Kontinuität und Kontingenz. Strategien im Umgang mit dem Mittelalter um 1600

The article examines the ideas about the pre-Reformation period (the Middle Ages) expressed in historical research and in the press around the year 1600 against the background of the biconfessionality prevailing in central Europe. To this end, it analyses historical consciousness, which on the universal level can choose between the construction of continuity or the description of contingencies to reframe events like the Reformation and to shape cultural memory. This approach was adopted because the concepts of ‚Middle Ages‘ and ,period‘ had not yet taken concrete form (in their current meaning). The validity of this formula, drawn from the theory of history, is demonstrated; at the same time, its strict application will allow us to reach some historical conclusions. It seems that both confessional groups availed themselves of extremely diverse historical models, among which we explicitly find some that are not predictable given their respective religious positions on the events of the Reformation. Catholics exalted the 16th century as a new period of globalization; in this perspective, the Middle Ages could later be seen as narrow and limited. In dealing with medieval art, the Protestants could literally enact continuity. The examples are drawn from regional history and contemporary histories of journalistic type, and belong to publication projects for sources on struggles over investitures and the renovation of church spaces. In the end, the general openness to and interest in the Middle Ages fostered the Protestant historical vision, that could present itself as impartial and objective with respect to the period since Protestantism itself was not part of it.