Die Welt im Dienst des Glaubens…

Marion Romberg
Die Welt im Dienst des Glaubens
Erdteilallegorien in Dorfkirchen auf dem Gebiet des Fürstbistums Augsburg im 18. Jahrhundert

628 pp., 125 b/w images, 16 b/w tab., 22 b/w drawings, 11 maps.
ISBN 978-3-515-11673-2


“There is no such thing as a religious free space!” Richard van Dülmen’s statement at the beginning of the third volume of his book “Kultur und Alltag in der Frühen Neuzeit” is decisive for the answer to the general question of this work, namely “How did the allegories of the four continents come into the village church?”  Originating in the courtly world of the 16th century, the iconography had its peak on the walls and ceilings of Southern German village churches around the middle of the 18th century. A quantitative survey discovered 310 allegories of the four continents in 273 different places in the Southern German region. Every second allegory can be found as part of the visual program of a village church. A remarkable density is encountered in the so-called Erdteilallegoriengürtel covering the area of Upper Swabia, Bavarian Swabia, and Upper and Lower Bavaria. The relevant theoretical model used was the one on cultural exchange processes.

The approach to answering the question posed above contains three steps. The first step is the illustration of the practical transfer of the iconography – the planning, the concept, the role of the involved people, the execution and the product itself. Different cultural influences coming from artists, architects, craftsmen, church patrons, priests and any other involved persons or groups (esp. fraternities), as well as from the circulated media, were combined in a dynamic process to execute the pictorial program of a church interior. While the outlined program usually referred to the church’s patronage, local historical events or the adoration of Mary or Christ, the execution of the written program was entrusted to the painter. At the beginning of the 18th century, allegories of the four continents were included in church programs in many different ways inspired by the courtly usage of the iconography, by the graphic arts, by Italian models and other sources. Around the middle of the 18th century, at a time when the iconography was well-established in the Southern German region, it became part of mostly vertical transfer processes. The artist would find his model in his neighborhood, during his journeyman years, during his education in Augsburg etc. He combined elements that he saw and recorded for later use – either in a new, independent way adapted to the respective context, or simply by copying. Besides top talents like Cosmas Damian Asam, second-line painters like Matthäus Günther, Johann Baptist Enderle, Johann Anwander and others were the true executors of the vertical cultural transfer. It was they who defined the cultural profile of Southern Germany.

In the second step, attention is directed more comprehensively than before towards the lifeworldly context of cultural exchange processes. A decisive initiator of these processes was the baroque media offensive put into action by the Catholic side during the Council of Trent. The steps undertaken were by no means limited to the ecclesiastical reconfiguration or the juridical recovery of formerly Catholic areas; the initiated process touched upon all areas of the individual’s life and resulted in a planned change of the identity and mentality of the European population. The baroque media offensive stood followed the goal of demonstratio catholica, the visible Church. As the most important building in the village, the village church was perfectly suited to disseminating the objectives of the Catholic authority as well as, in the long term, to express the piety of every villager. The church was turned into a permanent show stage and teaching stage, into a theatrum sacrum that was to surprise, amaze, or even emotionally overpower anyone who entered it. The iconography of the continents and its worldwide message of the community of believers were essential auxiliaries in this process, and the iconography’s strong presence in Southern German village churches contributed decisively to the popularization of this message.

The third and final step focuses on the analysis of the visual language of the iconography and its particular role in this media offensive. Usage of the iconography is characterized by its connection to and visualization of contemporary discourses in everyday locations as well as by its own constituting power. Well-known subjects such as inclusion (conversion) and exclusion (damnation) were the topics of missionary programs. The integration of the continent allegories into a picture program of adoration expanded the exclusively local adoration of the church municipality to the entire world. The foreign regions, personified by Asia, Africa and America, also became relatable, as their posture of devoutness and their tribute to one of the central themes of folklore piety connected them to well-known topics. Together with Europe, they and every single religious viewer offered their love to God, to Christ, to the Virgin Mary. The continent allegories are a product as well as a designing factor of the early modern discourse on ecclesia triumphans.

The table of content is accessible on the website of the publishing house: http://www.steiner-verlag.de/titel/61169.html

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