The Research Project
The decades leading up to the dawn of the German Reformation have long been considered a time of crisis characterized by clerical misuse of power, ecclesial disorder and general social unrest. However, insights provided by newly conducted research paint it in a new light as a culturally fruitful period, in which a rigorous yet relatively peaceful ‘churching’ of the whole society did not serve to eliminate great religious diversity. Until now, central Germany in particular, the motherland of the Reformation, has rarely been the subject of research on this period: on the one hand because of the Protestant nature of the region, which led to the disappearance of many old forms of piety, and on the other because of the ideological dominance of the Third Reich and East Germany, which for over half a century undermined the realization of research on the region’s past religious culture and thus by and large eliminated the people’s awareness of this period of their own history.
A research project initiated by Thomas T. Müller, Head of the Association of Mühlhausen Museums, aims to rediscover the religious environment that prevailed here in the Late Middle Ages, a period which has largely fallen into obscurity in the region itself, by means of a representative stocktake of relics and artefacts relating to everyday religious conditions prior to the Reformation that have been found in central Germany and their subsequent context-based documentation. The project interprets the phenomenon of pre-Reformation piety as a reality that permeated all areas of social life during the period. Over the course of the project, Dr. Hartmut Kühne conducts extensive research among the inventories, catalogues and collections from small and mid-sized museums in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. The focus here is not on creating a conventional register of museum-based collections, but instead pinpointing the function of objects in specific real-life contexts and illuminating their religious significance.
The project is part of the research collaboration between major art-history museums in Magdeburg, Leipzig and Mühlhausen, the Institute of Saxon History and Folklore, the Luther Memorials Foundation in Saxony-Anhalt and the Thuringian Historical Commission. This project formed the basis of an academic congress in 2011 as well as an exhibition cycle planned for 2013 and 2014 in the Mühlhausen Museums, the Culture Historical Museum Magdeburg and the Municipal History Museum in Leipzig and perhaps in the smaller exhibition space in Luther’s final residence in Eisleben.
Thomas T. MüllerLocation
Dr. Hartmut Kühne