Blick auf den Bodensee
Blick auf den Bodensee

The ascetic renunciation of family – a controversial topic

Opening of the “Kinless Worlds?” meeting at the Culture Centre of Konstanz Minster

With a lecture on 4 June 2015 entitled “Martin Luther: From monk to family father”, Professor Volker Lepping, professor of church history at the University of Tübingen, will open the international meeting “Kinless Worlds? Familienlosigkeit und asketische Milieus von der Spätantike bis zum Spätmittelalter” (Kinless Worlds? The renunciation of family and ascetic milieus from late antiquity to the late middle ages). The opening event, which explicitly seeks to address the general public, begins at 20:00 in the Wolkensteinsaal of the Culture Centre of Konstanz Minster. The conference is funded by the Center of Excellence “Cultural Foundations of Social Integration” of the University of Konstanz.

Professor Gabriela Signori, professor of medieval history at the University of Konstanz, states that “those tendencies within Christianity that are inimical to the idea of family and corrosive in that sense have been speculated on a lot in the last decades, but little systematic research has been carried out”. She co-organises the meeting at the Culture Centre of Konstanz Minster, which begins on 4 June and ends on 6 June 2015, with Dr. Steffen Diefenbach, junior lecturer in political cultures of antiquity.

“Researchers tend to follow Max Weber, who stipulates a structural difference between Christian congregations and tribal groups”, the organisers explain, admitting that normative texts in the ascetic tradition – for example monastic rules – do in fact demand a strict separation of the individual from the family. “But what is striking”, the two historians contend, “is that even those texts usually neglect to reference the key biblical passages Weber invokes”.

In what way have biblical demands and cultural imperatives promoting the ascetic renunciation of family changed, the conference asks, when assimilated, adapted and developed by different historical societies. The interrelations between those conversations and societal conditions in particular are to be at the centre of attention: How did social conditions influence the reception of the biblical inheritance? In what way did on-going conversations influence the position of ascetics and ascetic communities in society?

The opening lecture looks at Martin Luther as a historical person at the transition from the middle ages to the early modern period, who felt himself called to ascetic monkhood, but who, later on, publicly denounced the renunciation of family required of the clergy. Professor Volker Lepping, who specialises in the late middle ages and the Reformation, will provide historical and biographical background on the reasons for this transition.