Confessional conflicts in Graubünden

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Drawing on an extended body of historical sources from a bi-confessional region plagued by long and intensive strife between Protestants and Roman Catholics, the study explores the relationship between the formation of confessional churches, religious practice, and conflict. During the sixteenth and seventeenth century religious practice assumed a universalistic nature, irrespective of confessional denomination. Examples include the heightened relevance of doctrinal knowledge disseminated through preaching and catechization, and the gain in importance of the veneration of the Eucharist and Mother Mary, rather than local saints, among Catholics. The increasingly universal character of religious belief and practice implied that it became possible to combine and map conflicts of different kinds situated on different societal levels — from conflicts among neighbours to tensions among great powers — unto a single dyadic contrast. Moreover, the claim to universal truth by both confessional churches suggested a form of conflict resolution by way of eliminating the opponent. Consequently, confessionalization possessed an inherent tendency to aggregate and to escalate conflicts originating in diverse parts of contemporary society. Confessional conflicts faded out mainly for two reasons: First, the development of political theory, which led to the emergence of non-religious foundations of political order based on concepts such as sovereignty and the reason of state, stifled conflict through sheer differentiation between the political and the religious realms. Second, the development of pietism among Protestant churches reduced the relevance of collective elements in religious practice, which reduced the capacity of religious to structure opposing camps in societal conflict.


Literature: Ulrich Pfister: Konfessionskirchen, Glaubenspraxis und Konflikt in Graubünden, 16.-18. Jahrhundert, Würzburg: Ergon-Verlag, 2012. ISBN: 978-3-89913-838-2, 543 Seiten, 78,00 Euro.