Radical Religious Communities in Premodern Societies

The conference on the occasion of the 600th anniversary of the foundation of Tábor was postponed to 20-22 October 2021. We look forward to welcoming in Tábor eighteen speakers from three continents.

Founded in February 1420, Tábor is just one—albeit in many respects an exceptional—example of a radical religious community. Born from millenarian expectations, Tábor underwent swift development, from a sectarian revolutionary commune to a military-political power within Hussitism and a properly established medieval town. In other cases like Florence, Zürich, Münster, Prague, and many more, religious radicalism settled into the pre-existing social and political structures of municipal communities, while other radical groups pursued a clandestine or secluded existence. This conference will deal with the religiously motivated  group formation from the fourteenth to sixteenth centuries, focusing on movements and ideologies such as (but not limited to) Waldensianism, Wycliffism, Hussitism, spiritual Franciscanism, the radical Reformation, and various other utopic and religiously-inspired visions.

The emergence of dissenting and radical religious groups was a logical consequence of the pursuit of renewal in premodern Christianity. The separation of such groups from the mainstream can be in turn seen as resulting from the diversity of answers to the problem of balancing between religious idealism and the demands of social and political stability. The relatively intensive research of late medieval and early modern religious separatism has operated in a field demarcated by concepts such as heresy, reform and reformation, revolution, religious movements, apocalypticism, and others. By building upon this research tradition, but not limited by the restraints of any single terminology, this conference has a twofold aim: to facilitate a more comparative approach by bringing together scholars of various religious communities of premodern Europe, and to situate the study of dissident religion within its local social, political, and communal context.

The conference is organized jointly by the Centre for Medieval Studies (Institute of Philosophy, Czech Academy of Sciences) and the Hussite Museum in Tábor.