Convents and Canonries in the Counter-Reformation: Three Central European Examples

AHA Session 108
Society for Austrian and Habsburg History 3
Friday, January 7, 2011: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Grand Ballroom Salon D (Marriott Boston Copley Place)
Franz A.J. Szabo, University of Alberta
Barbara B. Diefendorf, Boston University

Session Abstract

Religious houses played a large role in the histories of the shifting religious landscapes in the territories controlled by the central European branch of the Habsburg family in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  These houses, whether male or female, urban or rural, often had substantial landed holdings and influence, both politically and economically.  This panel will provide three case studies relating to the influence and techniques of influence of such houses, one using examples from the Habsburg territory of Bohemia, one from the Habsburg residence city of Vienna, and one from the important borderland province of Styria. Scholars from the Czech Republic, Austria, Canada, and the United States will employ interdisciplinary methods, including approaches from art history, urban studies, and discourse analysis, in this undertaking. A specialist on early modern France will provide the comment, looking at the central European examples from an outsider’s perspective and seeking to compare the Bohemian and Austrian cases with the French one.

Themes to be discussed include the relationship between the allegories in the Baroque art of the Augustinian canonry at Vorau, Styria and the religious undertakings of the Habsburg emperor against the Ottomans, their allies, and Protestants.  Printed versions of sermons held on the occasion of the entrance of nuns to religious houses in Bohemia will also be analyzed in order to better situate the female houses in the social contexts of the new nuns’ families and patrons. The changing locations of sacred, female space in the city of Vienna will be discussed with specific reference to the establishment and operation of the important house of Franciscan nuns established near the city’s princely residence in the 1580’s, Queen’s Cloister.

The Counter-Reformation in central Europe is often tied to campaigns of forced conformity. This interdisciplinary, international panel will look instead at the non-violent roles nuns and canons had in influencing religious change. In this way an understanding of the processes of religious change and practice in the contested spaces of central Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries can be deepened.

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