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Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Germany
     

Marpingen: Apparitions of the Virgin Mary in Nineteenth-Century Germany

by David Blackbourn
 
In a riveting work of historical research, David Blackbourn brings might the period surrounding the days in July 1876 when three young girls claimed to have sighted the Virgin Mary in the fields outside the German town of Marpingen.

As journalists, priests, and sellers of pious memorabilia descended on Marpingen, the sleepy town rapidly metamorphosed into a cause

Overview

In a riveting work of historical research, David Blackbourn brings might the period surrounding the days in July 1876 when three young girls claimed to have sighted the Virgin Mary in the fields outside the German town of Marpingen.

As journalists, priests, and sellers of pious memorabilia descended on Marpingen, the sleepy town rapidly metamorphosed into a cause celebre, with supporters and opponents referring to it as "the German Lourdes," and even "the Bethlehem of Germany." "It is an undeniable fact that the whole world is talking about Marpingen," wrote one sympathetic commentator. "Marpingen has become the center of events that have shaken the world," suggested another.

Tens of thousands of pilgrims flocked to the town, prompting numerous claims of miraculous cures — as well as military intervention, the dispatch of an undercover detective, parliamentary debate, and a dramatic trial.

Pondering what had happened from another perspective was a man on whom the drama placed a heavy burden. "The events are so tremendous," wrote a Marpingen parish priest, "that a true account of them would already fill a book."

Blackbourn, a leading historian of modem Germany, vividly portrays the Catholic world of the Bismarckian era through a detailed exploration of the changing social, economic, and community structures that formed its matrix, and provides a sensitive account of popular religious beliefs. Ranging widely across the fields of social, cultural, and political history, he powerfully evokes the crisis-laden atmosphere of the 1870s, revealing the subtle interplay between politics and religion, the changing nature of the family itself, and the ferment of ideas that fueledthe great debate over "modernity." And in a final chapter, he looks ahead to the renewed apparitions of the Virgin in twentieth-century Marpingen against the background of war, Nazism, and the Cold War.A remarkable piece of historical detective work by an important scholar.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In 1876, three eight-year-old German girls gathering berries in the woods claimed to have seen an apparition of the Virgin Mary in the village of Marpingen. Dubbed ``the German Lourdes,'' the solidly Catholic village attracted tens of thousands of pilgrims, many claiming miraculous cures from a nearby spring. Prussian authorities intervened with a military occupation, curfews, sometimes brutal policing and arrests, including the incarceration of the three girls, who were accused of deception but later released. Catholic clergy, alarmed by manifestations of popular religiousity, remained silent, while liberals viewed Marpingen as symptomatic of Catholics' superstition and disloyalty to Bismarck's Germany. In this engrossing study, exhaustively researched from German archives, Harvard history professor Blackbourn links the Marpingen visions to severe economic distress and persecution of Germany's Catholic minority. He also provides a social history of Marian apparitions from the French Revolution to the 1980s. BOMC History Club alternate; Readers Subscription Book Club selection. (Sept.)
Library Journal
In July 1876, three girls in Marpingen, Germany, claimed that the Virgin Mary had appeared to them. Blackbourn (history, Harvard) has deftly mined a host of sources both pro and con, official and private, that sets the event in the context of Bismarkian Germany and the Kulterkampf that pitted the state against the Catholic Church. Much of the conflict arose from the clash of cultures: "ignorant" peasants against the progressive, liberal statesmen; Protestant against Catholic. Combining history, sociology, psychology, and religion, Blackbourn gives us a picture, seen from several perspectives, of one small German town at a critical period, and, at the same time, examines the wider significance of what at first glance would seem an insignificant, parochial event. Recommended for both general and specialized collections.-Augustine Curley, Newark Abbey, N.J.
Steve Schroeder
This is a close reading of events surrounding a nineteenth-century appearance of the Virgin Mary to three young girls in the small village of Marpingen in the western part of Germany. Blackbourn's careful attention to religious, social, and political context makes the otherwise unremarkable location and the relatively unremarkable apparition an important illustration of the interplay of piety and politics in modern Germany. More generally, it is an illustration of the persistence of popular piety as both a political and a religious force in the modern world. In the Roman Catholic tradition, veneration of Mary has most often been associated with appearances in places and among people deemed marginal by both church and state. Close study of those people and places--as well as "official" reactions to them--is an important source of insight into relationships between "center" and "margin" in the construction of state and church. Given the impact of the German state on the twentieth century (and its ambiguous relationship to the German church), this is a study that should be widely read.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679418436
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
09/06/1994
Edition description:
1st American Edition
Pages:
510
Product dimensions:
6.66(w) x 9.58(h) x 1.68(d)

Meet the Author

David Blackbourn was born in Lincolnshire, England, in 1949, and studied history at Cambridge University, where he was Research Fellow of Jesus College from 1973 to 1976. He taught at London University from 1976 to 1992, before moving to Harvard, where he is Professor of History and Senior Associate of the Center for European Studies. His work has appeared in six languages, and he is the author of Class, Religion, and Local Politics in Wilhelmine Germany (1980), The Peculiarities of German History (with Geoff Eley, 1984), and Populists and Patricians (1987), and co-editor (with Richard Evans) of The German Bourgeoisie (1991). He lives with his wife and two children in Lexington, Massachusetts.

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