

Marie Ryantová: “Die Seltschaner, die in ihrer Widerborstigkeit derart bleiben…“ Die Stadt Sedlčany (Seltschan) und ihre Bevölkerung im Zentrum der Lobkowitzischen Konfessionalisierung

Diskurse / Diskussion
Moderation: Simona Slanicka

Martin Holý: Zwischen Mythos und Realität. Konfessionalisierung der Bildung in den Städten in den Ländern der böhmischen Krone im 16. und 17. Jahrhundert

Iris Fleßenkämpfer: „Malum culpae et malum poenae“: Rechtskultur zwischen Sünden- und Strafzucht im frühneuzeitlichen Bremen

Sektion A
Moderation: Jiří Mikulec

Karl Vocelka: Barocke Frömmigkeitsformen in Wien als Mittel der Konfessionalisierung

Tomáš Malý: Sozial-kulturelle Voraussetzungen der katholischen Erneuerung: böhmische und mährische Städte 1550–1700

Marek Ďurčanský: Rekatholisierung in böhmischen königlichen Städten im ersten Jahrzehnt nach der Schlacht am Weißen Berg. Vergleichsversuch

Jan Bouček: Die Eingriffe von Pavel Michna von Vacínov in die konfessionellen Verhältnisse in Prag nach der Schlacht am Weißen Berg

Moderation: Karl Vocelka

Eva Kowalská: Stärken und Schwächen der ungarischen Städte im Prozess der Konfessionalisierung

Viliam Čičaj: Freiheit oder Toleranz. Konfessionelle Koexistenz in den ungarischen königlichen Freistädten

István Németh: Unterdrückung oder Reform? Rekatholisierung in den ungarischen königlichen Freistädten

Sektion B
Moderation: Olga Fejtová

Pavel Kůrka: Die konfessionelle Selbstidentifikation der Stadtbevölkerung in der Zeit vor der Schlacht am Weißen Berg

Ondřej Jakubec: Konfessionelle Streitigkeiten in Olomouc (Olmütz) in der Frühen Neuzeit, ihr Charakter, ihre Protagonisten und visuelle Spuren

Árpád Tóth: A Protestant burgher élite in a predominantly Catholic society? The social network and political position of German Lutheran burghers in Hungarian towns in the period of ‘silent Counter-Reformation’

Moderation: Włodzimierz Zientara

Liliana Górska: Zwischen der lutherischen Orthodoxie und dem Pietismus in Danzig im Ausgang des 17. Jahrhunderts

Slawomir Koscielak: Katholische “Ersatz”-Eliten im protestantischen Gdańsk an der Wende vom 17. zum 18. Jahrhundert

Piotr Kociumbas: „So bin ich recht vergnügt, wenn reine Lehre siegt.“ Zu den Reminiszenzen an Konfessionsstreitigkeiten in den zu Danzig des 18. Jahrhunderts entstandenen musikalischen Dramen

Moderation: Eva Kowalská

Petr Voit: Konfessionelle Flexibilität und böhmische Buchkultur in der ersten Hälfte des 16. Jahrhunderts

Ingrid Kušniráková: Einfluß der konfessionellen Teilung der ungarischen Gesellschaft auf das System der Sozialfürsorge in Bratislava (Preßburg) in der Frühen Neuzeit

Sixtus Bolom-Kotari: Das Alltagsleben städtischer protestantischer Kommunitäten im Ausgang des 18. Jahrhunderts. Brno (Brünn) und Nové Město na Moravě (Neustadt)

Schlusswort Jiří Pešek

Tagungsbericht: Towns during the turmoil of confessionalization from the 15th to the 18th centuries / Die Stadt in den Umbrüchen der Konfessionalisierung vom 15. bis zum 18. Jahrhundert, 09.10.2012 – 10.10.2012 Prague, in: H-Soz-Kult, 07.01.2013, <>.