This charter is the basic document, defining what ENID is, what the network wants to do, and briefly outlining how it intends to do it. It was accepted by the members in Bergen in January 2004, a few and rather insignificant changes made in May 2012.
European Network on the Instruments of Devotion
ENID was established in Bergen on 16th November 2003. Scholars from aesthetics, history, art history, literature, musicology, philosophy and theology aim at forming form a “critical mass of expertise” in studying the phenomenon of piety in its practices, expressions and instruments.
Under the thematic heading “Instruments of devotion. The cultural history of Christian “Praxis pietatis” in Europe, devotional practices and their instruments in Europe from the 14th to the 20th century”, the members of ENID will convene regularly to discuss the multidisciplinary field of the cultural expressions of a Christian piety which undoubtedly has played a major role in the shaping of European culture and society. In recent years the importance of religion has been ever more recognized, both by academic studies and by museums.
The aim of the network is through interchange of ideas, sharing of knowledge and critical discourse to add an aspect of cross disciplinary and critical reflection to the research of each individual scholar, the very rationale behind the concept of “critical mass of expertise”. Given time and opportunity, ENID envisages that this could be enhanced by adding a certain number of doctoral students to the core group. The aim is to gain a deeper insight into the mechanisms of piety and devotion in order to understand its instruments as essential features in European cultural development, leading to greater understanding of our common cultural heritage. One cannot understand Europe without understanding its history and culture, and this history is incomprehensible unless one understands the religious component which was (and, despite all, still is) so important for the evolution of European culture.
Can a phenomenology of devotion be identified, and would this be a common denominator for the studies carried out by ENID? This remains to be seen.
As the devotional object plays an important role, the network need the special competence of the museums research, but at the same time the insights won by ENID research should be made accessible to a broader public, not just through scholarly publications, but by exhibitions where the subject matter is conveyed in a different and complementary way, through the aesthetics of exhibitions, be it in museums or on the internet. With good reason, therefore, scholars from museums are part of ENID.
In the very last year of the century which had seen the apparent victory of Enlightenment, in 1799, the young Hegel stated an important truth: that in the concept of religion lies not only the science of God, not a mere historical or rational knowledge, but an interest of the heart. Faith or religion necessarily has a horizontal aspect, in terms of sociological and organisational structures and attitudes within mankind, as well as a “horizontal practice” in and towards society, but no religion can survive without a ‘vertical aspect’: cults and rituals. In Christianity, where rituals do not serve magical purposes of control or protection, the religion cannot survive if this vertical practice does not engage the hearts of the faithful. Therefore, in a Christian context, all ritual practices must to some extent become devotional practices, if they are to survive as important religious phenomena.
Integral to any ‘praxis pietatis’ is a certain order, a structure of this particular devotion, its process and apparatus not a mere question of form, but of substance. Most such practices have a clear instrumental (material) component, be it a book, a pattern of prayers, a structuring of the day, the use of devotional objects, pictures or songs etc. It belongs to the nature of practical piety that it is not just a question of pious thoughts, but also of something done in a certain way to evoke and structure such thoughts. A living religion “of interest to the heart” must express itself in devotional practices: fundamental in such practices are order and instrumentality, which create a significant relationship with the more generic concept of collective “ritual”.
A piety expressed in devotional practices obviously is an important ingredient in understanding medieval, particularly late medieval, Christianity, but Lutherans were by no means without pious practices, perhaps most prominently the ‘house service’, and the use of edifying books containing prayers for every day or time of day, imposing a religious structure on the every day life of the individual – not quite unlike the late medieval book of hours. In this respect something done, “actions” as it were, still had a role to play as a Lutheran ‘praxis pietatis’, and they were defined precisely as spiritual actions, something pertaining to the spiritual life and hence belonging to the life of prayer.
To the ‘devotio moderna’ of the 14th century and to the entire late medieval piety, the devotional image (Andachtsbild) was a vital instrument serving as a point of focus. It gave each devotion its special character derived from the motif depicted or practice involved, this instrumentality distinguishing it from any other pious practice. Thus the instrument played a constitutive role in creating that special, intense, spiritual, and fundamental or existential meeting between God and the individual believer which we call “devotion”.
Following the controversialist theology of the 16th century, a new interest in ‘homo interior’, the inner man, grew in both Lutheran and Catholic areas. Intense practiced devotions (devotional practices) rooted in late mediaeval spirituality emerged, heavily influencing the mentality of 17th century Europe and to a certain extent even the 18th century. This development can be observed on both sides of the denominational border, on the Catholic side for instance with the École française, on Lutheran side with the devotional piety of Johann Arndt and his followers, and the Pietist continuation of this tradition in the 18th century. Such devotions were meant not just for a religious elite, but also for lay people. In varying degrees Christian piety, expressed as devotional practices with corresponding instrumental dimensions/aspects, thus engaged large parts of the European population.
The Enlightenment of the 18th century might have accelerated the process of secularisation, and even if it does not seem to have had great influence on popular piety, it might have widened the gap between the theological-intellectual reflection on faith on the one hand, and the devotion (piety, spirituality) on the other hand. When studying piety or devotion, it is important no to sever such phenomena from official Christianity with its churches and theologies. There is a dialectical relationship between piety and theology, between devotional practice and the rituals of a church, piety both influencing and being influenced by official church teachings and liturgies. Together they feature the cultural history of European Christianity.
At least after the Reformation one cannot understand this European culture without studying the entire denominational pattern. Therefore, ENID focuses on both denominational and interdenominational features of Christian piety.
The broad time frame allows the network to focus on a variety of themes of major importance, from the ‘moving of the spirit’ going back to at least the famous letters of Pope Gregory the Great, through medieval and Baroque piety to the explosion of devotional items in the 19th and 20th centuries. Thus, it makes diachronic perspectives possible, focussing on the dialectics between monastic and lay piety, the relationship between theology and piety, the phenomenon of secularisation or, indeed, iconographical, musicological or literary developments.