contributor.author: Nils Holger Petersen

title.none: Maag and Witvliet, eds., Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Nils Holger Petersen )

identifier.other: baj9928.0411.013 04.11.13

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Nils Holger Petersen , University of Copenhagen, nhp@teol.ku.dk

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2004

identifier.citation: Maag, Karin, and John D. Witvliet, eds. Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Change and Continuity in Religious Practice. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Pp. xiii, 353. ISBN: $30.00 0-268-03475-3.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 04.11.13

Maag, Karin, and John D. Witvliet, eds. Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: Change and Continuity in Religious Practice. Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 2004. Pp. xiii, 353. ISBN: $30.00 0-268-03475-3.

Reviewed by:

Nils Holger Petersen
University of Copenhagen
nhp@teol.ku.dk

This book consists of eleven essays written by scholars from different academic disciplines plus an introduction and a conclusion written by one of the editors, John D. Witvliet. Although the interdisciplinarity manifested in the composition of the volume might at first glance lead the reader to think that the book is yet another collection of loosely connected essays belonging to a broad general area, this is not so. The essays together--as claimed in the introduction--shed light on the fundamental discontinuities (which in a general sense are well-known) as well as the continuities--equally fundamental but as a rule much less emphasized--which can be observed in liturgical practices through the dramatic changes of the reformations in Europe and the (less dramatic) reforms which took place in connection with the Catholic Reform movement of the sixteenth century. In the book, this is done--in almost all contributions--through direct comparisons between earlier and later documentation. Thus, each of the eleven essays not only treats a particular topic within the broader range of sixteenth-century Christian worship, Reformed, Lutheran, or Catholic, but compares an earlier practice (often going back to the fifteenth century) to a later one. In other words, in every essay of the book a late medieval practice is confronted with a later early modern (and then either Reformed, Lutheran, or post-reformation Catholic) corresponding religious practice. The mentioned comparisons are always based on concrete evidence from two periods which generally speaking stems from liturgical, devotional, or educational documents. Mostly, the essays are based on discussions of verbal texts, but in one instance music is also also included, Lutheran hymns vs. especially medieval sequences, in Robin A. Leaver's "Sequences and Responsories: Continuity of Forms in Luther's Liturgical Provisions". In another case pictures form the material basis of the presentation: the removal or re-functionalization of devotional images in Calvinist Haarlem in Henry Luttikhuizen's "The Art of Devotion in Haarlem Before and After the Introduction of Calvinism."

The volume as a whole fills an empty place since it has not been the norm to look at these changes in a similarly broad light both traditional denominational borders and the customary dividing lines between academic disciplines have been crossed in this project. It may not be surprising, properly speaking, but in terms of the history of scholarship it is still to be wondered about why--and why for so long--the treatment of European liturgical and devotional history has been seen as subjects either completely tied to the histories of individual religious denominations or--when dealing (exclusively) with the music or other "art forms" employed in the performances of devotional acts--within the perspective of European Music History or Art History or similar disciplines in which, of course, a broader "secular" historical point of view would come to the fore. John D. Witvliet points out in his introduction that "Christian worship is an especially interdisciplinary topic, involving the study of not only official liturgical texts, but also architecture, vestments, ceremony, music, and iconography. It is composed of a large constellation of liturgical actions: baptism, Eucharist, preaching, prayer, use of Scripture, private devotions, worship in homes and schools, marriages, funerals, and special observances. It is relatively easy for scholars to become experts in one of these practices. But how often are these specific topics understood in larger liturgical, cultural, and intellectual contexts?" (9). According to my experiences only few liturgical scholars have tried to do something about this, and the book fully demonstrates how useful it is to see the mentioned comparisons within particular historical denominational strands and various disciplinary perspectives side by side since they--put together--are much more telling about the overall history of the European (religious) culture of the late medieval to early modern period. What this book offers may be seen as an attempt at an overall presentation of this part of European religious cultural history.

It has been emphasized--in the introduction and again in the conclusion--that the book cannot pretend to be anywhere near exhaustive in its treatment of its (general) topic. The difficulty--and sheer enormity--in such a venture obviously contributes much to an explanation of why the (general) topic has normally only been treated from the points of view of individual disciplines, whether in terms of various denominational church histories or the disciplines of the history of the involved media. However, once the perspective has been opened as in this book, an even wider perspective is invoked. The materials (and events) interpreted and discussed in the various essays do not only belong to the general perspective of devotional history, but are part of the wider cultural history of Europe both in terms of the consequences of changes in the involved media (music, literature, art, and architecture), and in the perspective of the general history of religion and education and intellectual ideas and world concepts. Although the quoted statement seems to hint also at such a broad perspective, the book as such does not contain explicit discussions of the (immediate or long-term) consequences in European history of the topics or materials presented. This is not meant as a criticism, since that is a vast topic, and in practice probably to be considered as a slightly different angle from the one offered here. The book, in spite of its broad aspirations, does limit itself to analyses which primarily throw light on the phenomena within the individual denominations and with respect to a comparative view of this transitional period. In other words, the overall perspective of the book is that of the history of Christianity and its (various kinds of) practice. That the changes and variations treated in the book (and not only, of course, the devotional changes during the period considered in the volume) are of importance for the wider European cultural history, does not--in reality--seem to be a concern of the book. Although I do not want to criticize the editors (or authors) for not invoking this extremely complex and wide-ranging perspective (not least because of the stimulating methodological remarks in the introduction), I must say that I would have found it particularly interesting if such a perspective had been just touched upon for instance in the conclusion which--in this respect--seems more strictly confined to the comparative denominational point of view. It is a fine and interesting contribution in its own right drawing together general consequences from the various contributions, but it does not open up the perspectives of cultural history in a more general way.

The individual essays, to give a sweeping statement, all constitute interesting and competent analyses, each from a particular point of view, in terms of the chosen topic, the materials used for the discussion, and the discipline from where the topic has been drawn or treated. I shall not pretend to be equally at home (let alone competent) in each of these, but every single article in the volume has been of interest to me, as a church historian mainly concerned with liturgical history and with the use of music in devotional history. In any case, it would be impossible to do justice to the wealth of different information and various interpretations to be found in the volume. I was particularly interested in the discussion of worship in late medieval (Roman) and early modern (Calvinist) schools in Geneva (Karin Maag), the discussions of Prayer Books (Margot Fassler and Susan M. Felch), the particularly brilliant discussion of the Catholic breviary reform before the Tridentine breviary (by Katherine Elliot van Liere), the nuanced discussion of iconoclasm or rather of the fairly complex (and comparatively tolerant) situation concerning pictures in the Calvinist churches of Haarlem in the late sixteenth century (by Henry Luttikhuizen), as well as the discussion of musical and poetical continuity between medieval musico-liturgical forms and Lutheran hymns (by Robin A. Leaver).

A final critical remark: the presentation of the primary source--which generally introduces an essay (after an editorial summary)--is slightly confusing in Margot Fassler's essay "Psalms and Prayers in Daily Devotion: A Fifteenth-Century Devotional Anthology from the Diocese of Rheims: Beinecke 757". It is not quite clear how close the formulations in the overview of the contents of the prayerbook--which constitute the presented source material in this case--are to the titles of sections in the original prayer book. It may not matter very much for the conclusions in the essay, but it gives the reader an uncertainty about the book, especially since in a few instances quotes are given and since some formulations seem unlikely to be direct translations of formulations from the prayer book as "A classic Easter chant text" (16) which seems more like a piece of information to the reader.

In my opinion (and this would apply to a much greater number of publications in English than just this book), it would have been helpful to have both the Latin (or the German, French or whatever language is found in the original source) as well as an English translation. On the whole, however, the volume is well written and well edited, and clearly also intended for students in its broad presentation of each topic which is introduced and presented with references to general standard literature.