Indifferent Things? Material and Ceremonial Church Practices in the 16th and 17th Centuries in the Baltic Sea Region


A conference in the series of the Homburger Gespräche (Böckler-Mare-Balticum-Stiftung) and the fifth conference in honour of Prof. Sten Karling (1906–1987)


14–16 September 2017


Niguliste Museum, Art Museum of Estonia (St Nicholas’ Church, Niguliste St. 3, Tallinn, Estonia)


Icon worship, the Catholic Church’s love of luxury, the grandeur of ceremonies and vestments, and the sale of indulgences were among the most significant criticisms expressed by the Reformation movement. It was, however, only in 1548 that a more serious dispute over adiaphora, or Mitteldinge, started in the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation; the attitude of the evangelical church towards “indifferent things” was ultimately formulated in the Konkordiaformel in 1570. Confessional and institutional regulations often differed substantially from the actual practices of congregations. Naturally, the two were interdependent, and it seems, therefore, productive to study the material and art history of the Lutheran Church of the early modern period through the relationship and mutual effects of the norms and their executors:  pastors, members of congregation, artists etc. At the same time, the secular world, though seemingly outside the ecclesiastical life and practices, cannot be overlooked, together with its connections to power and money. We will, therefore, proceed from the view that in order to comprehend the Lutheran Church of the early modern period, it must be studied as a complex phenomenon, influenced by a number of factors, including material objects. Also, we are interested in whether “regional practices” existed, and will, therefore, focus on a particular historical area, the evangelical territories of the Baltic Sea region.


The working language of the conference is English.


Conference Committee:

Prof. Krista Kodres, Estonian Academy of Arts

Dr. Anu Mänd, Tallinn University

Merike Kurisoo, Art Museum of Estonia

Prof. Gerhard Weilandt, Universität Greifswald

Dr. Janis Kreslins, National Library of Sweden


In co-operation with the:


Art Museum of Estonia – Niguliste Museum

Estonian Academy of Arts – Institute of Art History and Visual Culture

Tallinn University – Institute of History, Archaeology and Art History




THURSDAY, 14 September

17.00 Andrew Spicer (Oxford Brookes University) Adiaphora, Reformation and the Material Culture of Worship

18.00 Exhibition opening “Five forgotten paintings” (Niguliste Museum)


FRIDAY, 15 September

9.15–9.30 Opening Krista Kodres (Estonian Academy of Arts)



Gerhard Weilandt (University of Greifswald) Destroy them! Reuse them? – How to deal with images of the old faith in the era of the Reformation in northern Germany.

Anu Mänd (Tallinn University) Combining the Old and the New: Changes in the Tallinn Parish Churches from c. 1525 to c. 1550


11.00–11.30 Coffee break



Elina Räsanen (University of Helsinki) Iconoclashes in Finland: Catholic Altarpieces in Transformation

Ulrike Nürnberger (Böckler-Mare-Balticum-Stiftung) Modifying History – Remodelled Altarpieces in the Duchy of Schleswig


13.00–14.00 Lunch



Hanna Pirinen (University of Jyväskylä) Donations as a Political and Religious Act

Marcin Wisocki (University of Wroclaw) Visualising a way to heaven. Remarks on emblematic programmes in Lutheran churches in Pomerania


15.30–16.00 Coffee break



Vija Strupule (Riga) The role of interior paintings in the Lutheran church indoor concept: the cathedral of Riga in the 16th–17th centuries.

Herman Bengtsson (Upplandsmuseet, Sweden) Conflicting cults. Uppsala Cathedral and the Swedish Reformation 1527–1593


SATURDAY, 16 September


Merike Kurisoo (Art Museum of Estonia) Indifferent things or not? Tallinn´s Church Order from 1608 and objects in ritual practices

Ojars Sparitis (Latvian Academy of Sciences) The practice of the Confession and the evolution of Confessionals in the interior of Courlandian Lutheran churches


11.00–11.30 Coffee break



Martin Wangsgaard Jürgensen (National Museum of Denmark) A meditation on the sinful man. Some thoughts on Lutheran devotional art illustrated through an example from 1586 Peter Gillgren (Stockholm University) The Tomb of Christ: Representation and Spectacle


13.00–14.00 Lunch



Piotr Birecki (University of Wroclaw) The Lutheran Church as a Space of Representation of Social Standing in Early Modern Ducal Prussia


14.45–15.00 Coffee break


15.00–16.00 Panel discussion


Further information:



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