Conversion Narratives in the Early Modern World edition:1 location:York date:9-11 June 2011
At the end of the 17th century the Southern Netherlands were plagued by frequent wars, a rapid economic decline and religious conflicts in - and outside the dominant Catholic Church of the region. The Southern Netherlands had a long tradition of public celebrations, like the joyous entries, processions and the “ommegancks”. During the public celebrations the different urban, governmental and religious elites displayed their power and their influence.
In the Spanish Netherlands of the 17th century the religious orders like the Jesuits put their mark on these forms of public display. The conflict with the Ottoman Turks was a returning theme several celebrations and their prints. The 8 September 1685 celebration in Antwerp on the liberation of Vienna was one of the many examples. The question remains if the theme only was a common current subject or if there was more to it than meets the eye?
The popular public celebrations were not only used over the general long-lasting conflict with the “infidels” of the East, but also when captives of the Ottomans returned to the Southern Netherlands. The former captives were sometimes displayed in processions in the region. One can ask though why the return of these captives was celebrated in these forms of public display. Was it a matter of expressing honest joy by the population over the safe return of their countrymen or did the clergy have a hidden agenda in the organization of these celebrations?