A Brill Calendar: March 30
Catholicism and the Low Countries
Few qualifications have bolstered a career as comfortably as an affiliation with Leyden University.
The ‘Praesidium Libertatis’ was not only a haven for scholarly study, but also a market-place for secure positions; like Church Minister, Medical Doctor, Lawyer or Civil Servant. Both in theory and practice most Christian denominations were admitted and tolerated during the education proper, but Roman-Catholic students often found doors giving entrance to these high positions closed. Boerhaave’s brilliant pupil Gerard van Swieten, for instance, saw his academic prospects in Holland thwarted; becoming instead an illustrious physician in Austria, trusted courtier of the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresia and Mozart’s friend.
Although not yet scholarly attested – by historians and theologians alike – the religious conversion of northern Low Countries in the 16th century didn’t depend mainly on religious fervour, theological tenets or personal spirituality, but on politics and socio-economical considerations as entertained by influential secular and regular officials. Indeed, it took a long time before this insight in the nature of that crucial shift was established on solid historical grounds.
It is seldom that a scholar formulating an idea refuting snug traditionalism amongst the powers-that-be represents the situation so precisely in his own career. When Ludovicus Jacobus Rogier (Rotterdam July 26 1894 – Groesbeek March 30 1974) published his seminal work on Catholicism in the Northern Low Countries just after the Second World War, he had been a school-master on an elementary school, later teaching his mother-tongue to under-graduates; a staunch Catholic and an autodidact in historical study. The book was an eye-opener to the Christian nation as a whole; earning Rogier almost instantaneously a Doctor’s title, ‘Honoris Causa’, at the University of Nijmegen (as Roman-Catholic as its new Doctor); quickly followed by a Chair in Recent History.