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The candle is lighted Martin Luther’s legacy in print

This small display looks at a range of European prints and other objects from the Reformation, including works by Albrecht Dürer and Lucas Cranach the Elder.

On 31 October 1517, theologian Martin Luther (1483–1546) is said to have nailed his 95 Theses to a church door in Wittenberg, Germany. 2017 marks 500 years since this act – widely regarded as sparking the Reformation in Europe, thus beginning years of conflict between Catholic and Protestant factions.

Luther understood the power of the print, which was still a relatively recent invention. His pamphlets spread a new interpretation of Christianity – new genres of printed images emerged as the movement gained popularity. Written in vernacular German, rather than Latin, and illustrated with captivating woodcuts, Lutheran texts mobilised the masses and led to religious and social reform across Europe.

The range of works on display showcases how the Reformation impacted all levels of society. Luther’s likeness was circulated through portrait prints, and popular prints known as broadsides combined text and image so that his critique of the papacy was accessible to a broad audience. Often satirical, broadsides equated the Pope with the Antichrist (mentioned in the Bible) and the Roman Catholic Church with demons and animals, in order to destabilise the status quo. Prints from the time also communicated powerful symbols of the new faith, and new innovations in printmaking allowed print media to flourish.
Relevant research areas: Western Europe, Renaissance, Relief printing

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