The cult of Corpus Christi in early modern Bavaria : pilgrimages, processions, and confraternities between 1550 and 1750
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Transubstantiation and the cult of Corpus Christi became crucial Counter-Reformation symbols which were assigned an even more significant role during the process of Catholic renewal from the mid-sixteenth to the mid-eighteenth century. Practices outside Mass, such as pilgrimages, processions, and prayers in front of the consecrated host flourished, in particular, in early modern Bavaria. The former Duchy of Bavaria has generally been regarded as the archetypal ‘confessional’ state, as the Bavarian dukes from the House of Wittelsbach took the lead in propagating the cult of the Eucharist. They acted as patrons of Baroque Catholicism which was presented to the public as an obvious visual marker of Catholic identity. This study therefore investigates how the Eucharist was popularised in the Catholic duchy between 1550 and 1750, focusing on three major themes: pilgrimages, confraternities, and the Corpus Christi procession. This study does not, however, approach the renewal of Catholicism in terms of a top-down process implemented by the Wittelsbach dukes as a method of stately power and control. Rather than arguing in favour of a state-sponsored piety imposed from above, this work explores the formation of Catholic confessional identity as a two-way-process of binding together elite and popular piety, and emphasizes the active role of the populace in constituting this identity. This is why this investigation draws primarily on research from local archives, using a rich body of both textual and visual evidence. Focusing especially on the visual aspects of Catholic piety, this project works towards an interdisciplinary approach in order to understand the ways in which Eucharistic devotion outside Mass was presented to and received by local communities within particular visual environments.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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