Privacy in Early Modern Piety: Spaces, Practices and Devotional Auxiliaries


Mette Birkedal Bruun (University of Copenhagen)




Goethe University Frankfurt (Campus Westend) and Zoom Meeting

The early modern period was a high point of private devotion. The aftermath of the fifteenth-century reformations saw an increased, and cross-confessional, focus on lay piety, devout sincerity, and domestic religious practices. The composite realm of private devotion exists in continuation of and contradistinction to the official, public, and professionalized services in churches and chapels.


Early modern private devotion is a multifaceted phenomenon. A common denominator, however, is the necessity to identify or carve out a form of privacy: a material or immaterial segregation in space that enables individual believers, households or distinct smaller religious groups to engage in prayer, contemplation or other forms of devotional practices.


The presentation traces the notion of religiously coded privacy through centuries of Christian history as the backdrop for a focus on distinct examples from seventeenth-century England and France. We shall look at the boundaries drawn around such privacies as well as the material markers and devotional practices that support their quality of sincerity and religious immersion.

This presentation was part of the POLY Lecture Series on “Space and Religion II”, held in the winter term of 2023 and 2024. Click here for more information.

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