With the year 2017, the calendar of historical commemoration days offers the opportunity to commemorate the 500th anniversary of the publication of Martin Luther's theses. Traditionally, it stands for an epoch called the “Reformation”, which in Europe's self-image is often characterized as the turn of an era: In the long term, it has, among other things, promoted a surge of individualisation, rationalisation and secularisation (Max Weber).
If one refrains from an affirming historiography, this “turn of an era” in the European long-term memory can also be interpreted with good reasons as a kind of ambivalent modernisation crisis. It presents itself as a long phase marked by fundamentalism and the confrontation with religious deviance, which, among other things, profoundly changed the relationship to the most important religiously different group up to that time, the Jews. This phase, tied up with events, extends at least from the burning of the Czech reformers Jan Hus and Jerome of Prague (1416) at the Council of Constance to the outbreak of the Thirty Years' War in 1618, at the end of which there was a European peace of exhaustion (“Peace of Westphalia” 1648), which contributed substantially to the foundation of modern international law, a new understanding of the state and a changed relationship between nation, religion and politics. The long phase from 1416 through 1517 to 1618 was marked by an explosive combination of religion, politics and social dynamics. As a transformation phase, it deserves a thorough analysis with regard to its social, religious and political conditions. The “heretic Luther” (Volker Reinhardt) and the epochal year 1517 therefore stand not only for the aforementioned impulse for modernization, but also for the ambivalence of this phase of religious, social and national differentiation with serious consequences for the entire world – also beyond Luther's reach.
Thus, the Reformation can be understood as an element of a profound religious, political and social crisis, to which not only Luther, the Reformers and the Protestant authorities responded by disciplining, excluding and criminalizing those of different faith, people with other ideas and dissenters, but also large sections of society. In most cases, these phenomena were subsumed by research under the concept of “confessionalization”. The combination of religious reform, denominationalization, social discipline and state modernization, as understood by this concept, strengthened in the long term some tendencies that had already existed before the Reformation. In this respect, the Reformation also intensified and generated conflicts and crisis-like phenomena, which were reflected in the persecution of deviant behaviour by authorities/state and population. In addition to Jews, examples of this are religious minorities and marginalised social groups who were labelled, marginalised and persecuted as “sects”, “witches”, “vagrants”, “beggars” and “gypsies”. A closer look at the world beyond the great personalities of the history of the Reformation, which is less often told, but which has increasingly come into focus in recent years, is worthwhile. The lecture series therefore focuses on this alternative narrative of the Reformation as a complex and crisis-ridden period of transformation in European society. On the one hand, it focuses on the long development before the event of 1517, which did not necessarily lead to the Reformation: Conciliarism, humanism and the Renaissance as movements which, by drawing on a past imagined as exemplary, laid the foundations not only for reforms and educational movements, but also for religious fundamentalism, persecution of marginalised groups, heterodox movements and obscurantism. For example, the interreligious dimension of eschatological concepts deserves special attention in its catalytic links with social revolutionary impulses from the Dolcinites to the Anabaptists. Likewise, mysticism comes into view as an amalgam of diffuse social, religious and political concerns and, last but not least, as a precondition of Luther. The ambivalence of dealing, for example, with the Jewish heritage of the Christian religion, from the irenian efforts of an Erasmus of Rotterdam to the anti-Jewish inflammatory writings of Martin Luther, is just as much a part of this as the instrumental separation of politics and religion. The focus, however, should not be on the great and well-known personalities, but rather on less or even largely unknown figures who nevertheless belong to the character of the transformation phase: Political and religious thinkers, whose position as the voice of reason remained silent in the din of power struggles. Actors in the local context who failed with their concerns, but who are nevertheless worthy of attention. Or the women who have only come to the fore in recent decades, who – whether as propagators of the Reformation or as nuns from dissolved monasteries – faced extraordinary challenges and made an almost invisible contribution to transformation. Finally also movements that on the one hand led to escapism, mysticism and esotericism, but on the other hand developed a dynamic that in its long-term significance only becomes clear in distancing retrospect.
Time: Monday, 18:05-19:45
Location: S 1|03 123
To the program of the lecture series