Violet Soen

A Catholic International, or Transregional Catholicism?

Lecture: ‘A Catholic International, or Transregional Catholicism? Print, Exiles and Hosts in and beyond Cambrai (1559-1659)’

By professor Violet Soen

University of St. Andrews Reformation Studies Institute Seminar, 18 February 2016 (

Reformation Studies have long argued for a ‘Calvinist International’ branching out through exiles under persecution, yet over the last years Alexandra Walsham has pointed out similar processes emanating from Catholic English exiles settling on the continent. If we have come to acknowledge the importance of English exiles arriving in Douai and Saint Omer, buttressing a ‘Catholic International’ in the early modern era, we still know virtually nothing about their interactions with the host society in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai, as well as about their exchanges with exiles from France or more northern parts of the Low Countries. Through the lens of print culture in Cambrai, an online database developed in Leuven provides now the necessary evidence to unravel the transregional dynamics in this border region. Hence, this lecture will discern the impact of the ‘Catholic International’ on a local, regional and global level, and it will show that the melting pot of Cambrai spurred a transregional Catholicism.

Seminars take place at 5.15 in the New Seminar Room, St John’s House, 69 South Street, University of St. Andrews


Report Masterclass Professor Herzog

Masterclass with professor Tamar Herzog, 25 January 2016

By Bram De Ridder

On 25 January, the transnational research team was honoured to receive professor Tamar Herzog (Harvard University, in Leuven for a masterclass on the topic of early modern borders and boundaries. During this session, we first and foremost discussed the conceptual and methodological development of transregional history, as well as where this concept fits in the wider spectre of historiography. Secondly, in a large section on border management during the Eighty Years War, professor Herzog elaborated on the constructed nature of early modern borders and their essentially negotiated nature. Drawing useful connections between how borders were created, perceived, and transformed in Europe and beyond, one particular research theme that appeared as requiring further attention was that of ‘the border in and as a part of society’. The masterclass could further deal with this issue as we subsequently presented our projects on the printing press in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai, and on the implications of the numerous Spanish-Flemish marriages in the seventeenth century. Especially interesting here was the discussion on the layered nature of such marital alliances, if only because this type of cross-border weddings is usually studied from only one particular perspective, either at the level of the family or with the wider Empire in mind.

We again thank professor Herzog for her thoughtful remarks during the masterclass, and will soon present some of the texts that have been reworked with her advice!




Lecture: the Road to Santiago

Prof. Johan Verberckmoes, “THE IRISH ON THE ROAD TO SANTIAGO, FROM THE 13TH TO THE 21ST CENTURY”, LCIS lecture series in Irish studies.

18 February, at 8 p.m., Leuven Institute for Ireland in Europe (Janseniusstraat 1, 3000 Leuven).

Prompted by The Irish Society of the Friends of St James in Dublin, this lecture sketches the participation of the Irish over the centuries in the Camino de Santiago, the pilgrim’s voyage to the tomb of St James at Compostela in Galicia, northwestern Spain. Sailing (and nowadays flying) to Bordeaux, the Irish connected in southern France to established pilgrim’s routes that brought them over the Pyrenees to Compostela. Or they preferred the sea voyage to A Coruña, from where the journey over land is a mere 60 km. Two hospitals founded in Dublin and Drogheda in the early 13th century testify to this long-standing participation of the Irish in the Camino trail. But it is a wobbly history. The Irish have left few traces in historical records. What the Camino has meant for the Irish people, especially in the 20th century, is only surfacing now. Since the 1990s, Irish interest for the Camino has soared, which makes it more than ever a living history.

This lecture is part of a lecture series on various aspects of Irish Studies, organised the Leuven Centre for Irish Studies. The lecture is free and open to all. For further information, contact Elke D’hoker (


Barriers and Borders: Report (2)

Conference Report of the Vth Arenberg Conference for History, sessions 3-4

By Sophie Verreyken, Alexander Soetaert, and Bram De Ridder

While the first two sessions had been devoted to borders within the Holy Roman Empire and the borders of the Low Countries, the starting session on Friday shifted its focus to the borders of the Kingdom of France. In the first presentation, Patricia Subirade dealt with the Franche-Comté. Until 1678 this region belonged to the Spanish Habsburgs, despite being stuck between the Kingdom of France and the Swiss Confederation. The region not only formed a political but also a religious frontier, as it bordered some Calvinist cantons. Professor Subirade highlighted that the Franche-Comté cultivated a strong Catholic identity, which, for instance, was characterized by the importance of Marian devotions. On the one side, the border with the Swiss confederation, in fact a range of hills, was a closed border, marked by a concentration of Catholic chapels. On the other side, however, she discovered manifold transregional relations between the Franche-Comté and more remote Catholic regions in Switzerland, despite being separated by Protestant cantons. In particular, Catholic painters, sculptors and engravers from the Franche-Comté were active in Swiss Fribourg, inducing the transfer of artistic knowledge and techniques.

CUPtThZXIAECJbIThe next two presentations focused on the border between the Habsburg Netherlands and the French kingdom. In a joint presentation, Yves Junot and Marie Kervyn discussed the military, economical and religious aspects of this border, stretching from Luxembourg to the coast. They pointed to the existence of fascinating a protection system formed by fortress-churches and underground hiding-places where the local communities sheltered during wartime. While towns were equipped with walls, it was in fact almost impossible to guarantee a global protection of het border in rural regions. Both historians also dealt with the difficulties that arose in a some parishes of the (Habsburg) Artois County which depended on the French bishop of Boulogne and the integration of foreigners in the communities along the border, a process that often seems to have been facilitated by the intervention of the local inhabitants. As such, Junot and Kervyn contended that there existed a key difference between the rural and the urban experience of the border.

Lastly, Alexander Soetaert discussed the development of a transregional book production in the ecclesiastical province of Cambrai, bordering France. During the sixteenth century, printers had faced difficulties to maintain profitable printing businesses there. In the first decades of the following century, however, a golden age of the book production came about. This was made possible by the relative decline of the Antwerp dominance of the book market in the Habsburg Netherlands, the influx of skilled labor from the Brabant metropolis and the financial support of local town governments in the Cambrai region. Yet, also the fact that printers in frontier towns such as Douai, Arras or Cambrai now took advantage of their presence at the border significantly contributed to the success. A considerable part of the production in these towns consisted of reprints (in a sense also counterfeits) of French books. This not only added to the profits of the local book world, but also facilitated the transfer of French and even Spanish and Italian innovations in Catholic literature. The very location of the Cambrai province made it into an intermediary zone in the transregional circulation of Catholic literature.

CUQY0BRU8AA-5H8The last session dealt with Iberian borders. Sophie Verreyken researches Hispano-Flemish families in the seventeenth century Southern Netherlands, studying the borders of the Habsburg Empire mostly as an internal barrier. Throughout the centuries borders were frequently crossed by migrating families, and despite the physical dislocation, not all families successfully integrated or even planned a long-term stay ‘abroad’. Investigating the concept of a transregional marriage not only as a strategy of economic, political and religious integration but also one of dynastic loyalty, she illuminated how on the one hand the Habsburg dynasty tried to maintain an indirect grip on distant regions of the Habsburg Empire, while on the other local elites profited from closer ties to a distant monarch. In recounting the history of two dukes of Aarschot from the noble house of Arenberg, she demonstrated how the dynastic mixed marriages of this family functioned as an indirect strategy of loyalty on both sides of the relationship.

As the closing presentation of the conference, Fernando Chavarría discussed how the current – still strongly nationalistic – debates about historical border formation focusing on Louis XIV’s foreign policy of a “politique de réunions” hardly take into account the tangible impact on border communities themselves. He illustrated this issue by presenting the case of the river Bidasoa separating France and Spain in the north-western Pyrenees. The region never enjoyed a high defensive priority from Louis XIV’s perspective, but was nevertheless subjected to brutal instances of violence – even from 1659 onwards – when the two towns on either side of the river clashed. The ensuing discussion raised interesting questions about the agency of rivers and mountains, neatly linking his case to the previous talks by Luca Scholz and others. Indeed, by again stressing the constructed nature of early modern barriers and boundaries, Chavarría’s presentation captured one of the core trope’s of the conference: that borders are, first and foremost, depended on man’s ideas and actions.


Barriers and Borders: Report (1)

Conference Report of the Vth Arenberg Conference for History, sessions 1-2

By Bram De Ridder, Alexander Soetaert, and Sophie Verreyken

With borders again being at the centre of European politics, the Vth Arenberg Conference for history could hardly have come more timely. Focussing on ‘Barriers and Borders in and beyond the Habsburg World’, the papers and discussions on early modern transregional exchanges highlighted the constructed nature of borders and borderlands. At a time when freedom of movement is sharply questioned and a renewed closing of borders a prime issue, tracking the genesis of modern boundary regimes indeed proved highly interesting.

After a short introduction of the ‘Transregional History’ project by Professor Violet Soen, Luca Scholz of the European University Institute opened the first session. Discussing the practice of safe conduct (Geleit) in the Holy Roman Empire, Scholz really brought early modern borders to life. In contesting each other the right to escort prominent travellers (for example the Emperor), German princes, cities and other actors took a highly ‘performative’ approach to borders and barriers. Spatial elements which might seem trivial to contemporary eyes, for example a ditch in front of the city gates, were at the centre of various symbolic power struggles and became vital for displaying social and political prominence. Therefore, Scholz’s presentation really pointed to the man-made nature of early modern borders.

ICULcbZrXAAAD9_An her paper on the orientation of the Duchy of Guelders towards the Holy Roman Empire, Raingard Esser likewise stressed how early modern people constructed or de-constructed their own borders. Professor Esser highlighted how (regional) solidarity could survive the creation of new ‘state’ borders for quite a long time, for example when a community on one side of the in 1648 created Habsburg-Dutch border supported the building of a church in a town on the other. Although the examples provided by professor Esser were in themselves highly revealing, she additionally pointed out that the real question is how long such reciprocal feelings exactly lasted. As such, her presentation opened up new and interesting lines of inquiry.

Lastly, Annemieke Romein pointed out that not only solidarity could cross borders: political influence also extended from one country into another. Focussing on the billeting of troops in the German duchy of Julich, Romein demonstrated how the policies of neighbouring princes and of the Dutch Republic confronted the Duke and his subjects with several governmental difficulties, including an upsetting of the domestic political system. Indeed, her paper demonstrated that the influence of active and passive cross-border activities was an important, if not vital aspect of early modern politics.

Moving from the Holy Roman Empire to the Low Countries, the second session carried border creation as its central theme. Bram De Ridder contrasted the issuing of passports for persons to those issued for merchandize, shedding light upon a little know practice of the Eighty Years War. These passports were in fact one of the primary means by which the governments in The Hague and Madrid/Brussels could open or close their mutual border, demonstrating the role administrative practices could play in the control of territory. Moreover, through its increased usage the process of issuing passports gained a dynamic of its own, one which was shaped by border management strategies such as the copying of ideas or the discussing of traditional rights and freedoms.

CUMKrolUAAAD6kXSecondly, Victor Enthoven turned to the mentioned commercial passports or licenten, as they not only formed an important means to control the border but also contributed significantly to the war-chests of both governments. Therefore, the issuing of licenten was often a highly contested matter, for example when it came to the ‘opening’ or ‘closing’ of trade on the river Scheldt. As professor Enthoven contended, in the Dutch Republic this debate centred around three distinct interests: the general objective of hurting the enemy, the considerations about financial revenue needed to continue the war, and the particular economic interests of the local province of Zeeland.

Finally, as last speaker for the second session featured professor Hans Cools, who discussed the political fate of Frisia during the Dutch Revolt and the reception of these events in contemporary historiography. Being a less well-studied province, Frisia became separated from Habsburg authority at a relatively early stage of the Revolt and consequentially could claim that its ‘garden’ had been closed entirely (an expression used to say that the territory of the province was secure). As such its trajectory differed from that of many other provinces in the Dutch Republic, changing its approach to its own borders and those of the generality accordingly. Being a fitting talk to end the first conference day, professor Cools’ paper drew particular attention to the fact that early modern Europe abounded with border zones, and that not only the boundaries of ‘big’ states are an interesting research topic.


Vth Arenberg Conference, 19-20/11/2015

Barriers and Borders in and beyond the Habsburg World: A Transregional Perspective
Faculty of Arts, KU Leuven

(Please register by sending an email to


The geographic span of the Habsburg world makes it an ideal laboratory for transregional history, studying the past along, across and beyond borders and boundaries. Hitherto, the connections between the regions of this dynastic conglomerate have been studied, be it within an institutional or a network-based perspective. As such, historiography managed to cross the boundaries of nation-centred research and to correct the presumed exceptionality of each constituting territory. Transregional history now challenges us to move beyond the national or political borders which have been dominating scholarship since the nineteenth century. The contacts between the regions and peoples of the Habsburg world were shaped by barriers such as distance, language, law and political interest, each often forming a liability to overcome. Similarly, Habsburg aspirations – often pushed by military and economic opportunism – surpassed their particular dominions and manifested themselves across external borders. These separations, both within and beyond the Habsburg world, influenced the possibilities of different actors whenever they interacted, and allowed for code switches according to geographical locations. On the one hand such boundaries might have formed a constraint, but on the other they played a role as gateways through which the empire was strung together. It is therefore the aim of the 2015 workshop ‘Barriers and borders in and beyond the Habsburg world’ to identify the nature of the barriers permeating the Habsburg composite state(s), and deepen our understanding of the conditions in which Early Modern transregional activities took place. By inviting scholars working with the internal and external borders of the Monarquía, we aim to bring a new and comparative view on the enabling and disabling aspects of the barriers crossed by transregional history.

Thursday 19 November: Venue: Justus Lipsiuszaal, Faculty of Arts (Blijde Inkomststraat 21)
13u30 – 14u  Opening H.S.H. Duke d’Arenberg
14u – 16u Session 1: Holy Roman Empire

Luca Scholz (European University Institute): ‘Beyond Borders. Rethinking the Spaces of Negotiated Mobility in the Old Reich’.

Raingard Esser (University of Groningen): ‘‘…te erhaldinge van alle goede frunttschap en naaburschap’ – Cross-Border solidarity in turbulent times’.

Annemieke Romein (University of Rotterdam): ‘Nobles contesting the legitimacy of policy and rule in Jülich. Dutch Pamphlets and Assemblies in Cologne (1642-1652)’.

16u – 16u30u Break
16u30 -18u30  Session 2: Low Countries

Bram De Ridder (University of Leuven): ‘‘Laissez passer librement et franchement le présent porteur’. Passports and passport policy during the Eighty Years War’.

Hans Cools (University of Leuven, Fryske Akademy): ‘The transition of Frisia during the Dutch Revolt’.

Victor Enthoven (Free University of Amsterdam): ‘The Scheldt as internal and external border during its closure’.

19u: Conference Dinner ‘De Koerier van Navarra’
Friday 20 November: Venue: Justus Lipsiuszaal, Faculty of Arts (Blijde Inkomststraat 21)
9u30 Coffee
10u-12u    Session 3: Low Countries/Burgundy – France

Patricia Subirade (Université Paris 1): ‘La Franche-Comté, une frontière confessionnelle au coeur de la dorsale catholique à l’époque moderne (XVIe-XVIIIe siècles)’.

Yves Junot (University of Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis) / Marie Kervyn (Free University of Brussels): Making a border: the Hispanic Monarchy, its subjects and its neighbours of the Southern Low Countries (16th-17th century)

Alexander Soetaert (University of Leuven): ‘Printing at the frontier. Reprinting French books in the Francophone provinces of the Habsburg Netherlands (ca. 1590–1640)’.

12u- 13u30 Lunch
13u30-15u    Session 4: Iberia

Sophie Verreyken (University of Leuven): ‘Être l’amy veritable et loyal. Transregional elites and strategies of loyalty in the Spanish Habsburg Netherlands’.

Fernando Chavarría (University of Cambridge): ‘Right by force, and Right of force: The Spanish borders in the Time of the ‘Politique des Réunions’’.

15u-15u15 Closure and end of the conference

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Catholic Bibles Crossing Borders

Exhibition: Catholic Bibles Crossing Borders Between North and South

LOGO ReforcThe organisers of the Fifth RefoRC Conference in Leuven are pleased to invite you to the    opening of the exhibition “Catholic Bibles Crossing Borders between North and South in the Long Seventeenth Century” on Friday 8 May 2015 at 6 pm in the Maurits Sabbe Library, Charles Deberiotstraat 26 in Leuven.



Welcome Address:

Prof. dr. Leo Kenis, Academic Librarian of the Maurits Sabbe Library
Prof. dr. Luk Draye, Dean of the Faculty of Arts

Introduction to the Exhibition:

Dr. Els Agten


After the opening there will be a reception kindly sponsored by the publishing houses De Gruyter and Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht.


Please register before 28 April 2015 via


RSA Berlin 2015: 26-28 March

Session: Transregional networking in the Habsburg Netherlands

Fri, March 27, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Hegelplatz, Dorotheenstrasse 24/3, First Floor, 3.103

Session organizer: Violet Soen (Leuven)

Chair: Samuel Mareel (Ghent)

Respondent: Anne-Laure Van Bruaene (Ghent)

Transregional collaboration behind the printing production of the church province of Cambrai (1559-1659)

Violet Soen, KU Leuven

During the crucial century of civil, religious and territorial war between 1559 and 1659, the church province of Cambrai at the southern border of the Habsburg Low Countries developed into an important printing centre for Catholicism, even if the presses were introduced rather late compared to printing centres such as Antwerp and Lyon. Simultaneously, it hosted Catholic refugees from different regions, such as the British Isles, Ireland, France and eventually the Dutch Republic, which turned the printing production into a multilingual and multicultural enterprise. Hence, Catholic print culture in Cambrai was not only impressive in terms of numbers, but also because of its remarkable variety in social and regional backgrounds of patrons, printers, booksellers, authors, translators and censors. This contribution will identify the configurations in which transregional networks came into being within the context of the local printing press.

A transregional translation center: the church province of Cambrai in the 16h and 17th centuries

Alexander Soetaert, KU Leuven

In the late 16th and early 17th centuries the church province of Cambrai functioned as a transregional translation center. Between 1560 and 1600, for instance, translations covered almost a fourth of all publications printed in the region. In some cases printers in Douai and Arras reprinted translations first issued in Paris or Lyon, but besides this reissues there was also a local translation activity, stimulated by local abbeys and the intellectual climate of the University of Douai. Local clergymen and laypeople prepared French editions of Italian, Spanish and Latin religious literature, making a valuable contribution to the literary South-North exchange that has been singled out by Andrew Pettegree. From the start of the 17th century, the English Catholics that had chosen the region as their refuge, started to issue English translations of the same Southern-European authors. To some extent these latter translations were based on the earlier French editions.

Upholding a mixed identity: Hispano-Flemish elites in public ceremonies (1657-1702)

Sophie Verreyken, KU Leuven

From 1648 onwards the Habsburg Netherlands saw fewer royal festivities, in which a coming and going of governor-generals took the place of the Spanish King in short, austere processions. Entries no longer functioned as mere instruments of propaganda but mainly as formalized rituals, yet historians also acknowledge in this period a renewed Christianisation of public ceremonies in a period of growing autonomy of local governments. My paper will be investigating three royal entries in Brussels during the second half of the seventeenth century, by focussing on the contribution of the local nobility and Hispano-Flemish elites to the preparation and the course of these festivities. Analysing the organisation and commemoration as well as the performance of public royal ceremonies and the display of mixed Hispano-Flemish identities, this paper nuances current research on the construction of proto-national identities in the Southern Netherlands.



On the 2nd and 3rd of April 2015 the University of  Valenciennes and Hainaut-Cambrésis organises an interdisciplinary workshop on the archeology of siege warfare. Looking at the case of the early modern frontier between France and the Low Countries, the presentations promise to bring new insights into the material history of military border interaction:

L’archéologie ouvre aujourd’hui un champ nouveau d’analyse des dynamiques de guerre, notamment par la découverte de vestiges de campements laissés par les mouvements de troupes. Le croisement de ces apports récents avec les sources géo-historiques permet de reconsidérer l’importance de la logistique technique, humaine, militaire, administrative et financière sur la construction des frontières du nord-ouest de l’Europe et le développement d’une armée de métier, entraînée pour appliquer des techniques innovantes issues des travaux des ingénieurs militaires, entre les XVIe et XVIIIe siècles. L’objectif des organisateurs de ces journées consacrées à l’archéologie des guerres de siège sur la frontière disputée et mouvante entre la France et les anciens Pays-Bas durant la période Moderne, est de produire une synthèse scientifique qui renouvelle la question. Les contributions permettent de croiser les derniers apports de l’archéologie, de l’histoire militaire et de la géopolitique historique, dans une démarche transdisciplinaire et transfrontalière.

More information about the programme can be found here.

VNVNG logo

Research Day VNVNG (27/02/2015)

Global and Transregional History in the Early Modern Netherlands

The ‘spatial turn’ made early modern historians reflect upon the scale of their research: should subjects be studied at the local, regional, or national level? Global history subsequently challenged them to question evolutions at a global scale, whilst transregional history pleads for the study of cross-border transfers.

This Research Day offers a Dutch research group which uses a global approach and a Flemish group of early modern historians which uses a transregional starting point. Both will discuss the methodological implications of their type of study with the wider audience.

Please register before 20/02/2015 by mailing and by transfering 20 Euro (10 Euro for MA students) to the VNVNG-account, including the message “Dag van het Onderzoek 2015”:

IBAN BE96 0682 3425 2805

BIC: GKCCBE BB(VNVNGte Antwerpen);

The registration fee includes coffee, tea, lunch and reception.


10.30       Registration wih tea and coffee

10.50       Opening by Joop Koopmans (President VNVNG)

11.00       Presentation of the projects “Fighting Monopolies, Defying Empires 1500-1750: a Comparative Overview of Free Agents” and “Challenging Monopolies, Building Global Empires in the Early Modern Period” (Universiteit Leiden) with presentations of Cátia Antunes, Karwan Fatah-Black, Edgar Cravo Bertrand Pereira and Erik Odegaard

12u10      Discussion

12u40      Lunch

13u30      Presentation of the project “Crossing borders in early modern times” (KULeuven) with presentations of Violet Soen, Bram De Ridder, Alexander Soetaert and Sophie Verreyken

14u40      Discussion

15u10      Coffee/tea

15u30      Round table with Violet Soen, Werner Thomas, Johan Verberckmoes and Catia Antunes

16u00      Discussion, with introduction by Michiel van Groesen (UvA)

16u30      Drinks