- Friedlicher Kreuzzug und fromme Pilger: Liturgiehistorische Studien zur Heilig-Land-Wallfahrt im Spiegel deutschsprachiger Pilgerberichte des späten 19. Jahrhunderts by Stefan Böntert
Friedlicher Kreuzzug und fromme Pilger is the published version of Stefan Böntert’s Habilitationsschrift, accepted in 2009 by the Department of Liturgical Studies in the School of Catholic Theology of Erfurt University. Böntert investigates the revived interest in German pilgrimages to the Holy Land in the second half of the nineteenth century. He describes the shift from an age in which pilgrims largely traveled individually or in small groups to one in which groups of pilgrims traveled together under the leadership of a priest or group of priests. As Böntert shows, this resulted in significant changes in travel patterns and liturgical practices. As the Church sought to counter the threats of a rapidly industrializing German society, pilgrimages became a means of drawing the faithful closer to their priests and to the Church’s necessary role in achieving salvation. The laity, however, embraced parts of the new liturgical framework but also retained individual ritual and customary [End Page 622] gestures and often considered the formal liturgical events less important in the pilgrim’s encounter with the sites of Christ’s life.
As in most German academic qualifying works, the theoretical-methodological discussion takes up a good share of the work—in this case, about a quarter. Böntert argues that, in recent times, the definition of liturgy has expanded beyond the Mass. In the body of the work, he describes the expansion of liturgical practices such as processions, Eucharistic benediction, and common prayer of the rosary, as within the scope of what constitutes liturgy. In addition to liturgical events, the nineteenth-century laity often engaged in forms of prayer and worship based on custom.
Böntert uses memorial books, private letters, and diaries as the primary evidence for his study. He shows that individual pilgrims traveled to the Holy Land by way of Rome, Athens, or Alexandria. More important, before passing through the gates of Jerusalem, they would stop and pray to prepare themselves for what they were about to experience. Within the city, they immediately headed for the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, even before reaching their lodgings. As railroads and steamships made it easier to travel, the practice of pilgrimage to the Holy Land, which had largely ceased after the Ottoman conquest, resumed and expanded. In contrast to the individual pilgrims, the pilgrims traveling in groups assembled for a formal procession from the train station to their lodgings and only then to the holy sites.
Although it might be unfair to criticize this study for what it is not, a greater engagement of the historical context would have been most welcome. Although Böntert mentions increased numbers of pilgrimages from other European countries, comparisons between Catholic pilgrimages from different countries might have been illuminating. Also, Böntert’s discussion of Catholic-Protestant differences in action and mentality could have explored further the role of pilgrimages in the Kulturkampf raging in Germany. Finally, Böntert teases the reader with brief discussions of the largely poor relations between pilgrims and the Holy Land’s Muslims and Jews. These discussions themselves merit a monograph of their own.
This work, in fact, bears within it suggestions for many more detailed studies based on a broader range of sources—for example, to analyze the cultural engagement of pilgrims with each other and with pilgrims whose Catholicism was marked by different regional and national cultural practices, as well as to examine for the first time the experience of pilgrims as a minority. Most important, Böntert has shown the need for further study on the ways in which the laity’s acceptance of the importance of the clergy in providing liturgical leadership stood in tension with the laity’s independence in determining which liturgical practices to...