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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam

The ambiguous memory of Nordic Protestantism

Alternative title: Den nordiske protestantismens tvetydige minnekultur

Awarded: NOK 8.4 mill.

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Project Period:

2014 - 2021


The project has been working with Nordic Protestantism in a comparative perspective, in order to broaden the dominant national perspectives in traditional reformation research dealing with the Nordic countries. In the Nordic region, comprehensive similarities go along with significant differences between the countries commonly labelled as Nordic. This is a good point for departure for comparative research. A main focus of the project has been uses of historical traditions connected to the Nordic reformations. This includes uses of medieval traditions during the reformation period as well as ways of remembering the Nordic reformations in later periods. Chronologically, priority has been given to the early modern period, but studies of the 19th and 20th centuries have been included as well. Prior to the reformation, Nidaros in Norway was the most important place in the religious topography of the North. This changed radically with the reformation and the deconstruction of Nidaros as holy place. At the same time, Norway lost sovereignty and was included as part of Denmark. Looking back on the reformation in Norway has generally meant looking back on a dark period in history. Forgetting about the reformation was better than remembering it. In this connection, a main strategy was that of replacing the reformation with medieval traditions of Norwegian greatness, and in particular the history of a protestantizised St. Olaf. In Denmark and Sweden the situation was quite different. In both these countries, the reformation came along with a new start of strong early modern dynasties. At the same time, important differences between the two countries may be observed: In Denmark, the reformation was organized culturally and ecclesiastically as a new start in a much more radical way than in Sweden, were combining old medieval traditions with a new religious approach was much more important. In spite of these differences, the reformation has mostly been appreciated and described in positive terms both in Danish and Swedish history writing. In Sweden Luther and protestant tradition wave had an important position in national cultural memory until the 1960ies. Demark stands out as a country where the reformation in the 16th century has been continuously appreciated until the present. During the first project period, efforts were concentrated on comparative studies of the religious topography of early modern Northern Europe. Project panels with participants from Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands and the USA have been successfully organized at the Sixteenth Century Society Conferences (SCSC) from 2014 (New Orleans) until St. Louis in 2019. In St. Louis the project was responsible for organizing a roundtable with a book presentation as well as a project panel. The project has also been participating regularly in the annual European RefoRC with panels and presentations. In 2017 the project organized an international workshop in Oslo dealing with Uses of Medieval Traditions in the Nordic Reformations. Another workshop in cooperation with USA colleagues took place in Berkeley in March 2017. In September 2017 the project was responsible for a session at the international Cambridge conference on "Remembering the Reformation". Papers from this conference and from a 2017 conference in Malmø on comparative Nordic reformation history were published I 2020. On a national basis, the project organized a workshop on the topic Trondheim as a Norwegian Protestant lieu de mémoire in May 2016. In September 2017, the project was an organizing partner (together with Fondet for dansk-norsk samarbeid) of a conference on reformation research at Lysebu, Oslo. Most of the Lysebu contributions have been published in Teologisk Tidsskrift in 2018. Two books in Norwegian, emerging from the MEMORY-project and also relevant to the 2017 reformation anniversary, were published summer 2017. Furthermore, the project was included as partner in the seminars and public lectures related to the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation at the University of Oslo. During the last two years, project members have published Memory-related contributions in the Journal Church History, in the volumes Reformation und Bildnis, in the Melanchthon-Handbuch, in the Cambridge UP-volume Luther in Context, in the Routledge-volume Remembering the Reformation and in the DeGruyter-volume Were we ever Protestants?, in Journal of Early Modern Christianity and in Fortidsminneforeningens Årbok. A digital open access catalogue of Norwegian epitaphs from the 16th and 17th centuries was published in December 2020 in cooperation with the University Library in Oslo. In 2021, an English language Memory volume, already accepted for publication, will be submitted to the publisher in Germany. We are also preparing a special issue of Teologisk Tidsskrift on Gerhard Schøning.

Prosjektet har fra starten av hatt en uttalt tverrfaglig profil, med deltakre fra fagene kirkehistorie, kulturhistorie, kunsthistorie, arkeologi og klassisk filologi. Viktige sider av denne tverrfagligheten er blitt utdypet i prosjektperioden. Det samme gjelder tilknytningen til internasjonale kontakter både i Norden, i Europa (særlig Tyskland) og i USA: Her er internasjonale faglige nettverk blitt bygd opp og styrket gjennom aktiv deltakelse i kon feranser og internasjonalt samarbeid om prosjekttemaer. En særlig tydelig nasjonal rolle spilte prosjektet i forbindelse med reformasjonsjubileet i 2017, der vi var medarrangører og bidragsytere til flere viktige arrangementer. Ved siden av en rekke nasjonale og internasjonale publikasjoner har prosjektet også i samarbeid med UB Oslo bidratt vesentlig til ferdigstilling av en digital katalog over norske epitafier fram til 1700. Dette er et konkret resultat som vil være til nytte også i lokale sammenhenger i mange deler av Norge.

The Nordic Countries represent a part of Europe which has been influenced by Lutheran-Protestant culture in a particularly strong way. However, most of the research on Nordic Protestantism has had a focus either on political or on theological aspects of t his tradition. Also, the focus has mostly been on one Nordic country at the time. This project wants to take advantage of a comparative Nordic approach, ready at hand, but too seldom applied when studying Nordic religous history. Priority is given to a spatial perspective for analysing and interpreting the specific character of Nordic Protestant tradition. A concentration on three Nordic countries: Denmark, Sweden and Norway should supply a sufficient basis for an overall typological description of th e case of Nordic Protestantism. Theories from Cultural studies on lieux de mémoire (Erinnerungsorte) will serve as a point of departure for analysing a) the reformation of religious topography in the 16th and 17th centuries, and b) elite and popular us es of Medieval and Reformation holy places especially in the 19th and 20th centuries in a Nordic context. The project intends not only to broaden the understanding of Nordic religious history, but also to give a contribution to the understan ding of the specific profile of Nordic secularity. In this region of Europe, the extension of the secular sphere through deconstruction of Catholic sanctity prepared the ground for a new construction of secularity which is to a smaller extent than in othe r European Protestant cultures defined in contrast to religious sanctity. Rather, Nordic secularity tends to be more open to including aspects of sanctity in itself. The project intends to contribute with new answers to an newly started discussion on this topic.

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FRIHUMSAM-Fri hum og sam