Every historical age is an age of transition. But it is clear that from the mid-seventeenth century to the early nineteenth century – the period covered in the present volume – the Christian world would confront a series of exceptionally difficult transformations and challenges. By the end of this period, forces of intellectual and political opposition had arisen that put into question not only the nature of Christian doctrine and the authority of the church – as in the age of the Protestant Reformation – but also the authenticity of the Christian religion itself. Yet the same period also gave birth to a number of movements for religious revitalization and renewal, remarkable for their energy and impact, movements that would arouse major controversies within the established churches. The great wave of revolutions that marked the end of the period would serve to intensify the currents of both religious confrontation and religious renewal.
Here the editors will briefly underline some of the major motifs which emerge from this collective study. After a rapid survey of the geography of Christendom during the early modern period, we will touch on each of the three central themes that serve as the conceptual troika for this volume – Enlightenment, Reawakening, and Revolution. We will argue that those themes did not exist as independent and separate historical strands, but were inextricably interwoven, reacting and interacting with one another throughout the age.