New project funded by FWO! Death and burial during the Dutch Revolt.

The FWO awarded a project on death and burial during the Dutch Revolt, which will question why more symbolic rather than physical violence occurred over burials in the sixteenth-century Low Countries.

Burials were volatile matters in the sixteenth-century conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics insisted on the sacrament of the Last Anointing, a funeral mass and a burial in sacred ground, while Protestants rejected this ‘ritual industry’, defended a sober ‘ars moriendi’ and were interred in designated though not sacred cemeteries. For the Holy Roman Empire, the British Isles and France, it has been documented how burials thus precipitated confessional disputes and violence. Strikingly, sources for the early modern Low Countries do not register similar outbursts during burials, even during the Dutch Revolt. Hence, by inquiring to what extent symbolic and other violence has hitherto been overlooked and by determining more secular motives during contemporary pandemics, this project questions current categories applied to ongoing research on early modern religious violence. Therefore, in also examining the way in which religious violence was mitigated, it will screen the impressive body of statutes regulating burial in cities and in the countryside through the prism of religious violence/pacification. Finally, by introducing a bottom-up perspective, it will test if, how and to what extent this multi-level ‘management’ of burial pacified the religious polarization. As such, the Low Countries can provide a new conceptual framework to assess more generally why and how the deceased and the bereaved in the early modern era could (or not) rest in peace.