- Reforming Reformation ed. by Thomas F. Mayer
Editor Thomas F. Mayer begins this volume by contrasting the old and popular idea of a world-changing Protestantism with the distinct, interconnected histories that compose the blurred cultural landscapes that most historians now paint. Ten essays then challenge common perspectives in a topical or regional field and adduce evidence to pose alternative viewpoints. Whether these alternatives might add up to a new, comprehensive picture of sixteenth-century religious change is a bit hard to assess.
Two essays consider Europe and the Reformation as a whole. Brad Gregory explains how Lutheran and Reformed confessional churches “became the great exceptions of the Reformation” (p. 33), while the free interpretation of the Bible unleashed a competition of fragmented truth claims and competing religious institutionalizations that would proliferate in the fertile, post-1650 terrain of England, the Dutch Republic, and eventually America. Against the idea of confessional state-building, the almost canonical historical opinion that everyone seems to love to hate, Gregory argues that the exercise of power and free interpretation of the Bible were incompatible. In the second contribution on European Reformation writ large, Ronald Thiemann, taking aim at Charles Taylor’s argument for a Weberian disenchantment of the world, argues that reformers actuated a “spiritual aesthetic” of “sacramental realism” (p. 77) evident in John Calvin and Martin Luther’s doctrine and in the art of Giotto, the younger Bellini, Andrea Mantegna, [End Page 933] Matthias Grünewald, the elder Cranach, and Master Mathias. To Gregory, the Reformation produces religious confusion. To Thiemann, it produces something like a worldly spirituality.
The remaining essays take a regional approach, focusing on Italy, England, the Holy Roman Empire, or Spain. Three chapters treat England. Peter Marshall reminds us how the retiring generation of British historians ruled out the “confessionalization thesis” (p. 8) for England (Patrick Collinson) or Northwest Europe (Andrew Pettegree). Against that tide, Marshall argues for confessionalization of a certain kind, promoted by the Kings Book (1543), the Act of Uniformity (1552), the Marian restitution of Catholicism (1553–58), and the Elizabethan Settlement (1559) and Prayer Book (1563). But the result of such efforts was not a wishy-washy via media Anglicanism but a “robustly confessional state and a de facto religiously plural society” (p. 55)—confessionalization and pluralism. Anne Overell stresses spiritual continuities between religious opponents. She shows that although the sacrament of penance came to an end in Elizabethan England, the practice of spiritual direction and encouragements to confess sin ran right through the two switchback decades preceding Elizabeth’s accession, crossing Protestant-Catholic lines then and Anglican-Puritan lines later. Confessing sin to a priest or minister was promoted by the several editions of the Prayer Book, by editions and adaptations of Thomas á Kempis’ Imitation of Christ and Desiderius Erasmus’s Enchiridion, and by anti-Nicodemite literature. A third contribution on England takes up the role of continental influence on English developments, stressed recently by historians. John Edwards offers a close examination of the Dominican Bartolomé Carranza’s catechism, a central figure in the ecclesiastical policy of Mary Tudor. Carranza’s catechism, which he calls a blueprint of Marian religion, represents well the reformed Catholicism promoted by her court.
Against “the usual division of Catholic culture” in sixteenth-century Spain “into squads of heroes and villains” (“spirituali and instransigenti, or Erasmians and scholastics,” p. 84), Lu Ann Homza reconsiders the use of evidence by the Inquisition to argue for tensions between a humanistic method of contextualizing and Rome-centered orthodoxy. This includes the trial of Mary Tudor’s helper Bartolomé Carranza when he returned home. In a second contribution on Spain, Jodi Bilinkoff complicates a picture associated with Peter Burke, who pointed out a Spanish penchant for lionizing founders of religious orders as saints. She argues for a decades-long process that reluctantly valorized the Discalced Carmelite John of the Cross.
One chapter treats the Holy Roman Empire. John Frymire argues that scholars have neglected the shape and vitality of German Catholicism in...