Dr Róisín Watson

  • Early Modern Germany
  • Religious Change & Confessional Cultures
  • Early Modern Visual & Material Cultures

My work considers the social and cultural effects of the Reformation on European communities. My current research addresses the impact that religious change had on the ecclesiastical visual culture of southwest Germany. I am interested in the ways that images became a significant part of Lutheran devotion in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries following an early phase of image removal. My forthcoming book – The Beauty of Belief. Decorating the Württemberg Church during the Reformation (Brill, 2021) – traces these developments in the Duchy of Württemberg, considering the dynamics of iconoclasm and its impact on later artistic production. Here, I am interested in how Lutheran dukes used their pronouncements on images to make political allegiances, how pastors used their position to inculcate new standards of visual literacy among the laity, and how individuals used religious images to express devotional and civic relationships within the space of their local church. Throughout this study is a focus on the construction of confessional community and the creation of confessional memory. My work thinks more broadly about the ways in which images and objects might complicate our binary notions of Lutheranism and Catholicism and how they can challenge textual narratives of religious change. Through the lens of church interiors, a different story of Württemberg’s Reformation might be told from that gleaned from official texts.

A big question that runs throughout my research is how religious change manifested itself in contexts divorced from the typical Lutheran model. My focus on Württemberg reflects an interest in the forgotten spaces of the Reformation - those places whose Reformations had different trajectories from the story of Martin Luther and Wittenberg and those places that reflect the diversity of Lutheran practices in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am currently researching the role of images in later Lutheran practices of contemplation. This has led me to consider the material of the seashell as a devotional object to support contemplation in early modern grottos. I work too on the function of church interiors in those ecclesiastical spaces shared by Catholics and Lutherans.


Early Modern Work-in-Progress Workshop


I currently teach:

Prelims: FHS: Masters:

The History of the British Isles from 1500 to 1700 

 The History of the British Isles from 1500 to 1700

Sources and Historiography (History of War strand)

European and World History: Europe Divided, 1914-1989

 EWF6: Early Modern Europe, 1500-1700

State and Society in Early Modern Europe

Optional Subject: Conquest & Colonisation. Spain and America in the Sixteenth Century

 EWF7: Eurasian Empires, 1450-1800 

Approaches to History (Gender, Anthropology, Art) Disciplines of History