Feastday economies

07/21/2014 in Parish Research Today, Parish sources, ritual, devotion and religious change, The Alpine Territories


While working on records of the former Bishopric of Constance (now kept in the archives of the German Archdiocese of Freiburg), I found a petition by the parish republic of Gersau (address page pictured). Sent to the vicar general in 1779, the mayor and council voiced concerns about the large number of Catholic feasts and mounting difficulties to keep them observed. With the backing of the regional dean, no fewer than 26 saints’ days were identified for downgrading (among which the Visitation of Our Lady). The bishop played ball, approving the request, but urging his ‘Catholic flock’ to diligently attend mass on all remaining feasts and to ‘abstain from all vanities, damaging idleness, suspicious gatherings, dancing, gaming, excessive drinking, swearing … as well as any other insults to the Almighty’. Gersau was in good company, following the lead of the neighbouring Canton of Lucerne, which had secured a similar privilege, and rather ahead of Enlightened monarchs like Joseph II, who started to curb religious duties for economic reasons at about the same time.

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