An intimate look at a Catalan village reveals the wide-reaching effects of the Counter Reformation in Spain
It is commonly assumed that the Counter Reformation touched Spain only lightly, affecting the religious institutions but not the ordinary Spaniards. Henry Kamen now challenges this view by providing an intimate look at what life was like in one small but distinctive rural Spanish community from the mid-sixteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries. By examining the Catalan village of Mediona as a microcosm of Spanish society, Kamen shows that in fact the Counter Reformation led to powerful changes in the daily lives, beliefs, and customs of the common people of Catalonia and Spain.
Kamen portrays the popular culture of Mediona, studying the shifting habits revealed by its administrative reforms during the Counter Reformation; the place of religious belief within the community; the attempts to change popular festivities and celebrations; the far-reaching innovations in marriage and sexuality; the role of the Inquisition and of the Jesuits; the problem of witchcraft, and the impact of books from the expanding presses of France, Italy, and the Netherlands on local language and ideas. Kamen concludes that the Counter Reformation was in some instances liberating rather than repressive in Mediona and the broader Mediterranean society of which it was part. By contemplating popular religion and culture as it was practiced by ordinary citizens, he offers new insights into an epoch normally studied only in the light of great political events, and he presents a wholly original vision of culture and society in Spain’s Golden Age.
Henry Kamen is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and has taught at universities in England and the United States.
“The result of admirable research and an impressive breadth of knowledge. . . . This sympathetic, enthusiastic, and stimulating study is unique among English works on Spanish history.”—Alastair Hamilton, Times Literary Supplement
“A masterpiece of deep research in a well-defined area of interest. It is packed with fascinating detail and illuminated by useful insights. . . . Catalonia rises like a phoenix from the ashes of dry old documents in this brilliant history of little people and large changes in European life.”—Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance
“Henry Kamen, who has a deft way with historical myths, makes an important contribution to this re-appraisal [of Spain’s past] in The Phoenix and the Flame. The combination of meticulous detail, subtle reflection, bold argument and broad reference makes this one of Kamen’s best books, and one of the best books by a foreigner about Spanish religion.”—Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, The European
“A richly detailed description of changes in rural Catalan religion during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. . . . An excellent portrait of a period and a region. . . . [Kamen] has provided insight into the evolution of popular religion in the peninsula, and he has cast light on everyday life in a too often forgotten corner of Europe.”—Carl L. Bankston III, Commonweal
“Henry Kamen’s study of Catalonia is a remarkable piece of original research.”—Diarmaid Macculloch, History Today
“A detailed and compelling book of great originality.”—Anthony Pagden, Cambridge University
“A detailed and nuanced assessment of the impact of the changes in liturgy, dogma, and behavior decreed by the Council of Trent on the organization and practice of religion in the Principality. . . . Thanks to this well researched and judicious monographs like this book . . . historians of early modern Spain now have a much better picture of the transformation and continuity in religious life at the local level.”—Jim Amelang, Universidad Autonoma, Madrid
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