A house divided: Wittelsbach confessional court cultures in Bavaria, the Palatinate, and Bohemia, c. 1550--1650

Andrew L Thomas, Purdue University


This dissertation examines the intersection between religious belief, dynastic ambitions, and late Renaissance court culture within the main branches of Germany's most storied ruling house, the Wittelsbach dynasty. The period from 1550-1650 is often referred to as the "confessional age," a time when Lutheran, Calvinist, and Catholic churches attempted to maintain symbiotic relationships with early modern rulers. Wittelsbach influence on European affairs was at its apex during this era. The respective courts of the two largest Wittelsbach branches, at Heidelberg and Munich, became prominent seats of confessional divisions that reflected the greater divide between Protestants and Catholics within Europe. The tensions between the Calvinist Palatine Wittelsbach rulers and the Catholic Bavarian Wittelsbach rulers were important factors leading to the Thirty Years' War and the consequences of these and related struggles touched many shores from the "coast" of Bohemia to Boston. This dissertation is the only book-length monograph comparing the impact of confessional identity on both halves of the Wittelsbach dynasty as well as its implications for late Renaissance court culture. It demonstrates that religious conflict led to the development of distinctly confessional court cultures among the main Wittelsbach courts. Likewise, it illuminates how these confessional court cultures contributed significantly to the splintering of Renaissance humanism along religious lines in this era. Concomitantly, it sheds new light on the impact of late medieval dynastic competition on shaping the early modern Wittelsbach courts as well as the important role of Wittelsbach women in the creation and continuation of dynastic piety in their roles as wives, mothers, and patronesses of the arts. ^




Charles Ingrao, Purdue University.

Subject Area

Religion, General|History, European

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