Communal Christianity

The Life and Loss of a Peasant Vision in Early Modern Germany


Author: David Mayes
David Mayes proposes a new religious paradigm in early modern rural Germany. “Communal Christianity,” the religious practice prevalent among peasants in mid-sixteenth-century rural Upper Hesse is juxtaposed with the more formally organized “Confessional” sects (e.g. Lutheran, Calvinist). The author describes Communal Christianity’s characteristics and persistence in the face of attempts at confessionalization during the period of 1576-1648 and links its success in part to the decree of the 1555 Religious Peace of Augsburg that only one confessionalized Christian sect be officially recognized in a territory. Confessional sects became marginalized, and more locally well-established peasant communes retained power. The 1648 Peace of Westphalia encouraged reconciliation of confessionalized Christian sects, paradoxically spurring the decline of Communal Christianity in certain locales.

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David Mayes, Ph.D. (2002), Early Modern European History, University of Wisconsin-Madison, is Assistant Professor of History at Sam Houston State University. He has published articles in The Sixteenth Century Journal and Zeitschrift des Vereins für Hessische Geschichte und Landeskunde.
' ...Mayes work illuminates the considerable capability and versatility of early modern German rural communities in navigating their way amid larger political and religious forces, and it contributes to a growing literature that attempts to take adequate account of rural as well as urban communities in describing early modern religion.' Christopher Boyd Brown, American Historical Review, 2005. ‘ Mayes has put together an interesting, if not compelling thesis, one which poses a substantial challenge to the standard version of confessionalization. The most valuable aspect, to my mind, lies in the approach to post-Westphalian Germany. It is here, more than anywhere else, where the author succeeds in his goal of finding a way out of a "now-petrified narrative" of confessional history. For this, despite its weaknesses, the book merits serious consideration.’ William Bradford Smith, Oglethorp University, Sixteenth Century Journal
Preface Introduction: Toward a New Paradigm for Religion in Early Modern Rural Germany PART I. THE AGE OF COMMUNAL CHRISTIANITY IN RURAL UPPER HESSE, CA. 1550-1648 1. Communal Christianity: The Aconfessional Livelihood of Religion in Rural Upper Hesse 2. Communal Christianity Continues amid a Lutheran Confessionalization, 1576-1604 3. Communal Christianity Thrives amid a Calvinist Confessionalization, 1605-1624 4. Communal Christianity Abides amid a Second Lutheran Confessionalization and the War Years, 1624-1648 PART II. COMMUNAL CHRISTIANITY LOST IN THE WAKE OF COMMUNAL CONFESSIONALIZATION, 1648-1730 5. The Origins and Development of a Confessionalized Culture in Rural Upper Hesse, 1648-1677 6. The Spread and Ramifications of Communal Confessionalization, 1677-1730 Conclusion Bibliography Index
Students and scholars interested in Early Modern European history, German history, the Reformation era, peasant political culture, the history of Christianity and of popular religion, and the history of Protestant confessions.