1873-1914 Empires and War

The entire period from about 1873 to the end of World War may be seen as a nearly continuous series of regional wars of European and American Empire expansion.  It came at great cost to indigenous populations and nations that were subjugated into the modern World System in this phase of empire building. Following the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-71, the two European powers turned attention again to expanding their positions and holdings overseas, primarily in Africa and Asia where these two continental powers were seeking to carve out a position relative to the British Empire, the limited positions of the Dutch, Portuguese and Spanish.  Another period of nearly continuous international conflict, war and crisis may be seen between 1873 and 1919 (Wallerstein 2011). This period includes the subjugation of the American continent by the United States after the Civil War, and the division of Africa after the Congress of Berlin with resulting invasions and colonization of the African continent and violent battles and wars, the Zulu Wars and resistance to the British in 1875; the Mahdist State and revolt in the Sudan in 1885 up to its final defeat and dismantling after the Battle of Omdurman in 1898. These are only a partial list of these continental-wide conflicts.

Historians differ and spend a great deal of time on discussing the nuances of specific diplomatic incidents that precipitated the crisis that ultimately caused World War I.  If on one takes a longer and more comparative view of how competing empires create violent and invasive wars, then this period is better understood (Reinhard 2016).The American position during this period is one of reconsolidation of their continental system and of Reconstruction following the American Civil War.  The continental wars of expansion witness multiple incidents of atrocities against Native Americans in almost all of the Western territories and states.  The brief but poignant victory of the Plains Indians tribes against General George Armstrong Custer and the defeat of his 7th Cavalry forces at Little Big Horn in 1876. Continue reading

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German Counter-Reformation in Munich

While most accounts of the Counter-Reformation, the Catholic project of opposing the Protestant Reformation center on Italy or the Spanish Habsburg Empire, I suggest this misses the concerted and immediate response of the Catholic nobility in Southern Germany, who undertook the first pronounced cultural reaction against the Reformation in its architectural projects in its main cathedral churches.  Of all the German Catholic Counter-Reformation building projects, the double domed addition to  Frauenkirche cathedral in Munich represents the most immediate and direct example of a reply to the Lutheran Reformation.  The two domed towers were constructed and completed in 1524, just three years after Luther had been excommunicated.  It was also constructed as a statement of the Catholic Princes and clergy just as raging Peasant Wars were to break out in other parts of Germany.  Bavaria remained one of the few regions where the power of the Catholic princes were able to suppress the Reformation sentiments of the local military order of the knights. The main structure of the Frauenkirche was begun in the 12th century with significant additions built in the middle of the 15th century.  The symbolism and raising of the two towers signified the Catholic presence amid the new Reformation.  Its two domes curiously styled after the shape of the Muslim Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem symbolized a return to the unified campaign of the Crusades of the late 12th and 13th centuries.

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The Frauenkirche in Munich with the two domes added in 1524 (Source of image Wikipedia)

The interior of the Frauenkirche reveals the elaborate symbolism and hierarchy of standing and prestige of the Catholic nobility of Bavaria. With its side altars paid for by patronage of the nobility and aristocracy and its elaborate tomb structures for several emperors, it symbolizes the stance of German Catholic aristocracy and clergy against the Lutheran rebellion and its nobility in rival German cities.

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The elaborate reconstruction and re-dedication of the tomb of an emperor who had died more than two centuries prior reflected the needs of the Catholic aristocracy and its nobility to express their power and position in the Bavarian capital of a divided Germany.  The cenotaph and tomb borrows heavily from Italian Renaissance and Mannerist sculptural cenotaphs found in Rome.  It is marked by the full-standing sword bearing figure of the Emperor himself facing to the North in the direction of the Lutheran Reformation cities and territories.  Above and around the tomb are figures of Roman laurel wreath crowned emperors and goddesses who remind us of the title of Louis IV as the Holy Roman Emperor of a united Christendom. The symolism of the Roman dressed laurel crowned figures above the cenotaph’s structure, beckon the power of Rome, ancient and contemporary and the attempt to signify the continuity of both the Catholic Church and the Holy Roman Empire.  Beside the tomb are two knighted figures in full armor, a direct link to the role of the ritter or German knight in Bavarian and German court culture. It unequivocally restates the power of the aristocracy and princes over the formerly rebellious German knights who in the early 1520s had atttempted to create support and sentiment for the Reformation.  Their defeat is implicit in the symbolism of the raised sword of the Catholic emperor facing in the direction of the rebellious new Protestant north. The context of the so-called Munich Scandal in which Lutheran brought pressure against various orders of the Catholic clergy, including that of the Jesuit Order.  In 1571 a number of Lutherans accused the Jesuits in Munich of castrating boys who were being instructed for holy orders (Cloulas 1989, 324).  In the 1570s the reintroduction of the Tridentine Mass and special commissions for liturgical music to accompany it were being reinstated in Bavaraian Catholic churches and cathedrals, and the cult of Mary (Crook 1994, 63, 74).

Within the tomb structure and invisible to the modern tourist visitor is a surviving portrait relief of Louis IV that was carved in red marble and set on his gravestone.  This carved relief from around 1468 provides a view of the late pre-Reformation view of the emperor, for as it was also carved several hundred years after the death of its namesake, it portrays the ruler as a Catholic ruler whose dress and crown would not be easily distinguishable from an archbishop or the Pope himself.

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1468 portrait of Louis IV by Hans Halder in the tomb at the Frauenkirche in Munich (Source Wikipedia)

Through the end of the 15th century, the relation of the ruling aristocrat to the chief cleric was more or less symbiotic.  A review of illuminated manuscripts hand rendered until the arrival of the printing press revolution of the late 15th century show repetitive scenes of ruling monarchs consulting with their principal archbishops and abbots.A page from the collections of the Nuremberg Chronicles of the late 15th century German physician shows the impact of writing in German with the continued need for illuminated handpainted scenes that reflected on the hierarchy of the high clergy and rulers at the top, the order of military knights in the middle and the lower aristocracy, and clergy and ladies of the court at the lower level.

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Bibliography

Cloulas, Ivan. 1989. The Borgias. Translated by Gilda Roberts. New York: Franklin Watts.

Crook, David. 1994. Orlando di Lasso’s Imitation Magnificats for Counter-Reformation Munich. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Norwich, John Julius. 2011. Absolute Monarchs: a History of the Papacy. New York: Random House.

Schreiber, Fr. Ant. Wilhelm. 1860. Geschichte das bayerischen Herzogs Wilhelm V. des Frommens nach Quellen und Urkunden dargestellt. Munich: Lentner.

Schwaiger, Georg. 1970. “Maria Patrona Bavaria,” In Bavaria Sancta. Zeugen christlichen Glaubens in Bayern, ed. Georg Schwaiger, 28-37. Regensburg: Friedrich Pustet.

Söhner, Leo. 1934.  Die Musik im Münchener Dom Unserer Lieben Frau in Vergangenheit und Gegenwart.Munich: Lenter

The Papacy as State Monarchy 900-1520

This essay considers the consolidation of the Papal States as land territories held by the Church with the Pope acting as a elected monarch selected by the secretive College of Cardinals.  It ends with the rise of Lutheranism and the invasion of Italy by Francis I and the political outfall between France, Spain, the Papacy and the rise of Lutheranism in Germany and beyond.

Prior to the 11th  century the Papacy as an institution remained an institution for promoting Church power and organization (Blumenthal 2008).  It had relied upon the Carolingian Empire and it successors in the emergent Holy Roman Empire for political protection and as a base for promoting its domains through the spread of monasteries, large churches in towns and its close affiliation and integration into court life and culture through the promotion of clergy form the aristocracy to fill the roles of abbots and bishops.  From the eleventh century onward the Church’s interest in territorial possessions and claims of lands of its own now extended beyond the role and function of the monasteries as holders of large estates throughout Western Europe, but increasing the Papacy centered in Rome began to claim and assert its political domain over lands in Italy.  The Papacy became its own state. What provoked this response by the Papacy was an internal crisis caused by differences and attempts at asserting local autonomy by the local clergy and that by 1046 led to a search for extensive reforms.  This was marked by the first Northern Pope Clement II (1046-7) and eventually the reforms of Pope Gregory.
Since the 9th century the Papacy had relied on support and close ties to the main political and military powerhouse in Western Europe, the Frankish rulers and kingdoms and its successors after the breakup of the Carolingian Empire.  With the breakup of the Carolingian Empire into different states and kingdoms, the Papacy forged alliances with the different kingdoms and had to take sides in the sparring of Roman and Italian factions.  This led to the increased pressures of the Roman and Italian rich families to make sure that members of their own families were appointed to the high clerical ranks:  bishops, cardinals with the potential of gaining the papacy.  Papal politics at the end of the 9thcentury were so bad that pope Stephen VII called a synod or assembly of cardinals and bishops and had the body of his predecessor Pope Formosus (1091-96) exhumed, put on trial for condemnation and tossed into the Tiber River (Blumenthal 2008, 9).  Formosus’ crime was his meddling in selecting the successor to the fledgling Holy Roman Empire when he crowned Arnulf, who controlled the armies in Northern Italy, as Emperor over the child Lambert, the presumed successor to deceased Guy III of Spoleto whose power base was in Southern Italy which was under attack by Muslim armies. Continue reading

Modern and Contemporary Art from the Collection of the Sharjah Art Museum

My newest essay is forthcoming this week in this beautiful publication by the Sharjah Art Museum.  My thanks are due to Alya Mohamed Al Mulla, Curator of the Sharjah Art Museum, and to Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, Camilla Chaudhuri, and Professor Salwa Mikdadi at NYU Abu Dhabi.

cover for sharjah catalogue

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