Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious
views in sixteenth-century Europe. The meaning and significance of
those deaths are studied here comparatively for the first time,
providing a compelling argument for the importance of martyrdom as
both a window onto religious sensibilities and a crucial component
in the formation of divergent Christian traditions and identities.
Brad Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic, and Anabaptist
martyrs in a sustained fashion, addressing the similarities and
differences in their self-understanding. He traces the processes
and impact of their memorialization by co-believers, and he
reconstructs the arguments of the ecclesiastical and civil
authorities responsible for their deaths. In addition, he assesses
the controversy over the meaning of executions for competing views
of Christian truth and the intractable dispute over the distinction
between true and false martyrs. He employs a wide range of sources,
including pamphlets, martyrologies, theological and devotional
treatises, sermons, songs, woodcuts and engravings, correspondence,
and legal records. Reconstructing religious motivation, conviction,
and behavior in early modern Europe, Gregory shows us the shifting
perspectives of authorities willing to kill, martyrs willing to
die, martyrologists eager to memorialize, and controversialists
keen to dispute.
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