You are here

Hometown Religion

Regimes of Coexistence in Early Modern Westphalia
David M. Luebke

BUY Cloth · 328 pp. · 6.125 × 9.25 · ISBN 9780813938400 · $45.00 · Feb 2016
BUY Ebook · 328 pp. · ISBN 9780813938417 · $45.00 · Feb 2016

Gerald Strauss prize, Sixteenth-Century Society and Conference (2016)

The pluralization of Christian religion was the defining fact of cultural life in sixteenth-century Europe. Everywhere they took root, ideas of evangelical reform disturbed the unity of religious observance on which political community was founded. By the third quarter of the sixteenth century, one or another form of Christianity had emerged as dominant in most territories of the Holy Roman Empire.In Hometown Religion: Regimes of Coexistence in Early Modern Westphalia, David Luebke examines a territory that managed to escape that fate—the prince-bishopric of Münster, a sprawling ecclesiastical principality and the heart of an entire region in which no single form of Christianity dominated. In this confessional "no-man’s-land," a largely peaceable order took shape and survived well into the mid-seventeenth century, a unique situation, which raises several intriguing questions: How did Catholics and Protestants manage to share parishes for so long without religious violence? How did they hold together their communities in the face of religious pluralization? Luebke responds by examining the birth, maturation, old age, and death of a biconfessional "regime"—a system of laws, territorial agreements, customs, and tacit understandings that enabled Roman Catholics and Protestants, Lutherans as well as Calvinists, to cohabit the territory’s parishes for the better part of a century.

In revealing how these towns were able to preserve peace and unity—in the Age of Religious Wars— Hometown Religion attests to the power of toleration in the conduct of everyday life.


What Luebke does that is so original here is to uncover and explain the ritual practices that developed in Münster in the period 1553–1624—ritual practices that articulated the arrangements and embodied the accommodations that peaceful coexistence entailed. Examining the rites of baptism, marriage, communion, and burial, the book shows how the native clergy and laity of Münster sought through ritual to preserve the cohesion of their religiously mixed communities in the face of increasing pressures for religious uniformity.

Benjamin J. Kaplan, University College London, author of Cunegonde's Kidnapping: A Story of Religious Conflict in the Age of Enlightenment

Hometown Religion is a sound and original piece of scholarship based on extensive archival research. It shows a masterly command of the primary and secondary sources, and it makes a persuasive and interesting argument about an important aspect of early modern German history. It ranks as a first-rate book. It also adds considerably to our knowledge and advances the state of the field beyond what German scholars have achieved themselves.

R. Po-chia Hsia, Penn State, author of A Jesuit in the Forbidden City: Matteo Ricci 1552-1610

David Luebke presents us with a fine, highly differentiated and very thoroughly researched account of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century German hometown religion. His book very much deserves the early modernist's attention.

German History

The interpretation of religiosity in post-Reformation Europe has been dominated by two major tendencies: first, to see a person's confessional membership as determinative of their religious identity; and second, to apply the broad strokes of the theories of confessionalization and state formation down at the community and individual level.... Luebke's excellent book presents a detailed examination of this apparent contradiciton in the region of the prince-bishopric of Munster, Westphalia.

Central European History

David Luebke’s exploration of religious coexistence in the prince-bishopricof Münster between 1535 and 1650 powerfully demonstrates the undiminishedvalue of the case-study method.... Luebke’s work will obviously be of special interest to historians concerned with German or European history. But in the conclusion of his book Luebke skillfully delineates six "modes" of religious coexistence. These categories—and indeed this study as a whole—could be of broader interest to many readers of this journal.

Journal of Early Modern History

Luebke has given us a rich and thoroughly well-researched volume to nuance our understanding of early modern ritual practices and toleration, as well as numerous thought-provoking insights into how these communities successfully managed to stave off religious violence for almost a century in one of the most religiously tumultuous periods of modern European history.


Luebke’s book provides a valuable insight into the complexities of confessional pluralism.

German Studies Review

In the years following the Reformation, plurality of religious practice and belief posed an ontological threat to social order in the Holy Roman Empire. Despite this, regimes of coexistence emerged and consolidated, formally and tacitly, throughout the sixteenth century. How they did so, and how they disappeared, are the questions that David Luebke’s book seeks to answer, through an examination of the largest ecclesiastical territory of the Holy Roman Empire, the Westphalian prince-bishopric of Münster.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History

About the Author(s): 

David M. Luebke, Professor of History at the University of Oregon, is the coeditor of Mixed Matches: Transgressive Unions in Germany from the Reformation to the Enlightenment, among other books.

Interested in this topic?
Stay updated with our newsletters:

Related Books