Prof. Emerita Barbara Diefendorf Publishes New Book with Oxford UP
Professor Emerita of History Barbara Diefendorf recently published her latest book with Oxford University Press, titled Planting the Cross: Catholic Reform and Renewal in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth Century France.
The first thing that Catholic religious orders did when they arrived in a town to establish a new community was to plant the cross—to erect a large wooden cross where the church was to stand. The cross was a contested symbol in the civil wars that reduced France to near anarchy in the sixteenth century. Protestants tore down crosses to mark their disdain for “popish” superstition; Catholics swore to erect a thousand new crosses for every one destroyed. Fighting words at the time, the vow to erect a thousand new crosses was expressed in the rapid multiplication of reformed religious congregations once peace arrived.
In this book, Barbara Diefendorf examines the beginnings of the Catholic Reformation in France and shows how profoundly the movement was shaped by the experience of religious war. She analyzes convents and monasteries in three regions—Paris, Provence, and Languedoc—as they struggled to survive the wars and then to raise standards and instill a new piety in their members in their aftermath. What emerges are stories of nuns left homeless by the wars, of monks rebelling against both abbot and king, of ascetic friars reviving Catholic devotion in a Protestant-dominated South, and of a Dominican order battling demonic possession.
Illuminating persistent debates about the purpose of monastic life, Planting the Cross underscores the diverse paths religious reform took within different local settings and offers new perspectives on the evolution of early modern French Catholicism.