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6 "Spiritual Medicine for Heretical Poison" Pilgrimage and Propaganda in the Early Counter-Reformation
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Holiness Lost and Found

In the early decades of the Counter-Reformation, Bavaria's pilgrimage propagandists also revived and adapted a second legendary type—stories about "holiness lost and found"—to the needs of the contemporary situation. In this topos, a shrine's relic collection, image, or saintly grave, neglected or lost for a time, was "miraculously" rediscovered. Such legends had their roots in medieval patterns of storytelling, including the alleged connection to biblical narrative: a legacy of dramatic resurrections. In the early Church, the rediscovery, translation, and elevation of saintly relics had provided an important focus for Christian piety, and through medieval devotional classics like Jacopo da Voragine's Golden Legend these stories had been widely disseminated and celebrated in Europe. Certainly the most renowned of these events had been Constantine's mother Helen's rediscovery of the True Cross in fourthcentury Palestine. But the drama of "lost and found" saints had been repeated in many places in early medieval Europe as anxious Christians searched for the remains of distinguished martyrs and holy men to satisfy their appetite for sanctity. In subsequent centuries, stories about these rediscoveries and elevations continued to keep alive the notion that holy objects, though subject to neglect, had the power to renew devotion.

In the late Middle Ages, the Bavarian clergy had begun to promote a spurt of dramatic relic discoveries similar to those reported in late antiquity and the early Middle Ages. In this process, the wonder-working power of the relics of long-forgotten saints like St. Rasso at Grafrath or St. Richildis at Hohenwart had been renewed, and their cults had grown to be enormously popular. Rasso, for example, had worked almost 5,200 miracles in the seventy years or so before the onset of the Reformation, and Richildis's cult had reported more than 2,000 in a little more than three decades before 1520. Still, all over Bavaria this floresence of miracle reporting had withered in the wake of Protestant attacks on pilgrimage.

In the Counter-Reformation, the ideas inherent in these incidents—that lost holy objects could be rediscovered and devotions renewed—were to provide propagandists with a vehicle uniquely well suited to the demands of Counter-Reformation piety. Rather than concentrating on reviving the saintly tumulus cults, however,


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the counter-reformers applied the idea of holiness lost and found to cults dedicated to the Eucharist, saintly images, and relics. In late medieval Bavaria, the most celebrated legends of this type were associated with the Benedictine abbey at Andechs, with its legend of the three holy Eucharists and impressive relic cache and their unearthing by a mouse. In fact, this tale continued to be circulated in the decades before the Reformation in a series of tersely written, cheaply produced chronicles; in 1595, however, the clergy at Andechs decided to repromote the story, and they now adopted the emerging genre of the pilgrimage book to satisfy the needs of a new generation of readers. The history of the site would be repackaged in a bold, apologetic, and devotional format.

By this time, a pilgrimage confraternity similar to those appearing at Altötting and other sites was working for the renewal of Andechs. Counting among its most important supporters the bishop of Augsburg, Cardinal Otto Truchseß von Waldburg, this organization had been from its inception a distinctly elite body of nobles, burghers, and clerics.[93] It was primarily for just such devotees, in fact, that the Benedictine abbot at the shrine composed his Chronicle of Andechs , which treated not only the precipitant legend of the church, but a broad range of counter-reformational issues besides.[94] Like the other books we have reviewed, it delved deep into the past, attempting to "prehistoricize" the site's devotion. In addition, it catalogued and presented visual representations of the shrine's most important relics, so that its literate readers could keep track of the many items they viewed there. The book also explained the customs observed on the site's most popular pilgrimage days, and the reasons why these particular feasts had become important.

Even in the late medieval chronicles published for this church, the Benedictine clergy had promoted the cult's connection with the nobility and the Wittelsbach dukes. Now, though, Andechs's aristocratic pretensions were increased, and the reasons for the nobility's special affection for this site made more explicit than ever before.


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Finally, the book was also generously filled with apologetic defenses of the Catholic belief in shrines and pilgrimages.

Following a dedication to the Wittelsbach duke Maximilian I, who was a frequent visitor to Andechs in this period,[95] Abbot David outlined the various reasons people had for visiting his shrine. Many, he stated, came in search simply of physical healing; yet he also called upon a powerful biblicism, natural mysticism, and psychologized piety to promote the site.[96]

In the late Middle Ages, Andechs had already been portrayed as Bavaria's "Holy Mountain," and now the abbot fused this traditional nomenclature with imagery drawn from the Bible. In both the Old and New Testaments, he observed, God often imparted special messages to man from atop mountain peaks, and he went on to list the various hills and mountains that figured in the Scriptures. Andechs too, he said, was one of these special sites, a kind of Bavarian Mt. Sinai, a place from which the deity had from time immemorial imparted wisdom and grace and sealed covenants with the region's inhabitants. Unlike that peak in Exodus, however, this Bavarian "holy of holies" was not restricted to priests and charismatic saints alone. Rather, this holy site has served as a well of "visible grace" to "many men," who have testified to the wondrous miracles God has worked on them. The visit there to commune with the deity has "quickened ... and confirmed [many] in their Catholic faith," making "the love of God to burn in them." Entrance into the divine presence at Andechs touched in all pilgrims an internal chord of humility, submission, and unworthiness.[97]

For anyone who has visited this church, the abbot's praise for the natural features of Andechs will ring true. Situated at the summit of a high knoll in the middle of the Upper Bavarian plain, Andechs is about fifty miles southwest of Munich. The Ammersee stretches westward from the foot of this hill, and directly south of the shrine the Alps jut up majestically. On clear days, several hundred miles of Alpine terrain and large stretches of the Upper Bavarian plateau can be observed from the church; and in turn, Andechs can be seen


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from miles around. It is a spectacular location, and it is not unsurprising to find the abbot delighting in the physical nature of the place. His statements, however, display less affection for the simple beauty of the site than for the marvels that God had worked there. Unlike Petrarch, who upon ascending Mt. Ventoux gloried in the immediate physical surroundings, Abbot David remained detached from these splendors.

Adopting the style of other pilgrimage books, Abbot David began his narrative of the shrine's development long before any pilgrimage existed at the site. Yet whereas in most respects his account of the Andechs legend was faithful to standard late medieval versions, it differed in two important ways. First, his focus fell less on the great "miracle" of Andechs's rediscovered relics than on events preceding this incident. Second, he moved the origins of the saintly line of early medieval Andechs counts back several centuries relative to other medieval accounts. In the late fifteenth-century version of the tale, the counts of Andechs—who built a fortress on the future site of the pilgrimage chapel—were identified as eighthcentury figures given control over their territory by deputies of Charlemagne. Abbot David, however, located their origins in the sixth century—the time of Bavaria's Christianization. Like Eisengrein and Engerd, then, the abbot called up the dark days of Bavaria's pre-Christian past. In a subsequent chapter, moreover, he reproduced a detailed genealogy of this lineage and, by recalling its numerous saintly members, labored hard to establish a claim of enormous sanctity for the family.[98]

Of course, the late medieval chronicles of the site had attempted in similar fashion to connect Andechs with saintly, noble figures from the distant past; now, though, Abbot David multiplied the shrine's noble connections and made their association with the site even more antique. As a result, Andechs's development as a pilgrimage site became even more reliant on the ministrations of a saintly and apostolically consecrated line that had lived and worked in the region from the very inception of Catholicism in Bavaria.

As a pilgrimage site, Andechs was beholden particularly to the tenth-century count St. Rasso. An avid pilgrim and relic collector,


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Rasso had amassed a significant number of apostolic remnants while in the Holy Land, which he installed in his mountaintop fortress at Andechs. In succeeding generations other saintly members of the family added to this collection, and the abbot carefully described each new addition to the cache, the most significant of these being the three holy hosts sent by St. Otto, bishop of Bamberg.[99]

Turning to the subsequent history Of the shrine's relic collection and its removal for safekeeping, the abbot again subtly altered the medieval legend. With the destruction of the counts' fortress in 1229, the relics lay forgotten in the ruins; yet even though neglected, they continued to provide aid to the faithful—a topos absent from earlier accounts. Fifty years after the devastation, a woman was cured of an eye illness at the site, and a chapel was built to commemorate this event. Here, according to Abbot David, was yet another proof of the power that had reposed in this site and its relics throughout time.

Although it continued to work intercessions, the wondrous collection was not known about until 1388, when a mouse brought a clue to the relics' whereabouts and laid it on the church altar one day during mass.[100] Because of neglect, knowledge of this precious repository had been lost, and Abbot David did not intend to let these objects be forgotten again. The largest portion of his book was therefore given over to a highly detailed Heiltumverzeichnis , a catalogue of all the shrine's relics.[101] Such listings had been common in the Middle Ages: printed for the great annual displays of relics held in many cities, they allowed pilgrims to keep track of the myriad items on view; they also served as a kind of souvenir, recalling to pilgrims the important items they had seen. In Bavaria, however, no relic catalogues were printed in the late Middle Ages, and relic displays, so common in the rest of the empire, were apparently held


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only in the imperial city of Regensburg and the diocesan capital of Passau.[102] In any case, Abbot David embraced the strongly visual traditions of salvific display, and by the late sixteenth century the shrine was holding an annual relic display of its own, which was indexed by the Chronicle catalogue. Not only did it aid pilgrims who bought his book in identifying the many items they saw, but it also allowed them better to relive the event when they returned home.

For the believer who had read about and seen the plethora of saints' relics housed in this church, there could have been little doubt about the site's power. Yet in a place so crowded with the physical remains of the saints, the drive to see everything might have led to chaos. For this reason, the abbot attempted to discipline the piety of his faithful readers. In passages similar to those in other pilgrimage books, he stressed the deep interior spirituality, humility, and introspection of those who visited the church. Warning of the dangers of impatience, he cautioned the devout to direct their hearts and wills to God while on the "sacred journey" to Andechs. In prayer, the votant should foster a quiet and contrite spirit, rather than expending effort in outpourings of verbiage, for the Lord did not "desire a lot of chatter," but rather a devout heart "without which he has nothing for which to care."[103]

After discussing proper pilgrimage behavior, Abbot David turned in the final sections of his work to describing—again, in considerable detail—the major indulgences and benefices given to the shrine as well as some of the contemporary miracles recorded there. Again, following the pattern of other pilgrimage books, the abbot grouped similar intercessions under categoric headings, thus highlighting the variety of cases in which the saintly relics at Andechs had provided aid. Like Eisengrein's Our Lady at Altötting or Engerd's Holy Savior at Bettbrunn , this book presented the miracles


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wrought at Andechs as the logical continuations of a narrative of antique devotion and reverence.

In truth, the Andechs devotion, like that at Altötting, was a relatively recent phenomenon, having originated in the dramatic unearthing of the relics at the end of the fourteenth century. In the Chronicle , however, the "miraculous" rediscovery was framed as an event prepared by a centuries-long tradition of veneration by a noble lineage that had given the site rich endowments throughout the Middle Ages. As it developed during the Counter-Reformation, the Andechs legend was broadened in scope: its origins were now situated in the sixth century, the era of Bavaria's conversion by apostolically consecrated missionaries. In this subsequent retelling of Andechs's history, the author assured readers that shrine time represented not a discrete chronology, but a collection of kairotic moments. Like its spatial geography, which was demarcated into areas of greater and lesser power by the relics of Catholicism's intercessors, Andechs's history, too, had been characterized by episodes in which divine grace was made evident to the faithful. In the face of questions raised by Reformation attacks on the saints, the Andechs legend, as retold by Abbot David, counseled perpetual diligence. Here the site's relics had been neglected, disregarded, and yet rescued from their obscurity. As an insurance against disaffection, the clergy at Andechs continued to issue versions of Abbot David's pilgrimage book throughout the early seventeenth century.[104]


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6 "Spiritual Medicine for Heretical Poison" Pilgrimage and Propaganda in the Early Counter-Reformation
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