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Salvation at Stake

Salvation at Stake

Christian Martyrdom in Early Modern Europe

Brad S. Gregory

ISBN 9780674007048

Publication date: 11/15/2001

Thousands of men and women were executed for incompatible religious views in sixteenth-century Europe. The meaning and significance of those deaths are studied here comparatively for the first time, providing a compelling argument for the importance of martyrdom as both a window onto religious sensibilities and a crucial component in the formation of divergent Christian traditions and identities.

Brad S. Gregory explores Protestant, Catholic, and Anabaptist martyrs in a sustained fashion, addressing the similarities and differences in their self-understanding. He traces the processes and impact of their memorialization by co-believers, and he reconstructs the arguments of the ecclesiastical and civil authorities responsible for their deaths. In addition, he assesses the controversy over the meaning of executions for competing views of Christian truth, and the intractable dispute over the distinction between true and false martyrs. He employs a wide range of sources, including pamphlets, martyrologies, theological and devotional treatises, sermons, songs, woodcuts and engravings, correspondence, and legal records. Reconstructing religious motivation, conviction, and behavior in early modern Europe, Gregory shows us the shifting perspectives of authorities willing to kill, martyrs willing to die, martyrologists eager to memorialize, and controversialists keen to dispute.


  • In Salvation at Stake, Brad Gregory tries to ground the motives of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century martyrs in their sense of Christian doctrine. And though his scholarship is impeccable, Gregory's achievement lies as much in the defense of a historical method as in explaining why these believers chose to die rather than deny their faith. He rises to occasional eloquence--and more frequent elegance--while arguing for a study of martyrs which will take these individuals on their own terms, not those of modern critics. At crucial points throughout his book, Gregory properly condemns the historical arrogance that ignores religion's hold upon the faithful.

    —Steven Stryer, Harvard Book Review


  • 2001, Winner of the Gustave O. Arlt Award in the Humanities


  • Brad S. Gregory is Dorothy G. Griffin Professor of Early Modern European History at the University of Notre Dame.

Book Details

  • 544 pages
  • 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
  • Harvard University Press

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