Mixed territories

While Protestantism rejected popular religion from the outset as an outrage against God's providence and omnipotence, Catholicism maintained a more complicated relationship with popular religion. The difference between their two confessions became obvious whenever Protestantism and Catholicism confronted one another on the same territory - for example, in the British Isles, in the Holy Roman Empire, in France before the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1685), in the Swiss Confederation, and in parts of central Europe on the border of western Christianity. In such mixed territories, Catholicism had to manoeuvre between the conventions of popular religion, the purity of its own teachings, the dialogue with the other confessional groups, and the requirements of apologetics. Roman Catholic Baroque culture most visibly marked itself off from Protestant religious culture by the importance it attributed to images and gestures, statues and rituals for educational aims and also by its permissive attitude towards different forms of popular religiosity. Indeed, acquiescence to popular religion became one of the most distinctive marks of Catholicism. This is indicated in the travel accounts of young Protestants who in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries made their 'grand tour' through Europe. In the devotional practices of many Catholic churches, chapels and pilgrimage shrines of France, Germany, and above all Italy, these Protestant travellers discovered a religious culture that was radically different from their own. What they found confirmed them in their disdain for the Catholic clergy, who the travellers accused of maintaining their flocks in a state of brutal ignorance; it also confirmed their disdain for the Catholic Church, which they viewed as concerned solely with its outward ceremonials.

In this juxtaposition of several opposing forms of religious practice, the United Provinces ofthe northern Netherlands present an interesting case study. In that confederation, the Reformed Church was the only publicly admitted religious creed. Nevertheless, individual freedom of conscience - though not of public worship - remained guaranteed to all through the regulations in Article 13 of the founding treaty of the confederation, the Union of Utrecht (1579). This guarantee was never really challenged during the course of the early modern period, even by the most violent defenders of the public monopoly of Calvinism. This meant that several important religious groups linked to major churches, as well as many smaller local communities of dissenters, survived with the connivance and sometimes - especially in Amsterdam and in some other large towns - with the full protection of the secular authorities. The Catholics, who represented about a third of the population (and substantially

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