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Confessions and boundaries in the Holy Roman Empire: The Brandenburg, Minden, and the Calendar in 1668

Christophe Duhamelle
Traduction de Juliette Rogers (rogers.juliette@gmail.com)

Résumés

Entre 1583 et 1700, le Saint-Empire romain germanique connaît deux calendriers, décalés de dix jours. On considère généralement que l’un des calendriers, le grégorien, est catholique, et l’autre, l’ancien calendrier julien, est protestant. Il n’existe aucune raison théologique à cette répartition, qui n’est d’ailleurs pas absolue, comme le montre le cas étudié dans cet article : en 1668 le prince-électeur du Brandebourg (protestant) impose à ses sujets (majoritairement protestants) de la principauté de Minden en Westphalie le passage au calendrier grégorien (censément « catholique »). Les arguments des différents protagonistes de cette décision et les débats qu’elle engendre révèlent des synergies et des glissements entre le religieux et d’autres domaines (dont l’économique), gauchissant ces catégories souvent réifiées par l’historiographie. Par ailleurs, le débat montre que la frontière du Minden s’inscrit dans différentes échelles mobilisées, selon les besoins, par différents acteurs. Le cas permet donc de réinscrire dans un jeu social complexe (que l’on ne peut saisir que dans la diversité des sources) les limites spatiales et catégorielles qui semblent pourtant consubstantielles à la notion d’État territorial dans l’Empire.

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  • 1 Jérôme Delatour, “Noël le 15 décembre. La réception du calendrier grégorien en France (1582),” in M (...)
  • 2 Robert Rebitsch, “Die Kalenderreform in Tirol im Jahre 1583,” Innsbrucker Historische Studien, 20/2 (...)
  • 3 Christophe Duhamelle, “Une frontière abolie ? Le rapprochement des calendriers catholique et protes (...)
  • 4 Jennifer Powell McNutt, “Hesitant Steps: Acceptance of the Gregorian Calendar in Eighteenth-Century (...)
  • 5 Hellmut Gutzwiller, “Die Einführung des gregorianischen Kalenders in der Eidgenossenschaft in konfe (...)
  • 6 Robert Poole, “’Give us our eleven days!’: Calendar reform in eighteenth-century England,” Past and (...)

1Europe followed two calendars in the seventeenth century. The Julian calendar, inherited from Julius Caesar, was still used on part of the continent. The rest used the Gregorian calendar, named after Pope Gregory XIII, who introduced it in 1582. The differences between the two are minor: calculation of the date of Easter (based on both solar and lunar years) is slightly different, and the Gregorian calendar occasionally skips a leap year in order to make up for the delay of ten minutes a year accumulated by the Julian calendar relative to the actual time the planet needs to rotate around its star. This occurs once a century, except those that are multiples of 400; since 1582, it only happened in 1700, 1800, and 1900, but not in 1600 or 2000. However, Gregory XIII’s reform also included an initial ten-day leap forward to make up for the lag that had built up since the Council of Nicaea (in 325), which had decided how the date of Easter would be calculated. Consequently, in Rome in the year 1582, Thursday 4 October was followed by Friday 15 October. It was also a Friday in the Julian calendar, but the 5 October. In practice, not all Catholic countries adopted the reform at exactly the same time. In France, for example, 9 December 1583 was followed by 20 December.1 In the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, the leap forward into the new calendar was also scattered: Austria and the Tyrol went from October 4 to 15, but in 1583, well after Bavaria but one day before the Prince-Bishopric of Brixen.2 Above all, most Protestant and Orthodox countries rejected the Gregorian calendar, mainly because it came from the pope. This rejection would last a long time: until 1700 in the Empire3 and most of Switzerland (but in 1701 in Geneva,4 1783 in the Upper Engadine, and in 1812 for the towns of Schiers and Grüsch5), and 1752 in England.6 Although all of Europe would still call the same day “Sunday” or Wednesday,” there were henceforth two dates for identifying this Sunday or Wednesday, ten days apart (eleven after 1700), the so-called “New Style” Gregorian calendar being ahead of the “Old Style” Julian. This was hardly practical, and at first glance does not seem to be a promising topic for research in the social history of categorization.

Calendrical differences and the social history of confessions

2But it is indeed from this angle that I study the difference in calendars. This very real gap, embedded in daily life and materialized by a change of date at confessional boundaries, is not based in doctrine, or even religion. The calendar itself is an adiaphoron, a dogmatically neutral thing, and all agreed on this at the time. The paradox of an omnipresent confessional marker with no religious basis is what makes it an interesting subject for my endeavor to develop a social history of categories of religious affiliation in the Holy Roman Empire of the modern era.

3This endeavor gradually led me to challenge three ideas that engender particular choices in methods, documentation, and interpretive frameworks. Their proponents present these three ideas as empirical, thus neutral, classifications, when in fact they are always related to theoretical options, even if they sometimes go unnoticed. Secondly, these ideas are located at the very point where the themes historians use to sort their work into specializations overlap with the issues manipulated by actors of the period in the controversial invention of the frames of confessional coexistence. This intersection of the categories of the time and the categories of historians is what makes things difficult, and is also why there has to be a shift relative to each.

4It is first of all a matter of deconstructing the ontology of the religious fact postulated by some of the actors in these confessional confrontations, and also by the niche of historiography devoted to the subject. The latter is especially pronounced in Germany, where Protestant and Catholic history are still rather distinct and practiced in part in schools of theology. This approach sees a confession’s characteristics as resulting from its core doctrine and the program of orthodoxy and orthopraxy implemented by its clergy. Deviance, the particular logics of inter-confessional relations, and the social dimension of the construction of confessions are rejected to the margins of historical work. I set out to do the opposite, to avoid immediately attributing explanatory primacy to the religious, which could obscure the diversity of uses of categories like “Catholic” and “Protestant.” From this perspective, the difference of calendars is a good vantage point for analyzing a socially rooted distinction between confessions, because it establishes a clear and readily perceptible threshold between users of the Julian and Gregorian calendars completely devoid of any doctrinal basis.

  • 7 For a longer discussion and numerous bibliographic references, see: Christophe Duhamelle, Confessio (...)
  • 8 See, for example, Damien Tricoire, Mit Gott rechnen. Katholische Reform und politisches Kalkül in F (...)
  • 9 And even more: after 1700, calculation of the date of Easter continued to distinguish between the P (...)

5The second deconstruction is of the favor that historiographers (for the most part in Germany) accord to the State scale and its mechanisms to study confessional affiliations and their construction, either by establishing a strong conjunction between “confessionalization” and “the modern State,”7 or, more recently, by reducing politics to theology,8 in both cases by compounding the lofty perspective ordering confessional affiliations according to their doctrinal and ecclesiastical cores with another lofty perspective ordering it according to its State core. Rather than proposing a bottom-up view in response to these two top-down perspectives, I set out to resituate confessional categorization in a differentiated social process wherein State and ecclesiastical authorities both play significant, albeit neither unique nor univocal, roles. The difference in calendars is also interesting from another perspective: it concerns society as a whole and allows us to comprehend its diversity; the ways in which it is used are intensified by interaction; and lastly, this same problematic interaction between the political dimension of the calendar and its religious implications is the very same central and as-yet unresolved issue upon which some Protestant authorities initially based their rejection of the Gregorian calendar. Over the long century when both calendars existed in the Empire,9 the respective positions of political decisions, social uses, and the religious dimension would remain subjected to variable and controversial arrangements that invite historical analysis.

  • 10 Christophe Duhamelle, La Frontière au village. Une identité catholique allemande au temps des Lumiè (...)

6Finally, the third deconstruction is of the notion of border. Emphasis on the aforementioned congruence of State-building and confessional discipline, and the favor accorded to core doctrine over the complexities of the aforementioned social factors, both lead to making the boundary between confessions out to be a simple meeting point of differences that developed elsewhere, and to supposing that the coincidence between political and confessional boundaries, as well as the increasing linearity of each, was the norm. On the first point, it is helpful to also see the boundary between confessions as a place for the social appropriation of affiliation and the social production of confessional categories in the range of actors and their interests.10 The second point is often summed up by the Latin phrase “cujus regio ejus religio” (he who possesses a territory decides its religion), sometimes taken as a certainty despite the fact that it does not correspond with the more nuanced provisions of the two religious truces established in the Holy Roman Empire (the Peace of Augsburg in 1555 and the Peace of Westphalia in 1648) and is even less a reflection of the infinite variety of concrete situations where multiple confessional affiliations and various combinations of political obedience, public worship, and private religion all mingled under a single territorial authority. In this domain, too, the calendar is a fertile topic for study, because it made the border both visible and problematic. Indeed, it certainly engendered a spatial threshold that was socially shared by all and brutally binary, but the boundary it marked is even more prominent for its complexity: calendar choice was an issue so successful in dissociating political belonging (if one considered the calendar as only concerning secular authority) and religious belonging (if one favored its function in organizing religious holidays) that most of the calendar-related conflicts teeming in the Empire wielded this diffraction of the notion of boundary according to the angles and scales that diverse actors had chosen for thinking about it.

  • 11 Falk Bretschneider, Christophe Duhamelle, “Fraktalität. Raumgeschichte und soziales Handeln im Alte (...)

7These three shifts in approach are the organizing principles of my research agenda: producing a social history of confessions embedded in a social history of the Holy Roman Empire as a political system. This agenda rejects the dichotomy between the Imperial and Estate level that structures historiography, and instead highlights the roles of actors among various scales, according to what Falk Bretschneider and I have called the “fractality” of the Imperial social space.11 In so doing, it also ventures to get past historiographic classifications that are especially powerful in Germany because they are firmly rooted not only in the institutional organization of historical research and intellectual traditions, but also in how archives are distributed and their chaotic redistribution since the early nineteenth century.

  • 12 There is only one, very recent, summary, focused mainly on general and scientific debates: Edith Ko (...)
  • 13 The main lines of the “calendar quarrel,” especially in Augsburg, have been known since the late ni (...)
  • 14 See, among others, Hans Gaab, Der Kontakt von Abdias Trew mit Herzog August von Branschweig Lünebu (...)

8Calendrical differences are a research topic permitting me to pursue this agenda, but one that also comes with challenges. Little study has been devoted to it,12 and what does exist is scattered over several rather exclusive historiographical fields: the history of sciences, especially astronomy; the history of the book, especially calendars; and local history, which often encounters conflicts over calendars but generally does not make it into a theme in its own right. Additionally, archival documentation is fragmentary and access is difficult: the diversity of calendars crosses several conflictual areas but is rarely constituted as a thematic file – even less so as it did not last to the end of the Empire, in contrast to other themes. This all leads to a scattered treatment of the issue, with many gaps: apart from the initial quarrel over the Gregorian calendar, particularly at Augsburg,13 and to a lesser extent the astronomical debates over the calendar up to 1700,14 the issue is rarely raised aside from references in local conflicts. It is more than personal vanity that made me cite so many examples of my own work in the footnotes of this text; to my knowledge there is no prior work on the Easter crisis of 1724 or the case that I will discuss next. Consequently, my work on the calendar difference is fated to remain incomplete, since I am pursuing it from several perspectives that I am trying to interconnect: discussions between astronomers, debates at the Imperial scale, local conflicts, and differentiated uses of the dual calendar system.

The Principality of Minden

9This article focuses on one single case, which is far from covering the full range of directions that my research has taken but it does provide a clear example of the differentiated uses various social actors made of political, confessional, and spatial categories where calendars are concerned. In 1667-68, the Elector of Brandenburg – not yet King of Prussia but already in one of the most powerful dynasties of the Empire – imposed use of the Gregorian calendar on some of his subjects: those of the Principality of Minden. The decision did not concern all of his territory, the rest of which kept the Julian calendar. It led to reactions and debates that left patchy but consequential traces in the archives. I found them in two places: first in a file in Berlin that included correspondence between the government of the Elector and Minden local government, and then in the archives of Münster, where a few items of more disparate origins are preserved. There are thus several voices and several levels represented in relation to the same issue. The principality of Minden was tiny, barely 1000 km2, and has not inspired frenetic historiographic activity, but when the Gregorian calendar was introduced there, it shook up the accepted equivalencies between political obedience, confessional affiliation, and the stability of boundaries.

  • 15 Werner Freitag, Pfarrer, Kirche und ländliche Gemeinschaft : das Dekanat Vechta 1400-1803, Bielefel (...)
  • 16 Volker Wappmann, Durchbruch zur Toleranz. Die Religionspolitik des Pfalzgrafen Christian August von (...)
  • 17 Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen (archive in Münster): Fürstabtei Corvey, Akte (...)

10The date is interesting, for a start. Although, as we have seen, there has been some study of the beginning of the difference in calendars in 1582-1583 and its apparent end in 1700, changes between these dates have been largely ignored. They were constant, however: for example, in 1624 the Gregorian calendar was introduced in the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück,15 it went into effect in the Principality of Palatinate-Sulzbach in 1655,16 and it became the sole calendar of the town of Höxter in 1675.17 The history of the difference in calendars in the Empire is not set according to one criteria of attribution, Julian for Protestantism and Gregorian for Catholicism. To the contrary, it played out according a great number of variables, revealing ever-problematic and reworked connections between the political, the confessional, and the social.

  • 18 Hans Nordsiek, “Vom Fürstbistum zum Fürstentum Minden. Verfassungsrechtliche, politische und konfes (...)
  • 19 On the Minden chapter, the best presentation is still: Hermann Nottarp, “Ein Mindener Dompropst des (...)

11Another characteristic of the introduction of the Gregorian calendar in the Principality of Minden in 1668 supports this initial information: it was established by a Protestant prince. The Electors of Brandenburg (Calvinists reigning over Lutherans) had rejected the calendar of Pope Gregory XIII out of hand, and were committed to that choice. Furthermore, the Principality of Minden was also mainly populated by Protestants, ever since the 1535 signing of an agreement between the town and the cathedral chapter.18 Until the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, the territory had been a prince-bishopric. The fact that it was populated with a heavy majority of Protestants is only one of many circumstances forcing us to reconsider the relationship between territory and religious confession. This particular situation (a primarily Lutheran territory headed by a Catholic prelate elected by canons, some of whom were Protestant) helps us to understand why the prince-bishopric had not adopted the Gregorian calendar in 1583. In addition, the cathedral chapter, which for a long time elected the bishop, remained a social and political power in 1668, dominating the local assembly (Landtag). The peace of 1648 had set its composition: Protestant and Catholic canons coexisted in the chapter, all nobles of old families, jointly exercising the supervision of the clergy of the principality, which was entirely Lutheran save for the cathedral and the town’s two collegiate churches.19

12To recap: in 1668 a Protestant Elector introduced the Gregorian calendar in an almost entirely Protestant principality. On top of that, this situation is very similar to those of other examples of the transition to the New Style between 1583 and 1700 (the Prince-Bishopric of Osnabrück had a very colorful confessional landscape; in Palatinate-Sulzbach the Prince was still Protestant when he established the Gregorian calendar in his Protestant principality; the town of Höxter was bi-confessional but its council unanimously decided to adopt the New Style). In all these instances, the choice of calendar clearly reveals interactions between the political and the religious that leave us no choice but to stop thinking in terms of an equivalency – too often considered to be automatic – between princely power and confessional attribution (a reflex driven by the formula cujus regio ejus religio).

  • 20 On this point, with other examples of maps made according to the same principle: Christophe Duhamel (...)

13The notion of boundary is also relativized in this approach. The map accompanying this article reflects a conscious choice of representation: it is a silhouette map that gives the detailed outline of a territorial unit, but nothing else. This map is somewhat misleading because it reflects the dynastic ensemble of the House of Brandenburg on the eve of the French Revolution; Frisia and the principalities of the Frankish Margraves were added in 1668. But the important thing is that it shows that the lands of one of the most powerful princes of the Empire, like those of all his more modest peers, formed a sort of archipelago of enclaves that were themselves dotted with enclaves, with a low degree of territorial continuity.20 In this ensemble, the Principality of Minden was a recent and still fragile addition: created as a secular principality and attributed to the Elector of Brandenburg by the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, Swedish troops did not evacuate until September 1650 – and the last elected Prince-Bishop, Franz Wilhelm von Wartenberg, continued to claim his rights until his death in 1661. The prerogatives of the local government and the Assembly of Imperial Estates, which was dominated by the cathedral chapter, were confirmed in 1650 by the Elector of Brandenburg. This was Friedrich Wilhelm, the “Grand Elector” that one historiographic current long imbued with Prussian teleology presented as the one who laid the foundations of the “modern State”: rationalized, Protestant, military, efficient.

14To illustrate how the differentiated and sometimes tacit handling of the confessional, spatial, and political categories of the Holy Roman Empire of the seventeenth century was expressed through the calendar in this exclave, I will focus on just a few chosen texts rather than detailing all the documentation.

Scales and issues

15It was not a foregone conclusion that the Grand Elector, considered to be the champion of Protestantism and Prussian unity before it even existed, would introduce the “Catholic” calendar in a Lutheran principality. What were his motivations? The document in which they are presented the most clearly is the “patent” (the Elector’s decision) of 21 January 1668, marking the end of the decision-making process:

  • 21 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Mind (...)

Since becoming aware a certain time ago of the manner in which the different calendars in our Westphalian territories have caused great confusion and disparities between our subjects in terms of their activities and commerce, as in other terms, we have decided to henceforth introduce and put into use the new calendar in our Principality of Minden and in our town of Herford, two places where it had not been in use until this time, with the main aim of establishing between these two territories, that form a whole and border one another, uninterrupted concord, good conformity, and equality likely to favor the development of trade and the maintenance of harmony.21

  • 22 Stefan Ehrenpreis, “Wir sind mit blutigen Köpfen davongelaufen...” Lokale Konfessionskonflikte im H (...)

16In this text the Elector chose the intermediate scale of “our Westphalian territories” as the relevant scale, rather than all of his lands or solely the Principality of Minden. Minden was a newcomer to these territories. The Electors of Brandenburg obtained the bulk of their acquisitions in Westphalia in the early seventeenth century, during the division of the duchy of Jülich, Cleves, and Berg between the Brandenburg and the Palatinate-Neuburg. But the Dukes of Jülich-Cleves-Berg had long had a cautious policy of compromise regarding the Empire’s confessional diversity, one manifestation of which being the rapid and little-contested adoption of the pontifical reform of the calendar.22 So even if these lands were henceforth Lutheran in majority and placed under the authority of a Calvinist prince, they followed the Gregorian calendar from the beginning. Like all acquired rights, this was scrupulously preserved regardless of confessional affiliation.

17The Elector did not speak of confession, however. He only mentioned “uninterrupted concord,” the “development of commerce,” and “the maintenance of harmony.” He prioritized economic concerns with the revitalization of trade and activity in his lands after the ravages of the Thirty Years’ War. By denouncing the obstacles raised by the diversity of calendars, he picked up on a commonplace notion that from the outset typified thinking (especially at the Assembly of Imperial Estates) on the necessity of finding a uniform way of designating time. In this statement, the Elector used a discourse that was common at the Imperial scale, applying it to a scale that is neither a territory nor the full extent of his dynasty, and he painstakingly avoids any confessional reference, as seen in the neutral expression “new calendar” instead of “Gregorian.” Most of all, by asserting his ability to change the calendar on his own initiative, he implicitly espoused the idea that the computus was purely political, irrelevant to the rules governing confessions that required the Principality of Minden to continue using the Julian calendar because it was in use there in 1624 (the normative year raised to the rank of eternal rule by the Peace of Westphalia for sorting out the confessions to be practiced publicly). The Electors of Brandenburg sided with the contrary opinion in 1583; they would proclaim the religious character of the calendar on subsequent occasions. The value of confessional and political categories depends on what one wishes to do with them.

18The Elector’s patent thus settled a controversy over calendars, when in fact they were not remotely settled because most of the conflicts concerned whether or not the issue should be included under the prerogatives of the established dominant confession. The Elector did so in the name of the hierarchy of boundaries, the removal of confessional markers from the calendar, and the primacy of making the territory both regionally and economically uniform at a specific scale. This position is not without contradictions, however: it does not cover the whole Empire, where the Elector would never have advocated the adoption of the Gregorian calendar by all Protestants to facilitate the “development of commerce,” and it ignored another boundary – the one separating the Principality of Minden from the other surrounding Protestant principalities, or rather, the one harboring multiple ties with these neighbors.

19This other conception of the regional scale is mobilized in a second text. It is a petition from the municipal council of the town of Minden to the Elector, dated 7 February 1668. They request that the Elector ask himself…

  • 23 The county of Hoya has been part of Brunswick-Luneburg since 1582.
  • 24 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Mind (...)

(…) if the introduction of the calendar might not run the risk of leading to notable confusion and trouble, and paralyzing a good share of the commerce and good sense observed thus far with neighboring lands, considering the fact that the burghers from here do most of their business with the subjects in the border areas of the county of Lippe, Schaumburg, Hoya,23 and the Hesse lands, where the old calendar is still in use at this time.24

20The neighbors mentioned in this text were carefully chosen. All are very close, a few hours walk at the most. None of them are among the Elector’s other Westphalian territories. However, they had long-running ties with Minden, especially the town, where they helped the Protestants assert themselves with their Prince-Bishop in the sixteenth century. They are also all Protestant, a fact the note carefully neglects to mention. As is often the case, the boundary was complicated and omnipresent enough to offer the various protagonists opposing arguments without necessarily having to get to the root of the problem. The subject was so delicate that a peripheral strategy was needed: the Protestant subjects protested the decision made by their prince, himself Protestant, to impose the Gregorian calendar on them. We can see that the town of Minden settled on practical arguments related to the proximity of the border. However, these arguments subtly suggest that Minden had had its own history, geography, and indeed confessional identity well before it was attached to the Brandenburg.

  • 25 The circles were regional cooperation groups that were granted certain collective functions by the (...)

21An important aspect of this text is thus that it was positioned, word for word, on the same grounds as the arguments of authorities in Berlin. The Elector said he wanted economic unity in his Westphalian lands, hoping to foster common interests between recently united territories. Minden town council retorted that trade was already vigorous, but in historic Westphalia, institutionally embodied by the grouping of the Lower Rhenish-Westphalian Circle (Kreis) that included the Hoya, the Lippe, the Schaumburg, and the Hessian exclaves cited in the text.25 These neighbors kept to the Julian calendar to such an extent that the new calendar ran a chance of harming trade rather than helping it. By adopting the same semantics as the Elector – that of pragmatic territorial and commercial interests – the Minden town council illustrated the malleability of arguments and scales according to the context.

  • 26 For example, see Michaela Fenske, Marktkultur in der frühen Neuzeit. Wirtschaft, Macht und Unterhal (...)

22What the text leaves out is also worthy of note. By citing only non-Brandenburg neighbors, it not only offers its own interpretation of the regional economic scale, regardless of the dynastic scale, but also asserts that the trade problems were created by the calendar change, not fixed by it. In other words, it was the brutal change, not the difference in dates, that harmed commercial relations. This joins other evidence showing that the diversity of calendars was soon accompanied by complementarity in markets, fairs,26 and working days, at a scale of action that defied the innumerable internal borders of the Empire, which many actors were able to exploit to their benefit. Quietly, and despite the conventional discourse at the Imperial level, this dual system for counting the days allowed the emergence of a system of activities often working around each confession’s religious obligations and days of rest, even between confessional “adversaries.”

23Considering that the petition of the town of Minden was also silent on the confessional aspect of the calendar, we might consequently be tempted to index religious affiliation to the scale in question: “from above,” confessionalization would try to make a strong distinction between Protestants and Catholics; “from below,” the population would work things out more pragmatically. But interaction between the mobilized categories, various groups of actors, and the scales at which they intervene proves to resist this vertical stratification of social interplay; a third document is an invitation to see it this way.

The local lens

24This time, it is a letter written by a pastor. It is in the archives of Münster and not, like the preceding two, in the archives of the central authorities in Berlin. This report to local Minden authorities, dated the 20 December 1668, relays the threats addressed to him by members of his flock on the other side of the border, while he was in the Principality of Minden and forced to apply the new calendar.

  • 27 Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen : Minden-Ravensberg, Regierung, Nr. 1 521, “E (...)

Does he [the pastor] want to celebrate holidays according to the old calendar as before, or the new? They [the parishoners] cannot, they will not, and they do not have the right to celebrate according to the new time; and if he didn’t want to do it as before, and as it is custom since time immemorial, they should part with him and find themselves a new church.27

  • 28 This question has received little attention. See, for example, Alfred Schirge, “Grenz- und Zuflucht (...)
  • 29 This complexity emerges fully when a territory’s confessional situation is analyzed parish by paris (...)

25This pastor’s rural parishioners introduce a new scale. In opposition to the postulated linearity of the principality’s border and its “territoriality,” they asserted the specific delimitation of the parish. Parishes in the Empire, in Protestant and Catholic lands alike, often consisted of several villages. Parishes on the edge of political territories frequently overlapped more than one principality; such overlapping edges were found everywhere, so this was not a rare phenomenon. There was no part of the Principality of Minden that was more than 15 km from the border, and it was hardly exceptional in this regard. Consequently, practically everywhere, parish boundaries imposed a scale that did not coincide with the scale of territorial borders.28 Likewise, the old patchwork of rights of patronage and collation, the micro-geography particular to parishes, often muddied the connections between political obedience and ecclesiastical affiliation.29 Compounding this complexity was the fact that the normative year regulation had formalized this complex system of prerogatives by tying it intimately to the notion of the de facto confession of public practice, more powerful in law than the will of the princes and bearing the power of possessio (“immemorial rights”). The spirit of cujus regio ejus religio was thus not only compromised by the complexities of dynastic inheritance and hindered by the Imperial compromises that determined confessional power relations, it was also undermined by the patchwork of parishes at the local scale.

26Although the Principality of Minden was very small, the parishioners on the behalf of whom the pastor petitioned were not the only ones faced with two calendars in the same parish. Summarizing several complaints they had received on the subject, the government of the principality presented the problem to the Elector during the preparatory phase of the decision, on 14 March 1667:

  • 30 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Mind (...)

(…) insofar as certain border-zone living subjects of the Prince of Lüneburg, the Count of Lippe and of Schaumburg, among whom the old calendar is observed, belong to the churches of our principality, and in the opposite sense, subjects from here belong to churches in these territories, and insofar as they are all required to go to these churches, this results in confusion and trouble for holiday services, all the more so as, since holidays do not fall on the same day due to the time lag, the subjects would no longer celebrate any holidays, and so there should be concern, in case the bordering lords, the Brunswick-Lünenburgs and the Hesse-Kassel, cannot bring themselves to adopt the new calendar, that their subjects will wish to leave the churches of our territory, as a result of which not only the pastor but also the churches would see a significant drop in revenues in several localities.30

27Because it responds to the texts of princes who only speak in political and economic terms, the argument remains in the strict register of practical inconveniences, revenues and jurisdictional prerogatives of the established public confession that resists all (“they are all required to go to these churches”). It is at this local level, however, that the confessional nature of the calendar found its expression, complicating interactions between actors, scales, and categories.

  • 31 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Mind (...)

28More precisely, the documentation cited thus far sometimes gives the impression that the economic or legal arguments mask the aversion these Protestants feel toward the adoption of Pope Gregory’s calendar. For instance, the Lutheran leadership of the town of Minden ended its long geographical and economic essay of 7 February 1668 by saying “…without even recalling the powerful reasons for which […] the Lutheran and Calvinist States of the Holy Roman Empire refused to adopt the new calendar and introduce it in their territories.”31

29“Without even recalling” – because these reasons were above all related to the rejection of a reform enacted by papal bull in 1582, and because it is not suitable for subjects to make such a discrete reminder in protest of their prince. This is indeed the particularity of confessional conflicts in the Empire after 1648: they speak of rights that were acquired, legal quibbles, contested border markings, but very rarely of the opposition of belief, which had been put aside in a way by the definition of the only legitimate arguments for confrontation, constitutive of peace: de jure and de facto arguments. It is thus unsurprising that the only person to directly express opposition of a religious order was another pastor officiating in a border area. In August 1668 he wrote a memo to the Minden government, in which he said:

  • 32 Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen : Minden-Ravensberg, Regierung, Nr. 1 521, “E (...)

Especially since it is not only very difficult and painful for churches of the principality, by adopting the new calendar, to also adopt and carry into the future one of the distinctive signs of the Anti-Christ; and also to be henceforth so separated from others of their religion, near or far, that they can no longer pray on the same timing as them, nor celebrate at the same time as them the beautiful divine services of the Lord on the most holy holidays.32

  • 33 Hans Nordsiek, “Vom Fürstbistum zum Fürstentum Minden. Verfassungsrechtliche, politische und konfes (...)

30History, too, made the adoption “difficult and painful,” since the principality of Minden had already undergone an introduction of the Gregorian calendar under dramatic circumstances: in 1632 the Prince-Bishop Franz Wilhelm von Wartenberg, recently elected and supported by the Imperial troops that had occupied the fortress of Minden since 1625, had imposed the New Style as part of a broader re-Catholicization effort. As soon as the Duke of Brunswick, in the service of Sweden, took the fortress in turn, Minden went back to the Julian calendar – in 1634, November 25 was curiously followed by November 16.33 A generation later, this memory gave a strong confessional charge to the calendar change, veiled in exchanges between Minden and Berlin but flowing freely from the pastor’s pen.

31The religious-marker dimension of the calendar re-emerges here – under circumstances and at a scale forming a sort of reversed front when seen through the paradigm of confessionalization-from-above. This resurgence is not incompatible with everyday arrangements (as attests the attendance of neighboring markets on unworked days), which ultimately points to the same conclusion as the Elector of Brandenburg’s choice of flexibility, as the sometime champion of Protestantism against the papal calendar but also the one to introduce the same calendar in the principality of Minden. In the context of the modern Holy Roman Empire, confessional identity can only be understood through its numerous facets, its complementary scales, and the various paces taken by society’s work on itself.

  • 34 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Mind (...)

32One final example will convince readers once and for all. On 16 December 1677, two councilors of the government of Minden wrote to the Elector to inform him that one of the canons of the cathedral had died on December 1. Now, during certain months of the year, it fell to the prince to name clergymen to the cathedral (Catholic and Protestant alike), in return for payment, cooptation being the rule the rest of the year. The councilors explained that the agreement with the cathedral chapter on the topic dated to April 1665, but that the 1668 ordinance on the introduction of the Gregorian calendar had not mentioned this point, “and it might also seem, since nothing in the matter was changed, that things had to be left according to prior usage, according to the old calendar.” This would put the date of death on 21 November, and allow the Elector to give the canonship to his court chaplain. Of course the Elector rapidly (on 21 December) rejected this ruse that only promised confusion. But the councilors’ attempt to make the 1668 introduction of the Gregorian calendar serve the prince’s interests adds yet another illustration of the flexible uses of the calendar issue.34

Conclusion

33On the subject of the modern Holy Roman Empire (not to mention more generally), the inertia of historiography often leads to making an absolute of a generality: Protestantism is Protestant, Catholicism is Catholic; one studies religion, economics OR politics; and boundaries (apart from a few local exceptions) are lines separating two distinct colors, like in an atlas. If, however, we take the texts produced by contemporary people seriously, in all their complexity and diversity, we are often forced to revise such categories – not with a fresh disabused perspective, but by including the impetuses behind society’s work on itself using those categories. Yes, the calendar seems to be a borderline case, precisely because it is ambiguous, but it is generally also considered to be a sort of paradigm of the confessional division. Understanding the extent to which this division is exploited differently according to scale, circumstances, actors, and texts – as the example of the principality of Minden in 1668 prompts us to do – thus makes it possible to re-introduce analysis into a situation that seemed to have been determined by confessional inertia since 1583.

34The same questions are always knocked around but never completely settled: is the calendar political or religious? Is the choice of one calendar over the other determined by political obedience or confessional affiliation? Is the scale of application the whole Empire, the dynastic ensemble ruled over by a single prince, each constituent territory of this ensemble, or the local scale and its established religion?

35It is precisely because these questions remain unanswered – and because they indicate how impossible it is to delimit the confessional, fragmented as it is in social practices of distinction – that we know that the boundary plays such a determinant role in conflicts over calendars, as in other domains. This is because the boundary, specifically, is where the connections between various scales, persuasions, and conceptions of primary affiliation interact. The boundary is everywhere, but this omnipresence is more than purely geographical. It is also at the heart of the definition of the conflictual coexistence of confessions, because that is where the diversity of actors, principles, modalities, and pace of this coexistence is actualized.

The Prussian monarchy West of the Oder (1791)

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Notes

1 Jérôme Delatour, “Noël le 15 décembre. La réception du calendrier grégorien en France (1582),” in Marie-Clotilde Hubert (ed.), Construire le temps. Normes et usages chronologiques du Moyen Âge à l’époque contemporaine, Paris and Geneva, Champion et Droz, 2000, p. 369-416.

2 Robert Rebitsch, “Die Kalenderreform in Tirol im Jahre 1583,” Innsbrucker Historische Studien, 20/21, 1999, p. 317-322; Rona Johnston Gordon, “Controlling Time in the Habsburg Lands: The Introduction of the Gregorian Calendar in Austria below the Enns,” Austrian History Yearbook, 40, 2009, p. 28-36.

3 Christophe Duhamelle, “Une frontière abolie ? Le rapprochement des calendriers catholique et protestant du Saint-Empire en 1700,” in Bertrand Forclaz (ed.), L’Expérience de la différence religieuse dans l’Europe moderne (xvie-xviiie siècles), Neuchâtel, Alphil-Presses Universitaires Suisses, 2013, p. 99-114.

4 Jennifer Powell McNutt, “Hesitant Steps: Acceptance of the Gregorian Calendar in Eighteenth-Century Geneva,” Church History, 75-3, 2006, p. 544-564.

5 Hellmut Gutzwiller, “Die Einführung des gregorianischen Kalenders in der Eidgenossenschaft in konfessioneller, volkskundlicher, staatsrechtlicher und wirtschaftspolitischer Schau,” Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Kirchengeschichte, 72, 1978, p. 54-73.

6 Robert Poole, “’Give us our eleven days!’: Calendar reform in eighteenth-century England,” Past and Present, 149, 1995, p. 95-139.

7 For a longer discussion and numerous bibliographic references, see: Christophe Duhamelle, Confession, confessionnalisation,” Histoire, monde et cultures religieuses, 26, 2013/2, p. 59-74.

8 See, for example, Damien Tricoire, Mit Gott rechnen. Katholische Reform und politisches Kalkül in Frankreich, Bayern und Polen-Litauen, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2013.

9 And even more: after 1700, calculation of the date of Easter continued to distinguish between the Protestant “Improved Julian calendar” and the Gregorian calendar until 1776, engendering a shift in the date of the holiday in 1724 and 1748, with renewed debate and conflict: Christophe Duhamelle, “Die doppelte Osterfeier im Jahr 1724. Entstehung und Werdegang eines konfessionellen Konflikts im Alten Reich,” in Johannes Paulmann, Matthias Schnettger, Thomas Weller (eds.), Unversöhnte Verschiedenheit. Verfahren zur Bewältigung religiös-konfessioneller Differenz in der europäischen Neuzeit. Heinz Duchhardt zum 70. Geburtstag, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2016, p. 107-124.

10 Christophe Duhamelle, La Frontière au village. Une identité catholique allemande au temps des Lumières, Paris, Éditions de l’EHESS, 2010.

11 Falk Bretschneider, Christophe Duhamelle, “Fraktalität. Raumgeschichte und soziales Handeln im Alten Reich,” Zeitschrift für historische Forschung, 43-4, 2016, p. 703-746; Falk Bretschneider, Christophe Duhamelle (eds.), Le Saint-Empire. Histoire sociale (xvie-xviiie siècle), Paris, Éditions de la MSH, 2018.

12 There is only one, very recent, summary, focused mainly on general and scientific debates: Edith Koller, Strittige Zeiten. Kalenderreform im Alten Reich 1582-1700, Berlin, de Gruyter, 2014.

13 The main lines of the “calendar quarrel,” especially in Augsburg, have been known since the late nineteenth century (Ferdinand Kaltenbrunner, Die Polemik über die gregorianische Kalenderreform, Vienne, Karl Gerold’s Sohn, 1877; Felix Stieve, Der Kalenderstreit des sechzehnten Jahrhunderts in Deutschland, Munich, Verlag der königlichen Akademie, 1880) but it was fleshed out in two significant publications (Paul Warmbrunn, Zwei Konfessionen in einer Stadt. Das Zusammenleben von Katholiken und Protestanten in den paritätischen Reichsstädten Augsburg, Biberach, Ravensburg und Dinkelsbühl von 1548-1648, Wiesbaden, Steiner, 1983, p. 359-386; Bernd Roeck, Eine Stadt in Krieg und Frieden. Studien zur Geschichte der Reichsstadt Augsburg zwischen Kalenderstreit und Parität, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1989, vol. 1, p. 125-188) and has been reconceived several times since (for example, Benedikt Mauer, “Kalenderstreit und Krisenstimmung. Wahrnehmungen von Protestanten in Augsburg am Vorabend des Dreiβigjährigen Krieges,” in Benigna von Krusenstjern, Hans Medick (eds.), Zwischen Alltag und Katastrophe. Der Dreißigjährige Krieg aus der Nähe, Göttingen, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999, p. 345-356; Wolfgang Wallenta, “Der Augsburger Kalenderstreit von 1583/84. Ökonomische, politische und konfessionelle Gründe,” in Markwart Herzog (ed.), Der Streit um die Zeit. Zeitmessung – Kalenderreform – Gegenzeit – Endzeit, Stuttgart, Kohlhammer, 2002, p. 125-138).

14 See, among others, Hans Gaab, Der Kontakt von Abdias Trew mit Herzog August von Branschweig Lüneburg,” in Klaus-Dieter Herbst, Stefan Kratochwil (eds.), Kommunikation in der Frühen Neuzeit, Francfort-sur-le-Main, Lang, 2009, p. 225-240; Jürgen Hamel, “Erhard Weigel und die Kalenderreform des Jahres 1700,” in Reinhard E. Schielicke, Klaus-Dieter Herbst, Stefan Kratochwil (eds.), Erhard Weigel – 1625 bis 1699. Barocker Erzvater der deutschen Frühaufklärung. Beiträge des Kolloquiums anlässlich seines 300. Todestages am 20. März 1999 in Jena, Thun, Harri Deutsch, 1999, p. 135-156; Klaus-Dieter Herbst, “Öffentliches Räsonieren über die Kalendervereinigung in den Schreibkalendern der zweiten Hälfte des 17. Jahrhunderts,” in Rudolf Stöber, Michael Nagel, Astrid Blome, Arnulf Kutsch (eds.), Aufklärung der Öffentlichkeit – Medien der Aufklärung. Festschrift für Holger Böning zum 65. Geburtstag, Stuttgart, Franz Steiner, 2015, p. 23-51.

15 Werner Freitag, Pfarrer, Kirche und ländliche Gemeinschaft : das Dekanat Vechta 1400-1803, Bielefeld, Verlag für Regionalgeschichte, 1998, p. 269.

16 Volker Wappmann, Durchbruch zur Toleranz. Die Religionspolitik des Pfalzgrafen Christian August von Sulzbach 1622-1708, Neustadt a. d. Aisch, Degener, 1995, p. 113-118 and Staatliche Archive Bayerns, Staatsarchiv Amberg: Fürstentum Pfalz-Sulzbach, Geheime Registratur 1 329 (= Pfalz-Neuburg Akten 643), “Einführung des Gregorianischen Kalenders in Pfalz-Sulzbach 1654-1655.”

17 Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen (archive in Münster): Fürstabtei Corvey, Akten, Nr. 929, “Stadt Höxter (1580-1664), 1675-1679.”

18 Hans Nordsiek, “Vom Fürstbistum zum Fürstentum Minden. Verfassungsrechtliche, politische und konfessionelle Veränderungen von 1550 bis 1650,” Westfälische Zeitschrift, 140, 1990, p. 251-274.

19 On the Minden chapter, the best presentation is still: Hermann Nottarp, “Ein Mindener Dompropst des 18. Jahrhunderts,” Westfälische Zeitschrift, 103-104, 1954, p. 93-163, p. 94-117 for a historical introduction. The cathedral chapter of Minden was a sort of confessional borderline case, but it was far indeed from being an outlying exception.

20 On this point, with other examples of maps made according to the same principle: Christophe Duhamelle, “Dedans, dehors. Espace et identité de l’exclave dans le Saint-Empire après la paix de Westphalie,” in Hélène Miard-Delacroix, Guillaume Garner, Béatrice von Hirschhausen (eds.), Espaces de pouvoir, espaces d’autonomie en Allemagne, Villeneuve d’Ascq, Septentrion, 2010, p. 93-115.

21 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Minden” (unnumbered folio).

22 Stefan Ehrenpreis, “Wir sind mit blutigen Köpfen davongelaufen...” Lokale Konfessionskonflikte im Herzogtum Berg 1550-1700, Bochum, Winkler, 1993, p. 181.

23 The county of Hoya has been part of Brunswick-Luneburg since 1582.

24 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Minden” (unnumbered folio).

25 The circles were regional cooperation groups that were granted certain collective functions by the Empire, such as the regulation of currencies or the execution of decisions taken by Imperial legal courts. They are thus yet another level mobilized in these debates.

26 For example, see Michaela Fenske, Marktkultur in der frühen Neuzeit. Wirtschaft, Macht und Unterhaltung auf einem städtischen Jahr- und Viehmarkt, Cologne etc., Böhlau, 2006, p. 38-39 and 50.

27 Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen : Minden-Ravensberg, Regierung, Nr. 1 521, “Einführung des gregorianischen Kalenders im Fürstentum Minden und in der Stadt Herford zum Jahre 1668. Osterfest 1667-1744,” fol. 40.

28 This question has received little attention. See, for example, Alfred Schirge, “Grenz- und Zufluchtskirchen für evangelische Niederschlesier im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert,” Jahrbuch für Schlesische Kirchengeschichte, 76/77, 1997/1998, p. 205-226; Christophe Duhamelle, “Gerterode (Eichsfeld) im Alten Reich. Unsichere Grenzen, selbstsichere Akteure ?,” Jahrbuch für Regionalgeschichte, 29, 2011, p. 63-74.

29 This complexity emerges fully when a territory’s confessional situation is analyzed parish by parish. One good example: Meinrad Schaab, “Die Wiederherstellung des Katholizismus in der Kurpfalz im 17. und 18. Jahrhundert,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte des Oberrheins, 114 (NF 75), 1966, p. 147-205.

30 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Minden” (unnumbered folio). The Princess-Abbess (Protestant) of the tiny territory of Herford, neighboring Minden, who also ceded to the Elector’s demand that she introduces the Gregorian calendar (which she did in 1668), was another to signal this problem. On 7 March 1667, she wrote “Both of our churches, here and on the mount, include among their parishioners a non-negligeable number of residents of the principality of Minden, as well as the County of Lippe, in places where the old calendar is still observed.” (Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen : Fürstabtei Herford, Akten, Nr. 111, “Einführung des neuen Kalenders in den kurfürstlich brandenburgischen westfälischen Provinzen : Einbeziehung Herfords 1667-1668,” fol. 4).

31 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Minden” (unnumbered folio).

32 Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfalen, Abteilung Westfalen : Minden-Ravensberg, Regierung, Nr. 1 521, “Einführung des gregorianischen Kalenders im Fürstentum Minden und in der Stadt Herford zum Jahre 1668. Osterfest 1667-1744,” fol. 35-38.

33 Hans Nordsiek, “Vom Fürstbistum zum Fürstentum Minden. Verfassungsrechtliche, politische und konfessionelle Veränderungen von 1550 bis 1650,” Westfälische Zeitschrift, 140, 1990, p. 251-274, p. 263.

34 Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz Berlin, I. HA Rep. 32 Nr. 83 10535, “Fürstentum Minden,” (non fol).

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Christophe Duhamelle, « Confessions and boundaries in the Holy Roman Empire: The Brandenburg, Minden, and the Calendar in 1668 », L’Atelier du Centre de recherches historiques [En ligne], 22 bis | 2021, mis en ligne le , consulté le 28 février 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/acrh/12095 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/acrh.12095

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Auteur

Christophe Duhamelle

Christophe Duhamelle is Professor at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (Paris), member of the research center CRH (in the group RHiSoP); he is also director of the Centre Interdisciplinaire d’Etudes et de Recherches sur l’Allemagne (CIERA). He works on confessional coexistence in the Holy Roman Empire in the modern era, and has published, among other things, La frontière au village. Une identité catholique allemande au temps des Lumières (Paris, 2010, German transation published in 2018) and, co-edited with Falk Bretschneider, Le Saint-Empire. Histoire sociale (Paris, 2018). With Stéphane Baciocchi, he also directed a major collective research program that resulted in the publication of Reliques Romaines. Invention et circulation des corps saints des catacombes à l’époque moderne (Rome, 2016), and was a participant in a collective program on conversions (“Conversion et droit confessionnel dans le Saint-Empire romain germanique (xvie-xviiie siècles),” in Thomas Lienhard, Isabelle Poutrin (eds.), Pouvoir politique et conversion religieuse. I. Normes et mots, Rome, 2017). He is currently working on a book on the calendrical difference.

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