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  • Orden und Klöster im Zeitalter von Reformation und katholischer Reform 1500-1700, Band 1
  • Dennis Martin
Orden und Klöster im Zeitalter von Reformation und katholischer Reform 1500-1700, Band 1. Edited by Friedhelm Jürgensmeier and Regina Elisabeth Schwerdtfeger. {Katholisches Leben und Kirchenreform im Zeitalter der Glaubensspaltung, Band 65.] (Münster: Aschendorff Verlag. 2005. Pp. 256. €22.80 paperback.)

This first of three volumes designed to survey religious orders in the period of Protestant and Catholic Reformations covers (1) Benedictine monks and (2) nuns, (3) Cistercian monks and (4) nuns, (5) the Teutonic Order, (6) the [End Page 315] Knights of St. John of the Hospital (Knights of Malta), (7) Servites, (8) Birgittines, (9) Brethren of the Common Life, (10)Canonnesses and collegiate foundations for women, and (11)Ursulines. Subsequent volumes will take up Augustinian Eremites, Celestines, various mendicant friars, Jesuits, Carmelites, Carthusians, Poor Clares, Crosiers, Maria Ward's Congregatio Jesu, Praemonstratensians, and others. Only houses located within German-speaking regions of Europe are to be included. The first four chapters on Benedictine and Cistercian monks and nuns make up nearly half of the book. The editors explain that these eleven orders are included largely because the scholars assigned to cover them submitted their entries first.

Most entries follow a standard pattern, beginning with a statistical snapshot of the order's situation ca. 1500, ca. 1550, and ca. 1648, followed by a map and a numerical listing of each German house of the order coded to permit the reader to gain an overview of which houses survived or failed to survive the chaos of the era and which regions suffered greater or lesser losses. The standard entry then continues with sections on (1) the origins, character and charism of the order; (2) its late medieval life, culture, and reform efforts up to 1517; (3) the impact of the early Reformation; (4) the impact of the "second Reformation,"territorialization, and confessionalization; (5) the impact of Trent's reforms; and (6) spirituality, art, culture, and scholarship at the end of the era. Extensive bibliographies at the end of each entry make up in part for the decision to eschew footnotes or endnotes.

Although perhaps most useful as a reference work, the book does give the reader some sense of both common patterns and circumstances specific to certain orders. One notes how, for Benedictines, areas of late medieval reform correspond strongly to areas in which these orders survived the upheaval of the Reformation. On the other hand, in some instances an unreformed convent survived better than one that had been reformed under pressure during the fifteenth century, because the former often represented an institution of noblewomen embedded in the politics of the territory, which enabled it to weather the Protestant attacks on monastic life. Indeed, the chapters on women's houses (including Chapter 10 on canonnesses and women's collegiate foundations) as well as the two chapters on the military orders illustrate extremely well how adaptable certain institutional forms of religious life were; by the end of the era, some houses of each order had simply become Protestant versions of their pre-Reformation institutions, in some instances with Protestant and Catholic branches existing side by side.

Yet a different pattern is observable with the Servites. Originating in Florence, their core area in German-speaking lands became the heartland of the Reformation, Saxony and Thuringia, where all their houses were lost. But two new Observant provinces in Tyrol and Bohemia in the seventeenth century thrived and played an important role until the Josephine secularizations in the 1780's and even influenced nineteenth-century Catholic life in Austria. [End Page 316]

The authors take care to build up their descriptions as a series of concrete, vivid vignettes exemplary of the houses of a particular order in German-speaking regions. As a result, this valuable reference work is anything but an arid collection of data. One awaits eagerly the completion of the series.

Dennis Martin
Loyola University Chicago


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