"William Blake, ‘Europe A Prophecy – title page’ (1794) © Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.”
The Reformation dramatically changed Europe’s religious and political landscapes within a few decades. The Protestant emphasis on translating the Scriptures into the vernacular and the developments of the printing press rapidly gave increased visibility to the most obscure parts of the Bible. Similarly, Spanish and Italian mystics promoted a spiritual regeneration of the Catholic Church during the Counter-Reformation. Prophecies, whether of biblical, ancient or popular origin, as well as their interpretations gradually began reaching a wider audience, sparking controversies throughout all levels of society across Europe. In recent years, new research has eroded the long standing historiographical consensus of an increasing secularisation accelerated by the Enlightenment, which allegedly cast away beliefs in prophecies and miracles as outmoded. The multiplication of case studies on millenarian movements suggests a radically different picture, yet many questions remain. How did prophecies evolve with the politico-religious conjunctions of their time? Who read them? How seriously were they taken?