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Crossing the Boundaries of Belief

Geographies of Religious Conversion in Southern Germany, 1648-1800

Duane J. Corpis

Publication Year: 2014

In early modern Germany, religious conversion was a profoundly social and political phenomenon rather than purely an act of private conscience. Because social norms and legal requirements demanded that every subject declare membership in one of the state-sanctioned Christian churches, the act of religious conversion regularly tested the geographical and political boundaries separating Catholics and Protestants. In a period when church and state cooperated to impose religious conformity, regulate confessional difference, and promote moral and social order, the choice to convert was seen as a disruptive act of disobedience. Investigating the tensions inherent in the creation of religious communities and the fashioning of religious identities in Germany after the Thirty Years' War, Duane Corpis examines the complex social interactions, political implications, and cultural meanings of conversion in this moment of German history.

In Crossing the Boundaries of Belief, Corpis assesses how conversion destabilized the rigid political, social, and cultural boundaries that separated one Christian faith from another and that normally tied individuals to their local communities of belief. Those who changed their faiths directly challenged the efforts of ecclesiastical and secular authorities to use religious orthodoxy as a tool of social discipline and control. In its examination of religious conversion, this study thus offers a unique opportunity to explore how women and men questioned and redefined their relationships to local institutions of power and authority, including the parish clergy, the city government, and the family.

Published by: University of Virginia Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

This book may never have reached completion without encouragement, support, and not- so- gentle prodding from a number of people. I would like to show my appreciation to all of them. As a dissertation, my first attempt to make sense of the unruly contents of my research was indebted to my amazing...

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pp. 1-20

On the eve of August 14, 1658, in one of Augsburg’s many taverns, a Lutheran man known in the official record simply as Knapp began singing Psalm 25 to a confessionally mixed group of customers. A decade following the end of the Thirty Years’ War and the implementation of the Peace...

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1. Mapping the Religious Landscape 1648 and Confessional Geography

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pp. 21-52

Among the rival theological camps that formed during the “Luther Affair,” distinctions between the “old faith” of the Roman Catholic Church and the “new learning” of the evangelical reformers centered on theological disputes over doctrines, ritual practices, and ecclesiastical institutions...

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2. Navigating between Confessions Migration and Displacement

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pp. 53-81

How did converts cross the confessional boundaries laid down by the Peace of Westphalia and move across early modern Germany’s religious and political landscape? From the initial decision to change one’s confessional affiliation to the moment of successful reintegration into a new...

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3. Losing Faith Doubt and Dissent

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pp. 82-116

If one aim of the Peace of Westphalia was to minimize the threat posed by religious pluralism within the Holy Roman Empire by imposing stable confessional boundaries, then the converts who transgressed those boundaries revealed Germany’s confessional map for what it was: a religiously...

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4. Transgressing Jurisdictions Disobedience and Disloyalty

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pp. 117-144

This chapter examines how secular magistrates perceived, regulated, and managed those disobedient subjects who abandoned their religious loyalties to their local community. Conversion undermined the convert’s position within the local web of political relations and hierarchies in both...

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5. Breaking the Ties That Bind Family and Community

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pp. 145-177

Like the previous chapter, this one explores the transgressive quality of religious conversion within Christian communities of the Holy Roman Empire, focusing specifically on family and kinship. Conversion’s disruptive effects on familial relationships deserve special attention because they occupy...

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6. Starting Over: Relocation and Reincorporation

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pp. 178-226

Conversion afforded early modern Christians an opportunity to alter their affiliations, relationships, and identities, and hence break from fixed, normative religious expectations and social positions. It offered a flexible narrative structure that let converts explain, justify, and come to terms...

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pp. 227-244

This book has charted the twists and turns along the winding paths that converts took in their journey from one confessional community to another in southern Germany during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. As converts wandered across the countryside from town to...


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pp. 245-284


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pp. 285-300


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pp. 301-313

Further Reading

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E-ISBN-13: 9780813935539
E-ISBN-10: 0813935539
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813935522
Print-ISBN-10: 0813935520

Page Count: 320
Illustrations: 2 b&w illus., 1 map, 2 graphs
Publication Year: 2014

OCLC Number: 875640596
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Crossing the Boundaries of Belief

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Germany -- Church history -- 17th century.
  • Germany -- Church history -- 18th century.
  • Conversion -- History -- 17th century.
  • Conversion -- History -- 18th century.
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