“Happy and Sweet on the Way There, Bitter and Sad on the Return:” The Transatlantic Experiences of German-Speaking Jesuit Missionaries under Portuguese and Spanish Patronage (1759/1767)

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, members of the Society of Jesus were sent from the German-speaking world into missions in Asia and America that were under Portuguese and Spanish patronage. In this way, the Jesuits gained access to the global networks of their order. The peak of this development occurred during the mandate of the superior general Franziskus Retz (1730-1750), halted with the expulsion of all Jesuits from the Portuguese and Spanish territories (1759/1767) and finally ended with the suppression of the society (1773). Since many of the missionaries reworked their experiences in the context of travel writing, this study will also involve literature and migration as topics. This literature will form a chapter on its own, where in particular statements concerning the Jesuit expulsion and strategies of coping will be examined.

The present project concerns itself with questions of intercultural communication and migration as well as with the ensuing experiences, encounters, and conflicts. This research takes a new approach because it speaks to European experiences of the foreign that Europeans also encountered after many years overseas—in relation to their own culture. This experience of the foreign manifested itself in various ways: Upon returning from a mission to Chile, for example, Bernhard Havestadt undertook to compose mission sermons directed at his home audience because he thought he could perceive a decay in the religiosity, customs, and morals of European society. This perspective reveals the social transformation processes of the European eighteenth century in which the missionaries in foreign missions played no part. One could then establish a confluence of cultural positions in which one culture was preserved in near total isolation from the European context over many decades, and in which the other was overthrown in the enormous changes brought about by the Enlightenment.

Follow-up project to the DFG project: Jesuits of Central European Provenance in Portuguese and Spanish America (17th/18th century)

Term of Project: 2006-2007

Project Members:
Prof. Johannes Meier (Catholic Theology)
Dr. Ludolf Pelizaeus (Department of History)
Uwe Glüsenkamp, M.A., Diploma in Theology