Představy společenství a strategie sebeprezentace
Early modern period was the era of increased differentiation and self-defining of religious communities in Europe. My doctoral thesis reacts on the developments in recent scholarship which emphasises departure from the monolithic understanding of the main early modern European confessions, including the post-tridentine Catholicism. In particular, the various religious orders represent the communities that were struggling for the favour and support of the donators, and the interests of various religious orders thus often ran contrary to one another. The Habsburg project of the confessional transformation of the monarchy offered new attractive space for many religious orders.
My doctoral thesis focuses on the mendicant order of Servites (Servants of Mary) that originated in 13th century Tuscany and underwent an exceptionally vital growth in the Habsburg monarchy in the course of the 17th and 18th centuries. Rather than conceiving of the Servite order as an institution I regard it as a sacred imagined community. Since the religious orders have traditionally placed more emphasis on the community as a whole than on its individuals I utilize the concept elaborated by the American social scientist Benedict Anderson which allows me to analyse the Servites as a group of people who often did not know one another personally but who shared their identity and objectives. I explore the ways the Servites shaped their imagination of themselves as a community and of their past for the sake of attaining the future. I analyse the rhetorical and visual strategies the order developed and employed in order to advance its role in the Habsburg project of re-establishing Catholicism in Central Europe.
The theatrical elements that are so pervasively present in the baroque culture lead me to employ the concept of self-representation of the Canadian sociologist Erving Goffman who conceived the self-representation as a model of everyday social life of all individuals. The expansion as well as material subsistence of religious orders in general, and mendicant orders in particular, was largely dependent on attaining potential members and benefactors and accordingly on the favourable presentation of their ideals.
The question of self-representation is closely connected with the issue of self-concept of the order. The notion of the contemporaries and the Servites themselves about the order differed profoundly from the later classical image of the order which is the result of the empirical historiography, and in its concise version it is presented in the main encyclopaedia devoted to the religious orders (e.g. by Max Heimbucher, DIP, Dušan Foltýn, Martin Buben etc.). In the doctoral thesis I employ a wide range of previously disregarded sources (especially visual and narrative) and strive to eliminate the former disproportion between the schematic image provided by encyclopaedic handbooks and the period self-representation of the Servites themselves.
I regard the Servite narrative texts and images to be at the core of the community’s collective imagination. My interpretation of the Servite narrative texts is based on the typology of emplotment structuring developed by the Canadian literary theorist Northrop Frye and I explore the ways in which the Servites participated in the grand narrative of the triumphant Habsburg piety (Pietas Austriaca).
North of the Alps the Servites developed a very distinctive style of self-representation which closely intertwined the rhetoric of the Habsburg and Servite devotion. The order could demonstrate its special ties to the Habsburg dynasty also by visual means as it was awarded the privilege to use its own coat of arms in combination with the red-white-red shield of the Austrian archdukes. The rise of typographic techniques gave the religious orders an influential instrument of self-promotion of a more lasting quality than e.g. an oral sermon or pilgrimage festivity could have provided. Moreover the printed texts as well as devotional graphics could easily serve as gifts creating or strengthening social ties. However the upswing of new media also brought higher requirements for the elaborate programs of self-representation.
Unlike the newly emerged early modern religious orders, the Servite order could take advantage of its medieval heritage. One of the most ambitious expressions of Servite baroque historicism was the narrative construction of Philip Benizi, the 13th century patron saint of the order, as a counsellor and confessor of the founding father of the Habsburg dynasty, Rudolf I. of Habsburg. Saint Philip Benizi was thus presented as ‘the first teacher of the Habsburg virtue which overcomes the enemies’. The invention of the medieval connection between the order and the reigning dynasty was intended to prefigure the early modern Habsburg – Servite alliance and had a clear political connotation.
However the imagined past and the new forms of devotion also brought the Servite order into conflicts with other old mendicant orders of medieval origin, especially the Friars Minor, the Dominicans and the Carmelites, who clearly viewed the Servites as increasingly active intruders in the domain of activity of mendicant religious.
Throughout the whole thesis I argue that the Servites employed the narrative schemes of romance to develop the idea of a knightly fight of the members of the order for the Habsburg „regnum marianum“ and conceived their participation in the project of the confessional homogenization of the monarchy in terms of the courtly service to Virgin Mary. The narrative structures provided the Servite interpretation of the Habsburg recatholization project with dynamics and corresponded with the triumphant tone of the master narrative of the victory of Habsburg virtue. The powerful system of the Servite self-representation played a vital role in gaining the favour of the loyal ascending nobility and enabled the order to build a network of thirty monasteries in East-Central Europe consisting mainly of houses at Marian shrines, thus imprinting the landscape with the traces of the early modern Habsburg project of confessional homogenization of the monarchy,
- Jana Niedermaier, in Bohemia