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With and Without Confessionalization. Varieties of Early Modern German Catholicism

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The article examines the origins of Catholic identity and the character of Catholic culture in early modern Germany. Catholic identity, or confessionalism, developed in the two centuries after 1550 and had both popular and elite sources. The church and the state were, however, much less effective in imposing a sense of loyalty to Catholicism than has generally been argued. Neither Tridentine reform (the "Counter-Reformation") in the period 1580-1620, nor the close cooperation between church and state known as "confessionalization" are sufficient to explain the creation of Catholic confessional identity. Indeed, Tridentine reform was more of an episode than a turning point in the history of German Catholicism and confessionalization was not possible in the many parts of Catholic Germany that lacked strong secular states. Broad-based popular Catholic identity had its primary roots in popular religious practices and traditions and developed after the Thirty Years' War, when church and state came to accommodate many aspects of popular religion. The important role of the people in the development of confessionalism, along with the fragmentation and diversity of ecclesiastical institutions, led to considerable variety in Catholic practice across Germany, rather than to the uniformity sought by ecclesiastical and secular authorities.

Affiliations: 1: Connecticut College


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