Susanne Wegmann, Gabriele Wimböck, eds. Konfessionen im Kirchenraum: Dimensionen des Sakralraums in der Frühen Neuzeit. Korb: Didymos-Verlag, 2007. 379 pp. EUR 58.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-3-939020-03-5.
Reviewed by Jay Goodale (Department of History, Bucknell University)
Published on H-German (September, 2009)
Commissioned by Susan R. Boettcher
Reorienting a Paradigm
This volume is a rich, pioneering, and thought-provoking anthology comprised of sixteen essays that stems from the 2005 conference "Konfessionalisierung im Kirchenraum" in Münster. The essays in this volume bring together the theme of "space," a topos upon which scholars of art history and cultural history have long focused, with the concept "confessionalization," a paradigm that has been much developed and utilized by students of early modern Europe and which considers the processes, dated from the second half of the sixteenth century, by which specific creeds like Lutheranism, Calvinism, and Catholicism were consolidated within given territories, while taking into account the complex relationship these processes had with other macro-historical developments, such as state formation and social disciplining. The volume's essays synthesize and expand, in original and productive ways, these two separately well-trodden areas of research in regard to one another and reveal just how rewarding interdisciplinary approaches can be in casting new light on subjects already well considered within specific disciplines. Indeed, several essays provide brief but useful accounts that clarify the limitations of previous scholarship on the given topic, and, in so doing, reveal the advantages of the interdisciplinary approach they employ to further our understanding of both art history and confessionalization.
Many aspects of this volume are commendable. While the generalized claims of macro-historical paradigms like "confessionalization" are often vulnerable to the findings of narrow case studies that undermine overarching assumptions and imply their limitations, the well-argued micro-historical studies in this volume serve to explicate underrecognized and underdeveloped approaches to the study of confessionalization, strategies that, when built upon, will certainly enhance our understanding of the complex processes of confessionalization that occurred, literally, on the ground level. The essays treat their subjects in ways that makes their conclusions relevant beyond the discrete topic under analysis. The volume contains 135 well-produced black and white illustrations, including photographs as well as reproductions of architectural plans, woodcuts, and paintings. Each essay includes a separate, comprehensive, multi-page bibliography. The essays, all of which are written in German, cover a wide geographic terrain, including France, Holland, Germany, Italy, Bohemia, Poland, and Switzerland. But the greatest strength of this volume is the sophisticated interdisciplinary perspective that each essay employs. This volume should be of great interest to those in the fields of history, art history, anthropology, theology, and religious studies.
Susanne Wegmann's essay, which opens the volume, focuses on how church space was symbolized within a Lutheran context, and how the use and placement of images, particularly those in altarpieces, contributed to this activity. The use and placement of images within church space served to highlight and reinforce crucial aspects of Lutheran theology and identity. Expanding the focus, Gabriele Wimböck provides a thorough and illuminating outline of the themes, problems, concerns, and methodologies that the volume, taken as a whole, considers and employs, and introduces, against this overview, the topics and goals of the contributors.
Turning to the theme of confessionalization, Thomas Packreiser proposes new dimensions for the concept. His challenging essay, which focuses primarily on the city church of Bückeburg, offers a new theoretical perspective that considers topics such as the ordering of church space, topologies, historical events within the confessionalizing process, spatial possibilities, architectonics, artistic production, period styles, and cultural change. Proceeding from the assumption that the symbolic shaping and defining of confessional identity is an important component of confessionalization, he ultimately contemplates "confessionalization" as a symbolic form by considering an iconology of the concept itself. Addressing one area of Packreiser's considerations, Kai Wenzel's essay questions whether the confessional processes of the second half of the sixteenth century had any impact on church architecture of the seventeenth by examining an architectural style new to the churches of central Europe (the barrel-vaulted, pilastered church, with large, internal niches along the longer sides of the building) that was embraced by various confessions (Lutheran, Catholic, Utraquist). This particular design was popular because it lent itself to significant variations in the use and conception of sacred space. These variations enabled the confessions to satisfy their religious understandings, realize their liturgical needs, and distinguish themselves from their rivals.
The essays show clearly how church spaces offered backdrops for the performance of identity. Jörg Stabenow examines the "theatricalization" of church space in Catholic Reformation Italy, analyzing how and why the concept or metaphor of "theater" was applied to sacred space. His inquiry focuses in particular on the practices of the Barnabites. This analogizing of theater and church was the preliminary step and precondition for theatrical phenomenon in Baroque church space. Church space, if contested, could become a site for political negotiation. In her discussion of Simultankirchen, or structures used concurrently by different confessions, Daniela Hacke reveals how diverse visual cultures, differing conceptions and arrangements of sacred space, and incompatible theological positions regarding the use of images could imperil peace within the village or even the territory at large. Focusing on a conflict over images and a planned renovation of church space in the village church of Wettingen, Hacke shows how confessional differences were also formed, strengthened, and articulated through the processes of political communication engendered by the dispute. Thus, insofar as it addressed the ordering of space within the church, the medium of political communication took on a material dimension.
Representations of church interiors are a further concern of the essays. Andreas Gormans analyzes paintings of church interiors in seventeenth-century Dutch art. These paintings are revealed to be far more than images of heroically represented church interiors, scenes of daily life (albeit with splendid visual effects), or studies in architecture or perspective. Significantly, the settings of the painted scenes are not fictive, but depict the interiors of real churches. The scenes were carefully selected, and reflected specific confessional understandings to convey specific meanings. Gormans shows how paintings of church interiors were themselves part of the confessional process, in that they took part in public religious debate, offered defenses of specific intra- or inter-confessional positions, and championed fundamental axioms of Calvinism. Such representations could become quite complex, as Stefan Laube's contribution on the concept of "confessional hybridity" within certain churches shows. Focusing on two Dresden churches--the Lutheran Frauenkirche and the Catholic Hofkirche--Laube demonstrates how and why buildings that incorporated the aesthetics normally associated with a rival confession were created within an atmosphere of compromise, pragmatism, and competition. Blending of aesthetic styles in architecture and images suggests a strand of tolerance that, while at odds with the verbal culture of the theologians, nonetheless existed in eighteenth-century Dresden, among other places.
Several essays focus specifically on Catholic church space and visual representations within it before and after the Reformation. Gabriela Signori discusses approaches to and understandings of pre-Reformation church space. She considers how medieval minds conceived of church space, and how the new faithful (after 1600) imagined these medieval conceptions. The Reformers' interest in new arrangements and transformations of church space, such as attention to the position of the pulpit, seems to have arisen only at the very end of the sixteenth century. But with this new interest in the arrangement of interior space, the Reformers echoed concerns that were common to the late Middle Ages. Rearranging inner space consolidated Catholic religious identity. Georg Henkel examines modifications made to the Paderborn cathedral following the Thirty Years' War and demonstrates that the manner and style by which the Dom was renovated served to help the Catholic church overcome any lingering existential crises caused by the war. Re-sacralization of the Dom was not only connected to strategies of confessional renewal and the promotion of Catholic forms of piety, but to demonstrations of absolute authority as well. New conceptions of interior space expressed and encouraged the postwar self-assurance of Catholicism, while aesthetic innovations indicated the superiority of the confession. Turning to late sixteenth-century Rome, David Ganz's essay argues--against previous studies--that Roman confessionalization was unique and successful when seen from the history of its images. From 1580, a unique visual form of confessionalization may be observed within the churches of Rome, one based upon integrating images, church space, and parishioners with one another in new ways, creating new spatial experiences. While we still have much to learn about the effects of this new experience upon the general public, new visual forms of confessionalization did contribute decisively to the program of the Catholic Reformation, as they would come to have an influence on Catholic churches throughout Europe. Finally, in a theoretically informed study, Agnieszka Madej-Anderson reveals and analyzes the complex connections, in St. Mary's Church in Cracow, between the placement of monuments to the dead, liturgical practice, forms of worship, use of sacred space, and notions of how the living experienced church space as a site of drama or plot. The placement--or even the staging--of monuments to the dead was tied to the sphere of liturgical activity within this church in ways that both marked and helped to develop the formation of confessional identity.
A further group of essays deals primarily with Lutheran examples. Inga Brinkmann uncovers reasons for the noticeable difference between Lutheran wall monuments to the dead erected in the first half of the sixteenth century and those produced in the confessional era, specifically after 1570. Her essay discusses, among other themes, the interplay between the motivation for raising such monuments, the reasons they contained certain stylistic attributes, the audience the monument was intended to reach, and the motivations of the patrons. In the confessional era, symbols that made up Lutheran wall memorials were neither exclusively religious, employing, as they did, images that represented the given territorial state, dynastic family, or the deceased's personal history, nor, for that matter, specifically Lutheran, utilizing certain attributes that were common to Catholic monuments. Members of the Lutheran nobility used these monuments as a means for affirming their confessional identity, a choice with political as well as religious dimensions. Daniela Roberts offers an iconographical and historical interpretation of the cycle of images in Leipzig's Thomaskirche that depicts the Lutheran superintendents who served the church. A key theme of the cycle is the unbroken ecclesiastical tradition, and the superintendents are portrayed as guardians of correct religious learning and as custodians of the Lutheran inheritance. Through the cycle, the authority of the Lutheran Church is shown as grounded in its role as successor to the apostles. Roberts also analyzes this cycle in its historical circumstance, interpreting it against the myriad difficulties and controversies that beset Lutheranism, both from within and without, in Leipzig and its environs during the sixteenth century. The cycle not only testifies to a (fictive) continuity of "correct" Lutheran teaching in Leipzig, but also to an imagined Lutheran tradition within the Thomaskirche itself. Esther Meier's essay explores connections between memorials for the dead, the use of sacred space, aspects of Lutheran theology, and formation of a distinct Protestant culture of memory. Focusing upon the memorial created for Philip the Magnanimous and Christine of Saxony in the Martinskirche in Kassel, Meier shows how innovations in its form, style, size, iconography, and even location signified a new, meaningful change in the function of such monuments. Meier then analyzes pre-Reformation conceptions of social transactions between the dead and the living against Lutheran views to argue that the monument in Kassel articulated and embodied a new, Protestant understanding of the relationship between the living and the dead.
Scholars have long examined topics such as the iconoclasm of the Reformation, or the new works Protestants created to meet their liturgical needs and convey their theological understandings. Barbara Welzel's stimulating essay concludes the volume with a call for a different focus of analysis, one that considers the radically new meanings and associations that the surviving, inherited pre-Reformation images came to convey and establish after the Reformation. The Reformation introduced new creeds, new ways of representing theological positions, and new conceptions of sacred space; and yet an astonishing number of images and works of art survived in Lutheran areas, now existing within, or helping to form, radically new representational worlds. Focusing on statues and images in the Reinoldikirche in Dortmund, Welzel discusses the process by which surviving pre-Reformation works of art took on new meanings and existential significance, fashioned new collective memory, were adapted for new cultural uses, and created new conceptions of space in which these new assertions could resonate for the observer. Welzel's suggestion that we can make the representational world of pre-industrial Europe more accessible by regarding it, once again, as a Resonanzraum, provides a fitting conclusion not only to her essay, but to the volume as a whole.
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Jay Goodale. Review of Wegmann, Susanne; Wimböck, Gabriele, eds., Konfessionen im Kirchenraum: Dimensionen des Sakralraums in der Frühen Neuzeit.
H-German, H-Net Reviews.
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