Seminar in Durham

“The Art of Disagreeing Badly: Early Modern Religious Polemic about Church History.”

Seminar in Durham on 28 November 2017.

Seminar Series

Religious Diversity

IMEMS seminar series for 2017-18 will focus on religious diversity, with prestigious invited speakers across a wide range of disciplines. This very comprehensive theme will bring together scholars from across the medieval and early modern disciplinary range, whether using historical records, literature, art, architecture or artefacts. Topics considered will include interactions between Jewish, Islamic and Christian groups, the Crusader States and other religious contact zones, the Reformation, Catholic-Protestant relationships, and the development of heresies, monastic movements and sects. Each talk will be followed by a reception, offering a chance to get to know colleagues in the field of medieval and early modern studies.

Register here for Religious Diversity seminars taking place during Michaelmas Term (9th October – 15th December 2017)

The Art of Disagreeing Badly: Early Modern Religious Polemic about Church History

28th November 2017, 16:00, Palace Green Library Learning Centre, Dr Stefan Bauer (University of York)

followed by a drinks reception at the Cafe, Palace Green Library.

This event is part of the IMEMS Religious Diversity seminar series for 2017/18.

Please note that places for this event will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis. To book your place click here

Abstract: The sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were an age of religious polemic. The Reformation presented a new challenge. Protestants aimed to explain, through examples from history, why error had come into the Church after apostolic times and how, after centuries of decadence, the Reformation had become necessary. Catholics argued, on the other hand, that the Church had always remained the same. Protestants also doubted specific key events in church history. They asserted, for example, that St Peter had never been in Rome, so that the tradition, on which the papacy based its own primacy, was invalid. Catholics, by contrast, never doubted Peter’s stay in Rome. This seminar will explore how such polemical arguments conditioned the writing of ecclesiastical history.





The Uses of History in Early Modern Religious Controversies


The Uses of History in
Early Modern Religious Controversies

International Conference
Huntingdon Room at The King’s Manor, York YO1 7EP
Friday, 2 June 2017

Organiser: Stefan Bauer (Dept. of History, University of York)

From the Reformation, church history presented a challenge to each confession in its own right. Protestants were compelled to invent particularly creative answers because, as Euan Cameron has noted, “the core message of the Reformation called for a shift in perceptions of the Christian past.”  This is because Protestants, who aimed to revert to the pristine early state of the Church, were confronted with the key issue of explaining why error had come into the Church after apostolic times. The prevailing models for church history did not suit their view of the degeneration of the medieval Church, so that Protestant historians in the Reformation had to re-invent the discipline. Catholics, on the other hand, aimed to show that church institutions and doctrine from apostolic times had always been the same.

This conference builds on the recent volume “Sacred History: Uses of the Christian Past in the Renaissance World”, edited by Katherine Van Liere, Simon Ditchfield and Howard Louthan (Oxford 2012). It will push research into the field further by concentrating on the polemical interactions between Catholics and Protestants. It will also explore to which degree history and theology were fused together in the process and to which degree they could be separated.

The historiography of Christianity is a fundamental and burgeoning field in current scholarship, a fact which, in combination with the contemporary topicality of and sensitivity to religious difference and identity, suggests that this conference will be of interest to people both within and without the academy.

9.30am                 Opening remarks

9.40am                 Panel 1:  Initial impact
Chair: Richard Rex (Cambridge)

Sam Kennerley (Cambridge)
Erasmus, Oecolampadius and the politics of patristic scholarship in Reformation Basel, 1523-1529.  Download MP3 podcast here

David Bagchi (Hull)
“O Constance, be strong upon my side!” Contesting the Council in the Reformation, c. 1520-c.1550

10.50 am              Tea break

11.10am               Panel 2:  Church histories
Chair: Simon Ditchfield (York)

Stefan Bauer (York)
Pontianus Polman re-imagined.  Download MP3 podcast here

Harald Bollbuck (Göttingen)
Searching for the true religion: the Church History of the “Magdeburg Centuries” between critical methods and confessional polemics

12.30-2pm           Lunch


2pm                       Panel 3:  England, France and the Netherlands
Chair: Stefan Bauer (York)

Jean-Louis Quantin (EPHE, Paris)
The saint, the pope, and the emperor: the deposition of John Chrysostom in confessional polemics

Jan Machielsen (Cardiff)
Pope Joan on the frontlines: the unknown debate between Egbert Grim and Johannes Stalenus in the 1630s

Bethany Hume (York)
The Albigensian heresy in confessional polemic: Jacques-Benigne Bossuet’s “Histoire des variations des églises protestantes” (1688) and the response of Huguenot exiles

3.30pm                 Coffee/tea break

3.50 pm                Panel 4:  Bibles
Chair: Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge)

Debora Shuger (UCLA)
The polemics of the paratext and the English Bible

Kevin Killeen (York)
The eye-sore of the Bible: Catholic Radicalism

Nicholas Hardy (Cambridge)
Biblical criticism and confessional controversy: the text of the Old Testament in the Reformed and Catholic traditions

5.20pm                 Short break

5.30pm                 Roundtable: New perspectives on the history of religious polemics

Euan Cameron (Union Theological Seminary, NYC, chair), Anthony Milton (Sheffield), Richard Rex, Simon Ditchfield, Debora Shuger, Katrin Ettenhuber, Stefan Bauer

6.15pm                 Close of the conference with a drinks reception (sponsored by CREMS) followed by a meal for invited speakers.

The Patrides lecture by Euan Cameron, “World History and God’s Grand Design: the historical imagination in the Middle Ages and Reformation”, will take place on 1 June at 6.30pm. All are invited to this public lecture. Location: Bowland Auditorium, Berrick Saul Building, YO10 5DD. A separate registration for this event via Eventbrite is recommended.

Conference registration for guests costs £12 or £10 for students (to cover lunch and coffee breaks), spaces are limited. Guests can register via email:




The Council of Trent: Myth and Historiography

Cambridge “History of Christianity Seminar”

1 March 2017
2.15 pm in the Lightfoot Room, Faculty of Divinity.

Panel Discussion: The Council of Trent: Myth and Historiography
Speakers: Stefan Bauer (York) and Eleonora Belligni (Torino)
Respondent: Simone Maghenzani (Girton College)

New Online Exhibition


The Art of Disagreeing Badly

Religious Dispute in Early Modern Europe

The physical exhibition curated by Dr Stefan Bauer and Bethany Hume, from the University of York, will be on display at the Old Palace, York Minster from 15th November to 15th December 2016. The exhibition showcases the collections of the York Minster library, examining the role of religious polemic in the early modern period.

This digital exhibition is interactive, if you click on any of the links it will lead you to a zoomable image of the books.

Click here for the online exhibition


Reception of the Church Fathers: Conference report



The Reception of the Church Fathers and Early Church Historians, c. 1470-1650

Conference Organizers: Andreas Ammann, Bern; Sam Kennerley, Cambridge; Kirsten Macfarlane, Oxford.

On 23 September 2016, (lay) historians and literary scholars assembled at Trinity College, Cambridge, to reflect on “The Reception of the Church Fathers and Early Church Historians, c. 1470-1650”. One of their principal aims was to ponder what impact these earlier Christian sources had on the development of the early modern sense of the Christian past. Today’s scholarship investigating this reception comes in many forms. Andrew Taylor (Cambridge) paid very close philological attention to how Philo was read and edited in the 1550s. Richard Serjeantson (Cambridge) underlined (with reference to Arnaldo Momigliano) that scholars have only recently recognized that the foundations of historical scholarship were laid by church historians. He tracked the great controversy from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries about the place and the time of Emperor Constantine’s baptism, discussing the views of Bartolomeo Platina (d. 1481), Johannes Löwenklau (d. 1594) and Jean Morin (d. 1659). Anthony Grafton (Princeton) also quoted Momigliano as he had been “spot-on” in pointing out the importance of Eusebius for early modern scholars in the 1960s. In his talk, Grafton followed the “twists and turns” of the Eusebian revival in the Renaissance and Reformation. Eusebius’s inclusion of original documents in his Church History had paved the way for the documentary method of sixteenth-century scholars. Grafton told the story of how Eusebius inspired such diverse figures such as Paul of Middelburg (d. 1534), Guillaume Budé (d. 1540), Thomas Cranmer (d. 1556) and John Foxe (d. 1587). Eusebius’s practice of working with assistants might have inspired the team-work project of the Magdeburg Centuries. Cristina Dondi (Oxford) presented her data-based project “The Fifteenth-Century Book Trade”, which allows scholars to retrace the distribution of incunables across the world. Material evidence (bindings, signatures, marginalia etc.) is used to identify the movements of early printed books. Madeline McMahon (Princeton) explained how Desiderius Erasmus (d. 1536) elevated the reception of a church father to a new level by fashioning an image of himself based on Jerome; this was, in turn, a Jerome based on his own image. Erasmus’s editing became a “form of theology”. In his Defence of the Apology, John Jewel (d. 1571), on the other hand, pointed out the weaknesses of church fathers. Many humanists had seen the fathers as both authoritative and fallible, so McMahon also offered insights into how fifteenth-century humanists studied the church fathers in discerning fashion. Poggio Bracciolini (d. 1459), for example, juxtaposed church fathers such as Augustine and Jerome, recognizing how they had differed in their opinions on numerous points. Alex Wright (Cambridge) concentrated on William Cave’s Primitive Christianity: or, the Religion of the Ancient Christians in the First Ages of the Gospel. Cave (d. 1713) studied the genre of commendatory letters and was the first English scholar to write a literary history of the Church. Sam Kennerley (Cambridge) traced an aspect of a “change in direction” of early modern Catholicism by exploring how patristic studies were extended to the East. This outreach was supported by Marcello Cervini (Pope Marcellus II, d. 1555). Sundar Henny (Bern) dealt with presentism in seventeenth-century patristics in Zurich, while Cornel Zwierlein (Bochum) investigated Non-juror patristic studies and the Levant. Mark Vessey (Vancouver) reviewed aspects of Erasmus’s method as found in his Ratio seu compendium verae theologiae (1518/19). In a thought-provoking talk, Nicholas Hardy (Cambridge) examined how political circumstances, patronage as well as the disciplinary conventions of controversial theology conditioned the writings of Isaac Casaubon (d. 1614). Such influences made Casaubon, like other humanists, a flexible and inconstant figure, to whom even the term “scholar” in the strictest modern sense should perhaps not be applied. Jean-Louis Quantin (Paris) gave the keynote lecture to conclude the conference. His overview of the geography of patristic printing was a history of patristic studies in disguise. He recounted how Venetian publishing became increasingly disconnected from patristic scholarship and how Paris printers then ascended to market dominance. Was it beneficial for patristic studies, however, that only one order (the Maurists) came to monopolize this field so strongly? Or did this very monopoly contribute to a slowdown of patristic studies from the eighteenth century onwards? Quantin left this interesting question open.

In conclusion, one could not have wished for much more from this high-powered short conference, both in terms of variety and intellectual stimulation; perhaps only the participation of theologians might have added more viewpoints. After the end of the conference, a book-launch followed to celebrate the new volume edited by Scott Mandelbrote and Joanna Weinberg, Jewish Books and their Readers (Leiden, 2016). The book was presented by Thomas Roebuck (University of East Anglia).


Conference Overview:

Panel 1. Chair: Andreas Ammann (University of Bern)

Andrew Taylor (Churchill College, Cambridge): Reading Philo in the 1550s

Richard Serjeantson (Trinity College, Cambridge): Reborn in Rome? The baptism of Constantine and the writing of church history, 1475-1650

Anthony Grafton (Princeton): The reception of Eusebius as a church historian

Panel 2. Chair: Emily Michelson (University of St Andrews)

Cristina Dondi (Lincoln College, Oxford): The circulation of the early editions of the fathers: an evidence-based approach

Madeline McMahon (Princeton): Feuding Fathers: John Jewel reads Jerome on the Origenist Controversy

Alex Wright (Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge): ‘Letters and Learning’. William Cave’s ‘Primitive Christianity’ (1673) and the early modern study of ‘literae commendaticiae’

Panel 3. Chair: John-Paul Ghobrial (Balliol College, Oxford)

Sam Kennerley (Trinity College, Cambridge): The globalisation of patristics in the circle of Marcello Cervini

Sundar Henny (Universität Bern): Presentism in Seventeenth-Century Patristics

Cornel Zwierlein (Ruhr-Universität Bochum): Non-Juror Patristic studies and the Levant

Panel 4. Chair: Joanna Weinberg (University of Oxford)

Mark Vessey (University of British Columbia): The renaissance of late antiquity in Erasmus’ ‘Ratio seu compendium verae theologiae’ (1518/19)

Nicholas Hardy (Trinity College, Cambridge): Isaac Casaubon, the fathers, and post-Reformation theological controversy

Keynote lecture. Respondent: Scott Mandelbrote (Peterhouse, Cambridge)

Jean-Louis Quantin (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Sorbonne, Paris): A European geography of patristic scholarship, sixteenth to the seventeenth- century

This conference report has now also been published on H-Net (H-Soz-Kult). Click here.


Panel report: Catholic Historiography and Confessionalization

The Sixteenth Century Society and Conference (SCSC) promotes scholarship on the early modern era, broadly defined (ca. 1450 – ca. 1660). This year’s Conference took place in Bruges, Belgium (18-20 August 2016). The History & Theology Project organized a papel entitled ‘Catholic Historiography and Confessionalization’ (Sponsor: Ecclesiastical History Society; Organizer: Stefan Bauer). The panel was chaired by Simon Ditchfield (York).

In his paper, Boris Hogenmüller (Würzburg) dealt with ‘The authority of history in Melchior Cano’s De locis theologicis (On Theological ‘Places’)’. The great work of the Spanish theologian Cano (1506/9–1560) probably represents the first modern treatise on fundamental theology. Its intention was to present theologians with a rich supply of ‘places’ (loci), from which they could extract arguments in order to win discussions with pagans and heretics. Besides theology’s own ‘places’ (loci proprii) – such as the authority of Scripture – ‘other places’ (loci alieni) are provided as special sources of arguments. Among them, the authority of (secular) history occupies a central position. As a theologian, Cano used classical historiography (especially the writings of pagan historians such as Tacitus and Sallust) for argumentative support, especially in disputes with ‘heretics’ (that is, members of other confessions). He subordinated the historical assertions of the classical authors to the intentions of the loci. For theologians, according to Cano, these assertions were equally binding just as arguments from Holy Scripture or decisions of the General Church Councils. For this reason, profane history – as a locus alienus of theology – should not be assigned less authority than, for example, the apostolic tradition.

Stefan Bauer (York) discussed the ‘Limits of confessionalization in mid-sixteenth century Rome’. A central tenet of the theory of confessionalization – namely that religion and the State were closely interconnected in the development of modernity – played out in Catholic historiography in several ways. Works on ecclesiastical history were shaped by the necessity to justify the traditions of the Catholic Church. They were also informed by expectations of doctrinal correctness and conditioned by thought control. It was shown that the historian Onofrio Panvinio (1530-68) was able to maintain an idiosyncratic position in this emergent process of the confessionalization of historiography.

The paper by Andreea Badea (Rome) was entitled ‘Staging the Papacy: The meaning of historical factuality in Alfonso Chacón’s Vitae et gesta summorum pontificum’. How could the papacy be defended, in historical writing, against attacks from inside and outside the Church? An antiquarian might reply: “by writing a detailed history of the popes” — but such a work would only defend Catholicism as a confessional entity. In order to clear up inner-Catholic divergences, the Spanish antiquarian in Rome Alfonso Chacón (1530-99) decided to expand the chronological material which he had collected concerning the Curia as an institution. In his Vitae et gesta he documented not only the lives of the popes but also the institutional evolution of the court. This paper showed how this antiquarian shaped a confessional identity and reinforced the central role of the papacy by focusing on the Curia as an everlasting sacral complex.

Information on the panel participants:

Dr Boris Hogenmüller studied Classics and History; PhD, University of Würzburg 2008; Lecturer in Classics at the University of Würzburg and Gymnasium teacher in Hanau. Research interests: Ancient philosophy; Greek and Roman satire; Roman love poetry; Neolatin literature (16th century). Publications include: ‘Die “impii”: Melchior Canos Auseinandersetzung mit den Reformatoren in De locis theologicis“, Theologie und Philosophie 85 (2010), pp. 501-12; ‘Über die Orte der Theologie (De locis theologicis): Melchior Cano, Gaspard Juenin und Hieronymus Buzi im Vergleich‘, Würzburger Jahrbücher für Altertumswissenschaften 36 (2012) 169-84; ‘Eine bisher unerkannte Juvenalstelle in Melchior Canos De locis theologicis‘, Philologus 158 (2014), pp. 320-30.

Dr Andreea Badea,  PhD in History (2007), Bayreuth University, is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the German Historical Institute in Rome. She entered academia as a Lecturer at Bayreuth University until 2008. From 2008 to 2012, she moved on to the University of Münster as a researcher at the DFG-Project “Römische Inquisition und Indexkongregation in der Neuzeit”. She publishes on the entanglement of learned culture, historiographical practice, and Roman politics in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Dr Stefan Bauer, MA (Aachen), MA and PhD (Warburg Institute), is a Research Fellow in early modern history. He currently holds a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellowship at the University of York, UK, working on a project entitled “History and Theology: the Creation of Disinterested Scholarship from Dogmatic Stalemate (ca. 1525-1675)”. His special interests lie in the history of historiography as well Reformation and Counter Reformation Europe. Monographs: The Censorship and Fortuna of Platina’s Lives of the Popes in the Sixteenth Century, Turnhout, Brepols, 2006; Polisbild und Demokratieverständnis in Jacob Burckhardts Griechischer Kulturgeschichte, Basel & Munich, Schwabe & C.H. Beck, 2001.

A complete programme of the conference can be downloaded by clicking here: SCSC 2016.