Remembering and forgetting the dead in the churches of Reformation Germany

Watson, Róisín (2020). Remembering and forgetting the dead in the churches of Reformation Germany. In: Walsham, Alexandra; Cummings, Brian; Law, Ceri and Riley, Karis eds. Remembering the Reformation. Remembering the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds. Abingdon, Oxon: Routledge, pp. 154–172.



The physical church space was central to the construction of confessional memory for early modern Lutherans. Its decoration and rituals all contributed to establishing a new form of remembering. These elements made clear what and who should be remembered, as well as why. The church as a place to remember the dead, and often to bury them, made the building an integral component of Lutheran memorial culture. This essay explores the use of epitaphs and other funeral monuments as a means to crystallise confessional memory. While these objects might appear as stable entities, they were often a product of multiple memorial tensions. Lutherans had to consider how to integrate the memories of Catholic ancestors into new memoryscapes. In dynastic burial grounds, individual rulers had to balance a sense of dynastic continuity, while also celebrating individual achievement. The meanings of memorials had the potential to evolve over time, as events of the Reformation receded and its histories began to be written. All this required both remembering and forgetting. These developments are traced through the epitaphs and monuments in the Duchy of Württemberg. These objects are a reminder of the importance that place had in the construction of confessional memory.

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