Moravian Memoirs and the Emotional Salience of Conversion Rituals

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference paperChapterpeer-review


Every year on 17 August, Moravian congregations around the world remember and celebrate with a special children’s feast the public conversion rituals of a revival movement in south-east Germany in 1727. Here conversions, and their associated emotional performances, became a driver for both personal as well as wider social change as the ecstatic conversion experiences of individual girls soon extended to the whole community. The revival resulted in the social transformation of the population of Herrnhut and Berthelsdorf, two newly founded religious communities belonging to the estate of Count Nikolaus Ludwig of Zinzendorf. The conversion ritual, which became foundational for all Moravian congregations across the world, was itself modelled on earlier revival experiences of Protestant religious refugees from Moravia in the Habsburg Empire, who had to flee the violent and enforced Catholic Reformation and who had only very recently arrived in Herrnhut. Most of the key female protagonists came from these families and had experienced existential crises on account of incarceration and the attempts to resist an enforced re-Catholicisation in the Habsburg Empire. This prophetic movement, in which adolescent girls acted as ritual leaders, urged the congregation to repent their sins and to transform their social and spiritual fragmentation into a unified religious community. The emotional intensity of the conversion ritual continued to live on in the individual memories of its participants as well as the collective memory of the Moravian Church as a whole.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotion, Ritual and Power in Europe, 1200-1920
Subtitle of host publicationFamily, State and Church
EditorsMerridee L. Bailey, Katie Barclay
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
ISBN (Electronic)9783319441856
ISBN (Print)9783319441849
Publication statusPublished - 2017

Publication series

NamePalgrave Studies in the History of Emotions


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