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This study examines the genesis of a genre, the apologetic pilgrimage books that were printed in early modern Bavaria. In Germany, folklorists refer to this kind of work as a "mixed miracle book," because it combines the testimonies of individual pilgrims to contemporary miracles with fantastic legends about a local shrine and information concerning the development of the site's cult. These books served, in effect, as advertisements for specific local pilgrimages. Anglo-American historians have long commented on the absence of a great secular, literary tradition in early modern Catholic Germany.[1] The intricate and complex legends recounted in the baroque pilgrimage book, however, provided an elite literary entertainment similar to the novels and other fictive forms common in various parts of Europe. Rather than treating the joys and perils of life in society in the manner of a Cervantes or a Rabelais, early modern pilgrimage literature recounted myths about local places that glorified the landscape. Although examples of this pilgrimage literature are numerous, they have never attracted the systematic attention of English-speaking scholars. This book, which treats the origins of this literature in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation, is meant to remedy this oversight.

Those who have traveled in southern Germany and Austria may


well recall the hundreds of slight church guides available for sale in ecclesiastical monuments throughout the region. Those who have noticed these Kirchenführer may not have realized how deeply rooted their origins were in the historical circumstances of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. In southern Germany, few churches or ecclesiastical buildings have been deemed so insignificant as not to require their own detailed history. These church guides are one of the cultural descendants of the early modern pilgrimage book; in these modest pamphlets, the origins of a church, its most important artistic and religious artifacts, and any miraculous legends connected with the site are documented with remarkable felicity and care. In an increasingly secular society, the Kirchenführer allows Germans to satisfy their continuing desire for what the masterful historian Frantisek Graus once called the "living past."[2] They reflect an enduring curiosity to learn about the myths and histories of those sites that populate the countryside at what seems like every turn in the road. While the legends and miracles recounted in the modern church guide are retold within a rationalist framework, it is still possible to find more traditional kinds of religious pilgrimage books for sale at many shrines in Bavaria and Austria. Filled with accounts of miracles and legends, they feed the perennial appetite to learn about cases of divine intervention, even if in an industrialized and rationalistic Germany this literature is being increasingly pushed to the margins of human experience.

The present study traces the initial development of this kind of literature in the Reformation and Counter-Reformation. Rather than providing a demographic or statistical reconstruction of the role and function that pilgrimage played in early modern Bavaria, this book focuses instead on the qualitative dimensions of religious practice. It seeks to determine in what ways perceptions concerning shrines, their place within Catholic tradition, and their function as a component of Counter-Reformation religious practice changed from the late sixteenth through the early eighteenth centuries. While I draw on several decades of demographic and social historical research concerning medieval and early modern pilgrimage, I am primarily interested in cultural, rather than social, phenomena.


During the past decades, the social history of pilgrimage as a field of study has reached a high degree of sophistication. For those who wish to gain more detailed knowledge of the social foundations of pilgrimage in medieval and early modern Europe, a large bibliography now exists. Within this body of work, the studies of Victor and Mary Turner, Lionel Rothkrug, Mary and Sidney Nolan, Peter Brown, William Christian, Patrick Geary, Ronald Finucane, Pierre-André Sigal, Jonathan Sumption, Stephen Wilson, and Steven Sargent were most useful to me.[3] After conducting some initial statistical samplings in the thousands of miracles that Bavarian peasants and burghers reported at early modern shrines, I realized that little change had occurred during these centuries in the popular attitude toward miracles and saintly intercessions. The basic presuppositions about saints' shrines remained largely those that had governed pilgrimage to local holy places throughout medieval Europe. The manuscript collections of miracles read like a catalogue of all the diseases, accidents, and woes suffered by medieval and early modern people alike. Saints' shrines appeared in these records as local marketplaces within a widespread spiritual economy. In seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Bavaria, the laity continued to express their requests to the saints in terms of the relationship of exchange that had been common in medieval Europe. By approaching the celestial figures that resided at specific geographical sites with prayers and promises of gifts and journeys, the faithful hoped to obtain intervention in otherwise hopeless circumstances.

Many of the fundamental assumptions concerning miracles and


pilgrimage, then, remained constant between the medieval and early modern periods. At the level of individual dialogue between saint and votant, the manuscript miracle collections maintained at many of Bavaria's shrines echoed patterns of communication whose origins stretched back even until the time of St. Augustine. Yet more generally, it was obvious that the ways in which miracles and pilgrimage were interpreted for the entire body of Catholic faithful did change dramatically during the early modern period. To borrow a phrase used by anthropologists and literary critics, miracles, shrines, and pilgrimage were each granted a new "contextual frame" in this period. Instead of seeking to determine why people made pilgrimages, how they put their requests before the saints, or how they conducted their journeys, I was soon engaged in examining the propagandistic campaigns that Bavarian counter-reformers and state officials waged for local devotions. Simply put, I began to pursue the increasingly extravagant claims the Catholic reformers made for local shrines in the wake of the Protestant Reformation. But the steadily intensifying and expanding discourse on pilgrimage in early modern Bavaria also revealed the dual efforts of the state and the Church to bring order, discipline, and a new rationale to lay religious life. In Bavaria, as later in Hapsburg Austria, popular religious rituals like pilgrimage provided the counter-reformers an important way of reviving enthusiasm for the Church and reestablishing its preeminence after the brief but cataclysmic episode of the Reformation. In turn, early modern pilgrimages and their sister phenomenon, the urban procession, came increasingly to fulfill important roles in the extension of state power and order.

A number of scholars have noted the strongly visual and ritualistic traits of Bavarian and Austrian Catholicism during the Counter-Reformation.[4] My reliance on printed records to study a religious ritual like pilgrimage, which occurred largely in an oral culture, may appear puzzling. This choice, together with its limitations, consequently needs to be explained at the outset. From 1500 to 1700, literacy remained limited in Bavaria and South Germany: at the beginning of that period no more than perhaps 5 to 10 percent of the population could be considered literate. Although the number of readers appears to have increased during the seventeenth century, widespread literacy began to appear in both Bavaria and Austria


only in the late eighteenth century.[5] Even so, while the duchy of Bavaria was largely a preliterate culture, the press was nonetheless an important conduit through which ideas were placed into circulation. Sermons often digested and circulated the material first recorded in the press, but printed pamphlets and books also extended the audience for miracles beyond those who could hear them only while at the shrine. In towns and villages, reading circles broadened the impact of books as well. Yet as this study will show, both the press and Counter-Reformation rituals moved in similar ways to defend a religious sensibility that retained the primacy of visual experience.

The approach taken here links the ideas set forth in pilgrimage books with other kinds of festive and ritual life encouraged by the Catholic clergy and the Bavarian state. From the book, to the sermon, to praxis may seem to many a natural progression, but in the preliterate context of early modern society the flow of ideas in fact retained a greater fluidity than is often supposed. This is a point that scholars working in the tradition of the Annales have brilliantly demonstrated. Printing could just as often expand the audience for ideas that were at their base a part of oral culture.[6]

When I began this study, I was troubled by the too narrow relationship that Elizabeth Eisenstein drew in The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (1979) between Protestantism and the rationalizing and standardizing features of the press. From my reading in scholarship on the book trade, I was well aware of the vast output of German Catholic presses.[7] Yet Eisenstein persistently argued that Protestants and Catholics held fundamentally opposing views re-


garding the demands, possibilities, and functions of the new "print culture." A crucial part of her thesis centered on the different positions that each adopted concerning lay Bible reading. Whereas Protestants granted popular demand for the Scriptures free rein in order to create a priesthood of believers, the Tridentine Church attempted continually to keep the vernacular Bible in check: "A deliberate cultivation of mystery, an insistence on withholding pearls of wisdom from the swinish multitude and more emphatic distinctions between educated clergy and uninformed laity characterized the anti-vernacular arguments made at Trent."[8]

Eisenstein agreed that the Tridentine Church had mobilized printers for its counteroffensive, but, she insisted, Catholic policies were designed to keep "print culture" firmly controlled. While it cannot be denied that the counter-reforming clergy and state regulated the book trade to a greater degree than Protestants, their output of vernacular literature was still formidable.[9] To dismiss this corpus because it cannot fit within a modernizing definition of "print culture," in short, has prevented us from assessing the ways in which printing and books functioned within Catholic culture.

Between the Council of Trent and the eighteenth century, hundreds of thousands of books were published in Catholic Europe. Yet the output of a single region like Bavaria, where the Ingolstadt and Munich presses churned out volume after volume during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, has been investigated only by linguists, literary critics, and folklorists. Their studies have often focused on the elite theological writings of Catholic preachers like Jacob Gretser or hagiographers like Matthäus Rader or on the great Latin monuments of the Jesuit drama.[10] The present study takes a


different approach. It examines one genre, the pilgrimage book, setting it within its social, political, and cultural milieu and charting its transformations over two centuries.

The pilgrimage book attempted to resolve problems and to satisfy needs among Bavaria's readers that had been made obvious through the Reformation crisis. During the later Middle Ages, pilgrimages of all kinds in Bavaria grew to new heights of popularity, and throughout the territory a number of new cults appeared. In this generally rising tide of devotion, Bavaria's clergy began employing a number of new media to attract the faithful to specific shrines. In the first chapter of this study, I review this late medieval flowering of devotion. Miracles remained in this period the primary testimony to a shrine's power; in the fifteenth century, then, the clergy at shrines used pictures, oral pronouncement, and thin, printed "miracle books" to inform pilgrims about their patron's power to work intercessions. In the thirty years before the Reformation, the use of miracles to publicize local shrines reached its peak, and a number of shrines began keeping detailed manuscript records of their patron's works. At the same time, pamphlets informing readers of a cult's history also found their way into the marketplaces around local shrines. The legends and histories that these accounts related were often terse, remaining firmly rooted in the medieval chronicler tradition. The authors of these histories might relate the miracle of the shrine's foundation or associate their shrine with prominent members of the Bavarian nobility or figures from imperial history. They often failed, however, to draw an explicit connection between the legend of the shrine's foundation and its contemporary miraculous power.

Even as new cults appeared in late medieval Bavaria, local pilgrimages were becoming more controversial, with criticism of shrines and the saints increasing. Throughout Germany, the sudden development of mass pilgrimage sites had inspired attacks from


at least the early fifteenth century; the last of these notorious "instant" pilgrimages appeared at Regensburg in 1519, on the duchy of Bavaria's northern borders. Although the critique of saintly devotion thus predated the Reformation, the charges brought against the medieval cultus divinorum by Protestant theologians, pamphleteers, and preachers grew louder and farther-ranging. The early reformers attacked pilgrimages to saints' shrines for wasting time and money; for deflecting attention away from the parish church, the "true" center for religious devotion; for promoting a "false" works righteousness; and for allowing "simple" people the opportunity to barter with the saints. At an extreme, the propaganda of the early reformers denounced shrines as part of a false, and even "diabolic," religion that Satan was using to destroy and damn mankind. The disaffection these attacks produced sent Bavaria's local pilgrimages into decline, though they failed to destroy the appeal of the cult of the saints completely. In Chapter 2 the Protestant critique of shrines and its impact on popular devotion is assessed.

Having recently reunited Bavaria into a single state in the early sixteenth century, the Wittelsbach dynasty was anxious to consolidate its control over its new territory. The Bavarian dukes viewed the demands for religious reform as a challenge to their authority. From the earliest years of the Reformation, therefore, they prohibited the circulation of Protestant books and outlawed Reformation preaching. Yet because the dukes lacked adequate means to enforce their decrees or to insure uniformity of belief and practice, competing religious positions continued to multiply in Bavaria during the first fifty years of the Reformation. By the 1560s, consequently, state officials and the growing vanguard of counter-reforming clergy in Bavaria faced a disunified and chaotic religious situation. Liberal Catholics in Bavaria's towns and in the territory's estates agitated continually for religious reform, while the minority of Protestants continued to preach the doctrines of the Reformation. Thus in the years following the conclusion of the Council of Trent, the Bavarian dukes, their growing officialdom, and Catholic reformers were more than ever resolved to root out Protestant sympathizers from within their realm.

A host of new prohibitions appeared at the time to fight religious heterodoxy, but these means were never particularly effective in


achieving religious uniformity. At the same time, Bavaria's state and clerical reformers attempted to revitalize traditional rituals as a way of renewing enthusiasm for the Roman Church. One of their first measures was to expand dramatically the annual celebration of the Feast of Corpus Christi. The enormously elaborated festival that began in the late sixteenth century was emblematic of many of the Bavarian Catholic reformers' efforts. Self-consciously styled in a triumphal manner, the Corpus Christi procession promoted the notion of the biblical and ecclesiastical tradition as a series of crises and resolutions. In the streets of the duchy's towns, it glorified the Church Militant as a unified truth that had marched victoriously through time despite the attacks of heretics, demons, and the "godless." Intended to appeal to the senses—most especially to the eyes—the Bavarian Feast of Corpus Christi failed to muster vernacular language in the way that celebrations of the festival had elsewhere in medieval Europe. It remained a visible testimony to the truths of Catholicism, the immanent majesty of the Eucharistic wafer, and the importance of viewing the body of Christ. The renewed feast juxtaposed the mystery, direct presence, and unity of the Catholic Eucharist against the by then badly disunified Protestant theologies of communion. In Chapter 3 I review these developments and the emerging Counter-Reformation religious sensibilities that underlay the symbolic departure contained in the expansion of the Feast of Corpus Christi.

The counter-reformers, too, sensed that pilgrimage to local shrines could be used to renew a sense of praesentia , and by the late sixteenth century many of the Bavarian clergy, state officials, and Wittelsbach dukes had lent their support to the renewal of devotional life at the duchy's shrines. The pronouncement and promotion of miracles at local shrines began to revive at this time, to be duly used as testimony to the numinous power of local holy places. During the late sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, the reforming orders of the Counter-Reformation assumed responsibility for many of the duchy's formerly popular shrines, lending their efforts to restoring the pilgrimage network. This revival was further supported by a renewed confraternal life, firmly located within the structures of the Bavarian state and the Roman Church. Simultaneously, Catholic propagandists pioneered the publication of the


pilgrimage book, a genre intended for the emerging cadre of literate, devout laity and clergy who were becoming a recognizable element in the Catholic resurgence.[11]

The first of the many pilgrimage books to appear in Bavaria during the following two centuries was Martin Eisengrein's Our Lady at Altötting , which defended the once enormously successful, now sadly declined pilgrimage to Altötting through the skillful retelling of a "legendary myth."[12] Chapter 4 analyzes this largely unnoticed "classic" of Bavarian literature and the career of its author. A member of the Counter-Reformation clerical elite and a key figure in Bavaria's religious politics, Eisengrein was, like many of the territory's first-generation Catholic propagandists, a convert. Together with other leading Counter-Reformation preachers and theologians such as the Wittelsbach's court preacher Johann Rabus and the itinerant field preacher Johann Nass, Eisengrein strove to formulate reasoned defenses for the traditional religious practices and saints' cults of the region. His most widely disseminated work was his defense of the Altötting Madonna, which transformed pilgrimage and that tiny shrine into mute yet visible confirmations of Catholic truth.

Central to Eisengrein's propagandistic achievement was his linking of the contemporary miracles reported at Altötting with the shrine's venerable and often troubled past. The drama that was presently being enacted at the shrine and in the Church, he assured his readers, was emplotted in the same comedic mode as all Christian history. Located in the heart of the duchy, Altötting was, he said, the central site, indeed the protagonist, in the duchy's salvific history. But he also attempted to answer the off-repeated Protestant charge that pilgrimages and their miracles were a kind of diabolic magic. A large section of the work thus related a dramatic case of ritual exorcism performed by the Jesuit Peter Canisius in the chapel in 1570.

Immediately controversial, Our Lady at Altötting initiated a polemical war between Protestants and Catholics that lasted more than four years. In Chapter 5, the charges that Protestant and


Catholic theologians exchanged in this battle are reviewed and then compared to the popular propaganda circulated by devout Lutherans in the late sixteenth century in their attempt to inoculate coreligionists against the allures of the Catholic resurgence. For Lutheran theologians and propagandists, the revival of pilgrimage was seen as a threat to the fate of the entire Reformation, and they increasingly laid blame for this revival on Satan. Ever since the early Reformation, the circulation of tales involving sorcerous priests, diabolical magic, and scatology had been one component of Protestant propaganda. One detects, however, an increasing urgency in late sixteenth-century attacks on the now-reviving Catholic Church.

The publicity that this polemic and counterpolemic over miracles and shrines inspired lent Eisengrein's pilgrimage book notoriety among the literate laity and clergy of Bavaria. In the decades of the late sixteenth century, the book became a model for a number of Bavarian authors seeking to save their shrines from Reformation-induced decline. At the University of Ingolstadt and in the duchy's capital, Munich, writers began presenting similar defenses of various Bavarian cults. At this time the clergy often began selfconsciously to fashion their renewals of devotions as "triumphs" for Catholic truth. The creation of "myth" came to dominate in this resurgence, as through extravagant and often atavistic tales about local holy places the Catholic reformers placed their shrines at the very center of churchly tradition. Legends also served to explain and provide a rationale for the continuing accounts of miracles that were again beginning to be reported and promoted. In Chapter 6 I discuss the pilgrimage books and propagandistic campaigns conducted for these sites during the early decades of the Counter-Reformation. In particular, typological analysis of the mythic histories reveals that propagandists created their stories using only a limited number of emplotments.

The conclusion to this study, "Bavaria Sancta and the Living Past," traces into the early eighteenth century the implications of the Counter-Reformation propagandistic campaign. Pilgrimage books continued throughout this period to provide explanations for the origins and miracles of local shrines. More significantly, the enthusiastic promotion of pilgrimages aided the Bavarian state and Church's efforts to sanctify the territory. The polemical legends that early Counter-Reformation authors had pioneered were elevated


throughout the seventeenth century into principles of Bavarian piety. By means of popular rituals enacted at local shrines, both peasants and burghers recreated the story lines of legends that had first been codified and promoted by the pilgrimage book. The popular religious life of the duchy, in short, came increasingly to imitate both the art of the pilgrimage book and the state-sanctioned rituals that had dominated the Counter-Reformation program since its inception.

Since the publication in 1978 of Gerald Strauss's Luther's House of Learning , Reformation and early modern scholars have often debated the successes and failures of the sixteenth-century Protestant and Catholic reformations. As scholars we are now aware of the often limited, even ephemeral transformations that both Protestant and Catholic elites were able to effect within their societies. In searching for quantifiable differences between late medieval and early modern popular pilgrimage, scholars have likewise been unable to discover evidence of significant alterations in popular perceptions. Certainly pilgrimage grew to new heights of popularity in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Bavaria, surpassing even the late medieval flowering of devotion. Yet the basic presuppositions and mental perceptions that people had about the saints and their intercession remained those common to the Middle Ages. Indeed, almost any approach that looks to find evidence of massive changes in people's fundamental mental and religious perceptions will, I believe, likely return empty-handed. By the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, pilgrimage had become more firmly fixed within the structures of the early modern state. Yet clerical and lay officials labored as they had for more than a century, to limit the potential dangers they sensed in the mobility of their populations. That they were often unable to achieve their ends reveals the relative indifference of popular culture to their ambitions. Although the Counter-Reformation failed to extinguish a vigorous popular culture and to install in its place a dogmatic and doctrinal religion, it was certainly effective in renewing an otherwise attenuated notion of the duchy's spiritual uniqueness and religious mission. As a consequence of the Catholic Reformation's propagandistic campaign, early modern Bavarians inhabited a landscape sacralized by several generations of clerical- and state-supported myth making, and looked to the crises and trials of the present and the future as


reflections and recreations of those of the past. For most, the holy had become once again something that could be viewed close at hand in the countryside. In the area of qualitative cultural and religious perceptions, a mental topography that remains admittedly difficult to quantify, the Counter-Reformation program continues to reveal itself a success.


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