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Global Catholicism in Seventeenth-Century Prague

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  07 April 2021

Suzanna Ivanič
School of History, University of Kent, Kent, UK
E-mail address:


The histories of early modern religion and trade have both benefited from the global turn in recent years. This article brings the two fields together through the study of religious objects in Prague in the seventeenth century and shows ways in which religion and religious practice were entangled with new commercial and artistic ventures that crossed regional and international borders. Among the possessions of seventeenth-century Prague burghers were religious objects that had come from exotic lands, such as a “coconut” rosary and a ruby and diamond “pelican in her piety” jewel. These objects were made in multiple locations and traded to satisfy a new demand for items that could aid and display devotion as well as act as markers of wealth and confessional identity. Through this study of religious objects, Central Europe is revealed to be an important locale to the global history of the early modern period.

Copyright © The Author(s), 2021. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of the Center for Austrian Studies, University of Minnesota.

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1 Kyzourová, Ivana, ed., Svatovítský poklad: katalog stale výstavy v kapli sv. Kříže na Pražském hradě (Prague, 2012), 114Google Scholar (Cat. 76).

2 Wyart, Jean, Bariand, Pierre, and Filippi, Jean, “Lapis Lazuli from Sar-e-Sang, Badakhshan, Afghanistan,” Gems & Gemology 17, no. 4 (1981): 184–90CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Kirby, Jo, Nash, Susie, and Cannon, Joanna, eds., Trade in Artists’ Materials: Markets and Commerce in Europe to 1700 (London, 2010)Google Scholar.

3 Distelberger, Rudolf, “Thoughts on Rudolfine Art in the ‘Court Workshops’ in Prague,” in Rudolf II and Prague: The Court and the City, ed. Fučíková, Eliška (London, 1997): 189–98Google Scholar, here p. 190; Blažíček, Oldřich, Škréta's “Family Portrait of Dionysio Miseroni” (London, 1966)Google Scholar.

4 On the sacred nature of the Kunstkammer, see Ivanič, Suzanna, “Religious Materiality in the Kunstkammer of Rudolf II,” in Religious Materiality in the Early Modern World, ed. Ivanič, Suzanna, Laven, Mary, and Morrall, Andrew (Amsterdam, 2019), 177–91CrossRefGoogle Scholar. A list of paternosters made from exotic precious stones are mentioned in the Kunstkammer inventories: Rotraud Bauer and Herbert Haupt, eds., “Rudolf II Inventar 1607–11,” Jahrbuch der Kunsthistorischen Sammlungen des Museums in Wien, 72 (1976), 81 (F246); Jan Morávek, ed., Nové objevený inventor rudolfínských sbírek na Hradě Pražském (Prague, 1937), F9b.

5 See Jaroslav Hyršl, “Nejzajímavější kameny klenotnice,” in Svatovitský Poklad, 22–23; see also Hyršl, Jaroslav, “Safíry pravé i nepravé,” Vesmír 82, no. 1 (2003): 38–41Google Scholar.

6 Maegraith, Janine and Muldrew, Craig, “Consumption and Material Life,” in The Oxford Handbook of Early Modern History, 1350–1700, vol. 1, Peoples and Place, ed. Scott, Hamish (Oxford, 2015), 369–91Google Scholar.

7 Ditchfield, Simon, “Of Dancing Cardinals and Mestizo Madonnas: Reconfiguring the History of Roman Catholicism in the Early Modern Period,” Journal of Early Modern History 2 (2004): 386408CrossRefGoogle Scholar, p. 408; Ditchfield, Simon, “Decentering the Catholic Reformation: Papacy and Peoples in the Early Modern World,” Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte 101, no. 1 (2013): 186–208Google Scholar, p. 207; Hsia, Ronnie Po-Chia, ed., The Cambridge History of Christianity, vol. 6, Reform and Expansion 1500–1660 (Cambridge, 2007), xvCrossRefGoogle Scholar.

8 For the principle findings from this research see Ivanič, Suzanna, Cosmos and Materiality in Early Modern Prague (Oxford, 2021)Google Scholar.

9 Gerritsen, Anne and Riello, Giorgio, eds., The Global Lives of Things: The Material Culture of Connections in the Early Modern World (London, 2015)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Adamson, Glenn, Riello, Giorgio, and Teasley, Sarah, eds., Global Design History (London, 2011)CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Bleichmar, Daniela and Martin, Meredith, eds., “Special Issue: Objects in Motion in the Early Modern World,” Art History 38, no. 4 (2015)Google Scholar.

10 Kaufmann, Thomas DaCosta, Toward a Geography of Art (Chicago, 2004), 175–76Google Scholar; Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, Court, Cloister & City: The Art and Culture of Central Europe 1450–1800 (London, 1995).

11 Robert J. W. Evans, Rudolf II and His World: A Study in Intellectual History, 1576–1612 (Oxford, 1973), 176–77; Thomas DaCosta Kaufmann, The Mastery of Nature: Aspects of Art, Science, and Humanism in the Renaissance (Princeton, 1993), 7; and Kaufmann, Thomas DaCosta, “Remarks on the Collections of Rudolf II: The Kunstkammer as a Form of Representatio,” Art Journal 38, no. 1 (Autumn, 1978): 22–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar, here p. 24.

12 Annemarie Jordan-Gschwend and Kate J. P. Lowe, eds., The Global City: On the Streets of Renaissance Lisbon (London, 2015).

13 Josef Janáček, Dějiny Prahy (Prague, 1964), 364.

14 Hans Jessen, Der Dreißigjährige Krieg in Augenzeugenberichten (Stuttgart, 2012), 352; Josef Polišenský, The Thirty Years War, trans. Robert Evans (London, 1974), 141; Gerhard Benecke, ed., Germany in the Thirty Years’ War (London, 1978), 36.

15 For example, as per Reginald Betts, “The Habsburg Lands,” in New Cambridge Modern History, vol. 5, The Ascendancy of France, 1648–88, ed. Francis L. Carsten (Cambridge, 1961), 494; Janáček, Dějiny Prahy (Prague, 1964), 359–408; see analysis in Jiří Pešek, “Prague, Wrocław, and Vienna: Center and Periphery in Baroque Culture?,” in Embodiments of Power: Building Baroque Cities in Europe, ed. Gary Cohen and Franz Szabo (Oxford, 2008), 80–96, here p. 80.

16 Olga Fejtová et al., eds., Barokní Praha—Barokní Čechie 1620–1740 (Prague, 2004).

17 Pešek, “Prague, Wrocław, and Vienna,” 82; see also Evans, Rudolf II, 193–94, esp. n. 3.

18 Colombian emerald unguentarium 2,680-carat, enameled gold, Prague, 1641, 10.9 × 7.2 cm, Weltliche Schatzkammer, KK Inv. No. 2048.

19 Reference to SÚA rkp. 3424 in Miloš Dvořák, “Pražský obchod po Bílé Hoře,” Folia Historica Bohemica 8 (1985): 317–30, here pp. 319, 321–22, and 324.

20 Mandelena Škodová (New Town Zderaz, 1600), Archiv Hlavního Města Prahy (Prague City Archives, hereafter AHMP), 1213, f. 180v: kofflyk woržechu Indyánskeho w stržybrže/ ffasowany pozlaczeny kept amongst bedding and clothes in a chest; Dorota Loßelius (Old Town, 1635), AHMP 1776, f. 106r: Conchy piekne moržske do stržibra pozlaczeneho / Faßowane, gedna s pozlaczenym wjkem….2; Antonin Čečelička z Rozenwald (Old Town, 1697), AHMP 1179, f. 374v: 1. Welika sstroßowy wegcze.

21 For example, 42 percent of inventories in 1600 contain objects that have an identifiable connection with the wider world (such as gemstones, a Turkish spoon, oriental carpets) and 42 percent in 1610.

22 Jan Platner (Old Town, 1679–85), AHMP 1177, ff. 703v.

23 Jan Stifftner (1695), AHMP 1179, ff. 348v and 349r.

24 Christian Mehringer (New Town, 1680), AHMP 1196, ff. 189v, 190r and 191v.

25 Beverly Lemire, Global Trade and the Transformation of Consumer Cultures: The Material World Remade, c. 1500–1820 (Cambridge, 2018), 289; see also Jordan-Gschwend and Lowe, The Global City, 141.

26 Robert Muchembled, ed., Cultural Exchange in Early Modern Europe, 4 vols. (Cambridge, 2006–7).

27 Jaroslav Miller, Urban Societies in East-Central Europe, 1500–1700 (Aldershot, 2008), 7 and 26; Jan de Vries, European Urbanization, 1500–1800 (London, 1984), 278.

28 Miller, Urban Societies, 26; Jiří Pešek and Václav Ledvinka, Praha (Prague, 2000), 337 and 357; Pešek, “Prague, Wrocław, and Vienna,” 83.

29 Miller, Urban Societies, 1–2.

30 Marina Dmitrieva and Karen Lambrecht, eds., Krakau, Prag und Wien: Funktionen von Metropolen im frühmodernen Staat (Stuttgart, 2000). The following works examine urban connections, but still largely within the Rudolfine context: Beket Bukovinská and Lubomír Konečný, eds., München - Prag um 1600 (Prague, 2009); on connections specifically between Nuremberg and Augsburg with Prague, see Berthold Beitz et al., Prag um 1600: Kunst und Kultur am Hofe Rudolfs II (Essen, 1988). Jaroslav Miller's work largely provides a comparative approach rather than examining the urban connections of the period (though pages 197–235 are helpful): Miller, Urban Societies.

31 Exiled to Spain during the Soviet regime, Bohdan Chudoba wrote Spain and the Empire, 1519–1643 (Chicago, 1952).

32 Miloslav Rechcigl Jr., Encyclopedia of Bohemian and Czech-American Biography, 3 vols. (Bloomington, 2016); Bernard Bailyn, The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America—the Conflict of Civilizations, 1600–1675 (New York, 2012), 227.

33 Laura Lisy-Wagner, Islam, Christianity and the Making of Czech Identity, 1453–1683 (Farnham, 2013).

34 Ivanič, Cosmos.

35 Floriano Grimaldi, Pellegrini e Pellegrinaggi a Loreto nei Secoli XIV–XVIII (Recanati, 2001); and Gerhard P. Woeckel, Pietas Bavarica (Wiessenhorn, 1992).

36 A 1691 print, Forma et Exemplar aliquarum S.S: Reliquiarum S. Metro. Eccles: Prag, listed the medieval relics that could be seen there. See Kyzourová, Svatovítský poklad, 99; see also Tomáš Pešina Phosphorus Septicornis (1673), 399–524; Jeffrey Hamburger, “Bloody Mary: Traces of the Peplum Cruentatum in Prague—and in Strasbourg?,” in Image, Memory, and Devotion: liber amicorum, Studies in Gothic Art 2, ed. Paul Crossley, Zoë Opačić, and Achim Timmermann (Turnhout, 2011), 1–33, here pp. 1–2.

37 See, for example, Philip Soergel, Wondrous in His Saints: Counter-Reformation Propaganda in Bavaria (London, 1993).

38 Kryštof Harant z Polžic a Bedružic, Cesta z království Českého do Benátek, odtud do zeme Svaté, zeme Judské a dále do Egypta, a potom na horu Oreb, Sinai a sv. Kateriny v pusté Arabii, ed. Karel J. Erben (Prague, 1854; repr. Nabu Press); Bedřich z Donína, Cestopis Bedřicha z Donína, ed. Antonín Grund (Prague, 1940); Simona Binková and Josef Polišenský, Česká touha cestovatelská: cestopisy, deniky a listy ze 17 stoleti (Prague, 1989).

39 Extant ephemeral prints are catalogued in Jan Royt, Obraz a kult v Čechách: 17. a 18. století (Prague, 1999).

40 Zdeněk Hojda, “Výtvarna díla v domech staroměstských měšťanů v letech 1627–1740. Příspěvek k dějinám kultury barokní Prahy I,” Pražský Sborník Historický 26 (1993), 38–102, esp. pp. 82, 84, and 89–90.

41 Catharina Krieger (Old Town, 1664), AHMP 1176, f.575v: Bildt, unser Lieben Fraúen in Pohlen, f.576r: Unser Lieben Fraúen zúm heiligen Berg/ zerrissenes bildt.

42 Or earlier in 1632, see Marie-Elizabeth Ducreux, “Několik úvah o barokní zbožnosti a o rekatolizace Čech,” Folia Historica Bohemica 22 (2006), 143–77, here p. 155.

43 Hojda suggests that Veronika Dirixová is the widow of a doctor, in Hojda, “Výtvarná díla,” 93.

44 Veronika Dirixová (Old Town, 1700/01), AHMP 1179, f.403r: Im Schlaffgewölb der Gottferl: Frawen/ Ein Aúfgerichtes alterl, darin bildnús Christi des/ herrn am Creutz, Maria únd St: Joannis Evangel/ Ein kleines Crucifix von helffenbein/ Ein Crucifix von holtz außgeschnitzt.

45 AHMP 1179, f.395v: In einem schwartz gebatzten Schreib-/tisch, f.396r: Ein gedachtnús pfennig daraúf bild-/nús Maria Von Altbúntzl.

46 AHMP 1179, f.403r: Im Schlaffgewölb der Gottferl: Frawen/ Ein kleines Bildl Jesu et Maria gemahlt/ Bildnús S:te Maria Magdalena in duplo…2 stúckl/ 2. gleiche bildnús Jesu et Maria… 2/ Annuntiatio B:a Virginis…1/ Bildnús S:te Veronica…1/ B: Virgo Passaviensis…1/ Beaty Joannes Nepomuceng…1/ Bildnús Ecce Homo…1/B:a Virginis Maria…1/ bildnús Maria von Glottaw…1/ Abel et Cain…1/ B: Virgo Passaviensis aúfglas gemahlt…1/ Ite S : Anna deto gemahlt…1/ Nomen Jesu gestickt úntrem glas/ in schwartgebatzten Rahml…1.

47 AMP1179, f.393v: Im Schlaff gewölb der Gottfrel: Frawl; in/ der mittlem allmen befindet sich, f.394v Ein Ehr Ring der Gotrtfrel: Frawen/ … / Ein silbernes Reliquiariú/ Ein Rosenkrantz von kokes.

48 Bauer and Haupt, “Rudolf II Inventar,” fol. 33. On the prophylactic material properties of coconut shell, see Suzanna Ivanič, “Early Modern Religious Objects and Materialities of Belief,” in The Routledge Handbook of Material Culture in Early Modern Europe, ed. Tara Hamling, Catherine Richardson, and David Gaimster (Abingdon, 2016), 322–37.

49 Mandelena Škodová (New Town Zderaz, 1600), AHMP 1213, f.180v: kofflyk woržechu Indyánskeho w stržybrže/ ffasowany pozlaczeny kept amongst bedding and clothes in a chest.

50 Paternoster of Stephan III Praun (1544–91) (Rosenkranz), Jerusalem?, coconut palm wood and brass, 160 cm, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, KG303.

51 Cestopis Bedřicha z Donína, c. 1608–11, Královská kanonie premonstrátů na Strahově, Prague, DG IV 23, p. 240: …v Loretu z nakoupených páteřův, stříbrných křížkův a medailí.

52 See examples of this also in Abigail Brundin, Deborah Howard, and Mary Laven, The Sacred Home in Renaissance Italy (Oxford, 2018).

53 Suzanna Ivanič, “Traversing the Local and Universal in the Catholic Renewal: Bedřich z Donín's Pilgrimage to Holy Sites (1607–8),” Cultural and Social History 12, no. 2 (2015): 161–77.

54 Research on domestic devotional tools in Naples reveals that one might have come across rosaries made from exotic materials such as amber, coral, ebony, and "osso de Spagna”—the seed of a so-called paternoster tree found in Haiti; see Irene Galandra Cooper, “The Materiality of Domestic Devotion in Sixteenth-Century Naples” (PhD diss., University of Cambridge, 2017), ch. 5; and written about in Ramusio's Delle navigazioni e di viaggi, published in Venice in 1565.

55 These findings relating to the connection between local and universal are also reflected in Ivanič, “Traversing the Local.”

56 Howard Louthan, Converting Bohemia: Force and Persuasion in the Catholic Reformation (Cambridge, 2009), 55; James Van Horn Melton, “The Nobility in the Bohemian and Austrian Lands, 1620–1780,” in The European Nobilities in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries, ed. Hamish M. Scott (2nd ed., Basingstoke, 2007), vol. 2, 171–208, here pp. 119–21.

57 On the complexity of identifying faith, see Ivanič, Cosmos; note also the famous Elizabeth I “The Pelican Portrait” attributed to Nicholas Hilliard, oil on panel, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool.

58 Barbora Seydlhuberová (Old Town, 1600), AHMP 1174, f. 106r: Cruczyffix strzibrny pozlaczeny s rubinky; Dorotha Armpachová (Old Town, 1600), AHMP 1174, f. 111r: Krziziek perlowey na konzych s zialudky strzibrnym pozlaczenym; Adam Wolf (Old Town, 1620), AHMP 1175, f. 174v: kržižek s dyamanty a perlaú; Dorotha Loselius (Town, 1635), AHMP 1176, f. 107v: Kržižiek zlaty w tržemj perlamj, dyamanty wysazowany; Maria Alžběta Elzheimová (Old Town, 1670), AHMP 1177, f. 165v: Ein kreützl mit rúbinku außgefaczt/ Und einer darem hägendy perly; Antonio Biatov (New Town, 1680), AHMP PPL IV-14452, f. 2v: 1 silbernes kreützel mit granatey; Tomaš Hlavov (Old Town, 1690), AHMP, f. 130v: Stržibrnym a tyž kržižek s cžerwnyma rú-/ Binkamy wykladany; Antonin Čečelička z Rozenwald (Old Town, 1697), AHMP 1179, f. 375r: Kržižek s 9. granatky obsazeny; Adam Kúllik (Old Town, 1700), AHMP 1179, f. 388r: zlaty kržižek s perlicžkaú.

59 Jeroným Reyczer (Old Town, 1600), AHMP 1174, f. 117v: W jine sskatúlge pelýkan stržybrný sperlaú welkaú; Kateřina Kutnaúrová z Alberndorff (Lesser Town, 1610/15), AHMP 2135, f. A5r: Item 1 klynot zlaty s Pelikanem s tabúlkowým dyamantem a 12 Rúbinkami w prostřed kaminek syrotek ržecženy wažj… 5 ¼ korún.

60 See also: pendant in shape of pelican; gold, crystal underlaid in red, diamonds, pearls, enamel; late sixteenth century, Národní Muzea, H2-17 681, referenced in Fučíková, Rudolf II and Prague, 739, Cat. V. 475.

61 Objects identified as Spanish: Met Museum, 1982.60.387; Royal Collections Trust, RCIN 65255; Victoria & Albert Museum, O72012. Objects identified as German: Victoria & Albert Museum, 4212-1855; Cleveland Museum of Art, inv. no. 1959.336. Object identified as French/Belgian: British Museum, AF.2767. Object identified as Italian: British Museum, AF.2859. Object identified as Transylvanian: Museum of Applied Arts in Budapest, inv. no. 13697.

62 See Hackenbroch, Yvonne, Renaissance Jewellery (London, 1979)Google Scholar and Princely Magnificence: Court Jewels of the Renaissance, 1500–1630, exhibition catalogue, Victoria and Albert Museum (London, 1980).

63 For more in-depth discussion of devotional cross pendants, see Ivanič, Cosmos.

64 Avery, Vicky, Calaresu, Melissa, and Laven, Mary, eds., Treasured Possessions from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment (London, 2015), 48Google Scholar.

65 Anna Mary Sartellová (Old Town, 1650), AHMP 1176, f. 342r: Paty prsten s Orientalským kranatem ssaczowan 4 ½ R; Judýt Bilynová (Old Town 1640), AHMP 1176, f. 193v: [in a list of rings] Item Czeským dyamantem; also see Anna Kutovcová (New Town, St. Peter, 1600), AHMP 1208, f. 129v.

66 Anna Parker, “The Matter and Meaning of Jewellery in Prague's Old Town, 1576–1618” (MPhil diss., University of Cambridge, 2017), 16; see also Bycroft, Michael, “Boethius de Boodt and the Emergence of the Oriental/Occidental Distinction in European Mineralogy,” in Gems in the Early Modern World: Materials, Knowledge and Global Trade, 1450–1800, ed. Bycroft, Michael and Dupré, Sven (Basingstoke, 2019), 149–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

67 Hendrych Becker, Goldsmith (New Town, 1625): In a small black chest, … 18 pearls; 43 small and large pearls / Hyacinth, emerald / Oriental diamond in gold setting / Rough diamond not set / Small and large garnets 10 / Black beads 18 / Silver hand in hand ring, silver heart / Ring with 6 diamonds / 1 sapphire, 1 ruby.

68 This section is based on Louthan, Converting Bohemia, 61–62.

69 Jesus dolls were popular in Spain, Italy, and Germany, especially for nuns: see Rublack, Ulinka, “Female Spirituality and the Infant Jesus in Late Medieval Dominican Convents,” Gender & History 6, no. 1 (April, 1994): 37–57CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Corry, Maya, Howard, Deborah, and Laven, Mary, eds., Madonnas and Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy (London, 2017), 9293Google Scholar.

70 Gary Cohen and Franz Szabo, “Introduction: Embodiments of Power: Building Baroque Cities in Austria and Europe,” in Cohen and Szabo, Embodiments of Power, 1–8, here p. 5.

71 Christian, William Jr., Local Religion in Sixteenth-Century Spain (Princeton, 1981)Google Scholar.

72 The term “glocal” is usefully applied here. See Freist, Dagmar, “Lost in Time and Space? Glocal Memoryscapes in the Early Modern World,” in Memory before Modernity: Practices of Memory in Early Modern Europe, ed. Kuijpers, Erika et al. (Leiden, 2013), 203–21Google Scholar.

73 See case study of the coconut shell liturgical cup in Ivanič, “Early Modern Religious Objects,” 331–32.

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