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S. Weber, Katholische Aufklärung? (James C. Lees)

Francia-Recensio 2015/2 Frühe Neuzeit – Revolution – Empire (1500–1815)

Sascha Weber, Katholische Aufklärung? Reformpolitik in Kurmainz unter Kurfürst-Erzbischof Emmerich Joseph von Breidbach-Bürresheim 1763–1774, Mainz (Verlag der Gesellschaft für mittelrheinische Kirchengeschichte) 2013, X–405 S. (Quellen und Abhandlungen zur mittelrheinischen Kirchengeschichte, 132), ISBN 978-3-929135-67-1, EUR 36,00.

rezensiert von/compte rendu rédigé par

James C. Lees, Erfurt

During the interregnum that followed Emmerich Joseph’s death in 1774, the conservative majority in Mainz’s Cathedral Chapter laid the blame for the unpopular enlightened social and religious reforms squarely upon the shoulders of the ministers, who had evidently led the beloved, pious Elector astray. Sascha Weber’s study provides overwhelming evidence to the contrary – Emmerich Joseph personally directed every facet of the colossal reform programme that sought to modernize the Electorate during his eleven-year reign. This book is a revised version of the author’s PhD dissertation and it appears on the 250thanniversary of Emmerich Joseph’s election as Archbishop-Elector of Mainz. It also appears on the cusp of the 40thanniversary of T. C. W. Blanning’s seminal study of late eighteenth-century Mainz, which included ca. thirty pages on Emmerich Joseph’s reign1. Weber, in contrast, examines his reign in meticulous detail and posits it (vis-à-vis his dilatory predecessor and haughty successor) as a distinct, decisive, and pioneering decade for the Mainz Enlightenment.

In 1763, the Electorate had crippling debts (as a result of the Seven Years War), an inefficient bureaucracy, and an ill-educated populace. By 1774, the debt had been cleared and the economy was flourishing, due to strategic socio-economic reforms. Civil servants now had to complete rigorous examinations and increased professionalization was evident at every level of government. The schools were secularized and a centralized teacher training college founded. Mainz University remained in Jesuit hands until 1773, but its curriculum was reformed and chairs were founded for camerialism and aesthetics. While the Electorate’s other university in Erfurt was, for a short time, in the vanguard of Enlightenment learning, due to a wave of new professors, which included such renowned figures as Wieland, Bahrdt, and Riedel. Weber persuasively argues, as many other scholars have done, that the pace, scope and modernity of these reforms clearly demonstrates that the ecclesiastical states were just as capable of enlightened reform as their secular counterparts, if not more so.

Emmerich Joseph, like many elite Catholics, disliked the excesses of Baroque Catholicism; he thus reduced holy days, simplified the liturgy, banned pilgrimages and processions, and the seminary was instructed to train more reform-oriented, pastoral priests. Emmerich Joseph demonstrated his own commitment to religious toleration by founding a Lutheran theological department for his Protestant subjects in Erfurt, enacting toleration in Höchst (where he hoped to attract Protestant manufacturers), and by granting Protestants posts in his household and government. Weber describes the reform of the monasteries as the »Herzstück«(S. 136) of Emmerich Joseph’s church reforms: permission was required for new novices; houses could no longer acquire property; visitations were increased; and monks were banned from serving parishes. Inspired by scholars such as Ulrich Lehner, Weber astutely regards this as a conflict between a Monastic Enlightenment, which sought to adapt the cloisters to modernity, and an Episcopal-Febronian Enlightenment that aimed to make the monks obedient, disciplined, enclosed, and holy2.

A real strengthen of this book is Weber’s nuanced discussion (in chapter 3) of the opposition to the Elector’s reforms. Moving beyond the reactionary populace, Weber illustrates how much of the reform programme faltered due to the resistance, ineptitude, and laziness of civil servants, and on account of court politics; interestingly, the Elector’s stand against Rome (the Koblenz Gravamina) is shown to have partly miscarried, because it was sabotaged by his successor (von Erthal) in an attempt to undermine Emmerich Joseph’s prime minister Baron Groschlag. Weber has advanced upon prior studies through by his use of materials from the Vatican Archives which has yielded fascinating new information on the informants of the papal nuncios. (Indeed, his use of English, French, Dutch, and Italian diplomatic correspondence to illuminate countless aspects of this study is particularly impressive.) The nuncios could not hinder the reforms in Mainz, but Weber’s examination of their correspondence with various sympathizers in the Electorate has deepened our understanding of how the local clergy in the archdiocese subtly subverted the new schools, organized clandestine devotions, and even published against the regime.

Weber poses a vital question in his title: did Emmerich Joseph’s reform programme reflect the Catholic Enlightenment? He answers affirmatively and provides a Pocockean appraisal of the Mainz Enlightenment as a reflection of its distinctive confessional and national contexts. However, a much more critical engagement with the historiography could, perhaps, have been helpful. For example, the secular reforms appear to be included under the umbrella of Catholic Enlightenment, but did they in fact represent the Enlightenment in Catholic Germany?3The concept »Reform Catholicism« is hardly mentioned, but some religious reforms could conceivably be divorced from the Enlightenment, and could be instead placed within a ›long Catholic Reformation‹. Weber also affirms throughout that Mainz came under the »außerordentlichen Einfluss«(p. 19) of the French Enlightenment; yet, besides the anti-monastic influence of Count Stadion’s Francophile circle on the young Emmerich Joseph, it is hard to see in concrete terms how French influences informed his reforms. An examination of the influence in Mainz of the French Catholic Enlightenment and of Bavaria’s church reforms would both be extremely rewarding areas for further research.

Mainz has long been held as a model of effective Enlightened Absolutism and as one of the most important centres of the pan-European Catholic Enlightenment, which pioneered reforms that were subsequently enacted across Catholic Germany. Building upon Blanning’s classic study, Weber provides a wealth of new information, which cogently posits Archbishop-Elector Emmerich Joseph’s reign as the pinnacle of the Mainz Enlightenment. Weber is furthermore to be commended for having drawn together the German and the Anglo-American historiography; the latter having witnessed a renaissance in recent years4. His meticulously researched, well-written study is assuredly a welcome addition to this burgeoning field of research.

1 T. C. W. Blanning, Reform and Revolution in Mainz, 1743–1803, Cambridge 1974.

3 See Harm Klueting (ed.), Katholische Aufklärung. Aufklärung im Katholischen Deutschland, Hamburg 1993.

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PSJ Metadata
James C. Lees
Deutsches Historisches Institut Paris
Katholische Aufklärung?
Reformpolitik in Kurmainz unter Kurfürst-Erzbischof Emmerich Joseph von Breidbach-Bürresheim 1763–1774
Frühe Neuzeit (1500-1789)
Deutschland / Mitteleuropa allgemein
Kirchen- und Religionsgeschichte, Politikgeschichte
18. Jh.
Erzstift Mainz (4100026-2), Reformpolitik (4048960-7), Emmerich Joseph Mainz, Erzbischof (100121381)
PDF document weber_lees.doc.pdf — PDF document, 266 KB
S. Weber, Katholische Aufklärung? (James C. Lees)
In: Francia-Recensio 2015/2 | Frühe Neuzeit – Revolution – Empire (1500-1815) | ISSN: 2425-3510
URL: https://prae.perspectivia.net/publikationen/francia/francia-recensio/2015-2/FN/weber_lees
Veröffentlicht am: 22.06.2015 09:32
Zugriff vom: 07.08.2020 13:40
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