Skip to main content

30% Off New Releases: Explore the List

Harvard University Press - home
Faith on the Margins

Faith on the Margins

Catholics and Catholicism in the Dutch Golden Age

Charles H. Parker

ISBN 9780674026629

Publication date: 02/28/2008

In the wake of the 1572 revolt against Spain, the new Dutch Republic outlawed Catholic worship and secularized all church property. Calvinism prevailed as the public faith, yet Catholicism experienced a resurgence in the first half of the seventeenth century, with membership rivaling that of the Calvinist church. In a wide-ranging analysis of a marginalized yet vibrant religious minority, Charles Parker examines this remarkable revival.

It had little to do with the traditional Dutch reputation for tolerance. A keen sense of persecution, combined with a vigorous program of reform, shaped a movement that imparted meaning to Catholics in a Protestant republic. A pastoral organization known as the Holland Mission emerged to establish a vigorous Catholic presence. A chronic shortage of priests enabled laymen and women to exercise an exceptional degree of leadership in local congregations. Increased interaction between clergy and laity reveals a picture that differs sharply from the standard account of the Counter-Reformation's clerical dominance and imposition of church reform on a reluctant populace.

There were few places in early modern Europe where a proscribed religious minority was so successful in remaining a permanent fixture of society. Faith on the Margins casts light on the relationship between religious minorities and hostile environments.


  • A valuable contribution to the literature on religion in the seventeenth-century Dutch Republic and, more broadly, on early modern European Catholicism. Parker makes clear how different conceptions of the status of the Catholic Church in the Dutch Republic underlay the conflicts between the priests of the Holland Mission and the members of religious orders, especially the Jesuits. He helps to correct long-standing assumptions about the character of toleration in the Dutch Republic, revising our picture of its rosy, de facto toleration of religious minorities. There is nothing like this synthesis in Dutch or English.

    —Brad S. Gregory, author of Salvation at Stake


  • Charles H. Parker is Associate Professor of History at Saint Louis University.

Book Details

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