Monastic Prisons – new book

Ulrich L. Lehner, Monastic Prisons and Torture Chambers: Crime and Punishment in Central European Monasteries, 1600-1800, Eugene/OR: Cascade Books 2013. 118 S. ISBN-10: 1625640404; ISBN-13: 978-1625640406. $13.42 (10€).

Following the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Catholic religious orders underwent substantial reform. Nevertheless, on occasion monks and nuns had to be disciplined and–if they had committed a crime–punished. Consequently, many religious orders relied on sophisticated criminal law traditions that included torture, physical punishment, and prison sentences. Ulrich L. Lehner provides for the first time an overview of how monasteries in central Europe prosecuted crime and punished their members, and thus introduces a host of new questions for anyone interested in state-church relations, gender questions, the history of violence, or the development of modern monasticism. 

Das Buch ist natürlich keine vollständige Geschichte der Klosterkerker. Vielmehr versucht es Forschungsfelder aufzuzeigen, von der Gendergeschichte bis zur völlig vernachlässigten klösterlichen Rechtsgeschichte oder der Geschichte der Gewalt im Kloster. Ausgehend von archivalischen Quellen aus dem Hl. Römischen Reich und der kanonistischen Literatur wird aufgezeigt, wie Orden Verbrechen ahndeten, aber auch vor staatlichen Autoritäten verschleierten. Dies wirft die grundsätzliche Frage nach dem moralischen Aufschwung des Klerus der nachtridentinischen Zeit auf. Wenn Unterlagen zu Disziplinarmaßnahmen systematisch zerstört worden sind, kann man dann überhaupt gesichert von einem solchen Aufschwung sprechen?

Prof. Dr. Ulrich L. Lehner ist Professor für Neuere Kirchen- und Theologiegeschichte an der Marquette University in Milwaukee. Er war Mitglied des Princeton Institute of Advanced Study, Fellow des Notre Dame Institute of Advanced Study, Fellow der FOVOG und Fellow der Earhart Foundation. Im Erscheinen begriffen ist sein Sammelband “Enlightenment and Catholicism in Europe” (University of Notre Dame Press: 2014) sowie sein Oxford Handbook of Early Modern Theology.

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Call for a Visiting International Fellowship in the Humanities at the Silesian University in Opava, Czech Republic

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Call for papers

Processes of Cultural Exchange in Central Europe, 1200−1800

Opava, December 6, 2012

Studying the processes of cultural exchange has served as an important means of overcoming the narrow national interpretational frames of historiography over the past decades. Generally, the cultural transfer represents an approach which enables more research flexibility in dissolving the established boundaries and categories (region, state, nation/ ethnicity, burghers etc.) and enables to take into account the „liquidity“ of society in the history (W. Schmale).

At the same time researchers̕ attention is not limited to the sources of cultural influences and inspiration, but emphasis is put on the sphere of mediators, processes of mediation and the so called active reception which occurred along with creative re-adjusting, reshaping as well as misunderstanding. In this context Peter Burke speaks of processes of adaptation, domestication, decontextualisation and recontextualisation. However, the above mentioned processes of cultural exchange do not take place in a power vacuum, but in complex power constellations, which need to be taken into account (M. Werner).

The forthcoming scholarly colloquium foresees the breadth of possible topics which would be tied together by shared methodological basis. The colloquium should provide an opportunity for critical reflexion of theoretical concepts and for exploring of possibilities and limits of their instrumentalisation for interpreting pre-modern Central European historical processes. 

Please submit abstracts of proposed contributions in length of 150−200words no later than August 31, 2012 to the following address: The organizers reserve the right to select contributions. The length of presentations should not exceed 20 minutes. Each presentation will be followed by a discussion. The colloquium is organized by the Institute of Historical Studies at the Silesian University in Opava within the Operational Programme „Historicization of Central Europe as a Platform for Creation of Research and Educational Networks“.

 In the name of the organizers:

 Robert Antonín, Ph.D.          Veronika Čapská, Ph.D.               Martin Čapský, PhD.

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Call for Papers

Call for papers

Piety and Fluidity of the Border between Convent and World (1350−1810)/ Frömmigkeit und Durchlässigkeit der Grenze zwischen Kloster und Welt (1350−1810)

(Opava, April 23rd 2012)

The growing interest in the research of piety in the second half of the twentieth century was connected with increasing scepticism about institutionally framed religious life. Rather than studying religious institutions and official theology, historians have preferred to explore what came to be labelled as “the history of piety” or “the history of religiosity” (Frömmigkeitsgeschichte). They have started to ask more intensively about the lived religion, individual devotion and shared religious cultures.

By focus on piety as a research category our workshop will attempt to reconsider the strict lines separating female regulars and extraregular people. This blurring of the line between female regulars and extraregulars has recently attracted attention of historians like Silvia Evangelisti who has explored the connections and parallels in historiography on convent life and married life. Moreover, a very interesting concept of “cooperative piety among monastic and secular women” has been suggested by a medievalist June L. Mecham.  The concept of “cooperative piety” seems particularly stimulating and enables a more inclusive approach in studying the ways in which regular religious life was attractive and inspiring for a broader spectrum of people than merely the nuns proper. This perspective enables to explore what other “externals” participated in conventual religious models (patrons and supporters, ladies in convent schools, “Kostfrauen”, relatives etc.). The weakening of the borders between “regulars” and “non-regular”, both female and male, enables to ask new questions and to relate the life behind the convent walls more to the outside world.

The one-day workshop for early career researchers (in a doctoral and postdoctoral stage) will take place on April 23rd 2012 at the Silesian University in Opava (Czech Republic). The official workshop languages are English and German. The participants will present their research in 10-minute presentations followed by discussion.  If you are interested in participating, please send your CV and a proposal of max. 300 words by February 15th 2012 to or

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National Book Award for ‘Enlightened Monks’

ENLIGHTENED MONKS I was just informed that ‘Enlightened Monks” has won the prestigious Gilmary Shea Award of the American Catholic Historical Association for being “the most distinguished and original contribution to the knowledge of the history of Catholicism.” The award will … Continue reading

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De Maistre — Between Enlightenment and Conservatism

Carolina Armanteros’ new important book on de Maistre is out. ‘The French Idea of History: Joseph de Maistre and his Heirs, 1794-1854’, was published with with Cornell University Press.


This is a book about the beginnings of historical thinking as a philosophical enterprise. The historical rupture represented by the French Revolution compelled contemporaries to reflect on the nature and meaning of history. For the generation educated in the downfall of a whole world, history was no longer dead and distant, as it had often been for the detached writers of the Enlightenment. It was alive in blood and fire. Some who remained religious during those years felt history with particular intensity, awakening suddenly to the fear that God might have abandoned humankind altogether, and that his ways through time must be discovered if faith was to be kept and defended. To many who experienced the Revolution, history properly understood revealed Providence’s designs. This book focuses on the historical thought of a man to whom the Revolution brought profound spiritual anxiety. And it tells the story of the quiet upheaval that his reflections, dispersed across political and philosophical boundaries, effected in nineteenth-century French thought and politics. For Maistre’s bold propositions about the unfolding of time fired the imagination of friends as well as foes, inspiring socialists and royalists, positivists and traditionalists to recover the past, contemplate the future, and hasten the arrival of the utopia at the end of time.


“Gracefully written and deeply researched, this is quite simply the most important book on Maistre to appear in some time. Yet it is far more than just an intellectual biography of a single individual: Wide-ranging and consistently insightful, Carolina Armenteros’s book is a broad meditation on the paradoxes and power of the past.”—Darrin M. McMahon, Ben Weider Professor of History, The Florida State University

The French Idea of History is a beautifully—even poetically—written book. Joseph de Maistre is unquestionably the most profound and influential representative of the theocratic school of post–French revolutionary political and social philosophers, and this book, altogether worthy of its subject, is the most profound biography of Maistre that now exists.”—Dale K. Van Kley, The Ohio State University, author of The Religious Origins of the French Revolution

“Maistre’s gifts as a stylist are sometimes used to discount his political theory; in Carolina Armenteros’s trenchant expression, Maistre has been ‘praised as a writer into oblivion as a political theorist.’ In fact, argues Armenteros in this subtle, provocative, and at times stunningly original book, the traditional image of Maistre is deeply misleading. Far from being a complete reactionary seeking a return to an idealized past, Maistre was in at least some respects a moderate who recognized the necessity for political change.”—Jonathan Beecher, UC Santa Cruz, author of Charles Fourier: The Visionary and His World

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new journal on enlightenment

The Czech branch of the International Society for Eighteenth Century Studies has launched  a new periodical called Cornova (after Czech-German-Italian Ex-Jesuit Ignác Cornova) in which scholarly articles and reviews in several foreign languages will be published. Here is the link to the first issue of the journal introduced on the webpage of the Charles University in Prague:

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