Jahrbücher für Geschichte Osteuropas:  jgo.e-reviews 7 (2017), 3 Rezensionen online / Im Auftrag des Leibniz-Instituts für Ost- und Südosteuropaforschung in Regensburg herausgegeben von Martin Schulze Wessel und Dietmar Neutatz

Verfasst von: Oana Sorescu-Iudean


Katholische Aufklärung und Josephinismus. Rezeptionsformen in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa. Hrsg. von Rainer Bendel / Norbert Spannenberger. Köln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau, 2015. 397 S. = Forschungen und Quellen zur Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte Ostdeutschlands, 48. ISBN: 978-3-412-22270-3.




The present volume makes a highly valuable contribution to the joint history of the reception of Enlightenment ideas in Catholic religious environments and the reforms designed and implemented by the Habsburg court during the time of Joseph II. The various chapters manage to creatively refocus the historian’s gaze upon lesser-known processes or figures, which in turn display in a new light the relationship between State and Church in Central- and Southeastern Europe in the eighteenth century.

The volume is a result of the 48th conference organized in 2011 by the Institut für Ostdeutsche Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte at the St. Florian Augustinian monastery in Austria, an event that reunited participants from the former territories of the Habsburg Empire and Germany. This regional variety is visible in the broad geographic range of contributions. The endeavor was driven by the need to re-evaluate the ebb and flow of the exchanges between the Catholic Church, Enlightenment ideas, and the State, in order to ascertain whether the traditional church-historical discourse on Joseph II’s reforms misrepresented the reception of these partially state-driven initiatives in eighteenth-century ecclesiastical circles (p. 7).

The volume is very well situated within the current historiographic landscape, and, owing to the effort of its editors, offers a highly coherent and simultaneously multifaceted image of the dissemination and implementation of Catholic Enlightenment ideas in the territories of the Habsburg monarchy. The introductory chapter successfully grounds the overall thematic and methodological approach, and announces the volume’s guiding threads: to assess the extent of the applicability of general theories and concepts concerning Catholic Enlightenment to ethnically and confessionally mixed territories; the origins and driving impulses of reforms and their echoes in religious and sometimes secular environments; the broad spectrum of opinions regarding the state’s involvement in matters that were traditionally the singular concern of the church; the emphasis on regionally-dependent factors that shaped these evolutions and transformations starting from the mid-eighteenth century (p. 14–15). The capstone chapter by Norbert Jung provides a theoretical and historiographical overview of the concept of “Catholic Enlightenment” and its various modes of interpretation. Jung highlights the ways in which Enlightenment and particularly Catholic Enlightenment were received in church-historical circles, and situates the debates about these issues in a broader, European-wide perspective (p. 32–41, 45–47).

The threefold structure of the volume – Regional Perspectives, Josephinism and the Practice of Faith, and Exemplary Biographical Perspectives – effectively mirrors the three major approaches to the wider issues announced in the introduction. The first section includes regionally-focused contributions that shed light on the both the reception of Josephinism and the effective implementation of reforms concerning Church administration, organization and the education of the clergy. Ondřej Bastl, Robert Pech, and Philip Steiner discuss the reactions to Josephinism in Bohemia, while Horst Miekisch examines the favorable environment encountered by Joseph’s ideas in the Franconian prince-bishoprics of Bamberg and Würzburg. Further studies explore the impact of Josephinian reforms in Hungary, focusing on the reorganization of the Greek-Catholic Church (György Janka) and the attempts to improve the education of the mid-level clergy (András Hegedűs). This group was to play an instrumental role in the instruction of communities in the spirit of the Enlightenment (Zoltán Gőzsy) and in the limitation of the public displays of typical baroque popular piety (Dániel Bárth). Finally, Edith Szegedi offers a nuanced re-interpretation of the Edict of Concivility and its effects on the predominantly-Saxon cities of Transylvania, arguing that this reform essentially altered the juridical and ethnic character of the urban landscape in this region (p. 153–155).

The second section – Josephinism and the Practice of Faith – examines the effective implementation of the Josephinian reforms in domains traditionally under the control of the Church, as well as the reactions that these interventions awakened both within the Catholic hierarchy and the communities of believers. Peter Šoltés discusses the attempts to reform the liturgy, to reduce the number of church feasts and to regulate pilgrimages and religious processions, as part of a coherent program designed to limit the extravagant material displays of piety typical of such events. He emphasizes, similarly to other contributors, that the implementation of reforms was highly dependent on the local confessional and political status-quo, and that the reactions to these measures were generally negative. This was especially the case in confessionally-mixed regions where the participation in such public celebrations was seen as an integral part of Catholic identity (p. 170, 180–181). Lydia Bendel-Maidl traces the impact of Enlightenment ideas on the development of the theology of prayer, within the context of the establishment of moral and pastoral theology as self-standing disciplines, by comparatively examining several major dogmatic and theological handbooks from the late eighteenth century.

The third section offers a glimpse into the contributions made by individual actors to the design and implementation of reforms. Although primarily focused on theologians and members of the higher clergy, the chapters generally bring to light biographies of lesser-known figures, whose contributions to the debates of the time were nonetheless substantial. These exemplary biographies are often paralleled or linked to those of better known, controversial actors – like Johann Lorenz Isenbiehl –, thus emphasizing the interconnectedness of individual players on the scene of ecclesiastical and educational reforms. The involvement of Franz Stephan Rautenstrauch (the head of the Theological Faculty in Vienna after 1774, who also figures in Rainer Bendel’s contribution in the previous section) in the Isenbiehl case is situated in the context of the former’s attempt to reform theological studies in the Empire (Norbert Jung). Similarly, Werner Simon’s inquiry into the reform of catechesis in Silesia follows the evocative biographical pathway of Benedict Strauch, a close collaborator of the better-known Johann Ignaz von Felbiger. Norbert Spannenberger highlights the “relevance of personal history approaches” focused on actors, who, as office-holders of Church, excelled religiously and politically, and who influenced not only the religious environment, but also the social and political everyday life” (p. 249). Indeed, his plea for individually-focused approaches echoes throughout the chapters in this section. By following the activity of Johann Ladislaus Pyrker (Patriarch of Venice, Cistercian abbot, and later Bishop of Eger), Spannenberger reveals the results of the intertwining of Enlightenment ideas and Catholic notions, ultimately allowing the reader to re-discover the “multidimensionality of Enlightenment as a process” (p. 250). Yet another dimension of the Enlightenment as process” is recovered in Philip Steiner’s study, which focuses on Franz Xaver von Neupauer, a Styrian expert in constitutional and canon law. The legal justifications brought by this “rigorous defender and enthusiastic advocate of Josephinian church policy” (p. 330) were not only widely received at the time, but also served as a stepping stone for later arguments that substantiated the primacy of the state as decision-maker in matters of church jurisdiction.

The individual contributions are well-integrated into the larger thematic framework of the volume, and always return to the major questions posed by the editors in the introduction. The authors not only contextualize the events, developments, and figures they are examining within broader historical and intellectual trends, but also point out and explain the regionally-dependent specificities that have transformed the emphasis on plurality and complexity into a common trope in the historiographic discourse concerned with the Enlightenment. Especially praiseworthy is the volume’s concerted focus on interactions, be they between Enlightenment thought and Catholic mindsets, or between Josephinian reforms and ecclesiastical milieus. The publication of several unedited relevant primary sources – currently scattered over many regional state archives – as addenda to some of the studies is welcome and in no way superfluous.

A wide readership could stand to profit from perusing the present volume. It caters not only for those concerned with the regional versions of the Enlightenment and for ecclesiastical historians, but also addresses a number of issues that should be of interest to political historians dealing with the origins of the specificities of the Church-State relationship in East Central and Southeastern Europe.

Hopefully the exemplary biographies and regionally-focused studies included in this volume will lead towards more unified discussions that also make use of newer methodological strands, such as prosopography or network studies. The implementation of these novel ways of looking at the cooperation between eighteenth century ecclesiastical and state environments would potentially bring ecclesiastical historical discourse closer to its counterpart in political history. A deeper preoccupation with reconstructing and analyzing the structures that allowed for the spread of Enlightenment ideas in Catholic milieus (such as epistolary networks) or with developing criteria for quantifying the success of reforms might also prove useful for future studies in this field.

Oana Sorescu-Iudean, Regensburg

Zitierweise: Oana Sorescu-Iudean über: Katholische Aufklärung und Josephinismus. Rezeptionsformen in Ostmittel- und Südosteuropa. Hrsg. von Rainer Bendel und Norbert Spannenberger. Köln, Weimar, Wien: Böhlau, 2015. 397 S. = Forschungen und Quellen zur Kirchen- und Kulturgeschichte Ostdeutschlands, 48. ISBN: 978-3-412-22270-3, http://www.dokumente.ios-regensburg.de/JGO/erev/Sorescu-Iudean_Bendel_Katholische_Aufklaerung.html (Datum des Seitenbesuchs)

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