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Jenatsch's Axe

Jenatsch's Axe: Social Boundaries, Identity, and Myth in the Era of the Thirty Years' War

Randolph C. Head
Volume: 9
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 193
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt81kv9
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  • Book Info
    Jenatsch's Axe
    Book Description:

    During the turbulent events of Europe's Thirty Years' War, both ruthlessness and adaptability were crucial ingredients for success. In this engaging volume, Randolph C. Head traces the career of an extraordinarily adaptable and ruthless figure, George Jen

    eISBN: 978-1-58046-743-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-v)
  2. [Illustration]
    (pp. vi-vi)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Prologue: Murder (Victim) in the Cathedral
    (pp. xiii-xvi)

    Only small windows light the interior of the ancient Catholic cathedral in the Swiss provincial city of Chur, which is often dark enough already in the shadow of a rising mountainside or under the region’s rainy sky. Centuries of relative poverty during the Middle Ages, even as the rest of Europe raised stunning Gothic churches, prevented the bishops of Chur from carrying out the remodeling that might have opened up the heavy walls or raised the ceiling. Throughout its history, the cathedral crouched within a walled precinct above the alleys and tightly packed buildings of the small city that lay...

  7. Introduction
    (pp. 1-6)

    A typical, if old-fashioned, way to organize a biography is to write about a person’s life and times. In fact, Georg Jenatsch: His Life and Times is the title, in German, of a massive study about Jenatsch published in 1936. After some background information about Jenatsch’s family, the biography by Alexander Pfister begins with Jenatsch’s birth and continues through childhood, school days, and events in his adulthood—concentrating on his rise to political influence—until it reaches his death.¹ A brief reflection on Jenatsch’s larger significance wraps things up into a neat package, into a story. Like most biographies, Pfister’s...

  8. Chapter 1 A Brief Life of George Jenatsch
    (pp. 7-32)

    Before we start taking apart identities and social boundaries during the European seventeenth century, we first need to put George Jenatsch’s life together. What happened to him and around him during the tumultuous years from 1596 to 1639, and how did he experience these events? Answering such questions requires that we first look at the region and the time in which Jenatsch’s life took place, and then recount the major events he participated in between his birth in 1596 and his murder by axe. Of course, even the simplest chronological list of events rests on assumptions about what the real...

  9. Chapter 2 “Georgius Jenatius, Engadino-Rhetus”: Mapping Identity among Region, Nation, and Language
    (pp. 33-50)

    When George Jenatsch was fourteen, he and his father left the mountains to bring him to school in Zurich, a regional metropolis and the center of the Swiss Reformed Church. In the registration book of the Schola Tigurina, the institute in Zurich for future Reformed pastors, Jenatsch signed his name as “Georgius Jenatius, Engadino-Rhetus.” These four words open up a whole series of puzzles that can advance our investigation into how Jenatsch moved through identities and crossed boundaries over the course of his life. The first two words are his name, of course, but translated into Latin, which was only...

  10. Chapter 3 From Religious Zealot to Convert
    (pp. 51-70)

    During his short career as a Reformed pastor, George Jenatsch acted as a zealous and intolerant advocate for the Calvinist cause. Rejecting the caution of his older peers among the pastors in the Three Leagues, he let religious passion shape his actions, including playing a role at the notorious Thusis trials of 1618. There, as one of the spiritual overseers intended to guarantee that the assembled militia “protected the fatherland and punished the guilty” (as they saw it), his role was close to that of an Old Testament prophet. Judge and shepherd simultaneously, he embodied the intertwined duality of religion...

  11. Chapter 4 “Something That Every Goatherd Can Do”: Pastor, Soldier, and Noble
    (pp. 71-93)

    The boundaries of identity that we have considered in Jenatsch’s life so far—nationality, ethnicity, and religion—should feel quite familiar to modern readers, though they did not necessarily work the same way in the seventeenth century as they do today. Ethnicity and language did not yet possess the seemingly natural connection to political order that gives the modern nation-state much of its potency, yet Jenatsch’s life illustrates that linguistic and local identity could unite some people and exclude others in a way that resembles more recent conflicts. Similarly, religious difference, including conflict between those for whom religion is central...

  12. Chapter 5 Hidden Boundaries?: Behind Conventional Views of Jenatsch
    (pp. 94-110)

    Earlier historians and biographers typically concentrated on certain favored issues when looking at European history before the modern era. One common theme was the creation of the modern nation-state and the emergence of distinct ethnic and national identities, both seen as defining features of the European path to modernity. Researchers have looked for national character in everything from the actions of political leaders to the making of cheese. Similarly, the complex evolution of Latin Christianity and other religions in Europe, along with the eventual spread of secular ideas, have provoked endless research and heated debates that continue today. Finally, the...

  13. Chapter 6 Jenatsch after 1639: Storytelling in Biography and Myth
    (pp. 111-132)

    A figure as complex and ambiguous as George Jenatsch was bound to leave strong impressions on the men and women who knew him. His accomplishments during his period of genuine prominence in the 1630s, moreover, made him highly visible within the narrow confines of the Three Leagues, thus ensuring that he would indeed be remembered, though not always in a positive way. It is to the richness and ambiguity of memories about him, and thus in a sense to Jenatsch’s career after his death in 1639, that this chapter turns. The man himself crossed cultural and social boundaries repeatedly while...

  14. Epilogue: The Past, the Present, and Magic Bells
    (pp. 133-136)

    George Jenatsch’s remains are buried again—probably. After 1959, the contents of his grave in the Chur cathedral floor, including the damaged skull that archaeologist Erik Hug removed, received careful study for several years. The Swiss National Historical Museum restored the luxurious clothing Jenatsch died in and identified the various objects in his grave. In 1972, the clothing and objects (but not his bones) went on display in a glass case as part of the treasures of the Chur cathedral.¹ Some scientific examination of the bones took place between 1959 and 1961, including a dental examination, before Hug apparently took...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 137-162)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 163-172)
  17. Index
    (pp. 173-177)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 178-178)