Confessional Conflict, Networks and Cultural Transfer on Trans-national Perspective

Religious violence pervaded every conflict in the Early Modern world. Events such as the extermination of a group of Protestants while holding mass in Wassy by the troops of the duke of Guise on March 1562, the crucifixion of 26 Catholics in Japan in February 1597 or the destruction of the chapel of the Spanish embassy by a London crowd in December 1688, all of them discussed in the following studies, shared some common elements. They all were primarily explained in terms in which religious conflict coated other underlying struggles. The displacement of people and the artifacts created because of these violent episodes (narratives, images, mementoes, relics) contributed to create and nourish trans-national networks of cultural transfer around the planet. The following dossier starts with the questions of where does religious violence fit in the schema of circulation and cultural transfer? And where does circulation and exchange fit in the history of confessional conflict? The effect and consequences of religious violence were then circulation and exchange, as paradoxical as that might seem. People on the move, the bodily remains of their deceased and their belongings transformed into relics, narratives of the violence and suffering in both texts and images, surround religious conflicts, their aftermath and the post-conflict attempts at settlement and reconciliation.

In recent decades, the historiography of the Reformation and the Counterreformation has been renovated, moving away from apologetic, teleologic or modernizing paradigms (Walsham, 2014). Exile, displacement and migration are now interpreted as one of the key elements in the process (Lachenicht, 2007; Fehler et al., 2014; Terpstra, 2015). On the other hand, the written and visual material derived from religious violence, such as pamphlets, polemical tracts or engravings, have been one of the main sources for its study, although few have put their use circulation at the center of their analysis but rather as a complement to the reading of the documents (Ehrmann, 1945; Carlos Varona, Civil, Pereda and Vincent-Cassy, 2008; Carlos Varona, 2010; Peña Velasco, 2012; Salamanca Villamizar, 2015, 2016). Another recent development in the approach to the study of religious conflict has been the so-called material turn in history, bringing into the attention of the historian the social life and the narration of meaning of both common and precious objects, from letters to relics (Ditchfield, 1993; Baciocchi and Duhamelle, 2016; Vicent-Cassy, 2016).

The group of texts that make up this dossier deals with the impact of confessional conflict on the networks of circulation and transfer of goods, people and ideas, together with its impact in shaping cultural behaviors and imagined communities. A perspective on exchange that takes religious violence as its core, not as an exception or aberration, offers a new vantage point to explore how communities of different confession defined or imagined themselves and interacted with each other over time. This dossier presents this point of view through several cases studies that connect the local and the global on several scales of analysis, from the institutional history of municipalities to the new diplomatic history to the cultural history of objects. The problems addressed collectively deal with the importance of migration within and beyond religious boundaries and the circulation of political practices, the material and social crafting of artifacts, such as relics, of deep religious and symbolic meaning across political boundaries, the (re)creation of religious historical interpretations across the globe of symbolic and material aggression and destruction. The chosen cases focus mainly (but not solely) on Europe, in the frame of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, although their implications are much wider.

The article by Serge Brunet looks to municipalities in order to understand how Calvinists gained control of the towns of southern France in the 1560s. This operation ran parallel to their military building up and the spread of violence that led to the outbreak of the French Wars of Religion. The process of Protestant empowerment in the municipalities of the Midi would have not been possible without the preexisting circulation of people, political practices, news and ideas to and from Geneva. There seems also to be a pattern established in the Protestant assaults to political power in the French southern townships, were the control of the consulate is the final step prior to impose religious and political hegemony over a Catholic majority and the building up of military might. The result of both processes was an escalation that degenerated into four decades of civil war, which needs to be understood as a coordinated and interconnected process.

The piece by Yves Junot complements the work by Brunet addressing the ways in which mobility was used to try to put an end to religious conflict. He focuses in the beginning of the policy of reconciliation with the sovereign Philip II in the Southern Netherlands started in 1579. Junot addresses the complexity of the circulation of people derived from religious violence and the need felt at the time to handle it, together with other migration processes, as a political question, to promote a new order and stability based on reconciliation. The policy of religious reconciliation, especially when used by the towns themselves, served to channel and manage the circulation of migrants and displaced people and their (re)adaptation, either within the Low Countries themselves, or to neighboring states, mainly France and the Holy Roman Empire. The policy aimed at displacing potentially dangerous individuals, but allowed time for them to try to adapt themselves to the new order and remain in place. In case conversion could not finally occur mobility, once again, be it in the form of outward migration without the loss of property or the encouragement of Catholic immigration, was used as an alternative to the return of religious violence. In short, Circulation of people according to Junot was both an answer to religious violence, and a means to end it.

The work by Marco Penzi addresses these same confessional clashes of the second half of the sixteenth century from the perspective of the circulation of texts, ideas and experiences. These serve to connect the municipal polity, the main perspective of Brunet and Junot, with the cultural background and experiences that informed it. Penzi’s center of attention lays in the written work of Loys Dorléans, one of the most prominent member of the Catholic League in the Parisian parliament. The vicissitudes of the one of Dorléans’ most successful pieces, the Catholiques Anglois, serves as a tread to reconstruct the view on coetaneous conflicts and exiles by those who took part in the French wars of Religion. In his writing, Dorléans impersonated an English Catholic who warned Frenchmen about the doom awaiting them should a protestant inherit the throne. Thus, the original aim of the work was to urge French people to join the Catholic league. Nonetheless, the book was few year later published twice in Spain, in the context of the post-Armada prolongation of the of war with Elizabethan England, heavy military involvement in France in support of the Catholic League and the foundation of institutions for the refuge of exiled Catholics. Reprinting, circulation and readaptation of the Catholiques Anglois in the Iberian Peninsula is meaningful. It speaks of both the empathy and interest by an eager reading public which desired to know more about what happened in faraway conflicts which they perceived as interconnected and relevant to their own context. In addition, it makes visible the networks of support and distribution being built by the exiled Catholics on Iberian soil.

The text by Hélène Vu Thanh tackles the violence against Catholics occurred in Japan in 1597 and the circulations of sacralized objects (relics), texts and images because of it. The problems addressed by her connect this dossier with the one edited by Federico Palomo in the last issue of Culture & History on the circulation of Franciscan texts in the Iberian empires. The fact that executed Franciscan missionaries were originally from New Spain or India, increased their appeal abroad and the interest of the authorities in their homeland in pushing for their beatification. To do so, they produced and distributed themselves material which presented the 1597 killings in Japan as a martyrdom. In addition to the conflict between Toyotomi Hideyoshi and the Christians that unleashed the killings, Vu Thanh pays special attention to the conflict among Christian religious orders themselves in understanding the production and circulation of information relating to the events. Inter-order conflict encouraged but also put certain limits to the circulation of objects resulting from the violence, such as the attempt of bringing the bodies of the executed Franciscans from Japan to Manila. On the other hand, Vu Thanh also deals with the same methodological problem tackled by Brunet concerning the status of some violent episodes as “foundational events” of wider conflicts. The so called “massacre of Wassy” was considered the opening of the French Wars of Religion not being neither the first nor the bloodiest. Likewise, violence against Christian in Japan was not new. Even if the 1597 events surpassed the reach of what had happened ten years before, it was neither coincidental that they were considered to inaugurate the making of Japan’s as the foremost land of Catholic martyrdom outside Europe. Both Brunet and Vu Thanh point towards relationship between the collective killing and the subsequent developments made at the time as attempts to blame responsibilities.

The article by Igor Pérez Tostado follows the trail of martyrological phenomena analyzed by Hélène Vu Than. He focuses on how the remains of religious violence were transformed into material objects and these in turn circulated through trans-national networks. The new relics from the British islands feed a strong existing demand in the Spanish Monarchy and other Catholic territories on the European mainland. The uses connected with them ranged from the private talismanic protection to the focus of worship and binding in public ceremonies. Circulation of relics and its by-products created bonds of gratitude, dependency and patronage between exiles and their continental benefactors and protectors. Relics served the exiles to access the intensely active necropolitics of the Spanish Monarchy, where the royal family, religious institutions, aristocrats and urban corporations negotiated the exhibition, ceremonial practices and religious-political meanings attached to bodily remains manufactured into sacred objects. In the British Islands in turn, the arrival of relics from the continent and beyond, together with the preservation of local old and new ones, helped to forge necrocommunities around the cult of the martyrs, connected to an imagined community of Catholics, both historic, in the sense that their felt heirs of the first Christians, and global, embracing the continental mainland and its missionary effort in Africa, Asia and America.

The closing piece by Cristina Bravo Lozano studies the transmutation of Baroque Spanish religiosity in reformed lands and the violent response to it. Whereas the work of Pérez Tostado approaches the circulation of relics as a metaphor of cultural translation between the British Islands and the Spanish Monarchy, Bravo Lozano tackles the wider process of transmutation in play through the study of the chapel of the Spanish embassy during the effective reign of James II (1685-88). At various levels, the process is deeply connected to violence. On the one hand, the ceremonies and decorations of the chapel stressed the celebration of military victories of Catholic powers, such as the defeat of the Ottoman empire in Buda. On the other, these festivities, interpreted in the local context of the ascension of a Catholic to the English throne, set in motion a wave of insults and attacks to the Spanish chapel and its attendees. The emphasis of the assailants to the symbolism and materiality of their aggression is also to be noted and connects with phenomena discussed in the other works of this dossier. The violence exerted against the Spanish chapel itself generated a stream of news and framed information that circulated around the continent, intended to construct meaning out of the violent events. Finally, the process of redress, compensation and reconciliation of Spanish embassy with its British host required a lengthy process of communication, interpretation and diplomatic negotiation.

The authors have worked collectively to shape and connect the ideas discussed in a seminar organized between the European University Institute and Pablo de Olavide University, Violence and the Circulation of Goods, Knowledge and Cultures in March 2013, coordinated by Antonella Romano, Bartolomé Yun Casalilla and the writer of these lines, Igor Pérez Tostado. I wish to thank the two co-organisers, professors Antonella Romano and Bartolomé Yun Casalilla, and the invaluable logistical support offered by Monica Palao in Florence. The development of this seminar and the research that has brought the present dossier would have been impossible to accomplish without the financial support offered by the Spanish Ministry of Economy (MINECO) through the projects “Afinidad, violencia y representación: la proyección exterior de la Monarquía Hispánica” (HAR2011-29859-C02-02) and “En los límites de la violencia: masacre y proyección de las Monarquías Ibéricas en los siglos modernos” (HAR2014-52414-C2-2-P). Last but by no means least, the work carried in the framework of these projects has been greatly improved by the support provided by the coordinating projects directed by professor José Javier Ruiz Ibáñez: “Hispanofilia, la proyección política de la Monarquía Hispánica (II): políticas de prestigio, migraciones y representación de la hegemonía (1560-1650)”, (MINECO HAR2011-29859-C02-01) and “Hispanofilia (III): la influencia ibérica en su contexto político, siglos XVI-XX” (MINECO HAR2014-52414-C2-1-P).

A cluster of the works that were presented and discussed in the workshop have been published in Spanish as a dossier of the journal Historia Social (Pérez Tostado 2017). The works by Ievgen A. Khvalkov, José Miguel Escribano Páez, Nicolás Rodríguez del Castillo, Bethany Aram and Rafael Obando in that dossier are connected by the common trend that violence is not an aberration or contraposition of trade, but one of its essential and in many cases necessary characteristics. Violence was a requisite in the late medieval and Early Modern period for the opening and creation of markets, the exchange of goods, the circulation of people and the adoption of new social, cultural and economic practices. Thus, the exchanges of practices, products and population known collectively as the first global age of the Early Modern period are understood there as part of a globalization of violence. In turn, the dossier presented here attempt to locate the role played by religious violence in the making of networks of circulation and and processes of cultural transfer. Both collections are part of a same conversation.

The panorama offered collectively by these inquiries leave plenty of room for debate and further exploration. It is necessary to compare and connect simultaneous local manifestations of religious violence and their outcomes in the displacement of people and the circulation of news, objects and ideas. Early modernist historians are now beginning to be aware of the implications of these phenomena into wider processes such as the rise of the Spanish Monarchy as a global power (Cardim, Herzog, Ruiz Ibáñez and Sabatini, 2012; Ruiz Ibáñez, 2013; Ruiz Ibáñez y Pérez Tostado, 2015) or the making of the seventeenth century Dutch “Republic of the Refugees” (Janssen, 2017). The impact of circulation in the attempts to put an end to violence or the post-conflict reweaving of the social and political fabric requires further research. For example, and without being exhaustive, the voluntary circulation and return of the displaced people not only serve to put an end to religious conflicts, but also to open implicit spaces for religious coexistence within families and local communities. The processes of restitution, reparation and amendment after the eruption of violence pointed at by Bravo Lozano at the end of her work deserves further exploration. Finally, the construction and transformation of memory and the adherence to imagined communities in the wake of religious violence and violence induced circulation, a common concern in all the essays, merits further consideration.

The displacement of people due to conflict afflicts today more people than ever before. By the end of 2015, it affected to 65,3 million human beings according to the estimates of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (2016). As in the Early Modern period, many of the conflicts causing this displacement have a religious dimension to them. The harborage or return of the people, together with religious recomposition, is an essential part of their resolution. As in present day conflicts, religious violence in the early Modern period also ignited the circulation of ideas, information, images, practices and objects relating to violence or created out of them. Then as today, these other elements accompanied the displaced people and reached further away than their wanderings, touching much more lives. So what then with the past? What does the study of Early Modern history offer to a present of religious conflict, displacement and circulation? Historians must keep these questions in mind, even if they are not able to provide a complete answer. If something can be inferred from our exploration of the past, is that circulation really plays an important role not only in the building up, spread and development of religious violence, but also in the processes of pacification, reparation and amendment needed to put an end to it. Cultural transfers are also an important means of communication between the violently displaced population and their lukewarm host communities. Now as in the Early Modern period, the serve to create new ties and stir up solidarity.

The editor of this dossier cannot end his text but thanking the effort made by each and all of the authors, to the board of editors of Culture & History for their support for the endeavor and their patience with the delays and difficulties attached to it and to the evaluators for their careful reading and suggestions for improvement. I want to specially thank my colleague Bethany Aram for her invaluable help in the final steps of the process.

Igor Pérez Tostado
Universidad Pablo de Olavide de Sevilla
ORCID iD: http://orcid.org/0000-0002-5151-1586


Baciocchi, Stéphane and Duhamelle, Christophe (editors) (2016) Reliques romaines: invention et circulation des corps saints des catacombes à l’époque moderne. École Française de Rome, Rome.
Cardim, Pedro; Herzog, Tamar; Ruiz Ibáñez, José Javier and Sabatini, Gaetano (editors) (2012) Polycentric Monarchies: How Did Early Modern Spain and Portugal Achieve and Maintain a Global Hegemony? Sussex Academic Press, Brighton and Portland.
Carlos Varona, María Cruz de (2010) “Historias e iconos: Fray Juan Sánchez Cotán y la cultura martirial de la Europa Moderna”. Tiempos modernos, 20 (1): 1-50.
Carlos Varona, María Cruz de; Civil, Pierre; Pereda, Felipe and Vincent-Cassy, Cécile (editors) (2008) La imagen religiosa en la Monarquía Hispánica: usos y espacios. Casa de Velázquez, Madrid.
Ditchfield, Simon (1993) “Martyrs on the move: relics as vindicators of local diversity in the Tridentine Church”. Studies in Church History, 30: 283-294.
Ehrmann, Jean (1945) “Massacre and Persecution Pictures in Sixteenth Century France”. Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 8: 195-199.
Fehler, Timothy G.; Kroeker, Greta G.; Parker, Charles H.; Ray, Jonathan (editors) (2014) Religious diaspora in Early Modern Europe: strategies to exile. Pickering & Chatto, London.
Janssen, Geert H. (2017) “The Republic of the Refugees: Early Modern migration and the Dutch Experience.”. The Historical Journal, 60 (1): 233-252.
Lachenicht, Susanne (editor) (2007) Religious refugees in Europe, Asia and North America (6th-21st century). Lit Verlag, Transaction Publishers, Hamburg, Piscataway, NJ.
Peña Velasco, Concepción (2012) “La imagen del mártir en el Barroco: el ánimo invencible”. Archivo español de arte, 85 (338): 147-164.
Pérez Tostado, Igor (editor) (2017) “Violencia y circulación de bienes, conocimientos y culturas”. Historia Social, 87: 85-88.
Ruiz Ibáñez, José Javier (editor) (2013) Las vecindades de las monarquías ibéricas. Fondo de Cultura Económica, Madrid.
Ruiz Ibáñez, José Javier and Pérez Tostado, Igor (editors) (2015) Los exiliados del rey de España. Fondo de Cultura Económica, Madrid.
Salamanca Villamizar, Carlos Arturo (2015) “De las catacumbas a los últimos confines: violencia, sentido y representación en los periplos del martirio”. Topoi, 16 (30): 260-292.
Salamanca Villamizar, Carlos Arturo (2016) “Religión, política y espectáculo: narrativas del martirio en la primera modernidad”. Anales del Instituto de Investigaciones Estéticas, 38 (109): 97-133.
Terpstra, Nicholas (2015) Religious Refugees in the Early Modern World: an Alternative History of the Reformation. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (editor) (2016) Tendencias globales: desplazamiento forzado en 2015. United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Geneva.
Vicent-Cassy, Cecile (2016) “The Search for Evidence: The Relics of Martyred Saints and Their Worship in Cordoba after the Council of Trent”. In After Conversion: Iberia and the Emergence of Modernity, edited by García Arenal, Mercedes. Brill, Leiden.
Walsham, Alexandra (2014) “Migrations of the Holy: Explaining Religious Change in Medieval and Early Modern Europe”. Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 44 (2): 214-280.

Copyright (c) 2017 Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC)

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Contact: historia.digital@cchs.csic.es

Technical support: soporte.tecnico.revistas@csic.es