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The conventicle ( Latin conventiculum , diminutive of conventus , “gathering”) generally designates an essentially private religious gathering in a residential building outside a church .


In the Middle Ages, the term was a derogatory term for heretics or religious special groups outside the constituted church. Already in 1199 Pope Innocent III. the term occulta conventicula (dark assemblies) for associations in Metz that evaded ecclesiastical control. Likewise, the Council of Vienne in 1311 condemned the begarden as a conventicula .


In the early modern period is designated conventicle - also pejoratively - for purposes of domestic, construction and devotions organized gatherings of people of pietism that can not be a family owned and opposite the Church more or less conscious separation goals follow.

The history of the conventicle goes back to the ideas of the collegia pietatis (the gathering for common prayer) developed by Philipp Jakob Spener about common hours of prayer , prayer and edifying study of the Bible . The first known conventicle was organized in 1661 by the Reformed theologian Theodor Undereyck , who promoted Pietism in 1668 as an extraordinary court preacher in Kassel and from 1670 pastor primarius in Bremen. While Undereyck began his reforms primarily at court, Spener collected the societas animarum piarum (association of pious souls) in his collegia in Frankfurt in 1669 after the service and from 1670 in his parsonage a community open to all classes, in which since 1675 non-academic participation gradually predominated. These forms of conventicles, often led by master craftsmen, old soldiers or other inspired men of the middle and lower classes, quickly spread throughout Germany and beyond, for example in Scandinavia.

The conventicles came under suspicion of heterodoxy , especially after Spener's death , so that until well into the 19th century (1790, Leipzig, 1726 Sweden) official bans on conventicles were issued and pietistic theologians ( Christian Thomasius , Leipzig, Johann Heinrich Horb , Hamburg) took place. The Conventicle Act was passed in England in 1664 . Only in southern Germany - apart from a few princely houses - was the conventicle system partially established in Augsburg, Esslingen, Nuremberg, Rothenburg or Windsheim.

The terms conventicle or conventicle essence are out of use today. The matter itself is caught in the neo-pietistic and evangelical movement through the term house group . Due to the small size of many pietistic-evangelical association churches, however, there is often a kind of mixture between parish and conventicle or house group. The advantage lies in pragmatic considerations such as saving costs as well as in the emotional closeness among the believers in the same congregation. In the external perception, this mixture between parish and conventicle may be perceived here and there as something special or even strange, since the belief that - depending on the cultural background of the outsider - is perceived as something special and sacred, here with the ordinariness of a neighborhood Church interacts and can lead to questions or plausibility gaps in the case of sensitive visitors or people with a fundamental or long-term alienation from the church.


  • Joachim Zeiger: Artikel Bibelstunde , in: Gemeindelexikon. Edited by Helmut Burkhardt u. a. Wuppertal 1986. pp. 79f, ISBN 3-417-24082-4
  • Reinhard Breymayer : The hour of edification as a forum for pietistic rhetoric . In: Rhetoric. Contributions to their history in Germany from 16. – 20. Century . Edited by Helmut Schanze . Frankfurt am Main: Athenaion 1974. ( Focus on German studies ), pp. 87-104, or Frankfurt am Main: Athenäum Fischer Taschenbuchverlag (1974) (Fischer Athenäum Taschenbücher. 2095), pp. 87-104
  • Burkhard Müller: The "hour" in the old school building In: Klaus Möllering, Ed .: Where my faith is at home. Local history for sky seekers . Leipzig 2006. pp. 231-240

See also

Individual evidence

  1. Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Vol. 5, p. 409, de Gruyter, 1977, ISBN 3-11-007739-6