Nobility and Pietism

Father and son stand in front of the educational staircase, whose 15 steps show the necessary disciplines of knowledge.

The research area »Nobility and Pietism« has been intensively researched at the Research Centre since 2014. The special connection between noble habitus and lifestyle on the one hand and pietistic sobriety and inner worldliness on the other constituted a field of tension with numerous negotiation and transition processes, which offers interesting research desiderata in the regional, but also national and international area.

Current research on Nobility and Pietism at the Research Centre

Currently, two related projects are located at the Research Centre:

The first is the project, which has been taking place since 2020 in cooperation with the Staatlichen Bücher- und Kupferstichsammlung in the Summer Palace in Greiz and the ThULB. It is based at the FSU Jena and is funded by the Thuringian State Chancellery to create a digital edition of the travel diary of Imperial Count Heinrich XI. Reuß-Obergreiz (1722–1800). This pietistically educated count, together with his courtier, the Francke intimate Anton von Geusau (1695–1749), completed his cavalier tour through France, Switzerland and Italy between 1740–1742. The edition of this extraordinary diary will not only enrich travel research, but also provide a deeper understanding of the (Pietist) networks and imaginative worlds during this time of upheaval (cf: Der Graf auf Reisen. Networks and male world formation in the 18th century. In: H-Soz-Kult, 25.01.2021).

On the other hand, a study on »Mesalliances in Pietism« is being worked on. The starting point here is the article »Die Kirchbergaffäre. Der Hallesche Pietismus und die Problematik von Mesalliancen« in Pietismus und Neuzeit vol. 43 (2017) by Thomas Grunewald, which uses the 'unequal marriage' of the Countess von Kirchberg with her court preacher Haine to break down the theological, social, and political problematics of this type of marriage union in the early modern period and to classify it against the background of Halle's Pietism. The project does not aim at the ›mis-marriages‹ between noble men and women below them in rank, which have been widely studied in research. Rather, the unequal connections of high noble ladies with non-noble men, especially their court preachers, are to be analyzed here. The striking finding of a not to be despised accumulation of these marriages in Pietism raises the question of the causes for this and directs the attention to the cited justifications of the persons concerned, who had to reckon with drastic reactions in the class society of the late 17th and 18th century.

Doctoral thesis 2020

At the end of 2020, Thomas Grunewald's doctoral thesis, co-supervised by Prof. Holger Zaunstöck, was published under the title »Politik für das Reich Gottes? Der Reichsgraf Christian Ernst zu Stolberg-Wernigerode zwischen Pietismus, adligem Selbstverständnis und europäischer Politik«. This publication incorporated the results of his engagement with the research subject since 2014. In his dissertation, Grunewald examines the influence of the Wernigerode count's pietistic understanding of faith on his domestic, but above all foreign policy actions. To this end, Grunewald analyzed, among other things, the ruling structure of the residence city (Wernigerode) for its Pietist reinterpretation and reinterpretation, as well as tapping into the count's networks. His main finding is that an aristocratic, representative lifestyle and a pietistic lifestyle did not have to contradict each other and that the count's pietistic convictions exerted a massive influence on his diplomatic activities.

Workshop 2018

In 2018, a workshop organized by the HiKo and held at the Francke Foundations took a comparative look at the lower nobility of Central Germany. The conference proceedings, published in 2019, not only focus on outstanding individuals and families, but also on educational paths, different career paths and strategies (monasteries, civil service, military, court) as well as on the possibilities and limitations of noble ladies.

Nobility and Pietism at the National History Day 2014

In cooperation with the Historical Commission for Saxony-Anhalt, the fundamental question of what is actually pietistic about the pietistic imperial nobility was raised at the 2014 Regional History Day. The results of this conference were published in 2016 in the volume of the same name and, with contributions on the Pietist nobility in Anhalt, Wernigerode, Thuringia and the Principality of Waldeck, deepened the understanding of the complex symbioses of the most important religious revivalist movement since the Reformation and the German imperial nobility in the 18th century. Further contributions on the connection of individual (imperial) nobles to the projects and persons of the Halle orphanage additionally expanded the hitherto rather one-sided perspective on the object of investigation.

Annual exhibition 2014 - the starting point of research

The starting point for work on the topic of Nobility and Pietism at the Research Centre was the 2014 annual exhibition »Geadelt mit Göttlicher Güte« (»Nobled with Divine Goodness«), which explored the topic for the first time using the collections of Prince Stolberg-Wernigerode. In addition to providing insights into these unique collections from the 18th century, the exhibition catalog in particular opened the view to the international networks of the pietistic nobility associated with the orphanage in Halle. Natural history collections assembled for physico-theological purposes and Pietist women's orders were negotiated, as were the network-supported expansion of Pietist influence into Silesia, the connections to the Pietist mission in southeast India, and the implementation of a Pietist domestic political program by high noble ›working couples‹.