In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

Reviewed by:
  • Communities of Devotion: Religious Orders and Society in East Central Europe, 1450–1800 ed. by Maria Crăciun and Elaine Fulton
  • István Keul
Communities of Devotion: Religious Orders and Society in East Central Europe, 1450–1800. Edited by Maria Crăciun and Elaine Fulton. [Catholic Christendom, 1300–1700.] (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing. 2011. Pp. xvi, 284. ISBN 978-0-7546-6312-6.)

This collection is a most welcome and highly relevant contribution to existing scholarship in English on religious developments in late-medieval and early-modern east central Europe. The focus of the volume lies on page 144 in the activities of monastic orders in the multiconfessional region and in the complex relationships between religious orders and their social environment. [End Page 144] As the volume’s editors aptly emphasize in their thoughtful introduction, the designation “communities of devotion” chosen as the title for the collection applies as much to the various monastic communities discussed in the volume’s essays as to larger social frameworks formed by the religious orders and their interactions with their secular surroundings. The contributions in the first section of the volume look at the intensity of the mendicant orders’ activities and their effect on lay thought and practice. Maria Crăciun highlights in the volume’s first chapter the visual presence of themes and motifs from the teachings of religious orders (Franciscan and Dominican) in the iconography of numerous parish churches in urban and rural Transylvanian Saxon communities as a direct result of lay endowments. Carmen Florea illustrates in her contribution the high degree of attachment to the Dominican convents and the mendicant friars expressed by parts of the population in three major Transylvanian towns. That the impact of the mendicant orders’ spiritual messages on widespread lay religious beliefs and practices (such as excessive Marian devotion, relic cults, and pilgrimages) was often relatively limited, is demonstrated by Marie-Madeleine de Cevins, who examined sermons written by two Franciscans in the Kingdom of Hungary around the year 1500. In the second half of the sixteenth century, the activities of the Jesuit Order were accompanied by strategic difficulties—In spite of support by the ruler and Catholicism’s status of “received religion” (despite the absence of a bishop and a network of parish churches), the Jesuits failed to exert a decisive, lasting influence in and around the town of Klausenburg/Kolozsvár/Cluj, neglecting important elements in local religious culture and earning a reputation of bad lordship on the estates under their control, as shown in a contribution from the middle section of the volume, written by Christine Peters. In Vienna, however, in the early decades of the Jesuit mission the Order managed to benefit from the support of a highly respected and influential layman, who contributed significantly to the advancement of the Order’s agenda in that city (see the chapter by Elaine Fulton). Looking at the situation of monasteries in Lower Austria, Rona Johnston Gordon discusses in her contribution the conflicts between secular and religious authorities, in the context of attempts at monastic reform. In another chapter focusing on the theme of conflict and authored by Gabriella Erdélyi, an Augustinian convent in western Hungary becomes the object of controversy when the town community energetically protests against the friars’ neglect of the convent church buildings and liturgical services as well as their morally lax behavior, which culminates in the Augustinians’ expulsion from the convent and their replacement by Franciscan Observants. In the volume’s closing section, the contribution by Martin Elbel looks at Franciscan activities in the field of pilgrimage promotion in Bohemia and Moravia, leading to the consecration of a large number of Viae Crucis in the region. Greta-Monica Miron discusses the role of the Basilian monks in the development of the new Greek-Catholic (or Uniate) Church in Transylvania in the eighteenth century. The volume ends with a brief overview and contextualization of the collection’s contributions written by Ronnie Po-chia Hsia, who appropriately points out a major asset of the [End Page 145] present collection—namely, that it offers “detailed and vivid scenes of lay and ecclesiastical life” (p. 276). By presenting case studies of monastic-lay...