As part of my ongoing new book project Succeeding the Jesuits, I have been excavating sources relevant to the Lazarists' short, but memorable, tenure as the Jesuits' successors in the Electoral Palatinate (Kurpfalz), a small but picturesque county in south-west Germany.
The three pictured printed books are extremely rare originals of texts which cast light on the Lazarists' posts in the Palatinate, and especially their vocation as replacements in the Jesuits' educational arena after their suppression in 1773. I have just spent 7 weeks in the region, where I was able to locate these works, and harvest many dozens of manuscripts regarding the Lazarist "surrogacy" of the former Jesuits, which began in 1781.
Since the Lazarists' official period as successors was not enduring (ending in around 1793/1794), writers and many 19th century historians have been highly critical of their conduct, with many myths abounding. These myths largely began with the first work (far left), Die französischen Pädagogen in Deutschland oder die Geschichte des Lazarismus in der Pfalz, published anonymously in 1793, but whose authorship is now attributed to Johann Mathy. Controversially, this work accused the Lazarists' of squandering the Jesuit inheritance in the Palatinate. However, counter-attacks were soon launched by the Congregation's many allies. Hence the other two works, the Pro Memoria an den Verfasser der Geschichte des Lazarismus (top right), a spirited contradiction of the Geschichte written by Joseph Sigmund Feneberg, a Lazarist professor of poetry at Heidelberg and published the same year. Another defense lies in the 1793 work Der Schild gegen Hieb und Stich oder Lazarus's von Bethania Protestation gegen die Geschichte des Lazarismus samt deren Widerlegung, also published anonymously.
Much work remains to be done in order to precisely identify the alleged problems with the Lazarists' tenure as successors, and the truthfulness of all the published testimony. Another, not insurmountable, barrier to the case is the lack of English translations of these sources, so I have begun this demanding task.
The manuscript sources, most of which still slumber in the Generallandesarchiv in Karlsruhe, are abundant (my collection of 165 manuscripts to date is but a drop in the proverbial ocean). They include original testimony of Lazarist protagonists of the era, such as the redoubtable Johann Theobald (d.1816), as well as reams of financial records of all the other Lazarist houses in the Palatinate (at Mannheim, Neudstadt and Nieder-Ingelheim). The Lazarists proved to be excellent accountants, and their scrupulous attention to recording the financial state of their establishments will go a long way to verifying (and perhaps disproving) the thrust of the Geschichte's calumnies. A final verdict awaits.
Financial ledger of Lazarist house in Neustadt, September 1794 (Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe)
Pro Memoria of J. Theobald, C.M. 26 September 1783 (Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe).