The evangelical sermon was the Protestant Reformation’s central ritual event and the catalyst for a host of other changes, ranging from the abolition of the Mass to acts of violent iconoclasm. In promoting the sermon, reformers in Germany and Switzerland were in continuity with trends in medieval preaching, but at the same time the new centrality given to the preached word fundamentally altered the worship experience, particularly the aural experience. The present investigation traces the contours of the preaching landscape in the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, outlines the innovations in sermonizing in Reformation Switzerland and Germany, and, by way of conclusion, suggests how these changes affected people’s public and devotional lives in two concrete ways. The reformation of Christian preaching that was at the heart of the evangelical movements of the sixteenth century not only transformed worship soundscapes in the West, resulting in a fundamentally different type of worship experience for early modern Protestants, but also impacted religious life, practice, and culture more broadly.

Author Biography

Barbara Pitkin specializes in the history of Christian thought, with a particular emphasis on religious developments in late medieval and early modern Europe. She received her B.A. in German language and literature from Carleton College and her M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago Divinity School. At Stanford University, Dr. Pitkin teaches courses on the history and future of Christianity, sixteenth-century reformations, the history of biblical interpretation, and women and religion. She also serves as the faculty / grad colloquium coordinator and supervises undergraduate outreach for the Department of Religious Studies. Her current research focuses on early modern views and uses of the past. She is the author of What Pure Eyes Could See: Calvin’s Doctrine of Faith in its Exegetical Context (Oxford University Press, 1999) and co-editor of The Formation of Clerical and Confessional Identities in Early Modern Europe (Brill, 2006). Recent articles include “Calvin’s Mosaic Harmony: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Legal History,” which appeared in the Sixteenth Century Journal, and “John Calvin, François Hotman, and the Living Lessons of Sacred History,” which appeared in Politics, Gender, and Belief: Essays in Memory of Robert Kingdon (Droz, 2014). She is currently president of the Calvin Studies Society.

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