Rest in peace. Managing death and burial during the Dutch Revolt
Burials were explosive matters in the sixteenth-century conflict between Catholics and Protestants. Catholics insisted on the sacrament of the Last Anointing, a funeral mass and a burial in sacred ground, while Protestants rejected this ‘ritual industry’, and defended a sober ars moriendi and a interment in designated though not sacred cemeteries. For the Holy Roman Empire, the British Isles and France, it has been extensively documented how burials induced confessional disputes and outward violence. Strikingly, sources for the early modern Low Countries do not register similar outbursts in or around cemeteries, even in the tensed Dutch Revolt. Hence, this research project inquires if a range of symbolic violence has hitherto been overlooked, while also examining the way in which religious violence was mitigated during burials in cities and on the countryside. Therefore, it will screen the impressive body of prescriptions regulating burial from the prism religious violence/pacification, and inspect the ‘management’ of death during contemporary pandemics to determine more secular motives. Finally, by introducing a bottom-up perspective, it will also test if, how and to which extent this multi-level ‘management’ of burial pacified in times of growing religious polarization. As such, the case study of the Low Countries can provide a new conceptual framework to assess more generally why and how the deceased and the bereaved in the early modern era could (or not) rest in peace.