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3 The Rites of State and the Counter-Reformation Resurgence
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The Rites of State and the Counter-Reformation Resurgence

In the history of Bavaria, the 1560s marked a watershed in confessional politics. During his tenure, Duke Wilhelm IV (r. 1508-1550), prompted by the growing strength of Lutheranism in the empire and among Bavaria's estates, had moved from outright prohibition of Protestantism toward a policy that expressly supported Rome but granted leniency to Protestants. To strengthen the Catholic cause, he had called the Jesuits to the university town of Ingolstadt in 1549. Yet even their early arrival in the territory did not stem the growth of reform sentiment. Hampered by chronic administrative weaknesses and the need to procure the assent of his estates, Wilhelm was unable to impose unified standards on either laity or clergy.

Wilhelm's successor, his son Albrecht V (r. 1550-1579), remained on friendly terms with Protestant and liberal Catholic factions throughout the territory during the first years of his regime. By the late 1550s, however, he had grown distrustful of the Lutheran minority among his nobility, who called insistently for reform. Albrecht, like Wilhelm before him, sensed that evangelical reform was a challenge to his authority. One sign of his growing intolerance came in 1558 when he appointed the uncompromising Simon Eck to serve as his chancellor. Eck and other conservatives in the state councils urged the duke to ignore the pleas of evangelicals and to take strong action to reassert his authority.[1]

Yet another inducement to counter-reform came in the winter of 1563 with the conclusion of the Council of Trent. That body's clear and forceful clarification of Catholic doctrine provided the duke, his advisors, and the growing ranks of counter-reforming clergy in Bavaria with a precise vision of the most important features of the Roman religion. After 1563, state officials and counter-reformers


molded and shaped the pronouncements of Trent to fit their own needs, such that during the next half-century Bavaria emerged as the leader of the Roman resurgence in the empire, pioneering a distinct type of Catholic Reformation that would eventually be imitated in a number of German states.[2]

To reimpose uniformity, Albrecht and his officials relied on a massive application of state power. Although the duke's increasing rigidity had become apparent by the late 1550s, he took the first steps to root out the Protestant opposition in 1563, at a territorial diet held at Ingolstadt. Rejecting the requests for religious reform put forth by his Lutheran nobles, Albrecht dismissed the Ingolstadt diet. He soon learned, however, that many of these nobles were rallying to support the count of Ortenburg, the ruler of a small territory within Bavaria who had recently initiated a Lutheran reformation. Albrecht seized the count—a move that was illegal under imperial law—and opened an investigation of this Lutheran noble faction and their impending rebellion. Having imprisoned the offenders, the duke then used the legal process to deprive them of their lands and estate seats. With this determined stroke the duke managed to destroy the power of the Lutheran nobility and to begin to cow any remaining dissenters into submission. From the suppression of the alleged noble fronde of 1564, the Bavarian estates grew progressively weaker as an instrument of constitutional opposition to Wittelsbach hegemony over religion.[3]

Albrecht followed his move against the nobility with a series of measures designed to counteract Protestant influence in Bavaria. Ordinances were enacted that commanded state officials to seize the goods and property of any ducal subject who participated in Protestant worship, the goods not to be returned until the offender renounced evangelical doctrine. Those who crossed the borders of Bavaria to attend Protestant services, a practice common in sixteenth-century Germany, were threatened with fines of fifty to one hundred florins.[4] Booksellers were required to register with the state, and those who had previously been discovered importing


Protestant books were required to swear that they would never do so in the future.[5]

The Bavarian state's efforts to insure doctrinal purity steadily mounted in the late sixteenth century. By 1570, Lutherans were no longer threatened merely with fines and confiscation: they were required to renounce their beliefs or to emigrate. And in 1571, a ducal decree overturned the concessions that had been granted to the chalice movement, including communion with both bread and wine, the elimination of fasting, and the de facto toleration of clerical marriage and concubinage.[6] One important innovation that helped to accomplish these reforms was the establishment of the Clerical Council at Munich. Comprising both secular and ecclesiastical officials, the council was charged with inspecting the local clergy at regular intervals. In return for obedience in matters of doctrine and religious discipline, clergy were granted the limited function of certifying the orthodoxy of local bureaucrats. By issuing certificates that verified officials' attendance at mass and confession, Bavaria's priests thus became functionaries in a system aimed at establishing conformity and stamping out dissent. In turn, however, the power to examine the religious beliefs and practices of the laity was given not to clerics, but to officials of the state.[7]

The arbitrary efforts of Albrecht to stamp out Protestantism in the territory continued under his successors Wilhelm V (r. 1579-1598) and Maximilian I (r. 1598-1651). Only during Maximilian's regime did the state achieve any real degree of success in rooting out dissenters and in freeing the territory of trade in Protestant ideas. To achieve this, state bureaucrats conducted frequent forays into the countryside to search for Protestant books, and border patrols scrutinized the flow of incoming goods and people more closely than ever before. The movements of Bavarian subjects beyond the boundaries of the state were also carefully monitored. Students


who left to study in other territories, for example, were forbidden from attending Protestant universities and required to present proof of their enrollment in orthodox Catholic institutions. Likewise, traveling merchants were expected to attend mass and confession regularly on their journeys and to send back certification verifying their compliance.[8] Innovations like these, of course, necessitated huge infusions of personnel and money, thereby contributing to the steadily rising costs of government in early modern Bavaria.[9]

In their attempt to create a one-confessional state, the Wittelsbach dukes faced strong resistance not only from many quarters of the laity, but from the clergy as well. Concubinage within the priesthood, for instance, remained common long after Albrecht prohibited it. Never well established before the Reformation, clerical celibacy was largely nonexistent during the period 1520-1560 as a result of Protestant attacks.[10] A significant impediment to Wittelsbach plans was the fact that all of Bavaria's cathedral chapters and many of her important monasteries and abbeys were exempt from ducal control. Populated by aristocrats who equated the CounterReformation program with an assault on privilege, these institutions often refused to heed Tridentine directives. The decrees forbidding multiple benefices, for example, were roundly opposed. Even such matters as clerical vestments could explode into violent disputes over honor. Refusing to dress in the style required by Trent, the Bavarian higher clergy continued to wear their swords, even while saying mass, as a symbol of their status as well as their defiance of the Counter-Reformation program.[11]

To accomplish the reform of Bavaria's ecclesiastical institutions, Albrecht and his successors relied on the traditional Wittelsbach policy of seeing their sons, relatives, and trusted advisors elected to strategic clerical offices. From these positions of authority, the ducal associates then oversaw the appointment of counter-reforming


clergy, who in turn upheld the Tridentine program. And although the Wittelsbachs opposed multiple benefices among the clergy generally, they tolerated and even encouraged it within their own family and among like-minded associates. In 1564, for example, Albrecht secured the election of his eleven-year-old son Ernst as bishop of the large Bavarian diocese of Freising. Later Ernst multiplied his offices to become bishop of Hildesheim, Liège, Halberstadt, and Münster as well as archbishop of Cologne.[12] Picturesquely referred to as "Omnia," Ernst was not the only one of Albrecht's sons to enjoy an unusual career in the Church. In 1567, the duke celebrated another coup: the election of his three-year-old child Philip as bishop of Regensburg. With the diocese thus effectively placed under his regency, Albrecht began the process of counter-reformation by sending a number of trusted priests and Jesuits to Regensburg.[13] By the seventeenth century, persistent Wittelsbach efforts to control elections in ecclesiastical institutions had insured that many of the empire's Catholic dioceses and abbeys were under their control.[14]

The reform of the clergy was a long-term campaign that required several generations to complete. It was also a frequently frustrating enterprise. The Bavarian bureaucracy remained inadequate despite the steady infusion of new officials; its revenues failed to keep pace with the demands of the duke and his officials. And the duke's administration faced a full array of ancient rights and customs that could be invoked to bar government intervention.

These chronic inadequacies also hindered the series of educational reforms that Albrecht initiated in 1569. In that year, the duke wrested control of the territory's primary schools from the territorial estates, to consolidate control over these institutions and so stamp out Protestantism as well as indoctrinate children in the tenets of orthodox Catholicism. But despite the strong moral support that Albrecht and his successors gave the primary education plan, they concentrated their financial resources in building seminaries to in-


sure a steady supply of orthodox priests.[15] Albrecht left the raising of funds for the schools to the local communities, who were often unenthusiastic about the plan. The shortage of money and limited supply of orthodox teachers persisted, and Protestants continued to teach in many local schools even into the early seventeenth century. In 1613, Duke Maximilian essentially admitted the failure of the primary education program when he dramatically reduced the number of schools and curtailed their functions.[16]

Like policies calling for an increase in border patrols and inspection of laity and clergy, educational schemes required money and properly trained personnel, resources that were often in short supply in Old Regime societies. For the Counter-Reformers, however, ritual often provided a more effective way of cultivating orthodoxy and religious allegiance than laws, including those that restricted printing and pedagogy. Thus Albrecht and his successors combined their punitive attempts to root out Protestantism with a proliferation of ceremonial rites meant to persuade the wavering and to confirm the orthodox in their beliefs. Their campaign, in short, attempted to wed the arts of prohibition and persuasion.

With court rituals and processions, state and clerical officials propagated the notion of Bavaria as a sacral community united by its ruler and his unfailing allegiance to Rome. Nowhere is this apotheosis of the ducal state more evident than in the dramatically expanded celebration of the feast of Corpus Christi that began during the 1560s. Encouraged by members of the counter-reforming clergy, Albrecht V used this feast to create an imposing portrait of Bavaria and its duke in their role as guardians of biblical and ecclesiastical tradition. Intended to erase doubt through an appeal to the senses and emotions, the amplified celebration of the feast was eventually imitated throughout Catholic Germany and Austria. Enlarged to baroque proportions, Corpus Christi became one of the most important of the German Counter-Reformation's annual rites.[17]


The feast of Corpus Christi, which originated in the thirteenth century, had benefited from the huge late medieval upswing in eucharistic piety. By the eve of the Reformation this celebration had eclipsed even Easter in parts of England and France, where processions often attempted to represent the hierarchy of a city's guilds and occupational groups. The climax of these urban rogations was the host, the body of Christ, which was carried under a canopy and presented as the primary vehicle of social integration. Corpus Christi glorified an image of community as a corpus mysticum ; its processions were intended to heal fractures in towns and to purify urban space by distributing the host's sacred power.[18]

The celebration of solidarity being its central theme, the feast was a kind of popular sacrament of reconciliation. In England and France, confraternities and guilds were usually responsible for staging these processions, and honor accrued to them for their efforts. Indeed, these groups constantly redoubled their efforts on behalf of the celebration, introducing innovations in the name of corporate honor. In England especially, guilds and confraternities began to build movable floats on which they mimed incidents from the Bible. At their inception, these dramatic scenes were little more than improvised tableaux presented along the processional route; but soon the Corpus Christi "plays" grew into huge cycles that retold the pivotal events of salvific history.[19] In their emplotment the cycles mirrored the outlines of the mass, their narratives following a comic course, that is, with order being brought out of chaos; through a series of episodes man's Redemption was revealed and realized as a consequence of the Fall.[20] In contributing a scene to the cycle, urban occupations and sodalities demonstrated and insured their continuing status within the community.

The myths of Corpus Christi served as inspiration for many fifteenth- and sixteenth-century writers, kings, and rebels. In his


Richard III , for example, Thomas More related the story of the king's violation of the sacraments and the rights of sanctuary by using the dramatic conventions of Corpus Christi cycles. Rather than following the comic movement from Fall to Redemption, or disorder to order, however, More reversed the process. Through a series of Corpus Christi-style scenes he depicted the progressive revelation of the king as a demon and his fall to damnation as a consequence of his wickedness.[21]

The use of the Corpus Christi cycles to portray the story of an evil king would not have appeared at all curious to late medieval English men and women. After all, underpinning the feast's rites was a deep longing for communal solidarity; through violation of the sacraments and sanctuary, Richard had run roughshod over the very forces that sustained the corpus mysticum , threatening the kingdom's destruction and producing his own demise. In More's own time, the feast had already provided and still did provide justification for rebellions against landlords, the king's "evil" councillors, and those who through religious heterodoxy threatened to pollute and destroy the body social. Corpus Christi, for example, may well have inspired the peasants' revolt of the Jacquérie in France during 1358, for the rising began in the same week as the feast was celebrated. In England in 1381, the Peasants' Rebellion commenced on Corpus Christi Day, with dissent expressed in a sustained wave of eucharistic processions urging the king to dispose of his advisors.[22] Even into the seventeenth century, the temporal and ritualistic confines of the Corpus Christi festival were invoked as justification for open protest. In 1606, for example, after refusing to repeal laws considered anticlerical by Rome, the Republic of Venice was placed under papal interdict. In response, the city of Venice staged a huge and imposing celebration of the festival to demonstrate its Catholicity and defiance of the evils of Rome.[23]

Corpus Christi, then, represented a powerful ethos of religious and social solidarity that could be called forth in the name of dissent. Inherent within these same rites, however, was also a force


that could be invoked to justify royal authority. Fifteenth-century French monarchs attempted to appropriate the symbols of this important rite of communal and confraternal piety, and the extreme reverence of the host it expressed, to bolster their prestige, in effect transposing the communal ethos inherent in the fête Dieu to the higher plane of the nation. Through royal entry ceremonies, for example, monarchy fostered the notion of France as a mystical body united in the person of the king. Appearing at the end of a procession that included a city's saintly relics and its secular and spiritual officials, the French king was carried under a canopy and presented to his subjects just as the host was on Corpus Christi. At royal funeral ceremonies in the late fifteenth century, the practice arose of displaying the king's corpse in tandem with his royal effigy, a practice that underscored his office as "the crown made flesh."[24] In rites such as these, the political and religious doctrine of the "king's two bodies" gained powerful expression: one his earthly presence, and the other the corps mystère of the monarchy, which filled the realm with its praesentia .[25]

In France, mimetic eucharistic analogies and apologies for the state were common in the sixteenth century. In fact, they appear to have reached a high watermark during the royal entry of Francis II at Paris in 1549.[26] Lasting more than two weeks, the entry incorporated numerous classical and Christian symbols that glorified royalty as a sacramental institution. It concluded with the burning of a group of sacramentarian reformers, highlighting yet another of the monarch's functions as head of the corps mystère: the power to protect the nation by exorcizing polluting heretics from the social body.[27]

Although the host and its mystical body provided for sixteenth-century royal theorists, sodalities, and occupational groups potent


sources of identity, during the Reformation these notions came increasingly under attack. In his study of Corpus Christi Day celebrations in England, Mervyn James observes already in the fifteenth century a waning enthusiasm for the feast in newer quarters of the urban elite. Divorced from traditional sodalities and guilds, the cultured elites of many English towns argued that scripture and edificatory texts should replace the ritualized visual didacticism of traditional feasts.[28]

Eventually curtailed in England with relatively little controversy, Corpus Christi became, beginning in 1562, the focus of some of the bloodiest slaughter during the French Wars of Religion. With its strains sanctifying rebellion, dissent, and community, the feast represented for Calvinists and Catholics alike a unique opportunity for the self-conscious display of religious preference by brute force. In the resulting riots, Catholics enacted their violence upon the persons of the "heretical" French Huguenots, whom they believed to be the source of pollution. Protestants, for their part, concentrated their attention on the "accursed" objects and rites of Roman religion.[29] From Calvin and the Swiss reformers the Huguenots derived an abiding disgust for any religious practice that channeled divine power through the physical. Rather, while retaining a notion of personal and communal sanctification, they intoned the Word as the means for creating godly persons and communities. By attacking the Eucharist in particular, Protestants attempted both to purify the community of the wafer's detrimental effects and to demonstrate to their Catholic opponents that, since it was mere bread, it was ultimately powerless to vindicate itself.[30] Combining their attacks on the eucharistic majesty with a powerful political iconoclasm, which they used to justify the destruction of monuments sanctifying kingship, the Huguenots struck deep at the heart of France's royal and civic religion.[31]


Yet when we consider the contrasting development and historical fate of Corpus Christi in Germany, the same kinds of social mystical or corporatist elements that so marked its celebration in France and England are not apparent. In both these latter countries, processions provided a powerful medium for urban groups to compete for the rewards of civic honor. In Germany, however, the clergy actively worked to exclude sodalities and guilds from participating in the feast. Deemed a jocular assault on the solemnity of the feast and its host, Corpus Christi Day dramas, with their mumming and miming, appear to have been performed only in the Rhineland and the Netherlands, where the numbers and strength of guilds and confraternities were generally too great for the clergy to resist. Even in these regions, however, the performance of Corpus Christi cycles was severely limited, and occurred only after the eucharistic procession had drawn to a close.[32]

This divergence of festal practice between Germany and its neighbors to the west appears to have been one result of the proliferation of unsanctioned pilgrimages in the late Middle Ages. Fearing the multiplication of uncertified shrines dedicated to the Bleeding Host and the development of other spontaneous cults, the German clergy used eucharistic processions to instill order into popular religious life and to redraw more clearly the lines that differentiated them from the laity. In a study of eucharistic processions in late medieval Germany, Charles Zika concludes that the host provided a powerful impetus for social and religious discipline because it was widely perceived, not as a symbolic analogy for community, but as a kind of holy relic.[33] As such, simply by being viewed it was efficacious and salvific. In carrying the host through the streets of towns, the clergy relied on the same visual dimension of piety that made other salvific displays, like the show of relics, so religiously potent. In Germany, Corpus Christi consequently lacked the social, functional aspects of the French and English celebrations; most often the laity did little more than follow the priests as they bore the host on its circuit.

The use of the Eucharist as a means of control was widespread in


Bavaria, where Bleeding Host and other unsanctioned devotions had multiplied in the fifteenth century. As in other parts of South Germany, the Bavarian clergy resisted the calls of urban groups for representation in the feast's processions.[34] No instance of the laity costuming themselves appears in Bavaria until 1507, when the city fathers at Ingolstadt dressed up to participate in the annual cortege.[35] Biblical costuming thus appeared at Ingolstadt only on the eve of the Reformation, and the practice was not adopted elsewhere in Bavaria until the 1520s.

During the years 1520-1560, a number of towns in and around Bavaria abandoned celebration of the feast in the face of multiplying Protestant attacks. And often in those places where it continued to exist, the number of participants who could be mustered to march plummeted. At Augsburg on Corpus Christi Day in 1560, only twenty people joined the procession, despite the lure of the fiery preaching of the Jesuit Peter Canisius. In Regensburg, the town council permitted processions only in those years when imperial diets were convened in the city.[36] When the Franciscan cathedral preacher Hans Albrecht attempted to revive the procession on an annual basis in 1561, his efforts drew attacks from the city's Lutheran church leaders.[37]

In the Wittelsbach capital of Munich, however, the situation was quite different. Despite the attacks of Protestant reformers, Corpus Christi was celebrated with clockwork regularity throughout the Reformation. In fact, the attacks appear simply to have inspired the Munich town council to double its efforts in support of the feast. By 1523, for example, the council was enlisting the city's guilds and confraternities to prepare living tableaux for the annual procession. By granting these organizations a role in the celebration, the council may have been attempting to satisfy the demands for corporate honor that were such a potent force in sixteenth-century society;


but in addition, the use of mimed biblical scenes probably had a propagandistic and polemical function, to counter Protestant attacks on the feast as an unscriptural and idolatrous innovation. Whatever the council's reasons for instituting these dramatic tableaux, their decision appears to have been popular. By 1544, the town's occupational and fraternal groups were staging thirty-two living scenes on floats that accompanied the cortege.[38]

During Albrecht's regime, the ducal government dramatically increased both its support for the Corpus Christi processions and its control over the way the feast was celebrated. Protestant attacks on the feast in Regensburg and Augsburg, as well as iconoclastic incidents involving the Eucharist in France and the Netherlands, appear to have prompted Albrecht to use the festival to affirm Catholic truth and demonstrate his support for the Roman cause with a dramatic display. Encouraged by the Jesuits and other members of Bavaria's counter-reforming clergy, Albrecht doubled the size of Munich's Corpus Christi celebration during his reign.[39]

Throughout the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, the festival, which came increasingly to glorify the state and to signify its authority over religion, continued to enjoy strong Wittelsbach support. Several detailed inventories and copies of the processional order have survived from this time period, allowing us to reconstruct the feast's celebration.[40] The 1574 procession, for example, commenced with the standard-bearers of all the guilds of the city making their way through Munich. The duke's stable master followed, escorting members of the elite confraternity of St. George on horseback. Next came a prominent doctor's daughter playing St. Margaret of Antioch, who led a monstrous, yet tamed, dragon. According to legend, the saint was believed to have been swallowed by the animal but was later released when the monster miraculously burst open. At Munich, however, Christian victories over dragons multiplied as St. George, mimed by a nobleman, chased and defeated the animal from behind—a victory tradition-


ally held to be symbolic of the Church's triumph over Satan. Such legends about Christians banishing this monster gave the CounterReformation procession an imagery particularly well suited to the attempt to reassert authority in the wake of the Protestant reformers. In the Munich procession of 1574, George, who was also the patron of knights and warriors, was accompanied by a retinue of six knights—a scene which perhaps suggested that military action could also be an effective weapon against the devil.[41]

The next phase of the procession consisted of a series of fifty-five scenes drawn from the Old and New Testaments. Produced by the occupational and fraternal organizations of the city, these living tableaux began with the Creation, as mounted by the fishermen's guild. Subsequent scenes progressed through the Garden of Eden, the Temptation and Fall, the stories of Cain and Abel, the Flood, and so on, and concluded with the depiction of the tortures of Christ, the Crucifixion, the Transfiguration, the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, and the Last Judgment. All together, 1,439 people were involved in the reenactment of these scenes.

With the biblical history complete, the city's clerics and students in the Catholic schools followed. The ducal trumpeters next raised a blast to announce the nearing of the host, but before it arrived, twelve noble children, reminiscent of the apostles, marched past carrying mock weapons used in the torture and crucifixion of Christ. Finally, two pairs of priests escorted the monstrance with its host, followed by members of the ducal court and the Wittelsbach duke himself, who concluded the procession. Almost two thousand people had participated in this imposing display—a considerable number indeed at a time when the city's population was only about fifteen thousand.

Impressive as this procession was, the numbers of participants rose steadily during the late sixteenth century. By 1582, 3,082 clerics and lay people were recorded marching in the train, and documents from the 1590s suggest a steady increase in intensity, with the Bavarian duke himself providing the processions with costumes, horses' harnesses, and knightly armor. A list of the costumes and regalia compiled in 1592, for example, comes to 178 manuscript


pages; by 1596, 220 pages were required to catalog the objects used in the procession, and by 1627, 250 pages. To house these items Albrecht had a special warehouse constructed on the grounds of the ducal residence, which his successors were forced to supplement with a second and then a third building to accommodate the steady proliferation of feast-day regalia.[42]

Sumptuous ducal provisioning of the festival, despite the drain on the state's often meager resources, underscored the importance of Corpus Christi as a state function. The undulations of participating confraternities, guilds, and clergy of course delineated the various groups that made up the city of Munich; but the climax of the procession was the sacred host, together with its strongest defenders in the realm: the Bavarian duke and his court. Marching in the procession became an obligation for state officials, insuring at least their outward conformity to the Wittelsbachs' strongly Catholic policies.[43] Those members of the nobility and of Munich's urban organizations who paraded as characters from the Bible were also undertaking a state function, a reality made obvious by the fact that they wore costumes provided by the Wittelsbach dukes.

Besides serving important power functions for the early modern state, the Corpus Christi celebrations taught the religious values of the Counter-Reformation. In the staging of mimed biblical scenes, the Munich processions adopted features from late medieval England and France; the way those features developed, however, proceeded along different lines. Whereas in these countries to the west Corpus Christi miming and living tableaux usually gave way to a kind of spoken street theater, and eventually to huge dramatic cycles performed independent of the procession itself, the Munich Counter-Reformation celebration never adopted the spoken drama; rather, it remained a mute testimony to the truths of Catholicism and its biblical interpretation. This divorce of words and visual display appears to have been a conscious decision, for in the other Bavarian towns that imitated the revamped Munich procession no vernacular dramas were ever staged on the feast day. Only in Dillingen in 1565 and 1602 and at Kösslarn in 1700 do accounts survive of any plays being performed on Corpus Christi Day, but


these were Latin, not vernacular, dramas, staged by the Jesuit schools in these towns.[44]

In retaining Corpus Christi as a visual as opposed to an aural experience, the Bavarian counter-reformers were attempting to amplify the traditional importance of seeing the Eucharist. As a viewed display, it promoted the notion that the transubstantiation of the host was a kind of theophany, the benefits of which were internalized through the gateway of the eye. Styled as a triumph, the celebration assured onlookers that the Church had weathered and survived numerous trials throughout history, and it imaged the Eucharist as a source of power rising above the crises produced by demons and the "godless." To underscore the living legacy of this battle between the forces of good and evil, costumed demons often circulated along the processional route pelting onlookers with manure, dragons vomited real ox blood, and devils spewed fire.[45] The impulse that caused such a dramatic expansion of the feast during Albrecht's regime was in part polemical, for it was in these years that Calvinists in many places throughout Europe were enacting violent rituals upon the host. But by performing their rites of state and religion in silence, the counter-reformers also set their own theology of the Eucharist as an ultimately incomprehensible mystery against the wordy "prattlings" of Protestants on the subject.[46]


In adopting visual spectacle as a primary medium for reestablishing the primacy of the Catholic cult, however, the Bavarian state and clergy faced a paradox. For even if the new celebration that radiated outward from Munich was an imposing display, a purely visual embodiment of religious truth could not answer Protestant attacks on Catholic eucharistic practices. For this reason, the counter-reformers relied on sermons and the printing press to define more clearly and precisely the significance of their revivified rites. Such sermons from the 1560s and 1570s still survive, providing insight into the clergy's way of thinking about their renascent rituals.[47]

Among the most industrious of the defenders of the host and the feast of Corpus Christi was Johann Nass (1534-1590). A peripatetic Protestant tailor, he settled in Munich in 1551 and converted shortly afterward as a result of reading Thomas à Kempis's Imitation of Christ . As a convert, Nass shared a status common among the first generation of Counter-Reformation propagandists and preachers: not only was their conversion a victory for the Roman cause that was often publicly exploited, but as converts these preachers and polemicists often had an intimate knowledge of Protestant theology, and they, better than those who had been trained as Catholics from early childhood, knew how to counteract the Reformation's influence. Shortly after his conversion Nass entered the Franciscan order, and eventually he began to study at the emerging center of ultraorthodox Catholicism, the University of Ingolstadt. In addition to carrying on his activities there in the 1560s, Nass became an itinerant preacher and traveled in Bavaria and Austria to deliver sermons at pilgrimage shrines, in fields and city streets, and before the Wittelsbach and Hapsburg courts. The meaning of the Eucharist provided one of the most common themes in his preaching, and in these years he frequently delivered a series of twelve sermons defending the feast of Corpus Christi. With their strongly mystical


strains and reliance on an unmediated experience of God in the mass and in the eucharistic procession, these dozen sermons embraced much late medieval German theology about the host.[48] Yet they were also infused with a powerful new sense of Christian history and tradition, one that would find a wide audience in Bavaria. Duke Albrecht encouraged the preacher to publish his sermons, and during the 1560s and 1570s several editions of these works appeared from the Ingolstadt presses. Nass had succeeded in the writer's difficult task of assessing and developing his market.[49]

In his foreword to the 1572 printed edition of the collected sermons, Nass identifies his audience as the "diligent laity and clergy" of Bavaria. Because he often preached in Bavarian towns, he would have addressed students enrolled in the Church's schools, as well as many established clerics and men destined for the priesthood. Consequently, Nass often supported his observations with quotes and allusions to the early Church Fathers and to other theologians with whom such audiences would have been familiar. Running throughout the sermons, however, is a clear and consistent thesis, summarized by frequent repetitions and the use of popular German proverbs and colloquialisms (one is reminded here of his earlier career as an artisan). This mixture of repetitive, aphoristic language and abstruse theological content meant that his preaching combined both theological erudition and more general intelligibility. That is, his sermons were pitched to communicate his message to a broad spectrum of sixteenth-century Bavaria. These twin poles of refinement and vernacular simplicity served yet another practical purpose: they established him as an expert member of the literati, one who had made a detailed study of theological matters but had not surrendered his roots as an artisan.[50]

To defend the powerful immanental and visual dynamics of the


Eucharist and the feast of Corpus Christi, Nass relies on traditional scriptural passages. Like the manna of the Exodus narrative, the host is the "bread of heaven"; but it far surpasses this earlier biblical prefiguration, for it nourishes not just man's bodily need for food, but his salvation. As the physical embodiment of God on earth, the host is placed into ciboria and monstrances that are "framed with precious jewels and gems," a practice also anticipated by the Jews when they enclosed manna in their sacred ark of the covenant. Like this Old Testament shrine, Nass argues, the Eucharist is a holy locus that is displayed on processions so its power can be distributed and suffused to banish evil.[51] But the Eucharist represents a far greater mystery than these pious but outward signs of devotion suggest: it is the one indisputable embodiment of Catholic unity, for, like the body of Christ, it has been preserved inviolate through the ages as the greatest of Christian miracles. The commemoration instituted in Christ's formulas "This do in remembrance of me" and "This is my body" has been performed since the earliest history of the Church. Thus, rather than dwelling on the host's power to sanctify the community or the congregation as part of the body of God, Nass treats the Eucharist like a Christian avatar, preserving its complete separateness. The chief sacrament, it remains an ultimately incomprehensible mystery, and all attempts to explain it in words fail to capture the totality of its meaning.[52]

To explain the attacks of Lutherans, Calvinists, and other Protestant adherents on this eucharistic majesty, the preacher makes repeated reference to the biblical narrative. He argues that two truths emerge from the New Testament: that Jesus was denied, tortured, and crucified, and that he had the power to work miracles.[53] These truths, moreover, can be seen working in the history of the Church, in the way the Savior's detractors have attacked and denigrated the mystery of the Real Presence in the Eucharist. The ultimate perpetrator of this war on the truth, Nass insists, is Satan, who enlisted the Corinthians and Arians in the early Church to attack the Eucharist and who, in modern times, has waged his combat through the various groups of Protestants.


To confirm his observation that the devil never ceases to work against the Church, Nass repeats the late medieval German proverb, "Wherever the Lord God founds a Church, the devil builds his chapels beside it."[54] The battle with Satan and his minions, he says, is visible throughout history in the ongoing skirmishes between the Church militant and the heresies. But for those who seek absolute confirmation of the Catholic religion, they need only look at its historical course: it has been an orderly institution, characterized by harmonious agreement on the central tenets of the faith since its beginnings, while the histories of the heresies have been punctuated with disagreements and disputes.

The universal Church has retained its meticulous doctrinal purity, but not without facing recurring challenges. Against incredible odds and unspeakable hardship, this Church militant successfully accomplished the conversion of the Slavs, the Franks, the Germans, and the Magyars. Even now, Nass reminds his audience, it works to extend its imperium over the Indians of the New World and the inhabitants of the Far East.[55] These successes are not mere chance, but the result of a God who continually works dramatic miracles in history to substantiate his truths against the onslaughts of Satan. Nass's entire historical vision can thus be subsumed under the medieval hagiographical forms of vita and miracula: like the early Christian martyrs and the confessing saints, Christ and his Church have been engaged in constant struggle against Satan and unrepentant mankind, their righteousness proven and made observable in miracles.

In embracing the miraculous as one of the most important proofs of Catholic truth, Nass joined ranks with a number of CounterReformation propagandists, who struck vigorously at what they perceived as one of Protestantism's most glaring weaknesses. Despite the Reformation's efforts to destroy the belief in saintly miracles and the efficacy of Catholic rituals, the appetite for wonders remained strong in sixteenth-century Germany. As a result some Protestants, like Ludwig Rabus, tried to convince their preachers and pastors to proclaim the traditional saints as models for a new purified, evangelical piety. In his elaborate, multivolume martyrol-


ogy published between 1551 and 1555, this prominent Lutheran church official attempted not simply to condemn false beliefs in the saints, but to reevaluate positively their role in the new religion. He tried, in short, to make the saint over into a model of evangelical piety.[56]

Elite theologians like Rabus might imagine a religion of faith purified of the supernatural, but for most people miracles remained a potent confirmation of religious truth.[57] Thus when trying to promote their tenets to the broadest stratum of sixteenth-century society, the early Reformation propagandists relied on traditional perceptions of sanctity. Indeed, Luther himself had been advertised to the popular audience as someone much like a traditional saint, and as the sixteenth century progressed legends of the reformer's wonders and prophecies multiplied.

For their part, Catholic propagandists possessed the advantage of a long tradition of wonder-working that could be called into play to convince the wavering of the truths of their religion. Nass himself had defended the Real Presence in the host with constant references to the Church's numerous eucharistic wonders and, indeed, the very "miracle" of the institution's survival. Catholic reformers also used stories of contemporary miracles to promote the faith. Beginning around 1560, for example, the Jesuit College at Louvain commenced printing the letters of its missionaries working in Japan and India; filled with accounts of prodigies performed by Society members in the Far East, these missives were printed in pamphlets that saw numerous editions in Germany in the late sixteenth century.[58] Another Catholic convert, Laurentius Surius (1522-1578), too, embraced the use of miracles with enormous enthusiasm. In a polemical chronicle of 1566, this member of the Cologne Carthusians achieved a literary success by recounting a selection of


dramatic contemporary miracles worked in the Catholic Church. Through numerous editions in Latin, French, and German, his message of the continuing potency of the Roman tradition enjoyed a wide readership.[59]

Surius's works not only entered into the continuing debate over miracles; they helped to define the saintly piety of the CounterReformation as well. In 1571, Surius began to make his most important contribution to this cause with the publication of the first volume of the monumental Latin work On the Proof of the Historical Saints .[60] When completed in 1575, the opus totaled six volumes and related the lives of 699 early Christian and medieval saints. In compiling the collection from a variety of sources, Surius departed from the conventions of fifteenth- and sixteenth-century German hagiography. In the late 1400s, hagiographers had typically adopted humanist literary and textual methods to write histories of the saints that stressed their human fallibility. Fantastic miracles were for the most part excluded from these accounts in an effort to promote the saint as a model for piety, rather than as a kind of celestial wonder-worker.[61] The Catholic (but Erasmian) theologian Georg Witzel, for example, had during the 1540s and 1550s published a series of Lives that conformed to this mold; by stressing inward contemplation and an individual saint's ability to balance temporal cares with the higher aims of the faith, Witzel used hagiography as a didactic and rhetorical tool to teach proper Christian behavior and values.[62] This humanist skepticism persisted among many Catholics even as Protestant theologians and polemicists attacked the saints and their miracles during the early Reformation.

When we turn to Surius's On the Proof of the Historical Saints , its contrast with humanist and Protestant hagiography is striking. Despite the Carthusian's sensitivity to the need to provide source


citations to support his claims, he did not shy away from exploring the dramatic, public signs of a saint's celestial power. Surius recognized the strong propagandistic role that miracles had played ever since the time of Augustine, and in his nearly seven hundred lives he recounted an astonishing 6,538 miracles. Rather than presenting his saints as models for pious imitation, he concentrated on their role as Christian magi. Facing ubiquitous trials and tribulations, the holy men and women in Surius's martyrology tirelessly prophesy, combat disease, raise the dead, and bend unyielding nature, harsh circumstances, and even Satan to their wills.[63]

This enthusiastic embrace of miracles achieved an almost instant popularity among Surius's largely clerical readership. In 1574, even before all six volumes had been completed, the Bavarian duke Albrecht V, who sensed in the work a clear and coherent defense of the saints and their miracles, enlisted the preacher Johannes à Via to translate it into German. The first Latin edition was finished in 1575, and just one year later it sold out; immediately a revised edition, complete with a seventh volume, was begun. Over the next two centuries numerous digested versions of the Proof were also to appear from the Catholic presses of Germany.[64] In the end, however, Surius's elite and costly martyrology had little direct impact on the religion of many of the Catholic laity, for even in its shorter, digested versions it was beyond their means. Even so, works like this were important in that they codified saints' lives and miracles for their largely clerical readership, thus providing the raw material for many a Counter-Reformation sermon.[65]

Like Nass's Corpus Christi sermons and the resurgent processions of Counter-Reformation Bavaria, Surius's hagiographies


worked to restore credit to the Roman Church as a province in which the divine presence was ceaselessly active. It could be witnessed and experienced. This praesentia was confirmed by the unsullied eucharistic theophany and the testimony of saintly miracles. For the propagandists of the Counter-Reformation, the salvific history initiated in the Old Testament was like a vast, unbroken stream punctuated by frequent eddies of apostasy, heresy, and unbelief. With renewed confidence, the Catholic advocates assured their audience that ecclesia militans would always emerge victorious from its skirmishes with the "godless." Through its chorus of saints, the purity of its rites, and the reenactment of its pivotal dramatic incidents in mimed biblical procession, the Roman Church testified visibly to its truths. Words could be used to explain its relationship with the divinity; they could also be used to defend its purity and truth. Yet mere language could never capture the limits of this sacred mystery. In its totality, immanence could only be felt and witnessed by those who watched humbly as God embodied himself in the wafer and guided the course of history by means of his miraculous intervention. These were the true signs of an ongoing drama that had commenced in biblical times.


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