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Grief and Consolation in Early Modern Lutheran Devotion: The Case of Johannes Christoph Oelhafen's Pious Meditations on the Most Sorrowful Bereavement (1619)1


This article seeks to make an original contribution to the study of early modern Christian devotion by examining a source that has received no scholarly attention of any kind: Johannes Christoph Oelhafen's Pious Meditations on the Most Sorrowful Bereavement (1619). Oelhafen, a prominent Nuremberg lawyer, composed the Pious Meditations shortly after his wife, Anna Maria, died. He did so in order to console himself and his eight children in the midst of their considerable grief. Drawing on well-known rhetorical devices and consolatory remedies, Oelhafen produced a work of private devotion that is remarkable in terms of its rich affectivity and considerable artistic skill. The Pious Meditations was never published, rather Oelhafen intended it for a private circle of intimates, especially his children and their posterity. The work illustrates especially well the theme of spiritual self-care that was so prominent in early modern Lutheran devotion. The Pious Meditations also demonstrates how creative and resourceful early modern Christians could be as they sought to contend with mortality, loss, despair, the obligations of parenthood, and the frequently mysterious workings of providence.

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Susan C. Karant-Nunn , The Reformation of Feeling: Shaping the Religious Emotions in Early Modern Germany (Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2010)

Kaspar von Greyerz , ed., Selbstzeugnisse in der Frühen Neuzeit: Individualisierungsweisen in interdisziplinärer Perspektive (München: R. Oldenbourg Verlag, 2007)

Ego-Documents: The Last Word?German History 28:3 (September 2010): 273–82.]

Wolfgang Sommer , “Johann Sauberts Eintreten für Johann Arndt im Dienst einer Erneuerung der Frömmigkeit,” in Politik, Theologie und Frömmigkeit im Luthertum der Frühen Neuzeit. Ausgewählte Aufsätze (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 1999), 243

Christopher Boyd Brown , Singing the Gospel: Lutheran Hymns and the Success of the Reformation (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2005),118

Mary Fulbrook and Ulinka Rublack , “In Relation: The ‘Social Self’ and Ego-Documents,” German History 28:3 (September 2010): 263272

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Church History
  • ISSN: 0009-6407
  • EISSN: 1755-2613
  • URL: /core/journals/church-history
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