Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Change and Continuity in Religious Practice

Edited by Karin Maag and John D. Witvliet

“This is a fine collection of essays that significantly enriches our knowledge of a crucial period in liturgical history.” —Paul Bradshaw, Professor of Liturgy, University of Notre Dame

“The authors do a remarkably fine job of taking seriously the continuities between late medieval and early modern practices, especially in the Protestant world. They pay as much attention to subtle transformations of the medieval liturgical inheritance as they do to the dramatic changes in worship initiated by Protestant reforms. The authors also clarify the often murky, dynamic relationship between text and practice, and explain the ways in which practices of worship were rooted in local politics and culture. The primary sources accompanying each essay bring to light liturgical texts that deserve to be better known.” —Virginia Reinburg, Boston College

“This original and useful compilation of essays demonstrates a commendable ecumenical breadth and sensitivity.” —Randall Zachman, University of Notre Dame

Traditional surveys of Christian worship have not only stressed the profound changes that occurred in the fragmenting Reformation churches of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, but have also primarily focused on the theological understanding, rather than the practice, of worship. Contributors to this unique collection underline the complexity and diversity of late medieval and early modern Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and Reformed worship practices in Europe. They examine a range of rites (baptism, marriage, and the Eucharist), elements of worship (visual art, music, prayer texts, rituals), geographic locations (Spain, Geneva, England, Sweden, Germany), and settings (home, school, and church).

To illustrate the experience of worship by medieval and early modern laity and clergy, each essay is preceded by selections from key primary source documents being discussed. Contributors reveal that, contrary to the artificial separation of these two time periods by the modern academy, there was actually a great deal of continuity between medieval and early modern liturgical practices. They also demonstrate that political and social pressures were as significant as theological or doctrinal rationales when it came to modifying or retaining traditional practices.

Worship in Medieval and Early Modern Europe offers readers a chance to understand better the societal and confessional norms that motivated late medieval and early modern Christians to maintain or change traditional Catholic worship practices. Featuring some of the most outstanding scholars in the field, this volume will be invaluable to academics interested in the Reformation, early modern studies, theology, and liturgical studies, as well as to general readers who wish to learn how their worship life was shaped in the sixteenth century.

KARIN MAAG is Director of the H. Henry Meeter Center and associate professor of history at Calvin College.

JOHN D. WITVLIET is Director of the Calvin Institute of Christian Worship and associate professor of worship and music at Calvin College.

Contributors: John D. Witvliet, Margot Fassler, Robert Kingdon, Frank C. Senn, Bodo Nischan, Karin Maag, Susan M. Felch, Katherine Elliot van Liere, Kent J. Burreson, Bryan D. Spinks, Henry Luttikhuizen, Robin A. Leaver


”. . . By making a complex topic accessible to a wider readership, and providing a glimpse into the affective landscape of sixteenth-century Christians, this collection is an important contribution to historical scholarship and provides interesting suggestions for further research.” — Sixteenth Century Journal

“Offering more than its title suggests, this collection of eleven essays, primary texts, an introduction, and conclusion delves deeply into the transformation of liturgical and other religious practices from the Middle Ages to the early modern era. Focusing on the reformations of the Lutheran, Reformed, Anglican and Catholic confessions, these essays take us from Geneva to Sweden, England, the Low Countries, Spain and the Holy Roman Empire, illustrating the enormous impact of the Reformation on the men and women who experienced, often resisted, and sometimes orchestrated the changes that gave early modern Europe its confessional identities.” — Renaissance Quarterly

”. . . [T]his book offers depth, in the form of case-studies, and breadth, through its concentrated attention to aspects of worship (such as personal piety or worship in school settings) that often are neglected in traditional liturgical studies. Two particular strengths should be noted. . . . Each author gives significant thought to continuity and to change. The other especially attractive feature is the combination of primary sources with commentary.” — Theology Today

“Karin Maag and John Witvliet are to be congratulated for assembling an excellent collection of essays from a wide-ranging group of scholars. . . . All of the essays are solid scholarly expositions and provide students and faculty of theological schools and other graduate schools with grist for their own efforts to explore the interplay of continuity and discontinuity in other liturgical aspects of the Reformation.” — Anglican Theological Review

”. . . One can only hope that many of the seminal insights revealed in this tightly argued and thorough collection of essays will find their way into studies of method in liturgical study and in programs for liturgical study.” — The Catholic Historical Review

”. . . handsomely and carefully produced. . . . fascinating.” — CatholicBooksReview.org

”. . . the essays are uniformly readable and informative. . . . ” — Books & Culture

“. . . Anyone with an interest in the development of worship in the late medieval and early modern period will find this an enlightening volume.” — Anglican and Episcopal History