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MOS Report Summary

Project ID: 313397
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: Denmark

Mid-Term Report Summary - MOS (Manifestations of Solitude: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long seventeenth-century)

Withdrawal from the world is a key theme in European cultural history. The period from 1600 to 1750 is especially interesting, owing to the various ways in which both Catholics and Protestants engage in religious withdrawal.

Withdrawal is based on the idea that the more distant the believer is from the world, the closer he or she is to God. It can be lasting or temporary, individual or collective. Withdrawal from the world is often related to specific rooms or buildings, but it may also be performed by way of fasting, prayer or aesthetic experiences. Withdrawal is prompted and sustained by a broad variety of media: texts, music, visual art, architecture and artefacts. Thus it becomes a generator of culture. Engagement with the world is a basic condition. No matter how withdrawn, the believer is situated in a societal context. But engagement is also activities such as charity, mission or pastoral care. The urge for withdrawal is often accompanied by a demand for engagement.

The research project Solitudes: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long Seventeenth Century (SOLITUDES) involves five scholars and covers the disciplines of church history, history of art, history of architecture, devotional and musical culture. The ambition is double. On the one hand, we aim to reach a deeper understanding of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement as it manifests itself on particular locations and under particular historical circumstances. On the other hand, we aim to develop a genuinely collaborative and integrated interdisciplinary approach which does not present studies of images, texts and music in parallel sections, but in a coherent whole.

The project focuses on five French Catholic places and five Danish-German Lutheran places: the court at Wolfenbüttel under August of Braunschweig-Wolfenbüttel (d. 1666), Mlle de Guise’s salon at Hôtel de Guise in Paris (1666–1688), the abbey of La Trappe under A.-J. de Rancé (d. 1700), Mme de Guise’s household in Alençon (1675¬¬–1696), the girls’ school in Saint-Cyr under Louis XIV and Mme de Maintenon (1686–1719), the Foundations established by A.H. Francke (d. 1727), Francke’s schools and the conventicle at Stauning vicarage (Southwest Jutland) under Peder Wedel (1722–38). Finally we study two utopias, J.V. Andreae: Reipublicae Christianopolitanae descriptio (1619) and the visions of the duchess of Montpensier for an isolated community of men and women, described in letters of the 1660s. The source material is vast and varied. We examine architectural plans and interior decorations; treatises on theology, music, poetics and civilité; letters, diaries, funeral orations and mirrors of princes; epitaphs, hymn- and prayerbooks, devotional images and pious instructions and, finally, musical pieces and libretti.

We examine how the demand that the Christian be in the world, but not of the world is manifested in each of the ten places. We study the religious, cultural and socio-political conditions which shape this manifestation and the ways in which it resurfaces in the cultural production at that specific place. All five scholars work on all materials, supervised by disciplinary experts within the team. The project is driven by a strong ambition of collaboration and scholarly exchange.

We began with two hypotheses. 1. Withdrawal and engagement are mutually dependent; 2. The dynamic between withdrawal and engagement is a generator of culture. These hypotheses are confirmed and constantly nuanced. But we have also learnt that the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement is a key to much more than devotion. The study has led to insights concerning, e.g., politico-social patterns (discussions of the reason of state) and aesthetic programmes (‘simplicity’ as an aesthetic device). The project rests on an ambition to explore the potential of integrated interdisciplinary work. This dimension has proven one of the most challenging, but also one of the most exciting and rewarding aspects of SOLITUDES.


Ivan Kristoffersen, (Head of Department)
Tel.: +45 35322626
Record Number: 178863 / Last updated on: 2016-04-27
Information source: SESAM