Panat in postcardThe Ranums'

Panat Times

Volume 1, redone Dec. 2014


Volume 1


Orest's Pages

Patricia's Musings



Musical Rhetoric

Transcribed Sources


Olivier Chaline: The Battle of White Mountain

Lacking the competence to review Olivier Chaline's La Bataille de la Montagne Blanche (Paris: Noesis, 2000), I can only reflect a bit on it and prompt others to read it for themselves.

Braudel's great thesis of 1949 on the Mediterranean in the sixteenth century placed the Battle of Lepanto in a vast and dramatic setting that both recognized and minimized the importance of the battle itself. Not drum-and-trumpet history, Braudel's Lepanto narrative holds in tension the force of routine, the power of accident, and the measure of both individual initiative and propaganda on historical events. This narrative is something of a "set piece," not unlike a practice battle for historians, in that efforts have been made to write of other battles as brilliantly as Braudel did about Lepanto, but no one has equaled it until now.

Mattingly notes his reflection about the Armada while on a U.S. naval vessel off Britain in World War II, thus leaving the impression that Braudel's Lepanto narrative probably influenced him little in his 1959 narrative of the Armada. I do not recall any reference to it in the book, but....

The shadow of Braudel's narrative and Duby's work on the Battle of Bouvines loom over Chaline's book, but in no way diminish the light of its profound originality. The same might be said for Denis Crouzet's learned and very important writings about religious, political and social comportements in the sixteenth century. When reading Chaline, I was particularly pleased to note that Gindely's writings are still pretty much state-of-the-art on many of the aspects of the first decade of the Thirty Years' War. John B. Wolf continually praised these works in Seminar.

*     *     *

Like Braudel, Chaline carefully analyzes what are almost structures of thought and action; there is iconoclasm in general in the sixteenth century, and there is the particular iconoclasm in Prague (?) that tore the painting of the Virgin that the Spanish monk, Dominic de Jesus-Marie, presented before the squabbling high command of the Catholic allies, thus mobilizing them to actually do battle. The squabbling high command is itself also a "structure," as were the quite half-cocked Protestant plans of Anhalt that had actually led Frederick of the Palatinate to accept the crown of Hungary. Structural also were Maximilian's ambitions to become elector, etc., and the reality of his role in the Battle of White Mountain. There are many more "structural contexts" here that make this work a remarkable general history of Europe in the early seventeenth century.

For Braudel, Mattingly — and I'm not sure here, perhaps Duby — the diffusion of news of victory was largely a matter of the printed works and sermons given across Europe (certainly not printing for Bouvines), but in Chaline it is the celebration of, and the giving of thanks to the Almighty through the pictorial that permits Chaline to analyze the battle itself, as it appears in paintings, particularly in the sacristy of Santa Maria della Vittoria in Rome. Any historian who sees these paintings is captivated by them. They are true windows into the past. There is another major evocation in the discalced Carmelites of Munich — in which there is a splendid portrait of Dominic in prayerful study with a peacock just outside and someone on horseback blowing a trumpet. Marjorie O'Rourke Boyle's learned and original Loyola's Acts (Berkeley, 1997) has a deeper than the usual art-history study of the of the meaning of the peacock : none other than John Calvin had accused monks of being as vainglorious as peacocks! Here the bird does not enter; Dominic declines glory. The trumpeter on horseback is another matter! At first I thought the trumpeting was the glory given by history, but Clio in not often on horseback!

There were specialists who remarked that Mattingly did not have his military technology quite right. I would be the last to know if Chaline has his description of muskets, etc., just right. I am impressed by the careful verbal descriptions and the visual illustrations that confirm what is written about military technology. Battle scenes in sacristies may have been more historically accurate than what artisans and printers put together, e.g. Kuevenheuler.

Father Dominic was no doubt unique in his role. The mood was just right for his messages to be heard and acted upon. The role of the clergy in battles and in preparations for battle is, however, another subject — along with the red calotte and cape, His Eminence wore steel-green armor at La Rochelle — or was it at Pignerola? If I recall correctly, the clergy only say prayers before each column at Blenheim. Another structural role, ever the same, every changing, with that of Father Dominic being unforgettable, and therefore glorious.