, Volume 67, Issue 4, pp 253–265 | Cite as

The political geography of religion: historical state-church relations in Europe and recent challenges

  • Hans KnippenbergEmail author


Historical processes of state formation and nation building are crucial for an understanding of the geography of religions and churches in Europe. Each country has developed its own model of state-church relations, giving rise to a ‘bewildering variety’ as Grace Davie aptly remarks. The aim of this paper is to bring some order to this variety by developing a framework for the comparative study of church-state relations based on Stein Rokkan’s famous conceptual map and recent extensions of it to Central and Eastern Europe by John Madeley. According to that framework Europe has been divided into three mono-confessional (Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Eastern Orthodox) blocs and two multi-confessional culture belts from Northwest to Southeast, and from Northeast to Southeast. This historical pattern has been challenged by secularisation, which started with the Enlightenment and the French Revolution (Western Europe) and the Russian Revolution (Eastern Europe until the velvet revolutions of 1989/1991) and then became widespread after the ‘cultural revolutions’ of the 1960s. A second challenge has to do with globalisation and its consequences, such as massive immigration and the rise of immigrant religions, and in general deterritorialisation, which means the disembeddedness of religion from its national territory. A third challenge concerns reterritorialisation at other (supranational, regional, transnational, and local) scales, of which the new territorial order of the European Union seems to be the most important. Finally, this paper serves as an introduction to the case studies on church-state relations in this special issue.


Europe Geography of religions Nation building Political geography State-church relations State formation 


  1. Anderson, B. (1991). Imagined communities. Reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism, 2nd edn. London/New York: Verso.Google Scholar
  2. Atkin, N., & Tallett, F. (2003). Priests, prelates and people. A history of European Catholicism since 1750. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  3. Bartlett, R. (1993). The making of Europe: Conquest, civilization and cultural change, 950–1350. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  4. Berger, P. L. (Ed.) (1999). The desecularization of the world. Resurgent religion and world politics. Grand Rapids, Mich: Eerdmans.Google Scholar
  5. van Bijsterveld, S. C. (1998). Godsdienstvrijheid in Europees perspectief. Deventer: Tjeenk Willink.Google Scholar
  6. Blum, J. (1978). The end of the old order in rural Europe. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  7. Brenner, N. (1999a). Beyond state-centrism? Space, territoriality, and geographical scale in globalisation studies. Theory and Society, 28, 39–78.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brenner, N. (1999b). Globalisation as reterritorialisation: The re-scaling of urban governance in the European Union. Urban Studies, 36, 431–451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Casanova, J. (2001) Religion, the new millennium, and globalization. Sociology of Religion, 62, 415–441.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chaunu, P. (Ed.) (1990). De Reformatie. De 16de-eeuwse revolutie in de kerk. Uniepers, Abcoude (Dutch translation of L’Aventure de la Réforme. Hermé, 1986).Google Scholar
  11. Davie, G. (2000) Religion in modern Europe. A memory mutates. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  12. Dijkink, G. J., & Knippenberg, H. (2001). The territorial factor: An introduction. In G. J. Dijkink & H. Knippenberg (Eds.), The territorial factor. Political geography in a globalising world (pp. 11–28). Amsterdam: Vossius Press.Google Scholar
  13. Douwes, D. (red.) (2001). Naar een Europese Islam? Amsterdam: Mets & Schilt.Google Scholar
  14. Enyedi, Z. (2003). Conclusion: Emerging issues in the study of church-state relations. West European Politics, 26, 218–232.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Flora, P., Kuhnle, S. & Urwin, D. (Eds.) (1999). State formation, nation-building, and mass politics in Europe: The theory of Stein Rokkan. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  16. Guéhenno, J. -M. (1995). The end of the nation-state. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  17. Henkel, R. (2001). Atlas der Kirchen und der anderen Religionsgemeinschaften in Deutschland. Eine Religionsgeographie. Stuttgart/Berlin/Köln: Kohlhammer.Google Scholar
  18. Henkel, R. (2005). Germany: Recent changes on the religious map. In H. Knippenberg (Ed.), The changing religious landscape of Europe (pp. 59–74). Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.Google Scholar
  19. Henkel, R., & Knippenberg, H. (2005). Secularisation and the rise of religious pluralism. In H. Knippenberg (Ed.), The changing religious landscape of Europe (pp. 1–13). Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.Google Scholar
  20. Herzig, E. M. (1996). Armenia and the Armenians. In G. Smith (Ed.), The nationalities question in the post-Soviet states 2nd edn. (pp. 248–268). London: Longman.Google Scholar
  21. Hin, J. (2003). Ethnic and civic identity: Incompatible loyalties? The case of Armenians in post-Soviet Georgia. Utrecht/Amsterdam: Netherlands Geographical Studies 315. KNAG/University of Amsterdam, Department of Geography and Planning.Google Scholar
  22. Huntington, S. P. (1996). The clash of civilizations and the remaking of world order. London: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  23. Kolossov, V., & O’Loughlin, J. (1998). New borders for the new world orders: Territorialities at the fin-de-siècle. GeoJournal, 44, 259–273.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Knippenberg H. (Ed.) (2005). The changing religious landscape of Europe. Amsterdam: Het Spinhuis.Google Scholar
  25. Küng, H. (1994). Christianity: The religious situation of our time. London: SCM Press.Google Scholar
  26. Lijphart, A. (1977). Democracy in plural societies. New Haven/London: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  27. MacCulloch, D. (2004). Reformation. Europe’s house divided, 1490–1700. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  28. Madeley, J. T. S. (2003). A framework for the comparative analysis of church-state relations in Europe. West European Politics, 26, 23–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Mamadouh, V. (2001a). A place called Europe: National political cultures and the making of the new territorial order known as the European Union. In G. Dijkink & H. Knippenberg (Eds.), The territorial factor. Political geography in a globalising world (pp. 201–224). Amsterdam: Vossiuspers.Google Scholar
  30. Mamadouh, V. (2001b). The territoriality of European integration and the territorial features of the European Union: The first 50 years. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie, 92, 420–436.Google Scholar
  31. Mamadouh, V., & van der Wusten, H. (2006). Tussen spotzucht en geloofsijver: Europa in spagaat. Geografie, 15(4), 24–26.Google Scholar
  32. Maréchal, B. (Coord.), (2002). A guidebook on Islam and Muslims in the wide contemporary Europe. Louvain-la-Neuve: Academia Bruylant.Google Scholar
  33. Nielsen, J. S. (1999). Towards a European Islam. Basingstoke: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  34. Nielsen, J. S. (2000). Fluid identities: Muslims and Western Europe’s nation states. Cambridge Review of International Affairs, 13(2), 212–227.Google Scholar
  35. Nicolle, D. (2003). Historical atlas of the Islamic world. New York: Checkmark Books.Google Scholar
  36. Norris, P., & Inglehart, R. (2004). Sacred and secular. Religion and politics worldwide. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  37. Ohmae, K. (1995). The end of the nation state. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  38. Ó Thathail, G. (1998). Political geography III: Dealing with deterritorialization. Progress in Human Geography, 22, 81–93.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Prodomou, E. (1996). Paradigms, power and identity: Rediscovering Orthodoxy and regionalizing Europe. European Journal of Political Research, 30, 125–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Rémond, R. (1999). Religion and society in modern Europe. Oxford: Blackwell.Google Scholar
  41. Rokkan, S. (1979). Cities, states, nations: A dimensional for the study of contrast in development. In S. N. Eisenstad & S. Rokkan (Eds.), Building states and nations. Beverley Hills: Sage.Google Scholar
  42. Rokkan, S. (1981). Territories, nations, parties: Towards a geoeconomic-geopolitical model for the explanation of variations within Western Europe. In R. L. Merritt & B. M. Russett (Eds.), From national development to global community: Essays in honour of Karl W. Deutsch (pp. 70–95). London: George Allen & Unwin.Google Scholar
  43. Rokkan, S., & Urwin, D. W. (1983). Economy, territory, identity. Politics of West European peripheries. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  44. Roy, O. (2004). Globalized Islam. The search for a New Ummah. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  45. Seiler, D. (1993). Une carte conceptuelle de la nouvelle Europe. In E. Philippart (Ed.), Nations et frontières dans la nouvelle Europe. L’impact croisé (pp. 45–77). Bruxelles: Editions Complexe.Google Scholar
  46. Shore, C. (2000). Building Europe. The cultural politics of European integration. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  47. Smart, N. (1999). Atlas of the World’s religions. London: Calmann & King.Google Scholar
  48. Smith, A. D. (1991). National identity. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geography, Planning and International Development StudiesUniversity of AmsterdamAmsterdamThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations