In the summer of 1566, Calvinist iconoclasts attacked churches all over the Low Countries. They destroyed religious sculptures, paintings and cult objects. Essentially, the Beeldenstorm was a physical reaction of Calvinists against the physicality of Catholic devotion (the ritual handling of objects, the kneeling before statues etc.). More generally, the bodily conduct in churches and the manipulation of religious objects became one of the most controversial issues of the sixteenth century. Yet, this ‘embodied piety’ has hardly been studied. We know very little in fact about how ordinary devotees used churches and about the meanings they attached to the many artifacts in churches. To this day, there remains a gap between the art- historical analysis of the religious material culture of the Low Countries and the historical study of the long-term causes and effects of the Reformation and the Beeldenstorm.
Embodied Piety in the Age of Iconoclasm is an interdisciplinary project which has the ambition to assess religious conduct (in the broadest sense) within the church building in the Low Countries on the eve of Iconoclasm. It will combine the study of the archives and the still extant interior of the church of St. Leonard in Zoutleeuw (one of the few churches in the Low Countries to ‘survive’ Iconoclasm) with a close reading of a wide range of visual representations, polemical texts and narrative sources.