The Cistercian monastery La Trappe, Mme de Maintenon’s school for girls at St Cyr, the schools at A. H. Francke’s foundations at Halle and the community established within these foundations bring to the fore the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement and the medial expressions of this dynamic. But each case demonstrates a particular employment of architecture, texts, music and images in the service of withdrawal and engagement respectively. At La Trappe the liturgical life and the furnishing of the abbey church made manifest the appropriation of desert asceticism as well as the Cistercian origin. Meanwhile the ethos of isolation and devotional self-surrender was conveyed beyond the walls by means of treatises, letters, images and the reception of visitors. At St Cyr noble girls were taught to renounce the world. This aim went hand in hand with the disciplinary and educational profile of the school and the royal founders’ ambition of to educate the wives and mothers of French noble households. Three paintings produced for the royal institution embody this aspiration in a particularly illuminating way. In the two cases related to Halle, the juxtaposition of theological texts and concepts such as Gelassenheit, musico-poetical culture as well as material and visual expressions of the Pietist reform movement and the employment of the eagle motif contributes to a multi-faceted understanding of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement and the relation between the withdrawn locus and the society in which it was set.
The research project Solitudes: Withdrawal and Engagement in the long Seventeenth Century (SOLITUDES) examines ten locations – five German or Danish Protestant and five French Catholic – and the means by which, in each of these places, withdrawal from the world is represented, prompted and sustained by means of works of art, texts, architecture, music and artefacts. The project aims to reach a nuanced understanding of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement and of the role played by this dynamic as a religious, political and aesthetical catalyst in Early Modern European culture.
1.2 Theoretical horizon
The examination of the relation between withdrawal and engagement touches on several central theoretical discussions. SOLITUDES is inspired, not least, by theoretical perspectives pertaining to notions of the self, rhetorical codes, social discipline and the function and power of art. We are in conversation with Charles Taylor’s ponderings of the idea of the self, and his attention to the impact of theological agendas on the definition of the self in relation to an inner space which is established in contradistinction to the exterior world. The interdisciplinary methodology is inspired by approaches to cultural history tinged by social historical perspectives such as Richard van Dülmen’s. Along similar lines, theoretical positions within literary history and the history of rhetoric have contributed to the understanding of the uses of language codes, metaphors, genres and levels of style. Studies of such linguistic devices help to highlight the different modes in which the existential and social demarcations pertaining to withdrawal and engagement are displayed. Such existential and social demarcations do not, however, reflect homogenous habits or customs; the praxis of withdrawal and the different forms of the commitment to engage are subject to continual reconsideration. In other words there is no unifying picture of withdrawal, its meanings or merits. As a social praxis withdrawal is a contested notion; it is always embedded in, and open to, different levels of reflection in which problems of a fundamentally social character are posed.
The dynamic between withdrawal and engagement comes to the fore in a wide array of media and genres. Music, works of art, architecture and other cultural artefacts are no mere staffage to historical narratives or theological disquisitions. Instead they are treated as integral and directional phenomena. As products as well as producers of culture, visual art, architecture and music at once reflect and sustain devotional practices. Our approach owes something to the Geertzian “thick description,” but the cultural codes pursued in this context are aesthetic and theological as much as sociological. Above all, our work on the role, or agency, of works of art, architecture and objects of material culture is informed by the concept of the “art nexus” as developed by the anthropologist Alfred Gell. Gell conceives artworks as active agents in a network of social relations, which may include, besides the artist, patron and viewers, for instance God, saints or deceased persons. Mapping such networks helps to identify the actors involved and to clarify the effects of the agency exercised on and by viewers and participants in a given art nexus.
1.3 Approaching withdrawal and engagement
An analysis of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement calls for an integrated cross-disciplinary approach. Rather than engaging in specialized scrutiny of, say, the technical characteristics of the music produced at a particular place, we look at the ways in which music prompts withdrawal from the world, how it plays into the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement and, finally, how it interacts with images, architecture, practices and texts. The methodology of SOLITUDES thus hinges on a principle of downscaling the focus. We study selected physical locations in a particular period and search for distinct topoi and motifs which are cultivated in each of those locations. The project relies on a hierarchy of choices: the selection of ten paradigmatic places, of the set of sources examined for each place and of the topoi pursued (such as Welt/Monde or, as below, eagles). These choices are informed by extensive studies as well as exchanges with other scholars. The aim is not primarily to unearth hitherto unknown material, but to gain new insights by way of the merger between a specific interrogatory horizon and an integrated cross-disciplinary approach. It is the bold hypothesis here that this novel interrogatory horizon does, indeed, yield new insight and help us reach a nuanced understanding partly of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement, partly of the catalytic role, religiously, politically and aesthetically, which this tension played in Early Modern European culture.
SOLITUDES seeks to cross the confessional gap which prevails in much Early Modern scholarship. This ambition brings with it substantial challenges. How to approach in an adequate way the different religious cultures that emerged after the reformations and their individual appropriations of central Christian themes? Rather than seeking concrete links or differences between confessional cultures, the project analyses the societal conditions and religious configurations that shape the particular devotional profile of each place and motivate its specific version of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement. It is too early yet to make any strong claims as to confessional particularities. We wish to move beyond the pitfall of clichés pertaining to the direct and discernible impact of, for instance, Tridentine decrees or Lutheran axioms such as sola scriptura or sola fide. The hope is that these interdisciplinary case studies of particular places will pave the way for cross-confessional insights and for a bridge between longstanding academic compartments. A nuanced view on the religious cultures on each side of, and across, the Early Modern confessional gap requires an approach which can capture the devotional specificity in its particular historical context. Downscaling underpins such an approach. Another entry into an informed comparison is the pursuit across the places chosen of particular topoi or tropes, normative discourses or texts which retrieve biblical, theological or philosophical traditions.
This article opens a door into the SOLITUDES Studierkammer. The ambition has been to demonstrate the mechanisms of our interdisciplinary method through case studies from four of our ten places. This is work in progress. The four sections show various ways in which we approach the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement. Each section has been crafted in a close collaboration between the members of the research team. One scholar has had the overall charge of the section, while perspectives pertaining to art, architecture and music have been the responsibility of disciplinary specialists in the team. The four cases have been worked out in parallel and with ongoing reflections across the places concerning their respective forms of withdrawal and engagement and the cultural production created around each of them.
These four cases share key concerns. It is unsurprising that all cases show some version of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement. If we move one step further, it appears that all four offer instances of individual transition or conversion as well as institutional reform: in both Lutheran and Catholic contexts attention is turned to the different forms and means of agency of change. The cases also bring to the fore a particular interest in withdrawal as a means of discipline as well as in discipline as a means of withdrawal. Furthermore in all four cases artistic media are employed to wield power over emotions and devotion; the media become instruments for the attaining or prompting of a particular affective state of mind. In all cases, simplicity is evoked as the desired aesthetic corollary of withdrawal. Each case also involves biblical interpretation; the Scriptures offer guidelines and, not least, strong models of being in the world, but not of the world. Love of God is closely related to withdrawal as the disposition which must replace the believer’s attachment to the world. The desire for God is one of the more pressing urges behind the devotional practices studied in the project, and the reappropriation of the Song of Songs looms large. Teaching and education are important vehicles in the dissemination and maintenance of the spirit of withdrawal; ritual and liturgy intensify God’s presence within a symbolic structure. Finally the role of place is significant in each of the cases: thoughts are made solid in architecture; ideals are made manifest in institutions; subjectivities are created through the organization of space.
This list of key words has grown out of the work with the material. Reading across the four cases with these concepts in mind will show how they are, at once, shared features and features which find distinct, individual forms, depending on the place and on its particular variant of withdrawal and engagement. Each of these key concepts represents a rich historical conceptual universe and a field of research in its own right. Thus the four case studies do not only throw light on withdrawal and engagement; they also contribute to the study of seventeenth-century instances of simplicity, love of God, biblical hermeneutics, the role of place and so forth. At this stage in the work such cross-connections are registered rather than foregrounded. But it is worthwhile to keep these key concepts in mind and to pay heed to their different accentuations and appearances as we pursue the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement across four selected cases.
2 La Trappe
2.1 Reform and simplicity
In 1686 two new chapels were built behind the chancel of the abbey church at La Trappe. One was dedicated to the abbot’s favourite author John Climacus, a seventh-century Sinai ascetic; the other to Mary of Egypt, a converted prostitute who withdrew to the desert and immersed herself in penitence. The abbot was Armand-Jean de Rancé (1626–1700). His conversion from a worldly life crystallized in his profession as abbot of La Trappe, a Cistercian monastery founded in 1140 and situated in the diocese of Séez some 150 km west of Paris. The two new chapels formed part of a comprehensive building project which included expansion of the quarters for monks and for guests. One of its goals was to convince the visitor that La Trappe was in excellent material and spiritual shape and that the reform launched by Rancé accorded with Cistercian ideals.
Rancé’s reform merged a distinctly seventeenth-century outlook with an expressed desire to emulate the Cistercian fathers. This alleged return to the sources was epitomized in his striving for simplicité in music as well as church furnishing; ornamentation is but decadence des temps. Rancé revived the medieval Cistercian repugnance for “superfluities” and “novelties” both in his restoration, with the two new chapels blending in seamlessly with the sober gothic church (Figure 1), and in his robust regulation of the musical practice at La Trappe. He saw a close relationship between musical form and theological content. The liturgy embodies the spirit of a religious institution; change of form means change of content and deviation from the original spirit. Since the primitive Cistercian worship conveys basic theological insights, its form of chant must be maintained with “exactitude”: “ces airs & et ces tons ont des rapports si étroits & des liaisons si intimes avec nos mœurs & avec cette piété qui nous est propre […], qu’il ne se peut qu’elle ne s’altére, qu’elle ne s’affoiblisse, & qu’elle ne se détruise aussi-tôt qu’on y apporte le moindre changement.” Rancé deplores what he sees as the abandonment of simplicity and the “voies primitives” and, with reference to the late twelfth-century Exordium magnum, calls to mind the vices that threaten the monastic ideal of simplicity: “multiplicatio agrorum,” “superfluitas,” “ædificatio” and “lascivia vocum”. Drawing on Bernard of Clairvaux’s Apologia he avers that while the church and its clergy must be concerned with “pompe” and appearance because of their commitment to the people of the world, the monks “qui sont consacrez à Dieu dans les solitudes” must show “dans toutes les actions & les circonstances de leur conduite la simplicité de leur état.” This ideal of simplicity led to drastic musical interventions. Finding that the liturgical chant of La Trappe deviated from the original Cistercian practice, Rancé launched a “chant programme” characterized by musical abbreviations and elimination of the allegedly superfluous: “Pour le chant, je fis retrancher cette grande quantité de notes et de répétitions qui me paruent superflues, et qui n’étoient nullement ni de l’esprit, ni du tems de Saint Bernard, nous abolîmes la multiplicité de Kyrie et de Gloria in excelsis. Nous nous contentâmes du Commun et du Solennel en nous conformans de plus près à la simplicité des anciens.”
Commentators saw it as an expression of his return to the original Cistercian devotion to the virgin when he fitted out the high altar of La Trappe with a new statue of the virgin and child. The statue was “more vivid and animated” and thus thought to be more capable of exciting devotion; but it is stressed that it abided by the order’s ideal of simplicity and poverty. In her left hand the Madonna held a suspended pyx (vessel) for the Eucharist. When it was denounced by critics as a modern invention and a reduction of the Virgin to a piece of furniture, Rancé pointed out that it was an ancient Benedictine custom: no greater honour could be done to the Virgin, the bearer of Christ (Theotokos), or to Christ, than being given to His servants by His mother. The statue was flanked by two sculpted angels kneeling in reverence of the Holy Virgin and the Holy Sacrament. Georges explains their posture: one lifts its hand as if to solicit divine mercy; the other lowers both head and hands so as to invite suppliants to lift their hearts and spirits. An engraving of the choir conjures up this situation (Figure 2). The caption explains how the pristine art, architecture and music harmoniously contribute to the same goal: “Tout respire la piété et la Simplicité de la Primitive Eglise, dans le chœur de cette Abbaye, l’Office divin s’y celebre avec un receuillement et une devotion capable d’édifier les plus profanes et la modestie exterieure de ces Saints Solitaires est un fidele interprete du zele qui les anime au dedans.”
2.2 Mary of Egypt at La Trappe
The two saints venerated in the new chapels embody the ethos of Rancé’s reform. He commissioned an altarpiece of Mary of Egypt receiving communion from the monk Zosimas. An office was composed, but never approved by the General Chapter. Mary is the key figure of the chapel, but Zosimas should not be overlooked: the saint’s story is enveloped in the monk’s. Zosimas had lived in a Palestinian monastery for some fifty years. He was close to perfection and began to worry that no one could teach him new ascetic insights. A vision instructed him to go to the river Jordan. There he met Mary, who had lived in the desert for forty-seven years, naked and scorched by the sun. Hers was a story of untrammelled lust transformed into boundless penitence. Next year he returned and offered her Communion. After yet another year he came back only to find her dead. Words written in the sand explained that she had passed away shortly after her Communion. Zosimas buried her with the help of a lion and returned to his monastery, marvelling at the saintly penitent. Mary’s vita is about a sinner who repents; but it is also about a monk who learns from a saint.
The Trappist altarpiece of Mary of Egypt appears not to have survived the French Revolution, and no images of the chapel’s interior have come to light. Depictions of Mary of Egypt receiving her last Communion were not common in seventeenth-century France; a rare example is an altarpiece in Notre-Dame de Paris by Lubin Baugin, the composition of which survives in an engraving from the 1650s (Figure 3). The painting or the print may have inspired Rancé. In order to begin to grasp the multi-medial field of tension generated in the chapel, we must bear in mind the threefold function of the altarpiece. Firstly, art contributes liturgically to a worthy setting for the sacrifice of the Mass: paintings and sculptures arouse in the celebrant the proper devotional mindset. Secondly, it corroborates, devotionally, intercession for the supplicant through prayer to tutelary saints. Thirdly and finally, its visual communication is a didactic means; this is in a continuum with the idea of images as books for the illiterate expressed by Gregory the Great and Thomas Aquinas. But it teaches in a wider sense, since the religious work of art also facilitates a relationship with a divine prototype through what may be described as transformative agency. This third, didactic aspiration is ascribed explicitly to Rancé. According to hagiography the abbot wanted the image of Mary of Egypt to teach his monks “que Jesus-Christ lui-même essuyera leurs larmes au moment de la mort: & qu’aprés leur avoir donné son sacré Corps, comme le gage de leur réconciliation parfaite, & du pardon de leurs péchez, ils ne doivent plus avoir d’autre desir que de s’aller réünir à lui pour toute l’éternité.” The chapel and its liturgical charge encourage this union through a blend of image, text and music. Just as Zosimas found an inscription in the sand next to Mary’s body, so would the visitor find a plaque on the chapel wall, authored by Rancé, which added liturgical and scriptural dimensionality to the message of the altarpiece by way of motifs from the veneration of the saint. The transforming effect of this stimulus becomes clear in the presentation of the chapel of Mary of Egypt as a locus of conversion in the same way that, according to the legend, the Church of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem was a locus of conversion for the saint herself. Count de Santena oscillated for a while between La Trappe and the world. Once during a visit he saw the corpse of a monk, a former Captain of Infantry, on a bier in the abbey church. The Count’s reaction echoes that of Zosimas before the corpse of Mary. Struck by the transfigured beauty of his former comrade in arms, the Count withdrew to the chapel. He prayed for forgiveness, “dans le cri & dans l’effusion de son cœur!”, and there and then decided to enter the monastery. In similar vein the chapel was sought by the Trappist Dom Muce in thankful acknowledgement of the grace bestowed in his conversion. (Figure 4)
The chapel of Mary of Egypt offers a double model. Zosimas is a monastic ideal; according to the vita he followed monastic discipline to perfection. Seen in the light of its three-fold function the altarpiece represents him performing partly his sacramental office, partly an act of love towards his neighbour, Mary, and finally reverence towards the saint. Mary, however, is beyond disciplinary structures. She is absorbed in self-surrendering penitence and love of God. The representation of Zosimas in the altarpiece mirrors the discipline and charity of La Trappe. The representation of Mary, in image, text and chant, chimes in with the love of God which this discipline aims to foster in each individual monk.
2.3 Solitude and the world
By 1686 La Trappe had become a well-known epitome of solitude. According to Mme de Sévigné it had a share in the contemporary “retraite à la mode”. When Rancé became abbot in 1664, there were ten professed monks; when he died in 1700, there were ninety, and La Trappe was the most populous Cistercian house. The severe penitential programme included a diet without meat, fish and egg; it privileged manual labour and abolished studies. In his main work De la sainteté et des devoirs de la vie monastique (1683) Rancé insists that a monk need know only “d’aimer Jesus-Christ, de porter sa croix, de le suivre, & de luy plaire: C’est une science qui ne se peut acquerir par l’étude: Jesus-Christ en est le Maistre & le Docteur”. The monks at La Trappe were isolated from the world by an uncompromising demand for silence, penitence and stabilitas loci. The abbot retrieved the ethos of the Rule of Benedict and augmented its urgent advocacy of segregation. The Rule states that the monks must not receive guests, letters or packages without the superior’s permission (54). Rancé explains that a four-line letter causes more disorder in a monk’s heart than many years of conversation; a letter flings wide open the monastic gates which separate the spirit of the world and that of devotion, so that the one may enter while the other leaves. Paradoxically Rancé had one of the most comprehensive correspondences of the period. Letters were a means of nourishing friendships and enmities, but they were also a key vehicle for pastoral care. It is a hagiographic commonplace that the abbot had a rare and wondrous talent for “la direction & du gouvernement des ames”. An early editor of Rancé’s letters explains the blatant contradiction between his urge to retreat into solitude and his epistolary activities: “les personnes de pieté; les plus grand Prelats, & les Puissances mesme” came to him with their doubts and difficulties and made a habit of not embarking on any task without consulting “cet illustre Solitaire. C’est ce qui l’a obligé de sortir souvent comme du secret de sa solitude pour se communiquer au dehors, & répandre sur les autres les lumieres de cet Esprit Celeste dont il estoit remply”. His saintly spirit obliged him to breach the solitude.
Letters were not the only medium of engagement with society. Each year the abbey received hundreds of visitors. It was bound by the ancient monastic decree that Christ be received in any stranger or visitor, based on Jesus’ words: “I was a stranger and you welcomed me”. Guests were the measure of the monks’ readiness to receive Christ and were an opportunity to exercise love of God. But the reception of visitors was also required by decorum. According to one hagiographer Rancé did not want to receive visitors at first, but ultimately he could not turn away all those bishops, archbishops and distinguished lay guests: “La bienséance, le devoir meme” forced him to receive them. Worldly norms and hierarchies imposed themselves on the abbey. Soon visits were not only allowed, but orchestrated in minute detail. Signboards on the walls instructed guests not to speak to the monks. A set of Reglemens pour les hostes prescribed the right spirit and proper practice: the monks should receive only those required by “la charité & la pieté” or who seemed to be sent by divine providence. Visitors were to be received with the utmost hospitality and it must never appear to them that their presence was a burden. They wrote cartes de visites which recounted with vivacity their impression of La Trappe and its abbot. Some were widely disseminated and allowed a larger audience, including women, a virtual tour of the abbey.
2.4 The duchess and the abbey
One of the visitors at La Trappe was the king’s cousin, Mme de Guise (Figure 5). Widowed and childless, the pious princess had plunged herself into rigorous devotion. Around 1675 Rancé became her spiritual director. The abbot exchanged some hundred letters with her. They speak of matters of health and devotion as well as the king’s victories and wellbeing; he repeatedly assures her of the monks’ intercession for his majesty. The princess visited La Trappe some days at a time on the way to or from her duchy, Alençon, some fifty kilometres to the southwest. She stayed in a lodge immediately outside the walls. La Trappe was only one of her many “devotional waterholes,” and Trappist rigour not her only taste in pious practice. Through her patronage of the composer Marc-Antoine Charpentier she supported a religious music the more worldly orientation of which was quite different from the ascetic and tradition-orientated Trappist sensibilities and their predilection for simplicity. Apparently, for Madame de Guise, these contrasting aesthetics did not exclude one another. After her death Rancé published his devotional manual: Conduite chrétienne adressée à son Altesse Royale Madame de Guise. Women were not allowed into La Trappe, but a papal dispensation was given to Mme de Guise and her sister the Great Duchess of Tuscany along with their entourages. She brought her world with her: a world of femininity and worldly power. Rancé pleads suggestively: “[J]e la supplie très humblement qu’il y ait avec elle le moins de femmes qu’il se pourra, parce que leur curiosité n’est jamais contente et que nos frères les trouvent dans tous les endroits de la maison.” Not only did the princess pass by La Trappe once in a while. It seems that she was constantly present in the shape of her portrait, “belle et jeune femme”, by an anonymous Italian painter. Between them the portrait of Mme de Guise and the altarpiece for Mary of Egypt embody La Trappe’s and Rancé’s position at the intersection between withdrawal and engagement. His was an existence in constant tension between radical isolation from the world and emulation of the desert fathers on the one hand, and on the other lively conversation with outside society with the aim of disseminating the spirit of solitude. This meant exposing the monastic enclosure to imprints from the outside. These imprints ranged from the alterations made to the site so as to better accommodate visitors to votive gifts such as the Guise portrait. At the same time both pictures are firmly situated within a single universe which revolves around instruction, saintly emulation, discipline, prayer and love of God.
2.5 Prayer and discipline
Prayer pertains to the monk in his solitude, but it is also the core of the monastic obligation to the world. In this duality it is at the heart of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement. The royal historiographer Félibien contrives to praise the king and balance withdrawal and engagement in stressing that the monks at La Trappe are not concerned with conflict between princes, nor with the governance of the State; they are content to pray each day for the king and to raise their hands towards Heaven while he governs the people, which God has placed under his rule. Rancé employed prayer as his key argument when, in 1673, he sent Louis XIV his requeste on behalf of the Abstinent faction of the Cistercians. The abbot reminds the king that as long as “les Solitaires & les Moines” lived in the perfection of their state and according to the purity of their rule,
on les a consideré comme des Anges visibles & tutelaires des Monarchies. On les a vus deffendre des villes contre des armées nombreuses qui les attaquoient. Ils ont soutenu par le pouvoir qu’ils avoient auprés de Dieu, la grandeur & la fortune de l’Empire. Ils ont gagné les batailles, & remporté les victoires comme ils les avoient prophetisées: Et les Empereurs Chrestiens ont eu plus de confiance dans les prieres de ces grands Saints, que dans leur propre valeur, & dans la puissance de leurs armes.
If solitude is the guiding principle of Rancé’s relation to the world, prayer is the guiding principle of his bond to God: be that intercession, the communal liturgical prayers of the Office or the individual prayer which takes the shape of prière, oraison vocale and oraison mentale. Prayer is both means and end of monastic discipline; it redirects the devout from the world to God. Abiding by basic monastic principles formed by medieval devotional practices, life at La Trappe revolved around liturgical obligations, including the Mass and the Divine Office. The ritual system represented a symbolic order and positioned human life in salvation history; it set a framework for a varied array of experiences of transcendence which distanced man from the fallen world. The liturgical efficacy relied on a faceted application of artistic media, and music played a significant role as the conveyor of certain devotional experiences. Rancé formulated this understanding of music in his annotated translation of the Rule of Benedict. The work gives a detailed explication of the monastic norm to which La Trappe was bound, including a set of musico-theological reflections drafted in connection with the Rule’s chapter 19, “De disciplina psallendi”. In the liturgy God’s presence confronts man in an intensified manner; Rancé says of the monks’ praise that “il n’y a rien de plus grand sur la terre, ni par où les hommes imitent de plus prês ce qui se passe dans le ciel, que cet exercice divin”. Consequently sleepwalking through the monastic duty with faults and negligence is a serious offence. According to the Rule, concord between voice and mind is the proper response to this divine presence (19.17). Rancé stresses that the heart is the source of liturgical celebration. The singing of the “divins Cantiques” of the opus Dei is theologically charged. Already in ancient times, he states, these cantiques gave the monks the opportunity to anticipate the joys of the life to come already in this life. Against this background he urges a careful approach to the chant: this applies both to the singer’s mindset and to the reverence for tradition.
The Trappist veneration of Mary of Egypt falls into this liturgical context. The litanies, whether sung or spoken, were translated from the Greek by Rancé. They celebrate Mary in a catalogue of key motifs. She is an intercessor: “Sainte Marie, qui de pécheresse pleine d’orgeuil êtes devenuë une humble pénitente, priez pour nous. […] Sainte Marie, qui ne perdiez jamais le souvenir de la fragilité humaine […].” She has been found and retrieved from darkness by Christ and is thus a token of divine love: “Sainte Marie, brebi si long-temps égarée, & que le bon Pasteur a rapportée au troupeau […].” She is a model through her conversion: “Sainte Marie, qui avez eu le courage de penetrer jusqu’au plus profond des deserts, fortifiée du corps de Jesus-Christ […]. Sainte Marie, exemple & modelle des vrais penitens […]. Sainte Marie, dont le cœur s’est comme fondu tout en pleurs & en larmes […]. Sainte Marie, qui avez réjoüi les Anges & la cour celeste par vôtre conversion […].” Finally, she is a penitential ideal:
Sainte Marie, qui effaciez avec l’eau de vos larmes toutes les taches de vos pechez […]. Sainte Marie, qui, frappée de la crainte des jugemens de Dieu, vous teniez seule & cachée dans le desert, fuyant sa main vangeresse […]. Sainte Marie, qui choisîtes de vivre plutôt avec les animaux venimeux & les bêtes feroces, que de demeurer dans le monde […]. Sainte Marie, qui par la pluie continuelle de vos larmes éteigniez les traits enflammez de l’ennemi du salut […]. Sainte Marie, qui par la penitence êtes devenuë épouse de Jesus-Christ, priez pour nous.
The figure of Mary of Egypt encapsulates the desert asceticism cherished at La Trappe. She embodies withdrawal from the world, heart-felt penitence and self-surrendering love. Owing to her status Mme de Guise could not be a fully-fledged desert saint. Rancé urged her to withdraw from the world, but in a manner which made her visible to all. His Conduite chrétienne chimes in with the contemporary idea that discipline is an inherent element of devotion: the true religious life is a vie réglée and Rancé’s manual presents a lay counterpart to the monastic disciplina. Mme de Guise’s situation as a childless widow was ideal for redirection from the world to God. A woman bound to the world is fully occupied with her family, and it is almost impossible that her affections are not divided. But if this engagement ceases, nothing prevents her from giving herself to God and committing herself entirely to heavenly matters. With his Conduite chrétienne the abbot sought to shape the duchess as a chimerical societal solitaire. She had chapels in her homes, but he urges her to show herself in her parish church: “Il faut que V. A. R. se fasse voir dans tous les exercices de Religion autant qu’elle le pourra, aux Messes de Paroisse, aux Prônes […] afin que sa présence échauffe & anime la pieté de ceux qui en ont déja, & qu’elle l’inspire à ceux qui n’en ont point”. She is a model by virtue of her status in society. In Rancé’s view God does not require that she neglects this status, but her retreat must be visible in composure, dress and coiffure:
Dieu veut bien que vous conserviez la distinction qu’il vous a donnée, & que vous empêchiez qu’on ne l’oublie en la soutenant par un train & par des équipages qui conviennent à vôtre rang; mais il faut en retrancher le faste, la pompe, le luxe […]. La couleur de vos habits est déterminée par l’état de viduité dans lequel la divine Providence vous a mise; ils ne doivent être ni riches ni magnifiques, il suffit qu’ils soient propres. Pour la coëffure elle peut bien n’être pas comme on l’avoit il y a trente ans, parce que les manieres changent souvent en ces païs-cy, & qu’on seroit regardée comme une personne qui viendroit de l’autre monde.
Her withdrawal must also be visible in her administration. She must keep order among her servants, take care that they receive the necessary instruction, “qu’ils craignent Dieu, qu’ils le prient, établir pour cela une priere publique, à laquelle V. A. R. se trouvera elle même pour l’exemple,” in short, “[I]l faut qu’un Maître, ou une Maîtresse soit dans sa maison comme un Evêque dans son Eglise, & qu’il se donne tout entier pour faire que Dieu soit servy de ceux qu’il a mis sous son autorité.”
2.6 Sacrifice and love
Rancé demands of Mme de Guise a sacrifice no less radical than that of his monks, albeit on different conditions. He states that Christ has come to sever the bonds between the faithful and the world and adds, along Augustinian lines, that love of God must be the sole aim of any earthly relation. He shows her the dégagement required by those who aspire to the glory of serving Christ, how all their peace and happiness rests entirely in the fidelité with which they prefer his love to the love of creatures, “qu’il faut qu’elles luy en fassent un sacrifice, si elles veulent luy plaire; qu’elles peuvent en user, mais non pas les aimer; […] on y doit regarder Dieu, & luy rapporter comme à la seule & veritable fin tout ce que l’on a de sentimens, d’égards & de considerations pour elles.” Love of God is a prominent motif in the extant hymn for Mary of Egypt. Despite his epithet un autre Bernard, Rancé’s dominant nuptial image was not the lover of Song, but the discriminating spouse of Matt 25:6. The hymn does however strike the chord of bridal love:
Marie en ce moment part avec promtitude,
Va s’ensevelir vive en un profond desert,
Là son ancienne vie est un tissu de crime,
Que Dieu comme un tableau, lui tient devant les yeux,
D’un déluge de pleurs elle appaise les Cieux,
Sa douleur & ses cris lui servent de victimes.
O chaînes de mon corps, si pesantes à l’ame,
Rompez vous, laissez-moi jouïr de mon Epoux.
Colombe gémissante, est-il rien de si doux
Que de prendre ton vol vers l’objet de ta flamme?
The hymn adds poetic intensity to the emotional appeal of the litanies and even seems to corroborate the medial density of the chapel with its mention of the purging effect of the display of her old life “comme un tableau”. In order to understand its devotional charge we shall return to Rancé’s commentary to the Rule of Benedict and his reflections on the power of music. His exposition is in sympathy with a tradition rooted in Pagan and Christian Antiquity, but he also reveals a musical sensorium of his own. He begins by portraying the varied emotional or affective impact of chant on the soul: “Soyez persuadez, mes fréres, que les ames se laissent toucher par le chant; qu’il fait sur elles des impressions vives & puissantes; & que la voix selon sa nature, ses tons, ses qualitéz & ses caractéres y produit des expressions toutes différentes,” followed by a more personal note: “Il n’y a rien que l’expérience nous ait tant appris, […] sinon que la voix par ses airs, ses accens & ses diverses infléxions persuade l’esprit, remuë le cœur, & y forme des affections”. Rancé considers the sonorous dimension of articulation crucial for the success of communication. The most eloquent speech misses its effect without the careful modulations of the voice. He compares the speaker who lacks musical refinement to a statue without soul, virtue and vivacity (and we are reminded that these desirable qualities were to be found in the new statue of the virgin). The sonorous voice makes an impression on the listener’s soul owing to the inherent qualities of sound: “Les airs & les tons […] expriment quelque passion, quelque mouvement, quelque inclination: ils la portent en même temps & l’inspirent; & lorsqu’ils se font sentir, ils donnent, à ce que dit un Ancien, comme un coup à nos ames, & et ils s’y font une ouverture & une entrée.” Rancé’s exposition of the power of music rests on biblical and patristic viewpoints filtered through medieval and Early Modern musico-theological discourses. Music can evoke powerful affects such as fury, melancholy and joy, but also mental attitudes particularly necessary for the monk, such as devotional attention, “recueillement,” “compunction” and its contrast “dissipation”. He calls attention to the oft-quoted reflection from Basil the Great’s homily on the first Psalm: the Psalms were musicalized in order to overcome man’s inclination to pleasure and to further his reception of their message: borne by delicious tones their words would draw the heart of man. In Basil’s perspective the Psalms’ musico-poetical character establishes an inner affective harmony related to the Christian value of charity. Monastic chant is a principal devotional instrument which brings with it an as it were otherworldly ethos; the effect of music rests with its power over the emotions.
The vie of the converted criminal Dom Muce teaches us that he was often found in the chapel of Mary of Egypt, “prosterné la face contre terre, comme noyé dans l’eau de ses pleurs. C’estoit là où il se retiroit, pour repasser dans le sentiment d’une vive douleur, cette multitude de crimes qui composoient tout l’état de sa vie.” This view captures the relation between posture and devotional mindset as expressed in Georges’ explanation of the high altar-angels. More specifically it captures the liturgical intensity of the chapel of Mary of Egypt. The monk bathed in tears reflects the submissive penitence of the saint depicted on the altarpiece; he embodies the words of the litanies, the plaque and the hymn and is permeated by the pious affect which the music aims to evoke. The chapel of Mary of Egypt is a multi-medial field of tension; its composite power and transforming agency are displayed in Dom Muce’s prostrate figure.
Mme de Guise’s sacrifice of herself to God could never be the holocauste, the full offering, required of the monks. But she could aspire. In letting her husband and son die God had given her freedom. Now it was up to her to use it to unite herself to Christ. Rancé wrote several prayers for her. Casting herself in the mould of a properly penitential Mary Magdalene or even Mary of Egypt, the duchess was to pray: “Rendez toutes mes voyes dures, difficiles, & penibles; & s’il arrive de m’y arrêter un seul moment pour y cueillir des roses, faites que je n’y trouve que des épines”. She is to promise that she will give her heart “tout entier, & sans réserve, à vous, Seigneur qui serez pour jamais mon bonheur, mon repos, ma consolation, & ma vie.”
2.7 Concluding remarks
The edifices constructed at La Trappe in 1686 had three functions. On the one hand, they were to consolidate the abbey and Rancé’s reform, and commend both to the Cistercian visitor. On the other hand, they were to augment the desert asceticism of La Trappe and strengthen its profile as a place of withdrawal from the world. Finally they served to suit the abbey better to receive visitors. This triple function hints at the role of La Trappe at the intersection between withdrawal and engagement; a focus on Mary of Egypt and Mme de Guise brings with it additional perspectives on this dynamic, albeit in a glimpse. At a first glance Mary of Egypt and her radical isolation spell withdrawal; the desert penitent embodies the severe asceticism championed by Rancé. Similarly, at a first glance Mme de Guise with her female entourage and codes of etiquette spell engagement; she is a token of Rancé’s intense involvement with contemporary aristocratic society. But in Trappist hagiography Mary of Egypt’s chapel becomes a locus of conversion and thus points to the critical threshold between the world and the monastery. With equal complexity Mme de Guise’s errand at La Trappe was to participate in monastic withdrawal – that very isolation which seemed to be disrupted by her arrival. Finally the spirituality embodied by Mary of Egypt resonated in Rancé’s directions for the princess and his urging of penitential abstention from worldly carnality and self-surrendering love of God manifested in prayer. We have heard how, according to le Nain, Rancé wanted the altarpiece of Mary of Egypt to teach his monks to have no other desire than to unite themselves with Christ in all eternity. With his letters and devotional manual the abbot sought to extend exactly this message to Mme de Guise. The juxtaposition of the desert saint and the pious aristocrat shows how a rich devotional culture is engendered around withdrawal and engagement. The cult of Mary of Egypt gives rise to a chapel, an altarpiece, a table with inscription, litanies and hymns. Élisabeth de Guise’s devotion is shaped by texts and, away from La Trappe, music; it leaves a trace in the abbey in the form of her portrait and, like the other guests, she makes an imprint on the monastic precinct and its buildings. La Trappe is not known for a rich cultural output. But even within Rancé’s strict regime, music, image and statue become crucial instruments of ascetic transformation and spiritual aspiration – provided they display the proper simplicité.
3 La Maison Royale de Saint Louis, St Cyr
3.1 Pendant portraits
In 1690 a portrait of Louis XIV was hung in the assembly room of La Maison Royale de Saint Louis (hereafter St Cyr). This house was established in 1686 on the instigation of the king and his morganatic wife Madame de Maintenon, with the aim of educating young daughters of impoverished noble families. Situated in the small village of St Cyr in the diocese of Chartres and some five kilometres from Versailles, the house was inhabited by 250 girls and 36 Dames de Saint Louis, an order created specifically for the relatively insular and withdrawn space of St Cyr. The portrait by Nicolas René Jollain the Elder, peintre du roi (1661–1715), depicts Louis XIV over life-size and in full state, pointing with open hand to a table bearing a crown and the plan of the royal house, designating him as the royal founder (Figure 6). Placed to the right of the fireplace, the portrait of the king was created as a pendant to a portrait by Louis Ferdinand Elle the Elder (1612–89), which hung on the left side (Figure 7). This portrait represents Maintenon in a black dress and together with her niece. In the background appears the building of St Cyr (Figure 8).
3.2 A royal construction
At first sight, these two magnificent portraits simply represent the founders with an accent on worldly display. Yet as we shall see they formed part of a setting that reflected the complex nature of the institution at St Cyr and its specific ethos of withdrawal. The edification of impoverished noble daughters, spearheaded by Mme de Maintenon, was initially to be a religious engagement independent of the papacy. Les Dames de Saint Louis were to take the three monastic vows of chastity, poverty and obedience, and to these vows a fourth vow of education was added. In a word, this royal house was organized like a monastic space. But at the same time, the house was, before 30 September 1692,not a regulated house. In 1690, when the king’s portrait was hung, the 250 noble girls and the 36 Dames de Saint Louis were not cast in the mould of a traditional monastic model of withdrawal.
The house was constructed in 1685–86 under the direction of le Premier architecte du Roi, Jules Hardouin-Mansart (1646–1708). His design was based on the ideas of Mme de Maintenon, and it was completed in the breathtakingly short period of fifteen months. As in the case of the palace of Versailles, this was made possible by the employment of legions of workers; more than 2,500 men were hired and amongst them troops of the army. The complex itself had extraordinary dimensions, following a plan in the shape of a grid with courtyards on either side of the cour d’honneur (Figure 9). Apart from its sheer scale and Baroque sense of symmetry, the exterior of the edifice was deliberately kept sober and sparsely decorated.
In ensuring the financial stability of the house, Louis XIV added the manse of the vacant abbey of Saint-Denis. Such a transfer of the mense abbatiale was not unusual, but in the context of l’affaire de la régale, and only a few years after the déclaration des quatre articles (1682), this was an act of political importance. In response to the four articles and their affirmation of the universality of the king’s jurisdiction, the papacy began to grant provision only to men of proper doctrine – that is, to those who had not supported the signing of the articles or had dared to speak against them. This meant an almost complete suspension of papal provisions from 1684 until 1693. In departing from the monastic model of withdrawal, St Cyr was thus linked to the political space of conflict between Rome and Versailles, and to the French crown’s attempt, after the Dutch War (1672–78), to define an autonomous space of juridical legislation.
3.3 The noble household
The withdrawn space at St Cyr was thus part of the political landscape of France itself. By 1700 the French population was roughly around 19 million. Out of this total, 260,000 made up the nobility. This small proportion – less than 1.5% of the population – controlled the property and wealth of the entire nation. The relation between this subset of society and the king was ambiguous. On the one hand, the king represented the corpus politicum, and as such he had the power to regulate the kingdom and its nobility. At the same time he was le premier gentilhomme; he above all embodied the nobility, their system of values and was naturally tied to them. So although Louis had absolute authority (no institutional body could impose limitation upon him), his power was circumscribed – by religion, by conscience, by the fundamental laws of the kingdom and, effectively and decisively, by his relation to the nobility.
In our understanding, the royal house at St Cyr was a site for social collaboration between the absolute centre, as represented in the king’s portrait, and the noble periphery. In order to make this argument, we must view St Cyr as a space of transmission. Transmission is here to be understood as the ways in which socially relevant norms are produced and reproduced in praxis. One basic example of such transmission is the threshold for admission to St Cyr, which was to wit a documented noble bloodline through a minimum of four generations. By establishing La Maison Royale de Saint Louis, the king was granting benefit to a specific stratum of the nobility: and by this act, the outside societal structure was closely connected to the withdrawn space. The nobility of the girls, then, was much more than simply an internal criterion of admission. It was an external threshold signalled to the outside world and thus functioning in the reproduction of outside societal structures. The space of withdrawal at St Cyr, designed for the daughters of the impoverished nobility, was part and parcel of its outside world. As a site of transmission, the noble institution at St Cyr partook in an all-embracing cultural pattern where social differentiations were produced and reproduced around the symbolic ascription of value to blood.
Another example of this transmission is to be found in the library of les Dames de Saint Louis, which had a comparatively large collection of books on history. Viewed in the light of the institution’s close ties to the king, this is unsurprising. Under the reign of Louis XIV historiography flourished. Not least Jean-Baptiste Colbert (1619–83) has been credited with the revitalization of the royal memory industry and its various institutions. In this revitalization, the history of France and the history of its king came to be indistinguishable. Peace in the kingdom was not only dependent upon the king and his independence from the rest of the kingdom. The king’s independence from any external power was equally the very condition for peace. Writing the history of Louis XIV and, subsequently, teaching it became an important enterprise, which aimed at representing and glorifying the dynasty. Nor was the enterprise confined to books. At St Cyr, maps also seem to have been of educational importance; they made the stability of the kingdom visible in a chronological and geographical sense. This was made possible by representing the borders of the kingdom, by visualizing important historical events and thus underlining the heraldic independence of the Hexagon.
The girls educated at St Cyr that did not enter into the life of monastic withdrawal became wives and mothers in noble households. As such, they would, far away from Versailles and the visibility of the king’s gloire, reproduce the virtues and customs taught at St Cyr. Thus the girls of St Cyr became a collective transitional site for royal historiography. Like the royal medal, the noble female, upon her return to the world, constituted a living and present memory detached from the king’s presence. The inscription of history into the noble household, by way of the noble female body and its educational function in the noble households, made, in principle, for a perpetual transmission of royal authority.
Like no other educational site in Early Modern France, St Cyr stands out as having ties to the king and to Versailles. On different occasions these ties became a challenge to the house, but it remained a royal foundation until its suppression in 1793. From all over France noble families applied to have their daughters educated there, even though the educational model favoured by the nobility in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries was that of domestic tuition. Although the girls instructed at St Cyr evidently differed from this model, the principal function of the institution nonetheless depended upon its normative status; this made possible the inscription of St Cyr’s educational programme into the very heart of noble households. In this, the withdrawn space connected itself to noble households all over Early Modern France.
3.4 Mignard’s chimneypiece: a humbled king?
It must be noted here that many applicants to St Cyr came from noble families, in which the father or other male family members had a military background. A specific model for nobility thus seems to be in play at St Cyr. The royal house was built for the education of girls who belonged to the impoverished nobility and whose families had ties to the French military. By 1693, the army of Louis XIV was the largest organized military force in Europe. On paper it counted 400,000 men; in reality it probably stood closer to 320,000. This body of soldiers constituted a semi-autonomous entity in the country, which became a driving force for societal changes. The implementation of the model for nobility at St Cyr was, in effect, the result of the growth of the military and its impact on the king’s relation to the nobility.
With this military connection in mind, let us return to the pendant portraits of Louis and Mme de Maintenon in the assembly room of the royal house. When both portraits had been installed on either side of the fireplace, Maintenon commissioned her old friend Pierre Mignard (1612–95) to paint a piece (138 cm × 163.5 cm) for the chimney that separated them. This painting was conceived in close relation to the two portraits, to their position and to the function of the house. In Mignard’s Christ between soldiers (Figure 10), the figure of Christ is presented to the viewer by Pilate’s soldiers, who mock him as Rex Iudeorum. The three coarse soldiers in shining armour bear a lance, a halberd and a scourge. While Christ holds a reed in his cuffed hands by way of a sceptre, the soldiers have put a purple cloak around his nude torso. Blood trickles down his temples from the wounds of the crown of thorns, while he looks towards heaven.
According to the Gospels, the mocking of Christ took place in Pilate’s common hall or praetorium. In this way Mignard’s painting maps the biblical space onto the assembly room of St Cyr, where the Dames de Saint Louis gathered (Figure 9, marked X). Chimneypieces often illustrated moral lessons, explained by a Latin verse. In this case, a second, oval, version of Mignard’s Christ between soldiers, lacking the three Roman soldiers, hung in the avant-chœur of the church. This version of the painting was engraved by Nicolas Bazin, and dedicated to Maintenon by Mignard. Below the image a Latin text was engraved, which translates: “The purple cloth of Princes may never vie with the bloodied cloth of Christ, sceptres must yield to marsh-rushes, the diadem to the crown of thorns.”
This can be seen in the light of the political and military enterprises of the king. In the original piece, the soldier on the right looks directly at the viewer, involving her in the drama depicted. Occupying the space between Louis and Christ, he bears a lance and wears an orange scarf around his waist. The stern soldier, the colouring of his scarf and the text in the engraving probably refer to the house of Orange-Nassau and, specifically, to William III of Orange, King of England. The Nine Years War (1688–97) saw Louis face off with a European coalition, led by the Holy Roman Emperor Leopold I, Charles II of Spain, Victor Amadeus II of Savoy and the Stadhouder-King William III. In this context, the chimneypiece directly connects to and comments upon an overall political situation.
This connection points to the basic function of Saint-Cyr as a royal house of charity to the daughters of the military and as a site for virginal prayers for the king and his military successes. But Mignard’s chimneypiece may also be interpreted along different lines. Although made at the request of the ladies, the pendant portraits of Maintenon and Louis could be looked upon as examples of pride and vanity; the over life-size portrait of the king might even be seen as its own “mocking of Christ”. The addition of Mignard’s Christ between soldiers intervenes and disrupts such interpretations. It promotes humility and points, implicitly, to the fact that not only princes, but also “the king must yield to Christ”. But how is this tension between the humility of the figure of Christ and the grandeur of the portrait of the king to be understood?
3.5 Between taste and transcendence
This question can be developed in regard to the ritual setting of St Cyr. From its foundation, the devotional praxis formed a structural constituent of the institution’s everyday life. The liturgy was, basically, a daily devotional exercise that transmitted an experience of otherworldliness within the orthodox space of the Church. On a visible and an audible level, the liturgical order was a collective vehicle for any individual access to God. But the liturgical order was also, in the case of St Cyr, closely connected to the overall function of the house and its relation to Versailles. From the outset the composer and musician Guillaume Gabriel Nivers (1632–1714) was associated with St Cyr. This was a major figure in French seventeenth-century musical culture. He was an organist at St Sulpice and was attached to the court of Louis XIV as “Chantre” of the “Chapelle du roi” (1667), “Organiste du roi” (1678) and as “Maître de musique de la reine” (1681–83). His employment at St Cyr is a continuation of his duties at court and thus underlines the royal status of the withdrawn institution.
Nivers was deeply involved in the Catholic reform movement and its revival of the Gregorian plainchant tradition. Apart from organ music his oeuvre consists mainly of sacred vocal music much influenced by Gregorian plainchant. He further published theoretical works, for instance the Dissertation sur le chant grégorien, and edited numerous volumes of liturgical books, such as the Graduale Romanum (Paris: Ballard, 1697) and [Offices divins] [à l’usage des dames & demoiselles établies par sa majesté à Saint-Cyr dressez selon l’usage romain, conformément au chant d’Église disposé par le sieur Nivers] . Even though Nivers also produced “musique figurée” for St Cyr, the regularly performed liturgical music was plainchant. His approach to the chant, however, represents a notable development of this ancient art form. He disposed of a varied register of stylistic features and was fully aware of the pronunciation of the text. For this reason the texture of the received Gregorian tradition was simplified or modified in several respects.
But at the same time Nivers introduced various devices, including leading notes, elements of ornamentation and freedom in the rhythmic display and in the musical articulation of the text. To some extent this mirrors contemporary French trends in musical culture and taste. Thus his respect for the ecclesiastical music tradition and its ideal of “bienséance” (decorum) was moderated by a strong sense of “bon goût” and the aim of creating an authentic musical expression. This attitude implied a combination of fidelity towards sacred musical tradition and flexibility in relation to the circumstances and the occasion of the performance. In general this led to a musical aesthetics characterized by sobriety and gravity in line with Gregorian tradition as well as with an elegance, which indicates adaptation to more mundane sensibilities.
3.5.1 The dangers of music
In Nivers the chant represents a sophisticated interaction between withdrawal and engagement, which accompanied many liturgical events at St Cyr. The musical quality can thus be considered the result of a compositional strategy that aims to mediate expressions of transcendental experiences in concrete settings. In this context the concept goût becomes ambiguous. It relates to what we might call worldly aesthetic attitudes, but at the same time it points to a spiritual appropriation of the religious content of the chant. In the context of St Cyr, Nivers’ music caused critical reaction on several occasions. In one letter Mme de Maintenon takes up the principles relating to music and singing and, aware of deviations from her ideals, she calls the attention of the maîtresse de choeur back to the idea of simplicity:
Il faut, ma chère sœur, songer à détruire peu à peu ce que nous avons fait de trop, sur la musique, et nous remettre dans la simplicité qui vous est recommandée dans les Constitutions dans les Règlements et dans l’Esprit de l’Institut. Votre but doit être de vous éloigner en toute manière du monde et de conduire les Demoiselles à la véritable et solide piété. Il vous est marqué de ne rien faire pour attirer dans votre église les gens du dehors, qui devraient aller à leur paroisse. La musique a ses dangers, comme les autres agréments personnels; servons-nous donc simplement des voix qui seront dans la maison pour chanter dévotement les louanges de Dieu. Il seroit utile de faire entendre aux filles les paroles qu’elles disent, en latin, que de choisir des tons touchans et délicieux; ils ne portent à Dieu que ceux qui y sont déjà et font des effets différents à ceux qui sont mal disposés. […] Après tout, l’inconvénient de chanter un peu moins bien n’approche pas de ceux qui se trouveraient dans le goût de la musique. Soyons simples en tout, mes chères Filles, et que notre unique but soit de plaire à Dieu, sans songer à plaire aux autres ni à nous-mêmes.
Two days before this letter was written, 23 November 1695, Mme de Laigai, Mme de la Bousière, Mme de Glapion and Mme de la Haye professed their solemn vows. On this occasion Nivers’ Adjuro vos, filiae Jerusalem was performed. This piece was originally written for the very first profession of solemn vows at St Cyr on 11 December 1693. The profession in 1695 thus mimics the first occasion and, accordingly, reenacts an event closely associated with the reform of the royal house. On the one hand, Maintenon connects the dangers of music (and maybe specifically of the theme of this piece) to the relations between the outside world and the withdrawn space. The concept of simplicity hinges on the prescriptive texts and the way in which they delimit a space that is not contaminated by the outside. On the other hand, music makes for a danger in the individual’s relationship to God; the mouth is a medium for the praise of God and not for the praise of others or of the self. In this regard, simplicity signifies a devotional relation between the individual and God. The relation to the world and the relation to the other were closely connected in the spiritual landscape of St Cyr in the early 1690s.
3.6 A space of transition
In a number of letters and small fragments of letters, written in 1689 and at the beginning of 1690, François de Salignac de la Mothe-Fénelon (1651–1715) exhorted Mme de Maintenon to secure the king’s salvation and to redeem the shortcomings of his reign. Maintenon was to make sure that the court was frequented by the right counsellors and that the Church had none but devout prelates. Although Fénelon was never officially made Maintenon’s director of conscience, he influenced her up until 1694–95. He also functioned, from 1690, as spiritual director to les Dames de Saint Louis.
In this last capacity, on 1 March 1692, Fénelon delivered his Discours sur les Principaux Devoirs et Les Avantages de la vie Religieuse. This discourse comprises three sections. The first deals with withdrawal from the world, while the second and third sections deal concretely with the vows professed by les Dames de Saint Louis and, in this particular case, by Mme de La Maisonfort. The second section thus enlarges on poverty, chastity and obedience – that is, the religious engagements of a life in withdrawal. In the third section the vow “d’élever de jeunes demoiselles” and its implicit engagement with the world is discussed. The liturgical event of professing vows thus made possible an interpretation of withdrawal and engagement; the event constituted a transitional space, in which an individual moved herself from the world to a space within the world, but not of the world.
3.7 Poverty and self-renunciation
In regard to poverty, Fénelon cross-reads Luke 6:20 and Matt 5:3: “Bienheureux les pauvres! dit-il [l’Evangile]. Ailleurs il est dit: Bienheureux les pauvres d’esprit! mais c’est la même chose; c’est-à-dire, bienheureux ceux qui sont pauvres par l’esprit, par la volonté, par le mépris des fausses richesses, par le renoncement à tout bien créé, à tout talent naturel, au trésor même le plus intime et dont on est le plus jaloux; je veux dire, sa propre sagesse et son propre esprit!” The vow of poverty is thus interpreted as a promise to God “d’entrer dans cet état de nudité et de renoncement”, and in this state we are given “des cœurs nouveaux […] des cœurs ennemis de la propriété, des cœurs qui mettent leur joie à se détacher et à se priver de plus en plus, comme les cœurs ambitieux et avares du monde s’accoutument de plus en plus à étendre leurs désirs et leurs possessions […].” In short, together with the other undertakings, the promise to live in poverty grants the individual an opportunity to live in liberation from the world. This liberation does not negate the exterior praxis of poverty. Life in withdrawal is based upon an interior state, but this interior state does not render exterior acts worthless. Rather it is the interior state that safeguards exterior actions from becoming worldly actions. In the context of Mme de La Maisonfort’s profession of vows, Fénelon attempts to combine the exterior logic of monastic discipline (the profession of vows) with a specific logic of interiorization.
Ô douce paix! Ô heureuse abnégation de soi-même! Ô liberté des enfants de Dieu, qui vont, comme Abraham, sans savoir où. Ô pauvreté d’esprit, par laquelle on se dépouille de sa propre sagesse et de sa propre volonté, comme on se dépouille de son argent et de son patrimoine! Par là tous les vœux pris dans leurs vraies perfections se réunissent. La même pureté d’amour, qui fait qu’on se renonce soi-même sans réserve, rend l’âme vierge aussi bien que le corps, appauvrit l’homme jusqu’à lui ôter ses volontés, enfin le met dans une désappropriation de lui-même où il n’a plus de quoi se conduire, et où il ne sait plus que se laisser conduire par autrui.
Throughout his discourse Fénelon insists upon the continuity between interior states and exterior actions; and this continuity is connected to the possibility of performing a pure act of devotion. This purity is not, for Fénelon, to be confused with a rigorous state. Rather the pure love of God, which is the premise for withdrawal, constitutes a liberated, peaceful and sweet life cut off from the trials and tribulations of the world.
It is thus in an act of complete self-renunciation that man truly submits to God and withdraws from the world. To withdraw from and to engage in the world, these notions are, to Fénelon, circumscribed by an absolute act of self-annihilation. The space at St Cyr can uphold a non-worldly relation to the world only because all individuals in that community remain detached from and uninterested in the world. This detached relation has a dual focus: “Vous arroserez, vous redresserez, vous ferez croître et fleurir ces jeunes plantes, dont les fruits se répandront ensuite dans tout le royaume. Vous formerez de saintes vierges qui répandront dans les cloîtres les doux parfums de Jésus-Christ. Vous formerez de pieuses mères de famille qui seront des sources de bénédictions pour leurs enfants et qui renouvelleront l’Église.” This duality connects St Cyr to the monastic and to the domestic space at once, and it is this connection that is the fruit of withdrawal from the world.
The pendant portraits at St Cyr and Mignard’s chimneypiece in-between point to two interrelated perspectives. The founder portraits underline the royal nature of the institution – that is, the specific ethos of withdrawal at St Cyr. The focus on Louis XIV and Mme de Maintenon underlines how the withdrawn space was connected to Versailles and the social collaboration between the absolute centre and the noble periphery in Early Modern France. The isolated educational space functioned, in principle, as a way to disseminate a specific system of values to noble households. This dissemination was carried out through a variety of media. The educated body was the locus of a connection between the monastic and the domestic space, and as a consequence the lines between withdrawal and engagement seem blurred. Without disrupting these blurred lines, Mignard’s chimneypiece calibrates the effect of the pictorial assemblage. The figure of Christ creates an implicit tension: how to balance the royal setting of the house, and its function in the world, with a spirituality of otherworldliness? Several attempts at this came dangerously close to subverting the relation between ordered discipline and the individual space of experience. It is this dynamic between withdrawal and engagement – between inscription of royal historiography and self-sacrifice – that is constantly negotiated at St Cyr.
4 The Francke Foundations: schools
4.1 Signs on a Waisenhaus
On 13 July 1698, the Waisenhaus and heart of the Francke Foundations was founded. Not only did it consolidate an initiative taken three years earlier to employ theological students to teach children from all parts of society, it also became the cornerstone of a reform programme. At the end of 1698, August Hermann Francke (1663–1727) outlined the developments since 1695 and rounded it off with: “Insgesammt sind in dem ganzen Informations=Werck 27 Classes, und der Kinder insgesammt etwa 500. ACH HERR, HILFF! ACH HERR LAß WOHL GELINGEN!” The same year that the building of the Waisenhaus was begun, Friedrich III of Brandenburg-Prussia (1657–1713), granted Francke privileges which referred to the Francke Foundations as an annex of the newly founded University. The privileges gave Francke exemption from taxes and permission to run an apothecary shop, a printing press and a bookshop. The support of the Prussian monarch meant that Francke could, and at times indeed did, ignore local authorities. The Francke Foundations formed an enclave placed in Glaucha, institutionally affiliated with Halle in the Duchy of Magdeburg, but formally governed from Berlin. Thanks to privileges from Berlin and financial support from the nobility, Francke could build a little world of schools in the midst of, yet secluded from, the surrounding society. The symbol of the eagle gives compelling visual expression to withdrawal and engagement at the Francke Foundations. On books printed in the Waisenhaus Press, on bottles and flacons from the apothecary’s shop, the eagle is one of the indicators of the interrelation between the institutions and their goal of being an agency of change. As a matter of fact, the Waisenhaus itself was adorned with eagles.
Between 1698 and 1700, an impressive building was constructed to house the three main functions of school, bookshop, and apothecary’s shop. For a Waisenhaus of the period, the building was of unusually large dimensions, even before the later extensions were added. Rising up four storeys, two of them under a novel and practical mansard roof, the first two levels form a stern, rusticated socle for the remaining two, which are conceived together according to tightly-knit proportions, based on a horizontal and vertical division into three equal parts (Figure 11). Double stairs lead up to the entry porch on the first floor, where the apothecary shop and the bookstore were located on either side of a central hall. Although Francke claimed to have avoided any kind of unnecessary ornament, considered as “Üppigkeit” by Pietists, the design follows classical examples of stately architecture, reminiscent of palaces and such public buildings as city halls. As usually in classical architecture, the middle of the façade is articulated by an avant-corps (German: Risalit) of five bays, though hardly protruding, crowned by a pediment with an ornamental tympanum. It symmetrically emphasizes the most prominent, central part of the building and its entrance, providing focus for the gaze of the viewer. Here pride of place was usually reserved for a heraldic device of the proprietor. On the plain façade of the Waisenhaus, the tympanum is singled out for the conspicuous use of ornament in the form of painted relief sculpture of an emblematic nature (Figure 12). The lower part of the tympanum relief shows a blue banderol bearing a gilded verse from scripture (Is 40:31) which is surmounted by two brown eagles on a light blue background gazing towards a golden sun, which emits golden rays from the top corner of the pediment. The two eagles fill up the narrow triangular space of the tympanum with their spread wings, yet it is unclear whether they carry the banderol while flying, or perch on top of it.
It has been suggested that the relief foreshadows the reign of Friedrich III, Elector of Brandenburg, anticipating his elevation to the rank of King in Prussia in 1701. His patronage of the Francke Foundations and founding of the University of Halle, of which they formed part, would certainly warrant such a heraldic display on the building. In various prints from Halle issued after Francke’s death, the Prussian eagle is depicted with its heraldic attributes the sceptre and sword (signs of Electoral dignity) or the palm and olive branch (impresa of Friedrich’s son Friedrich Wilhelm I). It is not our purpose here to discuss this matter in detail; suffice it to say that the eagles in the tympanum bear no attributes at all, but cling to the word of Isaiah 40:31.
In the local context of Glaucha, where Francke had his vicarage, the tympanum may also have been perceived in reference to the former public tavern “Zum güldenen Adler”. By replacing the pub conspicuously and provocatively with the Waisenhaus and its eagles, while retaining the eagle-sign of the pub as decoration (Figure 13), Francke emphasized a narrative of conversion, rebirth and awakening. The simultaneous allusion to the Prussian eagle may have placed this narrative in an encomiastic framework highlighting the transformative role of the Elector-King’s patronage. Yet understood in Pietistic terms this act of patronage has no merit, as all the glory goes to God whose mercy we are to accept passively and “with Gelassenheit”. Although the hierarchy between worldly and providential support of the Waisenhaus is clear, the different means of support do not exclude each other. This is clear in Francke’s theologically stylized account in the Fußstapfen and manifested in the bulla of the Königlichen Freitische zu Halle, on which we find an eagle with a crown on its head flying towards the sun (Figure 14). The eagle is depicted together with a sower. The fusing of the eagle motif with the biblical allusion to the sower signals the royal patronage of the nursing activities of the Freitisch.
The façade of the Waisenhaus is an outstanding example of the Pietistic instrumentalization of art and architecture: expressly not to please the eye, but to bring across an idea or series of ideas. The formal conventions of classical architecture, reduced to a bare minimum, help to put the spotlight on the eagles and the text they bear. Replacing the expected heraldry, they “herald” the comforting and encouraging message of Isaiah 40:31 in an emblematic way: image and text explain and illuminate one another and provide multiple possible readings.
4.2 Signs inscribed on hearts
Just as the items issuing from the Waisenhaus were branded with the eagle motif, the symbolic meaning of the eagle was also to be inscribed in the heart of the pupils. Life in Francke’s world of schools was planned in great detail and involved particular curricula, examinations, catechism as well as instruction in conduct, conversation and table manners and the like. The dense daily programme was an important means of resisting idleness. Equally important was the ability to patiently wait for God to act and to know when to be guided by divine providence. This particular attitude is summed up in the eagle motif in the Waisenhaus tympanum viewed in the light of Francke’s exegesis of Is 40:31 and in the term Gelassenheit. The triumvirate of eagle, Is 40:31 and Gelassenheit comprises means as well as ends for the ambition of combating the corruption of society by means of schooling.
The concept of Gelassenheit is difficult to translate and has a long and complicated history. To our mind, it is more rewarding to investigate Francke’s appropriation of a term, which indubitably was in flux, than to point out specific origins. Francke knew or could have known Gelassenheit from Tauler, Seuse, Luther, Melanchton, Weigel, Arndt, Christian Hoburg (1607–75) or Ahasverus Fritsch (1629–1701). What matters is how Francke applied the term. As we shall see, for him Gelassenheit involves a divine enablement of human malleability, God as causative factor and man as forgeable subject and object. We shall traverse different texts and media which shed light on the link between eagles, Is 40:31 and Gelassenheit; a trio which comprises pedagogical and theological efforts important to the reform movement in Halle.
New Year’s Speech (1717)
Emblem illo-splendente-levabor (ca. 1699)
Funeral Sermon (1703)
Psalms by Francke, Neander and Dessler
4.2.1 Flying, running, walking
When Francke considers the comparison “like eagle wings” in Is 40:31, he notices the peculiar development from flying to running and onwards to walking. We would normally think of it in the opposite order: first you walk, then you run and then you fly. The reason why flying –“Aufschwingung zu GOtt” (Speech, 36) – comes first has to do with a feeling of relief from twinges of doubt (Speech, 32–34), which Francke compares to “kindlicher Zuversicht” (Speech, 34–35). After “Aufschwingung zu GOtt” or “Adlersflug” follow joyfulness (“Freudigkeit”) and a steady lifestyle (“beständigen Wandel”) (Speech, 36). Flying, running and walking correspond to “kindlicher Zuversicht”, “Freudigkeit” and “beständigen Wandel”; all effects (“Wirkungen”) given by God and affective states within the believer. Francke is equally interested in what man must do, namely wait with patience: “Denn dieses, wie wir gehört haben, ist die eigentliche und rechte Art des Glaubens: Warten und harren, hoffen und geduldig seyn, vergnügt und zufrieden seyn in und mit allem, wie es GOtt schicket und füget.” (Speech, 37–38). Francke applies Gelassenheit as another term for this. He who walks in faith, progresses “mit stiller Gelassenheit” (Speech, 37). To walk “mit stiller Gelassenheit” is no easy exercise. One must daily be a follower of Christ and “Christi Weg nach dem Himmel war der Weg des Creutzes” (Speech, 42). To follow Christ is a matter of the daily exercise of Christian faith (“Ausübung unsers Christenthums”). In order to do this properly, one must take a leap of faith and, ahead of this, a fair “Zulauf” (Speech, 49). But not everybody knows how to do this. The repentant heart (“bussfertiges Hertz”) does, but the brute world-man (“rohe Welt Mensch”) does not (Speech, 54–55). To the latter, the Gospel is like sweet music for a deaf person; to the former it is a revealed treasure. For the repentant soul there is no longer a curse of the law, no anger of God, no sadness, but only joyfulness, no fear of death, hell or judgement because he is a child of God (“Kind GOttes”) (Speech, 58). Only when such a “joyful state of a repentant sinner” is achieved can we talk about having the wings of eagles and be on the way towards heaven (Speech, 59). But this is no permanent condition (“nicht allemal bleibet und dauert”); times of “traurige und betrübte Stunden” will occur (Speech, 60–61). Francke points out that even when heaven and earth come to an end, one must take comfort in God (Speech, 62). To progress “mit stiller Gelassenheit” effectively means to be placed in an eschatologically charged position in which eagles’ wings are granted temporarily. Francke pushes towards a point which seems contradictive. The wings indicate at once a relief from twinges of doubt and an almost impossible achievement. His exegesis highlights two positions: “neue Kraft” and “harren,” corresponding to the roles of God and man. God gives renewed strength while man patiently waits for God to act. The relation is not simply a matter of giver and receiver, active and passive. The question of agency is more complex.
4.2.2 Cultivation and sustainability
The emblem used on the impresa for the Waisenhaus Press is in this regard highly instructive (Figure 15). There are numerous variations of the emblem, but they always show a sower in a rural landscape with an eagle or two eagles soaring towards the sun and the Latin inscription Illo splendente levabor – “by his shining shall I be lifted up”. The apparent question is, who is the “I” in levabor? Does it refer to the sower, the seed or the eagle? The rays of the sun enable plants to grow as well as eagles to soar. This corresponds to the double function of the Waisenhaus, namely to educate teachers and children (seedlings) in the schools at the Foundations, as well as to motivate Christian souls (eagles) to strive for salvation. The adverbial construction, illo splendente, should be interpreted instrumentally with an emphasis on human subjectivity in light of divine enablement. Subjects rise thanks to God’s interference. The enabled subject is at once an object for divine enablement and a subject in the sense that it partakes of cultivation. The “illo splendente levabor” thus conveys the idea of a cultivation of cultivated or empowered cultivators. On a continuum with this idea, Francke applies the term Gelassenheit and understands God as the causative factor and man – “the repentant soul” – as the calm subject/object. Gelassenheit thus negotiates a delicate problem in Protestant theology, namely sustainability in faith. Consider how neatly faith and growth are shaped and transposed by a divine enablement of human malleability: “Gott lässet die Flügel des Glaubens wachsen, mit welchen man wie ein Adler hinauf zu ihm in die Höhe schwingen kan, und die Füsse bekommen solche Stärcke, daß man ohnabgemattet und unermüdet sein hurtig und beständig in den Wegen GOttes fortlaufen und wandeln kan” (Speech, 53–54). God makes the upsurge possible. He is the causative factor who lets “wings grow out on man”.
4.2.3 Carried on shoulders
The link between Is 40:31 and Gelassenheit occurred much earlier than 1717. In a sermon in July 1698, read three days before the first stone was laid for the Waisenhaus, Francke equated the eagle of Is 40:31 with the lost sheep of the parable in Luk 15:1–10. In a long passage on sin and the awareness of sin, Francke arrives at how the soul can be eased. Again the procedure runs its course: wounds must be cleansed before they can be healed. Consider how he admonishes his listeners by identifying them as sinners incapable of doing good and thus fully reliant on the help of Christ: “Sehet, meine Allerliebsten, Kraft zu sündigen habt ihr leider wol von Natur; aber die Kraft Gutes zu thun habt ihr nicht. Aber höret ihr wol, Christus will euch auf seine Achseln nehmen, er will euch tragen, und Kraft geben, nach dem 40. Cap. Des Propheten Esaiä v.29. 31 […]” (Hertz, 124). The scripture verse offers relief from the burden of sins. It is worth noticing how Francke applies the term Gelassenheit to the state of the lost-but-now-found sheep. It can do nothing by itself in order to be found, and must rely entirely on Jesus. Francke furthermore considers Gelassenheit to be “a true life in faith” and “a great secret of Christianity” (Hertz, 125). The believer must let himself be carried on shoulders like a lost sheep. At the end of the sermon, the theme of Wachsthum and sustainability in faith is stressed. Various positions are forged into one. “Gushing out of living water” and a realized eschatology evident in the believer (“die Kräfte der zukünftigen Welt”) are enacted by “zu JEsu fliehen, und ein kindliches, süsses Vertrauen zu ihm fassen” (Hertz, 129). The Christian subject has to be skilled and schooled in the ability to “harren” and to let himself be handled, guided, treated and carried.
Francke built a world of schools in which Gelassenheit was taught as both means and end for theological and pedagogical sensitivity. The motif of eagles flying towards the sun is central to this programme. From a theological perspective, the eagle alludes to rebirth through baptism and Christ’s ascension. The sun-flight motif furthermore emphasizes the symbolic meaning of rejuvenation, which is prominent in Is 40:31 and Ps 103:5. Legend has it that the eagle is the only animal which can face the sun without being blinded. Moreover, some versions of the legend emphasize that the eagle tests its young by flying towards the sun. If it does not manage to face it, it is rejected. Francke has an noteworthy comment on the sun-flight motif. At the end of 1698 he assures the Glaucha parishioners that God can turn them into eagles. In the sermon, he explicitly equates Johann Arndt (1555–1621) with an eagle by way of an example:
Ich stelle euch billig zum Exempel vor den seeligen Johann Arnd, welcher nicht allein in seinem Leben die Herrlichkeit und Klarheit CHristi erkannt hat; wie seine herrliche Schriften davon zeugen; sondern GOtt hat ihm auf seinem Tod-Bette die Gnade und Barmhertzigkeit erzeiget, daß er mit grosser Freudigkeit ausgerufen und gesaget: Und wir sahen seine Herrlichkeit, eine Herrlichkeit, als des eingebohrnen Sohnes vom Vater! Ach! der liebe GOtt will euch auch gern zu solchem Arenden oder Adler machen, die also in die helle Sonne der Gnaden fliegen und dieselbe anblicken könne, so ihr euch selbst nur nicht vor dem Lichte verberget.
These words were spoken in the church of Glaucha. Meanwhile a huge building was going up a couple of hundred metres away on which the eagle motif would feature prominently. Would the cultivation of Arndts and eagles not have better circumstances here than in the church? In the preface to the collected SFA sermons Francke admits that his ambition is to cover all possible subjects “efficiently, humbly and simplistically”. The apparent contradiction between efficient and simple can be taken as an acknowledgement of the challenge pertaining to such a vertiginous endeavour. But it is also a recognition of the fact that his addressees are a varied group of both “schooled eagles” and “simple doves”. Francke makes his point clear with a quotation from Augustine, “patiantur aquilae, dum pascuntur columbae” – the high-flying eagles must patiently submit while doves are being fed (SFA 1746, 7–8). Although there was no sign of doves on the church of Glaucha, the eagle motif in the Waisenhaus tympanum strongly suggests that this is the place where eagles nest.
4.2.4 School lessons in Gelassenheit
In a funeral sermon dating from 1703 entitled Die Kinder in Christo, Francke treats the apparent ambiguity related to childhood as an ideal for a Christian lifestyle. “To become like children” is at once a requirement to enter the kingdom of heaven (Matt 18:3) and a state of expectation (Rom 8:23), and yet it designates immaturity of faith (Heb 5:12.13) (Kinder, 397). Francke identifies five features (Eigenschaften) of childhood and treats them as commentaries on the notion of conversion in Matt 18:3: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”. In Francke’s treatment of the five features (inability, solitude, Gelassenheit, equanimity and innocence) inability and solitude reach a high point in Gelassenheit, which effectively covers equanimity and innocence. Five are thus forged into one. As to the first feature, to “become like children” means to become “zu allen Dingen untüchtig und ungeschickt” (Kinder, 400). The second feature is compared to the relation of new-borns to the world: “als ob es gar nicht in der Welt wäre” (Kinder, 401). Francke regards this “in the world as if not” position as important for an understanding of the doctrine of justification (Kinder, 403). Equanimity (“Tranquilität und Stille des Gemüths”) and innocence – the fourth and fifth features – are considered to be consequences of conversion (Kinder, 406–7). The third feature, Gelassenheit, most strongly ties together conversion and the ideal of childhood. What is remarkable about the link between children and Gelassenheit is that children are prone to be formed and forged not only by divine providence, but also by others: “daß ein Kind mit sich thun und handeln lässet, wie es andern Menschen gefället, und die Göttliche Vorsehung es füget und ordnet” (Kinder, 404). This sentence is highly instructive, since it promotes both an ideal of the true Christian and the perfect school subject. God is the causative factor, man is the object and the subject. Children highlight the role as both objects and subjects since they must be guided by providence and by others. In a theological language this means that “lessons in Gelassenheit” in the “school of the Holy Ghost” must be added to the doctrine of justification.
Hier ist die blosse Wissen nicht genug, sondern es muß auch die rechte wahre Gelassenheit in der Schule des Heiligen Geistes gelernet werden […] Ein solcher ist dann auch von GOtt gelehret, wie er in der täglichen Erneuerung die Gelassenheit immer mehr und mehr studieren müsse. Denn worinnen stahet wol die Ubung des Christenthums, als in einer stetigen Verleugnung sein selbst, und willigen Ubergabe an GOtt. Diese Lection wird keiner auslernen. Darum preiset die Schrift diejenigen so vielmal selig, die des HErrn harren, das ist, sich seinem Regiment anheim geben, ihren Willen in den seinigen versencken, und als die unmündigen Kinder ihnen alles gefallen lassen, wie es ihr himmlischer Vater mit ihnen macket. Wo diese Gelassenheit ist, da ist auch das Himmelreich. Denn da regieret GOtt, und sein allein guter Will schaltet und waltet, der Mensch aber läßt sich leiten und führen, nicht als ein Sclave und Gefangener, sondern wie ein frommes Kind von der Mutter Hand geleitet wird (Kinder, 405).
The kingdom of heaven is brought to earth by means of Gelassenheit. Again we see how this trait is at once an important lesson to be practised on a daily basis, and an impossible lesson. Impossibility, however, stimulates reliance on God, as we are reminded by Is 40:31. At this point we come close to a reasonable explanation of why the eagles in the Waisenhaus tympanum clutch the banderol bearing the scriptural words (see Figure 12). The sun-flight is counterbalanced with Is 40:31. To be transformed into an Arndt or an eagle we must follow the same progression as Francke’s exegesis of Is 40:31. Harren and Neue Kraft – the act of man and of God are merged into one. The transition from earthly being into eagle is nothing if not theologically charged. But it also shows the centre of the pedagogical efforts Francke put into planning and regulating his world of schools.
4.3 Hymns and eagles
The eagle motif was also poetically treated. In various ways it was taken up in hymns published in the famous Halle hymn book, Freylinghausen’s Geistreiche Gesangbuch (1704/1714). The poetical use of the motif brings to the fore important aspects of Francke’s theology. Here we shall consider hymns by Francke, Joachim Neander (1650–80) and Wolfgang Christoph Dessler (1660–1722).
Francke’s hymn Gott Lob! ein Schritt zur Ewigkeit thematizes man’s relation to time and eternity. The hymn describes an experience of faith that is characterized by a spiritual movement, “step by step”, towards eternity, which at the same time implies a growing distance, “step by step”, from the temporality of the world. This antithesis structures the development of the hymn and creates an eschatological drift. Man is carried by anticipation of a union with Christ and by an expectation of a final eschatological accomplishment beyond. At the same time there are moments of relapse into the world, and these alienate man from God. For this reason the hymn contains an exhortation to maintain the course of faith with the assistance of God in order to avoid deviation caused by the temptations of the world. Moreover Francke introduces the eagle as an image of the ascending movement of the soul given wings by faith:
Geh, Seele! Frisch im Glauben dran
Und sei nur unerschrocken,
Lass dich nicht von der rechten Bahn
die Lust der Welt ablocken,
so dir der Lauf zu langsam deucht
so eile, wie ein Adler fleucht
mit Flügeln süsser Liebe.
A basic element of the motif is the sheer thrust of the wings, that enables the eagle to ascend to higher altitudes than other birds. This capacity, which also constitutes the nobility of the eagle, has several symbolic connotations. For instance, it connotes the status of the soul as an image of God and implies a transcendental impetus and a striving towards insight into higher realities. In Francke’s hymn the wings are moreover powered by love (“süsser Liebe”). In connection with the eagle motif, love is associated with a yearning for a union that has erotic undertones. This is expressed in stanza 6 of the hymn where the motif of the bride and bridegroom, redolent of the Song of Songs, is developed as an image of the soul’s relation to Jesus.
The eagle motif appears also in the prominent hymn Lobe den Herren, den mächtigen König der Ehren written by the Calvinist Pietist Joachim Neander. The hymn was most popular in Lutheran Orthodox as well as in Pietistic contexts, a position it retained in generations to come. Its main theme – in dactylic metre and with a melody in triple time – is the praise of God inspired by Ps 103:1–5. With this point of departure the hymn considers the providential care of God who upholds the universe and individual existence. The eagle motif occurs in two passages, both in connection with metaphorical representations of divine providence. In stanza 2 God carries man (the soul) on the wings of the eagle:
Lobe den Herren,
der alles so herrlich regieret,
der dich auf Adelers
Fittichen sicher geführet,
In stanza 3 God provides the shelter of eagle wings:
[…] In wieviel Not
hat nicht der gnädige Gott
über dir Flügel gebreitet.
This employment of the motif probably alludes to the Song of Moses in Deut 32:11: “As an eagle stirs up its nest, and hovers over its young; as it spreads its wings, takes them up, and bears them aloft on its pinions.” The symbolic dynamics of the Biblical verse is double; the ascending powers of the eagle signify both transcendental aspiration and transformation and – as in the Neander hymn – the divine care and intervention on which man is dependent in order to fulfil his spiritual aspirations. An emblem from Johann Arndt’s Vom wahrem Christentum, I: 37 may clarify the theological import of this providential aspect. In the emblem an eagle is represented as it flies towards the sun carrying its chicks on its wings (Figure 16). The juxtaposed biblical text from John 8:12 on the obverse of the emblem renders possible a Christological interpretation. According to this text the eagle is perceived as Christ and the Sun represents the goal, the union with God, which is to be reached through Christ’s gracious intervention. But visually, and somewhat ambivalently, the image also brings to mind the legendary account of the eagle which tests and rejects its young if they fail to face the sun.
The merging of the eagle motif and the theme of spiritual aspiration is also articulated in Wolfgang Christoph Dessler’s hymn Du reine Sonne meiner Seele from Freylinghausen’s Neue Geistreiches Gesangbuch (1714). In this text the eagle represents, metaphorically, the soul’s longing for insight. The hymn takes up the theme of divine light, represented by the sun. It develops a reflection on the achievement through faith of a higher eschatological level of vision; that is, a vision which is not limited by the earthly or worldly sphere.
DU reine Sonne meiner seele /
Ich wil gleich einem adler werden/
der/durch den glauben/von der erden
sich swingt aus seiner leibes-höhle.
Umgläntze mich/mein Licht /
Und schärfe mein gesicht /
Dass keine wolcke eitler dinge
Dich mir aus meinen augen bringe.
In all three hymns the motif of the eagle denotes an existential desire. The dynamics of this desire is closely connected to an antithetical structure of being which is determined by the tension between time and eternity. Moreover, the motif symbolizes divine providence and power exercised on behalf of man in his existential distress. The eagle thus embodies a transcendental perspective and becomes a symbol of a withdrawal from the world and a surge towards a higher, otherworldly, existence.
4.4 Concluding remarks
Withdrawal and engagement are elaborately exhibited in the symbol of the eagle. The eagles adorning the Waisenhaus, as well as products both inanimate and human crafted and disciplined in Francke’s world of schools, testify to the richness and the variegated use of the symbol. The eagle signalizes worldly and divine patronage of the Foundations and an agency of change inherent in the pedagogical and theological effort to combat worldly corruption by means of schooling. The eagle is a transitional figure which links earthly existence with a promise of renewed strength and a heavenly life to come. The construction of the Waisenhaus was seminal in the creation of an institutional school system which aimed at transforming flesh and blood into eagles. This was the place in which lessons in Gelassenheit were taught and understood as the divine enablement of human malleability; both means and end of edification and education. And this was the place where “harren” and “neue Kraft” were forged into one. This puzzling logic was treated poetically in Paul Anton’s funeral poem to Francke: “Zwey ware bey Dir Eins, auf Eins ging alles hin. Drum sahe man den Strom von Zweyen her ergossen. Es spielte wunderlich dein theurer Geistes=sinn […].” Two become one. By trusting and awaiting the Lord, man escapes his confines. This was at once the theological and the pedagogical ambition behind the schools planted in and around the Waisenhaus at the Francke Foundations. (Figure 17)
5 The Francke Foundations: the expanding community of the Waisenhaus
5.1 Room for eschatological exercises
The year 1711 brought about the completion of a significant extension of the Francke Foundations’ Waisenhaus that had been established in 1698 outside the city of Halle. The new wing, located to the right of the courtyard behind the Haupthaus, housed two fundamental commitments of the reform movement at the Foundations: provision for the heart and provision for the stomach. In the lower part of the building the big dining hall (c. 30 m × 12 m × 6 m) was placed and above it the great assembly hall, the Singsaal (c. 45 m × 12 m × 9 m). The Singsaal was to be the locus of the Waisenhaus community’s recurrent devotional arrangements, the so-called Sing-Stunden. Early in the history of the movement this practice had been introduced as a means of edification and of the musico-poetical expressions of praise with which the adherents confirmed to themselves and to God their participation in an eschatologically determined otherworldly mode of being. In the Sing-Stunden the community drew significant demarcation lines in relation to the world outside.
The two new halls were designed as an architectural frame that matched the historical development of August Hermann Francke’s religious reform initiative and its grand educational enterprise, which included orphans as well as children from the middle class and the nobility. The new spaces were indicative of the remarkably successful expansion of Francke’s movement and a visual materialization of his ideas concerning a restoration of the Christian community. In accordance with his particular religious frame of mind Francke did not attribute the favourable development of his undertakings to his own merit. On the contrary he interpreted the different stages of his reform movement as the result of God’s providential care. This pattern of thought is evident, for instance, in his public discourses held at the Waisenhaus at the Sing-Stunden. The building of the Waisenhaus in 1698 and the expansions of the following years gave Francke ample opportunity to read past events as signs of divine enablement. These considerations show us the theological perception of the Waisenhaus complex and the activities relating to it. This is a strongly salvation historical approach, in which providential and eschatological dimensions are accentuated and in which the experience of faith produces a distantiated attitude to the worldly structures of being. The Waisenhaus construction with its various activities is a materialization of this attitude.
Here we shall glance at aspects of the Sing-Stunde which highlight features of the theologically determined world view/outlook that framed the life of the Waisenhaus community: 1) Francke’s account of the expanding community; 2) the Sing-Stunde and the role of singing; 3) an analysis of a Sing-Stunde discourse delivered by Francke.
5.2 Reading continuations and extensions
Teaching in the schools at the Foundations was chiefly carried out by university students, so-called preceptors. In return for teaching and writing assignments, they dined without charge at a Freitisch. This system was initiated in 1696. At first, the Freitisch accommodated twelve orphans and twenty-four preceptors who gathered in the Mittelwache Haus near Francke’s Pfarr-Wohnung in Glaucha (Figure 18). Due to rapid expansion and shortage of space, the Freitisch was relocated in 1698 to the former public house Zum güldenen Adler. At the end of 1699 it moved into the small dining hall in the Waisenhaus. Finally, twelve years later, in 1711, it was placed in the newly-built extension to the Waisenhaus. The central communal devotional practice, the Sing-Stunde, went through a similar history of relocation before it was centralized and reinforced in 1711 (Figures 19 and 20).
The Singsaal and the dining hall were inaugurated in August and November respectively. Francke’s speech at the inauguration of the Singsaal is printed in the collection of short texts Zubereitete Tisch (1717) together with table rules, an account of the development of the Freitisch system and the inauguration speech for the small dining hall given in 1700. In the foreword to the collection Francke emphasizes the close relation between dining hall and Singsaal. This makes the eleven-year gap between the two speeches in Zubereitete Tisch puzzling. Why did he not publish speeches made in the same year? There is a clue in the foreword. The interval offers the opportunity to render account of the ways in which the prophecies of 1700 have been fulfilled in 1711 (Tisch, 6). This type of argument supports Francke’s general focus on providential guidance. The decisive point in Zubereitete Tisch is not to make clear distinctions between rooms for dining, singing and edification but rather to emphasize how the new halls contribute to a much larger project of reform.
In the 1711 inauguration speech for the Singsaal, Francke gives a stylized and theologically informed account of the development of the Foundations, and represents the new hall as part of an unceasing work under the auspices of divine providence. The speech features two prominent themes: the Waisenhaus offers intermediary and temporary repose amidst eschatological expectation and the Waisenhaus is built out of nothing, ex nihilo. According to Francke the fact that it has been built is a concrete and manifest proof of God’s existence. Those who slander the work are disbelievers and their insults should be ignored (Tisch, 140–41). Francke encourages his listeners to be true believers instead (Tisch, 183). Looking back on the construction process, he makes a typological connection between the biblical narrative of the deluge and the present. Just as God held back the deluge (Gen 7–8), so has he intervened now and enabled Francke to build the Waisenhaus (Tisch, 159). Francke argues that God is both master builder of the house and responsible for its extension (Tisch, 161). Although it is the work of God, the edifice is but intermediary and temporary. Buildings consist only of “Kalck und Stein, und müste endlich mit der Welt vergehen.” (Tisch, 167). The repose offered by the walls does not protect against disasters pertaining to this life: “Der Schatten dieses Hauses kan uns vor keinem Unfall bedecken und beschirmen.” (Tisch, 168).
The framing of the Francke Foundations as a place of repose and shade was foreshadowed ten years earlier at the inauguration of the small dining hall on 29 April 1700. The Waisenhaus had recently been built and the extensions were not yet planned. In Francke’s inauguration speech the focus on cultivating children is effectively more prominent than the idea of expanding the premises. He assures his listeners that God will plant his kingdom in the children; what has happened so far is only a “Schattenwelt” against what will come to be. He prophetically foresees how “thousands of people will come to faith through the work and how the powers of darkness shall thus be overcome” (Tisch, 75). He is reminded of how God once provided food and drink to the Israelites exiled in the desert, and comments that the unbeliever may think that God no longer works miracles of this sort, but that this is not the case. The only difference between then and now is that God gives food and water from the earth and not from heaven (Tisch, 85). When those who are now children grow old, they will be able to tell the story of how the Waisenhaus was built out of nothing: “Das Haus ist von nichts gebauet, man hat nichts oder sehr wenig gehabt, da es ist angefangen worden; aber der liebe GOtt hat es dannoch gebauet, es ist im Glauben auf Ihn gebauet worden.” (Tisch, 119).
In order to give a proper account of the miraculous way in which the Waisenhaus came to be, writes Francke, he would need a whole book. The short version, however, is captured in Isaiah verse 40:31 and the signs on the Waisenhaus tympanum. When looking at a particular venue or institution in the Francke Foundations we must keep in mind the way in which Francke conceptually framed it as a whole.
5.3 The Sing-Stunden and the role of singing
God will provide: with this interpretational frame in mind we shall turn to the Sing-Stunde. This institution was an important feature of the communal life of the Francke reform movement. In the initial phase this religious practice took place in the vicarage, with participants from the Glaucha community and from the “Gynäceum”, a school established by Francke in 1698 for girls from noble or other distinguished families. Since 1703 it took place in the Waisenhaus, and in 1711 it was transferred to the great hall. As long as the Sing-Stunde was held in Francke’s vicarage, it resembled a conventicle and was more or less in line with the Lutheran “Haus-Kirche”. Located in the intimate and private sphere of domestic life, the Sing-Stunde signalled withdrawal from the world. But as the number of participants seems to have increased considerably, the Waisenhaus provided a more appropriate architectural frame; the construction of the great hall was a response to this development. As a part of the school programme the Sing-Stunde was an edifying measure which combined religious instruction with religious awakening. In this respect it underlined the character of the Francke institutions as a religious community. The use of the musico-poetical genre of the hymn contributed to the articulation and mediation of the strong emotional dimension of the religious orientation and commitment of the institutions.
The Singsaal could harbour two thousand people and was furnished with benches. Tall, superposed windows provided ample light, and the room was covered by means of hanging beams to avoid the use of columns. On the extremities were two tribunes. In the middle of one of the long sides was an elevated pulpit from which, emerging undisturbed from stairs below (leading from the dining hall), Francke led the Sing-Stunde and delivered his edifying discourses. From here an over man-sized wooden partition separated men and women (Figure 21). Thus the space was disposed in such a way that all could see the pulpit and hear, but not see, the members of the opposite sex. After the move to the Waisenhaus a much larger throng came to participate in the Sing-Stunden, “about 500, 600 or more persons”. The expansion transformed the Sing-Stunde. The idea of withdrawal was maintained but from then on the arrangement lost its private character and became a public event that drew people from Glaucha as well as from the city of Halle, for instance students from the University. This development implied that the Francke foundations became the basis and frame of a wider and expanding community of its own kind. It was also an indication of the dynamics of Francke’s religious activism and expansionism, which aimed at a universal transformation.
The Sing-Stunde was a quasi-liturgical arrangement which, however, did not replace the ordinary Church service. According to Francke the components of the Sing-Stunde were the singing of a hymn, a half-hour reflection on texts from Scripture that were relevant for the religious awakening and encouragement with respect to faith and love, then another prayer and hymn. In addition Francke mentions that Christologically orientated reading of the Psalter of David was introduced, one Psalm each time.
It appears from Francke’s Erklärung der Psalmen, a collection of his edifying discourses held in the Waisenhaus at the Sing-Stunden, that he was well aware of the importance of the musical dimension of devotion. However, it should be applied in a proper way. Francke distances himself from the “worldly” uses of music that are but expressions of sumptuousness and serve the “fleshly pleasures of the world” (“Music, die zur Uppigkeit und zur fleischlichen Welt=Lust gebrauchet wird”). The only acceptable music is dedicated to God. It is a song of praise the exterior expression of which conforms to the inner disposition of the heart. Under such circumstances Francke considers music an appropriate and effective devotional tool. In its exterior form it is capable of evoking the praise of God in the gatherings of the faithful and it accentuates the presence of God. This capacity is connected to a special feature of singing, as Francke explains in a meditation on the scriptural expression “to sing a new song” (cf. Ps 33:3, “Sing to him a new song”). A new song requires a new tongue, and this qualification is achieved when the singer’s heart is renewed. The new heart is characterized by a liveliness which stems from the fact that it rests with God and owns the Holy Spirit as its governor. In this situation singing reflects a basic experience of joy. The inner transformation of the soul is the precondition for true singing. In the framework of the expanding Waisenhaus community the importance given to singing should be related to Francke’s perception of its growth as an indication of God’s providential care. The hymn-singing was instituted as an expressive response to God’s intervention.
5.3.1 The Freylinghausen hymnals
The musico-poetical core of the Sing-Stunden is documented in the famous Freylinghausen hymnals: the Geist-reiches Gesangbuch, den Kern alter und neuer Lieder, wie auch die Noten der unbekannten Melodeyen in sich haltend (Halle 1704) (containing 683 hymns) and the second part, the Neues Geist-reiches Gesangbuch… (Halle 1714) (containing 815 hymns). These influential publications, edited by Francke’s close collaborator at the Foundations, the theologian and hymn writer Johann Anastasius Freylinghausen (1670–1739), reflect the religious agenda of Francke’s reform. Francke’s project upholds tradition and integrates the Lutheran hymn repertoire of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries: it is innovative in that it introduces new expressions of faith, which focus on the experience of revival and on the different stages of religious experience that pave the way for a transformation of the individual existence. This tenor is represented by authors such as the radical Pietists Gottfried Arnold (1666–1714) and Johann Wilhelm Petersen (1649–1727), Francke’s collaborator Christian Friedrich Richter (1676–1711) and Freylinghausen himself, as well as the reformed Pietist Joachim Neander (1650–80). The Pietistic hymns basically understand the self to be alienated from God, and the world to be fallen, but they also hold that renewal is possible via an authentic and committed life of faith, to be maintained through discipline and in which the will relates to the world with a view to its preliminary restoration. The world is hostile and is a recurrent threat to man, but it is the stage where the religious self finds its true realization. The hymnal points and appeals to the varieties of this experience; the experience of joy which accompanies the certainty of salvation in Christ is a constitutive element.
This theological mindset and its emotional expressions were developed in the simple poetical style and through musical forms influenced by the aria and in the dance-like rhythms. It forms part of a staging of the religious existence apart from the world outside. Those who gathered in the Singsaal to sing the hymns of the Freylinghausen hymnal became markers of an otherworldly form of existence within the world. This understanding of the religious role of musical performance was in accordance with main lines in the Lutheran theological traditions. Even though there were controversies among Lutherans concerning the religious application, the aesthetic profile and the nature of music, its capacity to mediate transcendental experiences was consistently maintained. This idea was developed with different accentuations and related to different manifestations of Lutheran musical culture. As a consequence the musico-poetical domain provides a rich and multi-layered resource for an understanding of how “zones of unworldliness within the world structures” were created in seventeenth-century religious culture.
To get an idea of the musico-theological agenda of the Freylinghausen hymnals we shall have a look at the frontispiece and the preface of the 1704 publication. Both were intended to signal the special function and status assigned to singing in the Waisenhaus community.
5.3.2 The frontispiece
The frontispiece engraving precedes the title page of the Freylinghausen hymnal (Figure 22). What pictorial strategy was adopted and how did this help to engage readers with the hymnal’s musical and theological content? Early Modern book frontispieces stand in a tradition of Baroque emblematics, going well beyond mere illustration. As a gateway to the book, the frontispiece is often architecturally conceived as a niche or aedicula, communicating liminality: the reader has arrived at the doorstep of a stately building or temple. As such they perform a double function: depicting and explaining the content of the book, but above all challenging the viewer to actively put the various visual, textual or symbolic elements together in a personal interpretation. This interpretational activity should bring the reader to the right state of mind for its perusal, enable him to “enter” the book, so to speak. Frontispieces for hymnals often involve the depiction of personifications of Poetry, Music or the theological virtues of Faith and Charity.
The Freylinghausen frontispiece breaks with this tradition. It presents the viewer with a mystical vision of heaven in the upper, and a quasi-heraldic emblem of the world in the lower half: a remarkable combined mundus visibilis and mundus intellectualis. This concept was perhaps derived from the frontispiece of another devotional publication: Angelus Silesius or Johann Scheffler’s Cherubinischer Wandersmann, oder Geistreiche Sinn-und-Schlussreime zur göttlichen Beschaulichkeit anleitende, in its second edition (Vienna 1675, first edition 1657). The lyrics of this Lutheran who had notoriously converted to Catholicism were very popular among Catholics as well as Pietistic Lutherans and were included in the Freylinghausen hymnal. The Silesius frontispiece depicts a female figure (the Christian soul) sitting on the back of an eagle flying intrepidly towards the sun, between two angels holding a scroll inscribed with the book title (Figure 23). In the lower half, a globe represents the world, flanked by an ox and a donkey, in reference to Is. 1:3 “The ox knows its master, the donkey its owner’s manger, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand.” The message is clear: we should detach ourselves from the world in order to see the light.
Let us now turn to the frontispiece of the 1704 edition of Freylinghausen. As we shall see, this image uses an intricate pictorial strategy in which the viewer is challenged to contemplate his or her position between heaven and earth, immanence and transcendence.
On the lower end of the image, a cartouche surrounded by palm leaves bears the text of Ps 8:3 “Aus dem Munde der jungen Kinder und Säuglinge hast du ein Lob zugerichtet,” which might be interpreted as a reference to awakening and rebirth, so central to Pietism. Slightly sagging, this cartouche seems to form a cushion for the world, represented by a Copernican orb, flanked by two trumpets (referring to the Revelation), which squeak out from beneath it. The orb is framed by palm branches, a symbol of victory over death: in fact, the ensemble resembles an epitaph, with the globe in lieu of a portrait of the deceased. In this way the world is presented to the viewer as dead.
The branches bear a banderol bearing the text “Und sungen das lied Mosis deß Knechts Gottes/ und das lied deß Lamms” (Rev 15:3). “The song of Moses” represents the songs of praise by the living faithful on earth, whereas the “Song of the Lamb” denotes the celestial praise of God by the redeemed souls. This is depicted behind the banderol: an innumerable mass of musician angels, gathering around a hill (Mount Sion) on which stands the Lamb of God holding the banner of the cross. From above, the light of grace pours down on the redeemed in heaven, before shining on the world below. A hovering angel holds a scroll emblazoned with “Hallelujah” and enhances the illusion of depth, drawing the viewer into the imaginary celestial space. Unlike the frontispiece of Silesius, and unlike almost every product of the Waisenhaus, the image used in the Freylinghausen hymnal does not show the eagle. Thus the Freylinghausen frontispiece forms a salient example of the Pietistic appropriation and emulation of Jesuitical imagery: rather than representing the striving or failure of others to face the light of grace, it invites us to do so.
In the Lutheran imagination the singing of the reborn on earth mixes with that of the redeemed souls in heaven in a circuit of praise and grace. But in the image no earthly song or music is represented, besides perhaps the two faint trumpets. Instead we see the world from a cosmic perspective, almost from the perspective of heaven itself. This imaginary withdrawal enables us to develop an “eagle-eye perspective” and thus prepare ourselves to partake in the celestial praise of the redeemed. Exactly this harren is the neccessary devotional attitude for singing the Pietistic hymns, providing a veritable Vorschmack of heaven.
5.3.3 The Vorrede
The preface (Vorrede) of the Freylinghausen hymnal of 1704 is closely related to the frontispiece and its musico-theological agenda. In accordance with the genre it opens a topical field that covers a number of traditional subjects and references concerning the nature, legitimation, function and uses of religious singing. In a first step Freylinghausen calls attention to a salvation-historical perspective that legitimizes religious singing. He refers to biblical examples (Moses, David, the prophets) and to the history of the Church as evidence of divine interventions which have provided man with a rich repertoire of hymns. However, the history of hymn singing also forms part of a history of decay: the Christian practice has lost its initial shape. According to Freylinghausen this deviation throws into relief God’s gracious actions that have given rise to new beginnings, an observation he substantiates with reference to the hymns of the Bohemian brothers and Luther. But Pietist hymns are just as valid an instance of gracious renewal. Freylinghausen’s exposition of the historical aspect of Christian hymn singing features traditional Lutheran musico-theological reflections. It is, however, notable that his discourse establishes an eschatological framework within which the Lutheran hymn practice receives new accentuations: the anamnetic relation to the salvation-historical events is eschatologized. This approach implies an intensified attentiveness to the future fulfilment of such events. In this perspective hymn singing is an act wherein past, present and future are closely knit together in accordance with divine providence. The experience of this eschatological coherence is an important component in the Pietist experience of revival. Against this background the authentic musical religious performance is understood as an anticipation or presentiation of the future heavenly doxology that reflects the final fulfilment of salvation. In Freylinghausen’s preface, as in the frontispiece, this fundamental aspect of singing is indicated by the reference to the old “Song of Moses” and to the “Song of the Lamb” (qualified as the new song) mentioned in Rev 14 and 15 and which thematize the heavenly praise. The organization of Freylinghausen’s hymnal, including old and new hymns just like the Bible, may be perceived as an analogy to these two categories of hymns. Equally significant is the fact that both categories may share the same spiritual agenda, important elements of which are highlighted by the preface.
Generally the new Pietist hymnals are considered a divine gift with a set of purposes. They prompt man, whose basic existential situation is defined as “Pilgrimschafft”, towards an inner spiritual shift away from estrangement. According to Freylinghausen, under these conditions the hymnal serves the recovery and edification of the body of Christ (“zur Besserung und Erbauung des Leibes JEsu Christi”). This Erbauung has an educational/pedagogical aspect which manifests itself in “Lehre und Unterricht”. But it also strengthens fundamental aspects of the living faith, as it contributes to the awakening (“Aufmunterung und Ermunterung”) of the theological virtues faith, hope and love, as well as to the consolation of man as he faces the inherent carnal nature of the fallen world.
The preface calls attention to the rubrics of the hymnal. They cover aspects of the divinely instituted order of salvation which establishes the co-ordinates of man’s spiritual move: “die Ordnung […] darein du dich begeben must/so du anderst an Christo und der von Jhm erworbenen Seligkeit theil nehmen willst.” In addition to the de tempore-related rubrics, which include hymns for the feasts of the Church Year, others cover theological loci such as creation and the sacraments; finally, it has rubrics that thematize the various stages and emotional states, practices and mental attitudes that feature the spiritual appropriation of salvation, for instance prayer, spiritual vigilance (“geistliche Wachsamkeit”), spiritual combat and victory, chastity, calmness of the spirit (detachment or “Gelassenheit”), denial of the self and of the world. According to the preface a devotional practice that follows the structures of the Freylinghausen hymnal corroborates a joyful experience of faith (“Freudigkeit des Glaubens”). This experience contains an ecstatic element, since it prepares for an intimate encounter with God in which man anticipates life in eternity, described in the preface through the nuptial imagery of the Song of Songs: “[…] dein Bräutigam wird sich mit dir vermählen/daß du solcher gestalt an dem hohen Adel aller Gläubigen/der alle Hohheit und Herrlichkeit dieser Welt unendlich übersteiget/wirst theil nehmen können; Jn welchen allen die Seligkeit des Reichs der Gnaden und der kräfftige Vorschmack des künfftigen ewigen Lebens besteht.” Praise is concomitant with this experience: “Ja dein Hertz und Mund wird vom Lobe GOttes sodann täglich überfliessen […]”. And the expressive means of praise is the hymn.
The anticipation of the eschatological union is present in a considerable number of the hymns selected for the Freylinghausen hymnal. The Francke hymn GOTT lob! ein schritt zur Ewigkeit is a case in point. The hymn applies the nuptial imagery in connection with the articulation of a strong desire for a union with Jesus based on earlier experiences of union: “KOmm! Ist die Stimme deiner Braut!/Komm! Ruffet deine fromme;/Sie rufft und schreyet über=laut: Komm bald! Ach/Jesu komme!/So komm dann/mein Bräutigam/du kennest mich/o Gottes=Lamm!/Dass ich dir bin vertrauet.”
Union in love, nuptial imagery and eschatologically-coloured praise dominate Gottfried Arnold’s HOldseliges GOttes=Lamm. The hymn relates to the Adoration of the Lamb described in Rev 4 and 5 and conjures up an otherworldly perspective. Praise is conceived as a musical act: a cosmic harmony in which the earthly and heavenly spheres participate: “Der Aeltsten gantze schaar/Die vor dem throne wohnen/Die werffen ihre kronen/Vors Lammes füssen dar./Wir fallen mit ihnen nieder/Und singen lobes=lieder/[…]”; “Die liebes=harmonie/Soll immer süsser spielen/ie mehr sie kraft wird fühlen/ohn ende dort und hie.”
Viewed in the light of the musico-theological universe in the Freylinghausen hymnal, singing becomes a devotional discipline that prepares man for transcendental experiences at a remove from the ordinary world. As a devotional tool for the Waisenhaus community music may be considered an important vehicle of withdrawal from the world. The location of the Waisenshaus was a material indication of a certain degree of detachment. The musico-poetical praxis at this locus gave rise to another mode of detachment which relates to the rhetorical and expressive means of music. From an overall point of view these means appealed to an “inner turn” that paved the way for the demarcation of an inner space of the solitary soul, where an experience of the encounter with the divine could take place. In the context of the Sing-Stunde ritual, however, the inner turn was staged as a collectively shared experience that was amplified by the grand new hall. The power of music is related to its capacity for evoking emotions and devotional states, but also to its ability to strengthen the bonds of a community. For the Pietist theologians these effects of music are conditioned by the performer’s faith. In accordance with Francke’s considerations, mentioned above, the preface calls attention to the experiential basis for the singing of hymns. There has to be congruity between the exterior expression and the inner spiritual state. With reference to the classic musico-theological Bible references, Eph 5:18-19 and Col 3:16, Freylinghausen points to the right mode of singing. This does not consist
in der Zierlichkeit der äusserlichen Stimme/sondern in der Harmonie und Übereinstimmung eines der Salbung des Geistes theilhafftig gewordenen Hertzens mit den Worten und der Stimme des Mundes beruhet. Denn der Vater wil keine solche Sänger haben/ die ihnen zwar wie David Lieder erdichten/aber dabey unter der Herrschaft des Fleisches und des lügenhafften Wesens dieser argen Welt bleiben.
But an experientially orientated song culture like that cultivated in the Waisenhaus was not only a matter of inner detachment. The performance of the hymn was a manifestation of the demarcation with which a self-conscious religious movement and its members addressed the world around it. The sound of the hymns was a religious marker which indicated a mode of existence withdrawn from the world. But it also represented a form of engagement with the world; the sonorous hymns were an invitation to join the community and participate in the ongoing work of restoration. The new melodies and use of, for instance, dance-like rhythms may be viewed as part of this engagement. The often cheerful and tuneful musicalizations of the Pietist hymns show the usefulness of form elements pertaining to worldly music. The employment of such elements may be interpreted as an attempt to sacralize artistic means. But it may also be viewed as a significant communicative device: a usage of the world’s expressive means to catch the world. This feature seems to have some structural similarities with the Roman Catholic devotional music discussed in N. H. Petersen’s article.
5.4 “Be buyers of time”
The edifying discourse was an important generic counterpart to the hymn singing in the Sing-Stunde. It represented a moment of proclamation in which close readings of scripture were related to the believers’ life world. In this way the discourse constituted a parallel to the hymnal, albeit with another argumentative structure. Let us turn our attention to a discourse that was delivered during a Sing-Stunde in the great Singsaal. The main theme is that time, as a gift of God, must not be ill-spent. The subtitle introduces an unsteady balance between a positive and a more critical consideration on time: “Der rechte Gebrauch der Zeit so fern dieselbe gut, und so fern sie böse ist”. The occasion is a New Year’s Speech and Francke uses it to emphasize how we should react in festive times and at new beginnings. The believer knows well how to celebrate and treasure every moment by giving praise to God in his heart (“GOtt dem HErrn eine hohe Feyer in seinem Hertzen zu halten”), but still a reminder is due (Zeit, 6). For the believer no festival is particular, since each moment may be, or must be made into, a feast. Indeed each day is an occasion to “grow up to eternal life”: “Ja alle und iede Tage geben ihm manche neue Erweckung und Aufmunterung. Dann wenn er des Morgens aus dem Schlaffe aufwachet, so hat sein Glaube darin ein Bild, wie er an ienem Tage zum ewigen Leben wird aufwachen.” (Zeit, 7). Francke pushes this further: when the believer dresses and washes himself, he is dressed in “dem Rocke der Unschuld und der Gerechtigkeit JEsu Christi” and is cleansed by Christ’s blood. Also eating and drinking must have an edifying purpose. And when the day is over, the believer is reminded of the brevity of life (Zeit, 7). Finally, when he lies in his bed about to fall asleep, he must ponder “wie man ihn werde in sein Grab legen, daß er dem Leibe nach schlaffe und ruhe, und am jüngsten Tage wieder verkläret hervor gehe.” (Zeit, 8). The point could not be clearer: every moment serves as an occasion to give God praise and honour.
It is worth noticing that in Francke’s description of the proper Christian attitude in festive times, the believer no longer minds ephemerality, but sees things in an eternal perspective. This leads to a full transformation of the inner self:
Wann er gewisse Tage feyert, so siehet er nicht auf die vergängliche Zeit, sondern auf die unvergängliche Ewigkeit. Alles dringet mit ihm ein zu seiner Besserung, alles grünet, blühet und tritt mit ihm in seine Kraft; Winter und Sommer sind ihm nach dem inwendigen gleich; er hält einem Sabbath nach dem andern; seine Sonne gehet ihm nicht unter, und ist bey ihm (in gesunden Verstande) kein Wechsel des Lichtes und der Finsterniß; wie wir auch am Advent zu singen pflegen: Dunckel muß nicht kommen darein/der Glaube bleibet immer im Schein. (Zeit, 9).
The distinction between perishable and eternal time is a prelude to an exegetical treatment of 2 Cor 6:2 and Eph 5:16. Francke has chosen these verses judiciously since they show different perspectives on time. The realized eschatology and fulfilment of time in 2 Cor 6:2b (“Behold, now is the favourable time; behold, now is the day of salvation”) is contrasted with the eschatologically charged words in Eph 5:16: “Be buyers of time, since the days are evil”. At first it could seem, Francke admits, that the apostle Paul contradicts himself. But clearly this is not the case. It is a matter of different perspectives: God’s perspective and man’s:
Wie nemlich die Zeit gut war von GOttes Seiten, so war eben dieselbe Zeit böse von Seiten der Menschen nicht aller, sondern derer, die den Tag des Heyls verachteten, und nicht erkanten die Zeit, darin sie von GOTT in Gnaden heimgesuchet wurden. Denn wenn die Menschen gut sind, so ist auch die Zeit gut; hingegen wenn die Menschen böse sind, so ist auch die Zeit böse. Bessere Leute, bessere Zeiten; schlimmere Leute, schlimmere Zeiten. (Zeit, 12).
As we see, the hope for better times becomes a purely practical matter. Francke argues in favour of two temporal perspectives, one divine and one human. At the same time, man decides for himself which perspective should count (Zeit, 10–11). Bad times befall those who are contemptuous of “der Tag des Heils,” whereas good times are the lot of those who spend their time with the “Hoffnung des ewigen Lebens” stamped into them. Effectively, man must decide (Zeit, 13). This is the reason that the two scriptural verses do not contradict each other. The believer lives next to the disbeliever. Therefore Paul is not “mit ihm selber uneins” (Zeit, 14). This becomes clear, explains Francke, when we consider Eph 5:19 and the exhortation to “redeem time” (“Sei Auskaufer der Zeit”). Francke elaborates on the Greek wording of ἐξαγοραζόμενοι and underscores the exhortative aspect, “be buyers of time” (“Sey Auskauffer der Zeit” ((Zeit, 15–16)). To be a buyer of time means to be alert and prepared to make the best of the moment. Francke alludes to a merchant who desires an item and without hesitation goes and buys it (Zeit, 16). It is worth noticing that both bad and good times stimulate and spur the act of buying up time (Zeit, 17). But the world of the buyers is charged au fond with an eschatological drift. It is urgent that work is carried out “as long as it is day, before the night comes when nobody can work” (John 9:4). This eschatological drift effectively stresses work and time-buying as strategic endeavours in the war against the world and the devil (Zeit, 17–18).
Francke points out that the apostle Paul did not address an exclusive group but everyone (“allen zur Lehre geschrieben”) (Zeit, 18)). Indeed he who knows how to read the signs of today will know how to treasure Paul’s words: “wer aber nur ein wenig Augen hat die Zeichen unserer Zeiten zu erkennen, wird leichtlich mercken, daß wir die beyden erklärten Sprüche Pauli vornehmlich zu unserer Zeit uns recht zu Nutz zu machen hohe Ursache haben” (Zeit, 18). Different perspectives on time co-exist, and one must decide which should apply. The New Year is a good occasion to remember this.
Denn wir bedencken billig bey dem Antrit dieses Jahrs, daß wir ietzt eine solche Zeit haben, die man billig nennet eine angenehme Zeit und einen Tag des Heyls; aber die man auch nicht weniger mit Recht eine böse Zeit nennen möchte. In einer andern Absicht ist unsere Zeit, darinnen wir leben, gut; und in einer anderen Absicht ist sie böse zu nennen. (Zeit, 18).
Francke exhorts his listeners to believe that their sincerity and conduct can change time. To be sure, there might be many “tears of penance” (“Ohne Zweiffel gehet kein Tag hin, da nichts von dem Himmel viele Buß=Thränen gesehen werden.”) (Zeit, 19)). But what matters is the true change of heart that brings forth “fruits of penance”. Having an impact on time, whether good or bad, effectively means to live a life in the world, not of the world.
5.5 Concluding remarks
The idea of withdrawal and engagement in relation to the world takes different forms which appeal to different aspects of human perception. The complex interaction between withdrawal and engagement may be displayed in relation to the spatial dimension of reality and made manifest in architectural structures and exterior codes of behaviour, including dress codes. For the community of the Waisenhaus the idea of withdrawal from the world is closely related to the experience of time. The theological mindset of the Francke foundations positioned the expanding community solidly within salvation history. This soteriological horizon was expressed in Francke’s account of the communal expansion, and it was displayed in the visual-musico-theological discourse of the most central devotional tool of the Waisenhaus community, the Freylinghausen hymnal, and in numerous hymns. Finally it resurfaced in Francke’s edifying discourse for the Sing-Stunde. This source material points to an understanding of the Waisenhaus community as eschatologically charged: the charge implying a self-understanding which underscored the alterity compared to the world in terms of religious authenticity and character (ethos). This alterity comes to the fore in relation to time, as we have seen in Francke’s Sing-Stunde reflections, where the ability to capture the right temporal dimension, i.e. the eternal perspective, becomes the formative factor of human life. The transcendent perspective is further maintained and displayed in the musico-theological discourses: hymn singing prepares for the participation in otherworldly realities and thus anticipates eternal life. This opposition between time and eternity highlights the Pietists’ intricate attitude to the world as a sphere of combat and tension that requires a withdrawal, but also an engagement on the part of the reborn for the sake of the on-going renewal of the world. As a singing movement the Waisenhaus community assigned a significant role to music in this enterprise, which was framed and enabled by the architectural space of the new two-tier edifice. As in the frontispiece to the hymnal, the members of the Waisenhaus community imagined themselves soaring high above Glaucha and the rest of the world, prepared to take part in the perpetual praise of the heavenly hosts.
These four cases capture specific versions of withdrawal and engagement and show, in a glimpse, a broad range of complexities pertaining to this dynamic. These complexities grow out of the historical context of each place and its particular, often intricate, dependency on political, religious and sociological dynamics as well as individual enterprise and commitment.
6.1 Insights gained
At La Trappe, the disposition of works of art, architecture, texts, liturgy and music was carefully orchestrated. The exemplary sacred space and soundscape of the renovated choir and the new chapels communicated and made manifest Rancé’s appropriation of the ancient desert asceticism as well as of the Cistercian fathers. Intended and perceived as a locus of conversion, the chapel of Mary of Egypt led visitors and monks to achieve, perform and embody the desired abnegation of the world. At the same time Rancé reached beyond the monastic walls. His interaction with Mme de Guise aimed to make of her a disciplined disciple, and a locus as well as an instrument of engagement. She was to be a pious model in whom duty, decorum and devotional performance would be instruments of communication with, and transformation of, the world. Bringing together the perspectives pertaining to Mary of Egypt and Mme de Guise respectively, we may begin to throw light on the motives and agendas of both intra-mural and extra-mural participants in a highly charged nexus.
In the case of St Cyr, a close reading of the sources has enabled us to reconstruct the spatial setting, and the inferences to be drawn as to patronage, of the three paintings in the assembly room. Furthermore historical contextualization enables us to understand the function of the three paintings and their mutual relation. The two founder-portraits were not intended as exempla for the ladies of St Cyr, who were exhorted to renounce the world. Instead the portraits were offset or “reframed” by means of Mignard’s chimneypiece. This transitional spur, or movement away from worldly preoccupations, is equally detectable in the role played by music at St Cyr and in the spiritual climate of the institution in the early 1690s. The call to renounce the world went hand in hand with the educational, disciplinary profile of the school and the ambition of the royal founders to educate the wives and mothers of noble households throughout France.
In the two cases related to Halle, the juxtaposition of analyses of Francke’s theological texts, observations concerning the hymnological culture as well as material and visual aspects of the Pietist reform movement, has contributed to a multi-faceted understanding of the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement and the relation between the withdrawn locus and the society in which it was set. The church historical approach conveys a wider horizon for the act of hymn singing and highlights its role as a means of interiorization as well as an exterior expression of interior dispositions. The focus on music, on the other hand, underlines the practical and experiential, that is, emotional, dimension of the theological enterprise of edification and reform, as well as its ability to bracket worldly time. Finally the view to the historical and architectural setting of these devotional practices throws light not only on the material site and the different phases of its development, but also on the façade of withdrawal towards the world – in a literal as well as a metaphorical sense. These two cases highlight the use of images as signifiers of otherworldliness and grace and as succinct symbols of complex devotional phenomena: as when Gelassenheit is represented by way of the eagle motif. Finally, the two cases demonstrate how a contextual examination of the instrumentality of images helps us to grasp, in a more nuanced way, the aims and purposes of Francke and his followers.
6.2 Research questions
With a downscaled focus we have acquired a preliminary, but faceted, view of each of the places in focus. These views evoke a number of questions that warrant further investigation.
Firstly, how do these studies affect the general scholarly view of the seventeenth-century imagination and devotional cultures? How do they affect our perception of regional or confessional particularities?
Secondly, can we pinpoint societal dynamics, including social psychological phenomena, that prompt withdrawal from the world?
Thirdly, can we identify shared “deep structures” of European seventeenth-century cultures that relate to rhetorical, aesthetical or symbolic code systems? How are such structures expressed through, and thus shaped by, the actual practices related to withdrawal? Concomitant to these topics are questions concerning the reception of cultural heritage and religious tradition.
Fourthly, in what ways does an interdisciplinary approach widen our cultural and historical perception? In what ways do the operational modes of the different media contribute to our understanding of the ideological complex of withdrawal and engagement?
Fifthly, does the role of the media as it comes to the fore in these four case studies give rise to a distinction between different medial “centres of gravity”? It appears that the inherent role of music is to make words memorable, incite emotions and modulate affects. If this is the case, music seems to attend to the interior, invisible and temporary aspects of human life while images and architecture relate to less fleeting realities of sustained exterior engagement. Architecture provides codes, spaces and shelters for specific corporal and spiritual practices, but is also itself a product of the human practices it frames. Images imprint a vision on the mind with the aim of guiding the viewer towards a spiritual goal, or provide a mirror to the soul, prompting a turn to the self. These issues are related to questions pertaining partly to active and passive approaches to music, architecture and images respectively, partly to objective and subjective dimensions and, finally, to the system of the arts in the seventeenth century. In what ways did aesthetical discourse of the epoch contribute to the perception and function of the arts in their relation to religious and political domains? In what ways did such discourses shape the understanding of the complementary or reciprocal relation among religious and political artistic domains and their possible relocation in other cultural contexts?
Sixthly, the focus on the dynamic between withdrawal and engagement raises questions pertaining to the relationship between the individual and group formations, society or state, and to the dichotomy between “public” and “private” and also questions pertaining to the notion and manifestations of new forms of subjectivity over and against objective structures within the religious and political spheres.
These questions will be pursued through further in-depth analyses of the places and their respective devotional cultures, and in an ongoing conversation with the work of other scholars. Also in this respect does this issue of the Journal of Early Modern Christianity open the door to the SOLITUDES Studierkammer. The four cases must be considered against the backdrop of scholarship such as the historical, theological and cross-medial research represented in the articles by Hartmut Lehmann, Jean-Louis Quantin and Nils Holger Petersen respectively.
©2014 Bruun et.al., published by De Gruyter Open
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 3.0 License.