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  • Priestly Resistance to the Early Reformation in Germany by Jourden Travis Moger
  • Roman Fischer
Priestly Resistance to the Early Reformation in Germany. By Jourden Travis Moger. [Religious Cultures in the Early Modern World, No. 15.] (Brookfield, VT: Pickering & Chatto. 2014. Pp. xii, 205. $99.00. ISBN 978-1-848-93454-2.)

In this study Moger offers a new view of the Reformation—“from the bottom up,” as it were. The result is a view of the history of the Reformation in Frankfurt am Main less influenced by the traditional thinking of the Evangelical Church. Just as Martin Luther’s teachings were influenced by his pervading faith in the established order, so most recent histories up to Sigrid Jahns have concentrated on the role of the state. Moger is less interested in the prominent theologians of the time (Johannes Dietenberger, Johannes Cochlaeus, and Friedrich Nausea were active in Frankfurt) and more in what he calls “the losers in history,” here embodied in Wolfgang Königstein, a simple priest clinging to his faith in troubled times, whose diary provides the basis for this study.

In the first part of his book (chapters 1 and 2) the author provides a remarkably thorough and precise picture of Königstein’s world, origins, and times. Chapter 1 is dedicated to the political, economic, social, and religious structures in Frankfurt. Chapter 2 describes the Liebfrauenstift (Foundation of Our Lady), Königstein’s institutional and religious home. [End Page 641]

The main body of the study (chapters 3 to 5) chronicles the development of the Reformation in Frankfurt and the reaction of the Catholics to this development. Moger is critical of the depiction of the social movement of 1525, which had also reached Frankfurt, as a “revolution” (by Peter Blickle and Hans Rosenberg, for example); he characterizes the results of this movement in Frankfurt as, in general, a positive development that was successful in three ways; there was no loss of blood and no punishment.

The summary in chapter 6 views the cultural impact of the Reformation as viewed through Königstein’s eyes.

Possibly the most surprising facet of this investigation is the author’s view that the Reformation seems to have brought about no fundamental changes in the political, economic, or social structures of the Reichstadt (imperial city). The old established oligarchies, consisting of the patrician families and the guild masters, retained their former influence and privileges. The economic structures of the city, based largely on the two Reichsmessen (imperial fairs), and the general economic conservatism of the oligarchy resulted in a slow transition to the Reformation. The city retained its privileged place at the side of the emperor and even became the official city for coronations after 1561. Change came about chiefly in the sociocultural structures of the city: the founding of the Allgemeine Almosenkasten (common alms chest); abolishing many church holidays, fasting, and many processions; new forms of the “Rites of Passage”; and instituting changes in the role of women (such as emphasizing their status as wives and mothers). The Reformation replaced old rituals with new ones, including the completely new tradition of congregational singing. The most obvious result of the New Teachings was that from 1533 to 1548 the Catholic service and all other instances of public Catholic life in Frankfurt were forbidden. Then, dating from the Interim of Augsburg (1548), the Catholic Mass was again allowed, and Catholicism was able to establish itself in the city as a minority religion.

We should probably not expect fundamentally new information here about the Reformation in Frankfurt, a subject that has already been so thoroughly investigated. The sources have been known for some time now. In particular, the main source used by Moger, Königstein’s diary, appeared in printed form in 1888. The author has, however, succeeded in extracting new information from this document. In particular, his skillful translation from the early-modern German into English highlights many unfamiliar details of Königstein’s narrative. The author also makes use of several sources that have not received the attention they deserve. A source appendix is not provided, but extensive citations from these sources are offered in the footnotes. The author is...


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