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Abstract

Witnesses of Truth: Reformations Before the Reformation
In their immense histories of heresies Gottfried Arnold (1699/1700), Johann Heinrich Feustking (1704), Johann Lorenz Mosheim (1746), August Georg Rakenius (1751), and others aimed to find out about the continuity of Protestant thinking. They asked if it would be possible to identify reformations before the Reformation. With regards to the 12th and 13th century, the Waldensians and the Albigenses were the most prominent examples to refer to. Focussing on their cases, this contribution deals with the central question of the post-reformation and especially of the Enlightened histories of heresies (or church histories): How to construct a Protestant tradition before the foundation of the Protestant churches? The histories of heresies provided the church historian with a simple solution: The Waldensians, and the Albigenses became 'witnesses of truth'. Criticising the 'Clerisey', living a 'simple' Christian life, these 'heretics' were seen as contemporaries of more or less tolerant Enlightened erudites. But the history of these heresies does not end here. The 'witnesses of truth'-topos developed into some sort of "longue durée"-phenomenon. As late as the 19th century the Waldensians and Albigenses served as literary motifs (e g in Adalbert von Chamisso Chassané und die Waldenser 1856, Nikolaus Lenau Die Albigenser 1857): When the history of heresies turned into heroic poetry it changed religious for secular interest. The contribution shall also consider this process.

Biographical Sketch

Sandra Pott, Dipl.-Pol. (1997), Dr in German Literature (1998), is currently fellow of the 'Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft' and of the 'Centre national de la recherche scientifique'. She has published on the so called Huguenots (Reformierte Morallehren und deutsche Literatur von J. Barbeyrac zu C.M. Wieland, Tübingen: Niemeyer 2002), and on medical ethics (Medizin, Medizinethik und schöne Literatur. Studien zu Säkularisierungsvorgängen vom frühen 17. bis zum frühen 19. Jahrhundert. Berlin, New York : de Gruyter 2002).

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