Castle and Cathedral
Longing for the Sacred in a Skeptical Age
This book takes a new approach to interwar Prague by addressing religion as an integral part of the city's cultural history. Berglund views Prague's cultural history in the broader context of religious change and secularization in 20th-century Europe. Based on detailed knowledge of sources, the monograph explores the interdisciplinary linkages between politics, architecture and theology in the building of symbolism and a "new mythology" of the first Czechoslovak republic (1918-1938). Berglunds text provides an important service for understanding both Czech history as well as current Czech political debate. The author's method can be characterized as culture history, able to connect several disciplines, emphasizing common topic (religion, politics, symbolics). Modern Czech elites, superficially characterized as "ateistic", appears in a new light to be deeply religious, a transition from more traditional, (mostly) Catholic religiosity, to a concept of a new, modern, ethical religion. The study incorporates biographical research, focusing on three principal characters: Tomás Garrigue Masaryk, Czechoslovakia's first president; his daughter Alice Garrigue Masaryková, founding director of the Czechoslovak Red Cross; and Joze Plecnik, the Slovenian architect who directed the renovations of Prague Castle.
About the Author
Bruce Berglund is Professor of History and Director of the Honors Program at Calvin College.
"A scholar of religion in Eastern Europe, Berglund digs deeply into the personal stories of individuals, famous and less famous, involved with state building and cultural production in the 1920s. We meet a group of politicians, intellectuals, architects, writers, and activists whose public associations with nationalism and secularism hid profound religious inclinations that influenced their actions and thinking. This book is a pleasure to read and a rare opportunity to grasp an intellectual moment in history so intimately. Berglund uses his wealth of sources to nuance his interpretations in ways that make the book and its arguments of interest to all scholars of interwar central European culture and politics."—Austrian History Yearbook"An engagingly written and carefully argued study in cultural history, it offers a finely woven discussion of spirituality with the castle and its cathedral as one of its key pivots, the other being the book's primary protagonists, a visionary president, his daughter the activist social worker, and the religiously informed modernist architect. This is a revisionist history in the very best sense of the term. The Castle and the Cathedral, a title that references two very concrete sites portends to address their other senses, the secular site of a new political order and the sacred site in need of a new religious fulfillment in a society deeply suspicious of religious dogmatism."—Canadian Journal of History"The subject of Berglund's book is difficult to pin down. The author defines it as "thinking about God", but one might also call it a group portrait of how leading Czech public figures struggled with the role of faith and religion in modern Czech society from around 1900 to 1938. Some of these people, like the Prague-based Slovenian architect Jože Plečnik and the writer Jaroslav Durych, were devoted Catholics, but most of Berglund's protagonists searched for, and tried to express "something higher" in their political, social, or artistic practice outside the established churches."—Slavic Review
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