Living Together, Living Apart: Confessional Cohabitation in Early Modern Germany

AHA Session 36
Central European History Society 2
American Society of Church History 5
Thursday, January 5, 2017: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Mile High Ballroom 4B (Colorado Convention Center, Ballroom Level)
Peter G. Wallace, Hartwick College
Helmut W. Smith, Vanderbilt University

Session Abstract

Everywhere it occurred, the pluralization of religion in sixteenth-century Europe disrupted profoundly a basic, corporatist premise of Christian civic community—namely, that each community constituted an organic totality, a corpus christianum, that bore responsibility both for the spiritual and the material wellbeing of its members. This emotionally-charged ideal, in turn, was predicated on the assumption that all members of the polity were unified in a set of religious observances that made visible the unity, totality, and transcendence of the civic community. How could a community stand if its members were not united in belief and religious observance? This question elicited a wide variety of responses, predictably, ranging from the purging of dissenters, at one extreme, to the coequal sharing of sacred spaces. The papers in this panel examine the most daring and -- several notable exceptions notwithstanding -- the least studied of these responses, the so-called “simultaneous” parishes of the Holy Roman Empire—simultanea or Simultankirchen—in which two or more confessions shared a single parish church, often for decades or even centuries on end. The earliest of these arrangements originated during 1520s and their number would eventually swell to over 600; in Germany, some 64 survive to this day. Those that endured, typically, were founded on a formal agreement that regulated the use of space between the confessional parties. But we still know relatively little about their premises, patterns, internal dynamics, and permutations.

The papers in this panel delve into three simultanea from three distinct regional and sociopolitical milieus—Lusatia in the east, Westphalia in the northwest, and the southern imperial city of Augsburg—that together span two centuries. How, these papers ask, did the inhabitants of “simultaneous” communities construe the relationship between religiosity and the corpus christianum? How did relationships between confessional commitments and civic or occupation identities transform? How, exactly, was “sharing” structured, and according to what premises? How did the agreements that regulated such sharing intersect with the local exercise of secular and/or spiritual authority? How did transformations in the politics of religion at the imperial level play out in local relations between the confessions? How did external shocks affect politics and identities within the confessions? These papers also pose broader questions about toleration in the cultural history of central Europe: did simultanea encourage peaceable coexistence between the confessions, typically, or did they make bad relations worse? Did simultanea hasten or hinder the uncoupling of religious from secular association?

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