Diversity, Differences, and Divergence: Religion as a Criterion of Difference in the Empire in the First Half of the Fifteenth Century

Christine Reinle

University of Giessen

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Hungarian Historical Review Volume 13 Issue 2  (2024):261-286 DOI 10.38145/2024.2.261

The article examines the extent to which religious diversity was possible in the Roman-German Empire at the time of Sigismund. With a look back to the fourteenth century, it considers groups and practices that deviated from Church doctrine to varying degrees and in different ways: the Waldensians and the so-called “German Hussites” as heterodox Christian groups, the Jews as representatives of a religion that was tolerated but suspected of blasphemous and criminal practices, and people who used superstitious or even allegedly magical practices. The Heidelberg university professor and inquisitor Johannes of Frankfurt is used as a representative of the official position of the Church, whose positions provide a comparative foil. Although other religious doctrines were theoretically not accepted (with the exception of Judaism), it will be shown that the persecution of dissenters depended on infrastructural conditions. It was also crucial whether the authorities and the population were willing to take note of deviations and classify them as heretical. At times, the specific labels were used in an arbitrary manner. Particularly in the case of superstitious practices, the questions that arose were often addressed through open processes of negotiation.

Keywords: Waldensians, Hussitism, superstition, Jews, John of Frankfurt

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