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Reformation of Slums
Reformation of Slums

The world keeps getting better in every aspect including housing and infrastructure and the growing technology keeps improving affordable housing, but the chances of completely eradicating slums will remain slim because there will always be people unable to afford better housing than slums have to offer. Aside from the fact that a slum is known as being the residential environment with the poorest living conditions, it is also known for various negative activities and a relatively high crime rate. The notion that an environment greatly influences an individual holds out the necessity to create better-living conditions that will in time nurture and improve the individual. To this end, the reformation of slums should be a priority. In as much as these slums cannot be eradicated completely, physical upgrading of slums with improved street networks, better building materials, better air quality, easy access to basic municipal services, improves natural ventilation, natural lighting and better drainages will prove to make positive changes economically, socially and reduce crime rates in many cities. It will also improve the physical general wellbeing of communities. In conclusion, a community, no matter how small has the ability to influence the general well-being of an entire nation. Paying a little more attention to the physical reformation of slums will positively affect the world at large in the long run. JOURNAL OF CONTEMPORARY URBAN AFFAIRS (2019), 3(2), 95-98.

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The Reformation of the Image

Table of contents :
1. Ideas About the Thing, Not the Thing Itself
2. A Tragedy for Art?
3. Territorial Battles
4. Appropriations
5. A Reformation Altarpiece
I. Cleansing
6. Actions
7. Beliefs
8. Fictions
9. Communications
10. The Arrested Gesture
II. The Word
11. The Cross
12. The Outstretched Finger
13. A Hidden God?
14. Crude Painting
15. Preaching
Colour plate section
16. Teaching
17. Ubiquity
III. Sacrament
18. From Custom to Rule
19. Behind the Mass
20. The Tables Turned
21. Ministry
22. Church Building
Photo Acknowledgements

Citation preview

The Reformation of the Image

The Reformation of the Image joseph leo koerner

re a k t i o n b o o k s

Published by Reaktion Books Ltd 79 Farringdon Road London ec1m 3ju, uk First published 2004 Copyright © Joseph Leo Koerner 2004 All rights reserved No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publishers. Publication of this book has been aided by a grant from the Millard Meiss Publication Fund of the College Art Association.

Colour printed by Balding & Mansell Limited, Norwich Printed and bound in Great Britain by Biddles Ltd, King’s Lynn British Library Cataloguing in Publishing Data Koerner, Joseph Leo, 1958 The reformation of the image 1.Christian art and symbolism - Europe - History - 16th century 2.Protestantism in art 3.Reformation - Europe i.Title 704.9’482’09031 isbn 1 86189 172 5


Timeline 6 Preface 9 int ro duc t ion

1 2 3 4 5

Ideas About the Thing 19 A Tragedy for Art? 27 Territorial Battles 38 Appropriations 52 A Reformation Altarpiece 69

pa rt i


6 7 8 9 10

Actions 83 Beliefs 94 Fictions 104 Communications 137 The Arrested Gesture 153

pa rt i i

t h e word

11 12 13 14 15 16 17

The Cross 171 The Outstretched Finger 191 A Hidden God? 201 Crude Painting 212 Preaching 252 Teaching 282 Ubiquity 308

18 19 20 21 22

From Custom to Rule 321 Behind the Mass 340 The Tables Turned 362 Ministry 377 Church Building 402

pa rt i i i

s ac r a m e n t

Epilogue 441 References 445 Photo Acknowledgements 483 Index 484



Birth of Lucas Cranach the Elder in Kronach


Birth of Martin Luther in Eisleben


Friedrich the Wise made elector of Saxony


Christopher Columbus lands in the Caribbean


Maximilian elected Holy Roman Emperor

1496–7 Albrecht Dürer publishes his Apocalypse woodcuts 1497

Birth of Philipp Melanchthon in Bretten (Palatinate); Vasco da Gama reaches India, having rounded Africa


Burning of Girolamo Savonarola in Florence


Cranach begins his influential early phase as a painter in Vienna; Friedrich the Wise founds university in Wittenberg


Cranach appointed court painter to Friedrich the Wise in Wittenberg


Luther arrives at the University of Wittenberg


Luther assumes professorship in theology at university and delivers his first exegetical lectures on the Psalms


Birth of Lucas Cranach the Younger in Wittenberg


Luther posts ‘95 Theses’ against the Catholic practice of selling indulgences


Luther expounds his ‘theology of the cross’ before the Augustinian Order in Heidelberg; Luther tried by Thomas Cajetan in Augsburg


Charles v of Spain elected Holy Roman Emperor; Luther’s dispute with Johannes Eck at Leipzig


Bull charges Luther with notorious and public heresy and threatens excommunication


Luther, excommunicated, cited to Diet of Worms and taken to Wartburg for his protection; Andreas Karlstadt, interim leader in Wittenberg, celebrates German Mass in city; iconoclasm in Erfurt


Iconoclasm in Wittenberg and Eilenburg; Luther returns from Wartburg to restore order


Luther publishes first New Testament translation; iconoclasm in Zurich; Thomas Muentzer begins ministry in Allstedt


Debate between Luther and Erasmus over free will



Peasants’ War; adult baptisms performed in Zurich initiates Anabaptism; iconoclasm in Basel; death of Thomas Muentzer; death of Frederick the Wise; marriage of Luther to Katharina von Bora


Sack of Rome by Charles v’s army of largely Lutheran mercenaries


Luther’s Small and Large Catechism; death of Dürer in Nuremberg


Iconoclasm in Basel; Lutherans and Zwinglians debate Eucharist in Marburg Colloquy; evangelical rulers protest proposals made in the second Diet of Speyer to curtail evangelical reforms


Lutherans deliver Augsburg Confession at Diet of Augsburg; Luther resides in Veste Coburg


Death of Ulrich Zwingli at the battle of Kappel


Luther publishes first complete translation of the Bible


John Calvin publishes first edition of Institutes of Christian Religion


Calvin begins ministry in Geneva


Nikolaus von Amstorf made first evangelical bishop in Naumburg


Nicolas Copernicus’s De revolutionibus; death of Hans Holbein in England


Dedication of Castle Church in Torgau


Pope Paul iii convenes Council of Trent


Death of Luther in Eisleben


Forces of Lutheran League of Schmalkalden defeated by imperial forces at Mühlberg; dedication of the Wittenberg Altarpiece; in England, images prohibited and attacked under Edward vi


Augsburg Interim (compulsory confession for Protestants); Leipzig Interim (compromise negotiated by Philipp Melanchthon, Georg of Anhalt and others); beginning of conflict between Philippists and Gnesio-Lutherans, led by Matthias Flacius Illyricus


Death of Cranach the Elder in Weimar; in England, religious images return on the accession of Queen Mary


Peace of Augsburg establishes legal parity of Catholic and Lutheran churches


Death of Charles v


Death of Melanchthon in Wittenberg


Heidelberg Catechism establishes Reformed Protestant confession in Germany


Pius iv confirms the Council of Trent’s decrees


Iconoclasm in the Netherlands


Book of Concord establishes canon of Lutheran confessional texts


Death of Cranach the Younger


Lutherans and Calvinists debate image question at Mumpelgart Colloquy


Edict of Nantes gives privileges to Huguenots in France


Thirty Years’ War begins in Bohemia and Austria


Gustav ii Adolf invades Germany, making it the main battlefield of Catholic– Protestant conflict


Peace of Westphalia

timeline | 7

1. Caspar David Friedrich, The Cross in the Mountains, 1807–8, oil on canvas. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden (Gemäldegalerie).



This book was sparked by two coincidences, one planned, the other accidental. The planned one I produced using my profession’s coincidence machine: dual slide projectors. On the left, at first on its own, was Caspar David Friedrich’s Cross in the Mountains. I was hoping to communicate to an undergraduate audience this work’s famous ambiguity: centred on a cross, and with its rounded top and allegorical frame, the work passes for an altarpiece, but the painting that the frame encloses is in fact an ordinary landscape view: the dramatic vista of a carved, gilt summit crucifix (illus. 1). I reported that the painter, a fervent Lutheran, agreed to sell the work thinking it would stand behind a Christian altar, but his noble client secretly hung it in her bedroom instead. I observed that the equivocation we were observing had perplexed Friedrich’s first public who, in a flood of published criticism, debated the picture’s hybrid status as sacred icon and secular work of art. And I suggested that this uncertainty reflected a distinctly modern condition: in the wake of the Reformation and Enlightenment, according to my lesson, the private experience of art and of nature replaces organized religion as site of spiritual transcendence. Friedrich’s work hung properly in a bedroom since the artist had himself turned the ritual encounter with Christ at the altar into a subjective encounter with an image in the landscape. In the moment of lived experience that he painted, a twilit mountain prospect, together with that vernacular crucifix erected for wanderers to behold, revealed a glimmering divinity. Having reached this ‘end of religion’, I switched on the right projector to introduce a comparative: again a crucifix, this one painted in an altarpiece in Wittenberg, in the church of Martin Luther’s own ministry (illus. 128). By way of this mid-sixteenth-century painting by Lucas Cranach, I wished to show that already for early Protestants – who proclaimed a new subjective form of faith – Christ was a ‘hidden’ God. Cranach, I announced, had deliberately detached his crucifix from the scene of preaching in which it rises. This was neither the historical, flesh-and-blood Crucifixion nor a miraculous vision


nor a crafted effigy of Christ on the cross. Markedly removed from the physical world, yet still also visibly there, this quintessential Lutheran image marked a first step toward the pure facticity of Friedrich’s landscape view: where the Reformation located the sacred in a separate realm of inner faith, Romanticism made do with the residual void. The modern age dawned within the Protestant altarpiece at the place where, in Luther’s own church, painting endeavoured to show divinity’s detachment from the world. This was at least the intended point of my comparison. But when I strode forward from my podium, stage right, to jab with my finger toward where Cranach indicated the crucifix’s epochal remove, the second, accidental coincidence occurred. My students noticed it first and pointed to the spot. As I gestured towards the cross, my hand cast a shadow on the projection precisely where Luther, also speaking from the right, stretches his fingers towards Christ. Suddenly everything appeared alike. Preacher and teacher, pulpit and podium, sermon and lecture, parishioners and undergraduates, windowless choir and darkened auditorium: all seemed part of the same mechanism. And at the centre of both, as the intended target of everyone’s attention still, stood something that – on the screen behind me and in Cranach’s and Friedrich’s paintings themselves – looked eerily projected rather than immediately at hand: the image in question, the icon of God. This coincidence had a dual structure. It consisted of an apparatus and an image. The apparatus was the machinery of actors, actions and instruments using the image, and all these contained inside invisible surrounding walls. In the coincidence, that machinery had doubled, like a box inside a box. At first overlooked by us both in the artwork and in our world, and brought to light by the collapse of its pointing gestures, the apparatus united the scene of ‘church’ with the present-day routines of the school. The image within the apparatus, by contrast, did not double but remained resolutely singular. Luther and his flock, and now I and my students, all stood posed before this one stubborn portrait of the crucified Christ. True, the image’s reference had changed. For Luther it stood for faith and religion, while for me it represented information and art. Yet the image itself, together with the apparatus of its use, remained eerily the same. It was to these likenesses that my finger unwittingly pointed. This book attempts to account for this coincidence by attending to both its parts, the elusive image as well as the ineluctable apparatus. At first I studied the crucifix in isolation. After my 1990 monograph on Friedrich – focused largely on the Cross in the Mountains – I returned to my interrupted slide comparison.1 Friedrich and Cranach, it seemed, addressed the same question: How visually to represent a hidden God? And both were shaped by attempts made just prior to them to do away with visual representation altogether. Friedrich’s canvas responded locally to Napoleon’s assault on

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religion and sacred art and globally to the Enlightenment, in which, as Friedrich Schleiermacher wrote in 1799, ‘everything mysterious and marvelous is proscribed and the imagination is not to be filled with empty images.’2 The Wittenberg Altarpiece responded to Protestant image-breaking, which had its historical beginning in 1522 in the very church where Cranach’s panel still stands. Both were post-iconoclastic icons. Both utilized the crucifix simultaneously to arrest and to repeat the hammer-blow that gave them space: Cranach’s, by purifying the sacred of a world of facts; Friedrich’s, by discerning vestiges of the sacred within that impoverished world. Theirs were settlements that remain operative still today. Iconoclasm has become an expected cultural routine. Everything must be submitted to an ever more radical critique, including the critique itself in infinite regression. Yet although preceded and succeeded by iconoclasm, we generally feel ourselves not actively engaged in a scandalized, scandalous blow but stalled in image-breaking’s interminable aftermath. Within this limbo nothing seems to change. This is not the same thing as lamenting that new idols inevitably replace the old. From the long history of iconoclasm, we learn that there never were, nor will there ever be, idols, since these are artefacts of the iconoclast’s conviction, the imaginary Other of all critical campaigns. It is iconoclasm itself that never goes away, but haunts us as if forever newly with its fictive foe. At first glance, the crucifixes of Cranach and Friedrich seem to be paradigmatic instruments of a disenchantment of the world – that ‘great historical process’ described by Max Weber, through which magic was eliminated from salvation.3 Apparently disconnected from its depicted setting, Cranach’s cross repudiates claims that a sacred personage is present in his effigy. His portrait of the iconoclastically cleansed church interior surrounding the cross divides the world neatly between beholding subjects and beheld objects. Even the tableau of a world-renouncing faith displays religion as it in fact is: a communicative action performed by a given social whole. Friedrich finalizes this argument. He turns the religious icon itself into a contingent social fact, whether as the vernacular summit cross he portrays or as Romantic work of art he himself creates.Yet each of these disenchantments also resurrects the image it disputes. Cranach’s painting replaces both the Catholic retable that originally decorated the altar and the iconoclastic blank that gave the new painting space. And Friedrich quixotically turns the secular genre of landscape back into the sacred form of an altarpiece. The Lutheran crucifix is both an icon and an iconoclasm. It does not simply restore, reactively, sacred pictures to a cleansed church. It maintains itself in a state of remove, asserting by visual means that what it shows is elsewhere and invisible. Yet at the same time as it dialectically cancels its

preface | 11

appearance, it also stubbornly stands there. I have learned to call this mix of having images and having done with images ‘iconoclash’.4 Bruno Latour coined this word for an experimental show we co-curated at the Centre for Art and Media at Karlsruhe. Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion and Art attempted an archaeology of fanaticism, of a hatred based on the absolute distinction between truth and falsehood. Neither iconophile nor iconophobe, the exhibition sought at once to arouse and to suspend the passions underlying the image wars in the wild hope of thinking beyond them. My contribution consisted of three ‘cells’ which, woven into installations of contemporary art and science, recollected the pivotal modern moments of religious iconoclasm. In visualizing a ‘Reformation of the image’, I attempted to revise the view of image-breakers as heroic, if overzealous enemies of a genuinely superstitious, image-based religion promulgated by the Church. In most exhibitions devoted to iconoclasm, the pious use of pictures seems to hold as little mystery for the curators as it did for the iconoclasts: everyone seems to know idolatry when they see it. To give the so-called ‘idol’ a second chance and allow it to appear untainted by its later repudiation, I tried to reverse direction of the usual flow of exhibitions about Protestant image-breaking, not from superstition to disenchantment but from wherever we think ourselves to be back to the unseen, because always already repudiated, icon. For it was my contention that the Christian image was iconoclastic from the start. Pictures of a God who suffered and died, of the deity transformed into a monster through his abject, fleshly wounds: these were meant to train our eyes to see beyond the image, to cross it out without having to do something so undialectic as actually destroying it. Observed in this context, Cranach’s crucifix was the Gothic Christ by other means. In it the latent iconoclasm in the icon was revealed. The present book rests on the dual premise that images never go away and that they persist and function by being perpetually destroyed. A good example of this comes to us from the Baga people. The Baga, an ethnic group living on the coast of Guinea, were makers of elaborate forms of headdress, including the famous nimba that fascinated Picasso. The biggest of these was kakilambe, a five-foot long object used at rare initiation ceremonies. In 1956 the Baga youth, led by a Muslim preacher, Sheick Sayon, turned against their religious culture, destroying images, cutting down sacred groves, and beating specialists in ritual. By the 1960s the Baga were one of the most austere peoples in West Africa. But as recent fieldwork by Roman Sarró has demonstrated, kakilambe remains a powerful if invisible force in this culture.5 When encouraged to dig beneath official discourse, Baga elders reported that the iconolasts did no harm since the things they destroyed or removed were of course not the spiritual agencies behind them.‘Sayon could not do anything to us’, they explained;‘he took away our objects but he could

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not open up our bellies’. The belly is the locus of power in cultures where ‘secrets’ – and probably also the masks and headdresses themselves – are eaten. The elders claim not merely a comforting rationalization. By way of the sort of subtle parsing that allows a culture to survive through violent ruptures – here through a Manichean safety net built into the original myth – the Baga elders reiterate their founding story. Kakilambe’s power was accessed by way of a secret, initiating ingestion. Whether the giant headdress was physically consumed, perhaps as ashes after being burnt, or whether ingestion was of another kind, the real kakilambe was always already not its visible form. Kakilambe, the real kakilambe, remains hidden, back in the days when it was still a ritual object, as now when, physically removed, it is still appealed to, verbally, in everyday decision-making in Baga villages. When shown a photograph of the cultic headdress now somewhere in a European collection (where it was taken by a French art collector who chanced to travel with Sheick Sayon during his image war), an elder provided the weary gloss: ‘Oh yes, this is what you white people think is the kakilambe.’6 Cranach’s images, and with them the iconoclasm that gave them space, and that traced the austerity of their outlines, represent a re-formation of the sacred images they replaced. Specifically, they renew an image that, from the start, displayed its object by negating it. Christ’s incarnation was iconoclastic: the pagan idols crumbled before the infant Jesus; Christ’s humble birth and humiliating death overturned the equation, made concrete in classical art, of the beautiful with the true and the good; his disciples martyred themselves rather than honour the emperor’s portrait; his suffering mortified vision itself. To do as Protestants did and aim the hammer at the crucifix is to reiterate the gestures that made it. I shall suggest that this image moreover persists even when its apparent centre, Christ, has vanished. Already in Cranach’s scene of preaching, and again in my classroom, a new true image, one constituted as the old image’s structural surround, comes into view. Society, visibly beholding the icon sacred to it, is revealed to be religion’s end, its authentic ‘function’ as unmasked through the initiation rite of reason. This portrait of a mundane social world persists long after its ritual objects have been destroyed because we, the devotees of that framing image, have not yet recognized it as image but feel ourselves properly to live it. In short, Lutheran art renewed rather than removed church pictures. Yet it is also true that, from the perspective of art history, works like Cranach’s evidence a decline in the craft of painting. One of the ways in which the Wittenberg Altarpiece signals Christ’s remove is by displaying an aesthetically unengaging portrait of him. Artistry had long been an ambivalent value in Christian art. To celebrate through superior craftsmanship that a sacred likeness was humanly made was to advertise its kinship

preface | 13

with the idol.‘Their land is filled with idols’, laments Isaiah,‘They bow down to the works of their hands, to what their fingers have made’ (Isaiah 2:8). Madeness was particularly embarrassing in images of Christ, since, divinely procreated, he produced his perfect likeness ‘without hands’ – in Greek acheiropoetos.7 Yet at the eve of the Reformation, in the period leading up to the Protestant image wars, superior craftsmanship in art acquired a new cultural value. In The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art, I argued that painters like Albrecht Dürer, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Baldung Grien and the youthful Cranach designed their productions as legible indices of their superior and inimitable skill. Dürer, in his Self-portrait of 1500, fashioned his own likeness after the miraculous acheiropoetos of Christ in order to announce that art is the perfect image of its maker (illus. 2).8 This marketing strategy coincided with new practices of art appreciation and collecting. What counted now was not an image’s subject but its author. In the Friedrich monograph, I traced this idea forward to the nineteenth century, when the work of art was figured not merely as a display of the maker’s personal skill or virtue but as the expression of an inner experience otherwise unavailable. The present book thus intervenes between my two earlier studies of German art. Dealing with works from the later sixteenth century, it picks up a story begun in a chapter on Cranach, in which, under the pressures of iconoclasm, painters sought to soft-pedal artistry and reduce semantic depth.9 This also links up with the Friedrich monograph by discerning the religious roots of the Cross in the Mountains and, more generally, of the Romantic idea of art. The authentic inner experience passed from artist to viewer turns out to be a descendent of evangelical faith. The imperative, haunting church and catechism, that one should personally understand and believe, is answered by the school-based understanding of art, where individuals demonstrate their subjectivity through their always unique, because never definitive, response. This book is also different from its two predecessors. At its centre lies a work remarkable not for its interpretative complexity but for its engineered simplicity. Manifesting all we need to know about it, the Wittenberg Altarpiece seems to do our exegetical work for us. And having done with us, it resists re-entry by other means. I will confess that no image has given me as much trouble as Cranach’s. In an opening chapter on images of the Reformation image I have attempt to represent this recalcitrance in miniature. And by the end, in an account of Heinrich Göding the Elder’s Mühlberg Altarpiece, I show us still marooned in a bizarre hall of mirrors that the artist has cleverly constructed. Over the years I have been helped by what the coincidence I described above revealed: the apparatus of teaching that still obtains. Shaped less as a picture to be interpreted than as the interpretation of a picture, the Reformation image mirrors the interpretative enterprise in which it here stands.

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2. Albrecht Dürer, Self-portrait, 1500, oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

‘An angry Martin Luther nailed 95 theocrats to a church door.’10 Let this assertion, taken from a comic pastiche of actual freshman history papers, stand for the problem of understanding in the context of the school. My own turn from images that invite interpretation (Dürer, Baldung, Friedrich) to ones that avoid it reflects my experience of teaching art history. Explaining pictures, and getting back those explanations as memorized replies, I have observed how thoughts become opaque. Luther, theocrats, anger, church doors and the number 95 do belong to a notebook page headed ‘Reformation.’ It is only their syntax here that’s strange, suggesting that had this student recollected full sentences, and not their abbreviations, he or she would have been deemed to have understood. School measures its efficacy by the precision with which statements are duplicated, even as it also proposes that those statements represent not words but thoughts. Yet teaching has taught me that even before the work of art, where individual understanding is authenticated, minds don’t communicate. Communication alone communicates.11 This makes the Wittenberg Altarpiece relevant and – dare I say – understandable to me.

preface | 15

I therefore first of all thank my students, whose first instinct was to disagree. I would also like to thank the Department of the History of Art at University College London for inviting me to deliver the 1995 Tomas Harris lectures. They proved to be such an engaged audience that, when I relocated to Europe, I thrust myself into their department. In particular, I would like to thank David Bindman, who offered useful perspectives on my project as a whole. I am also indebted to Bruce Boucher, Briony Fer, Alexander Potts, Geraldine Johnson, Sigrid Rausing and Jon Elsner for their conversation and advice. Early on, my work on Reformation art was funded by a fellowship from the Alexander Humboldt Foundation (1991–2), which gave me the opportunity to spend a year at the Free University in Berlin. My host, Reiner Haussherr, helped me organize my research in the field: I owe a special debt to him. I was fortunate to present work in progress at a variety of venues: the Ashmolean Museum, Swarthmore College, the Centre Pompidou, Stanford University, Columbia University, the University of Wisconsin at Madison, the University of Texas at Austin, the University of Toronto, the Center for Advanced Study of the Visual Arts (National Gallery of Art, Washington, dc), and as part of the Polonsky Lectures that I delivered at Hebrew University in 2000. I have had excellent research assistants at Harvard, University of Frankfurt, and University College London; my thanks go to Cindy Hall, Jülide Aker, Nicole Schaefer,Anna Kim and Caroline Donnellan. My editor, Anne Hoy, did a superb job preparing the manuscript for print. In gathering and processing photographic material I received invaluable assistance from Steve Barnes, Constantin Bayer, Uwe Bredehorn, Jessica David, the staff at Foto Marburg, Mercedes de la Fuente, Antela Arjona Murube, Christian Müller, Ingo Sandner, Sandra Scheidegger and, most especially, my assistant, Tina Curtis. I am also grateful to Bernd Blume, Norman Bryson, Jennifer CaderoGillett, Rainer Crone, Juliet Fleming, Ivan Gaskell, Moshe Halberthal, Joan Koerner, Eva Lajer-Burchharth, Pam Lee, James Marrow, Gabriel Motzkin, Sergiusz Michalski, Daniela Nittenberg, Peter Parshall, Herbert Reber, Ron Spronk, Peter von Schassberg, Ramie Targoff and Katherine Welch for their advice and support. I owe special thanks also to Stephen Greenblatt, who read the book in draft form and helped me articulate my aims. My collaborators on the show Iconoclash – Dario Gamboni, Peter Galison, Adam Lowe, Hans-Ulrich Obrist and Peter Weibel – shaped my description of Protestant iconoclasm. And my conversations with the show’s mastermind, Bruno Latour, contributed vastly to all arguments in this book. Most of all, I thank Meg Koster, my wife, who helped me bring this book finally to rest. Joseph Singer, my godfather, taught me how and what to read. The late Richard Wells taught me how to write. I dedicate this book to them.

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int ro duc t ion

1 Ideas About the Thing, Not the Thing Itself

Begin not with the thing itself but with lessons about it, memorial to a memorial to a memorial. For the Lutheran altarpiece, attendance, like significance itself, is full because it is compulsory. In a murky canvas in Schweinfurt executed in the 1590s to commemorate a reformation several decades old, the Lutheran altar table – remembrance of Christ’s memorial meal – appears bristling with quotations and thronged by saints, ministers and believers (illus. 131).1 The altar stands in the moment of its reformed use: Communion is taken by the laity in both elements, the bread and the wine. The images and texts located behind the altar table, in the space usually held by a retable altarpiece, affirm that these elements are, in Luther’s terms,‘real’ signs: not mere signals for something else but the designated thing itself. A curved trace of red paint, labelled ‘the blood of Jesus Christ’, connects the side wound of the crucified Christ to the chalice on the table. As schematic as a diagram, but insistent that Christ is corporeally present in the Mass, this line disrupts an otherwise factual scene of an everyday Lutheran church service in 1590, as does the doctrinally motivated ‘water’ forking off from Christ’s wound and reaching around to baptize an infant farther back. Likewise St Paul and the synoptists, Matthew, Mark and Luke, personify the basis of the altar sacrament in Scripture. Displaying a placard with the Bible verses of Christ’s institution of the Mass, they too appear in flesh and blood within the contemporary service. Like figments of a sculpted retable come alive, these gesturing pedagogues deaden the facts before them, the real individuals frozen in attendance, their different faces regularly spaced. Memorialized, the altar becomes an apotheosis of explanation that eclipses what is explained. Do the figures behind the altar actually picture the ‘thing itself ’ that we pursue: the Lutheran altarpiece? Are honour cloth, crucifix and Bible authors meant to constitute one of those ensembles of material objects – painted, carved, embroidered or otherwise crafted – that, starting perhaps as early as the ninth century and traditional by the late thirteenth, backed


the Christian altar table?2 An ordinary figurative altarpiece in the traditional triptych format does appear in the Schweinfurt canvas behind the marriage scene, upper left. The figments backing the Mass itself, though, cannot be understood as crafted things in real space – as a sculpted crucifix, say, spraying water and wine like a marvellous table fountain. Christ, his blood, the Bible authors, and their quotations intervene like identifying labels, like the golden letters that hover everywhere between things, on the empty ground of brown-painted canvas. Framing and framed by inscription, the Reformation altarpiece is a scaffold for writing. Its images stand, as it were, between quotation marks. Twice removed, they picture words, and behind these what words, when read, would picture. Behind the altar where Christ enters and feeds the believer, behind this innermost reception of Christ into the heart – of spirit into spirit – visual images cling to the canvas surface like curious lettering in some old book. Behind these quotations, it is true, space plunges into depth. The interior of a colossal cathedral inventories all the props and practices of Lutheran religion. This setting, synonymous with the place and institution called ‘church’, is so densely packed with pictures and words that it looks like some School Atlas of Lutheranism hung up behind the raised foreground scene. There, as a caption below explains, Emperor Charles v receives from the Lutheran princes and cities their confession of an evangelical faith, as occurred at the Imperial Diet of Augsburg in 1530. The largest kneeling figure is Johann the Constant, Elector of Saxony, and Luther’s chief princely supporter. He presents the text of the Confessio Augustana opened to its decisive quotation: ‘So we believe that man is justified without the work of the law and through faith alone, Romans chapter 3.’3 The word ‘alone’ (German allein), here placed near the book’s centre, and toward the middle of the Schweinfurt canvas itself, is the inner ‘kernel’, as Luther put it, of the reformed Christian faith. Luther had arrived at the doctrine of salvation by faith alone (sola fides) around 1515, while preparing his university lectures on Paul’s Letter to the Romans.4 Three decades later, in a self-commemoration composed just before his death in 1546, he recollected this faith in faith as his conversion. Reading Romans 1:17, he recalled, he had suddenly understood that the ‘righteousness of God’ was not the fearful righteousness by which God punished sinners; rather, it was the righteousness by which God made us righteous, through faith effected in the sinner by means of the word.5 The instant of Luther’s personal understanding of Paul’s words thus was the moment of his and his church’s salvation. In this Reformation breakthrough, word and faith eclipsed all other religious objects and practices. The Schweinfurt canvas adopts this perspective, making the visible church a backdrop to the word given and received.

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Catholic opponents charged that Luther had spuriously inserted the ‘alone’. They recognized that, through its reduction, the status of the church as salvific institution would collapse. Luther’s German translation of the New Testament, appearing in 1522, had indeed added ‘allein’ to a word-by-word translation of Romans 3:28. In a famous ‘Letter on Translation’ (1530), Luther defended the addition on the grounds that it conveyed, in the German of his day, what the Greek and Latin Bible, under the contingencies of their wording, actually meant. ‘The four letters “sola”’, he admitted, are not there, and ‘donkey heads’ will stare at them ‘like cows’ at ‘a new door’. But good German, observed where ‘mother speaks at home,’ as well as Paul’s intent (‘the kernel of the thing itself’), ‘demands and compels it with force’.6 As in the virtual altarpiece it pictures at the right, the Schweinfurt canvas frames a quotation: the several words – written concretions of the apostle’s mind as spoken by the mother’s mouth – that the princes and cities confess as faith, and that the emperor receives by touching with the sceptre of his authority. For Lutherans, this text constituted both their creed and their historical founding. As Luther’s first biographer, Johann Mathesius, proclaimed three decades later, ‘a greater and higher work, and more precious and glorious confession did not occur since the time of the Apostles’.7 Through Charles’s reception of it in 1530, and through the religious freedom he was ultimately compelled, in 1555 in Augsburg, to grant to its adherents, the Augsburg Confession founded Lutheranism’s legal legitimacy as a church (against the Catholic view that it was a heretical sect). Composed largely by Philipp Melanchthon in collaboration with Luther, the Confession at once affirms, in a summary, what its adherents believe.8 And it blueprints the organization of the church that would be founded, regulated and delimited by those beliefs. Church is ‘the congregation of all believers where the pure gospel is preached and where the holy sacrament is administered’.9 Church is also the practices of catechism for teaching, and of ‘church visitations’ for discipline, in which state-appointed officials test local clerics, townspeople and villagers on their beliefs and practices. In the Schweinfurt canvas, church occupies the background as the ritual and institutional legacy of individual, personal confession. To the right, preaching and Communion are properly paired, the former assuring that the latter is performed in faith. And to the left, catechism occurs as a regimen of questions and answers overseen by a stateselected authority:‘What faith are you? Why are you Christians?’ the catechist asks from his throne-like chair; to which the catechumens (reading from the textbook shared among pupils, teacher and the state) reply in perfect, tautological chorus, ‘We are Christian because we believe in Christ and are baptised in his name.’ Indeed the whole picture, with its pairing of image and text, object and word, act and exegesis, reads like the key to such an exam. Here stand

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distinguished and explained the legal, social and doctrinal bases of the evangelical church. At the centre, the emperor legalizes this institution; at the left, marriage and catechism, family and school, ensure its reproduction; and at the right, preaching and sacrament fulfil its highest functions. And where meaning might be in doubt, we are given labels, so that rather than being a lesson by virtue of our own efforts, the canvas itself is already thus arranged. It is a painted form of those passages in Luther’s Small Catechism, that essential instruction book where commandment, creed and sacrament are each stated, questioned (Was ist das? – ‘What is that?’), and defined (Das ist – ‘It is’). The Schweinfurt canvas is but one of scores of paintings and prints made between about 1580 and 1630 to commemorate the Augsburg Confession (illus. 3 and 4).10 These took their iconography from illustrated broadsheets of the mid-century, themselves vehicles of confessional self-definition during the Schmalkaldic War and the Augsburg ‘Interim’ (illus. 139–40). And before these there was Lucas Cranach’s altarpiece for the City Church of Wittenberg, which is the subject of this book (illus. 28, 128 and 127).11 Cranach’s retable signals a crucial transformation in the concept of ‘confession’. Already in it the believing subject’s personal avowal of faith became a norm that individuals were obliged to declare as their subjection to the law. By placing on the altar pictures of the acts and objects that make church visible, Cranach offered an exemplary, manifest routine for invisible personal conviction. The Schweinfurt canvas carries this process forward, portraying as well the routines practised before the altar itself. It is the painted equivalent of the Book of Concord of 1580. On the fiftieth anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, and in response to the Catholics’ Professio fidei (1565), the Concordia established for Lutheranism its still-binding canon of confessional writing. All these efforts of Protestants and Catholics to establish bodies of doctrine and practice belong to what historians have termed the ‘spirit of confession’ in this period, that is, the ‘intellectual and

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3. Andreas Herneissen, Augsburg Confession, 1601, oil on canvas. St Nikolaus und St Ulrichtkirche, Mögeldorf near Nuremberg. 4. Anonymous, ‘Memorial to the Augsburg Confession’, from the Reformation Memorial, 1617, oil on panel. Georgenkirche, Eisenach.

organizational hardening of religious communities’ into ‘more or less stable church structures with their own doctrines, constitutions, and religious and moral styles.’12 This greater regularization of beliefs and practices served the rise of the early modern absolutist state, where rulers, alone, could choose their religion, but where such choice became obligatory for their subjects. For according to the famous principle established at the Peace of Augsburg (1555), ‘whose the rule, his the religion’ (cuius regio, eius religio).13 A picture like that in Schweinfurt shows faith under the contingency of power. Although in Augsburg at 1530 (as earlier in Worms at 1522), Charles sided with the Catholic majority, declaring Protestants to be heretics, rejecting their reforms, and demanding their obedience to him, the official delivery, into his hands, of the Confessio by the Imperial Estates (who were his electors and body politic) endowed the document with the force and legitimacy of an act of the state.14 Upon the old, dualistic legal foundations of Empire and Estates thus was built a new duality of confessions – Catholic and Lutheran – which existed in an unstable compromise of full legal parity and bitter doctrinal enmity. Behind this secular settlement of the sacred, the Schweinfurt canvas sources word and sacrament to Christ, whose blood meets the chalice. But the rightness of this sourcing derives from Charles who, front and centre, authorizes the Confessio by meeting with his sceptre the outstretched fingers of John the Constant, the most powerful of his seven princely ‘electors’. Right hands converge on the page at the word gerecht (‘righteous’), as is right. Within the peculiar conditions of the period, the text of the Augsburg Confession did ground legitimate sovereignty. This was not because its confessors affirmed it to be true, but because a century of war forced this settlement: adherents to the Confession were legally permitted to practise their faith in regions where it was professed by the local authority. (Any other construal of the Christian religion, such as Calvin’s, was liable to persecution as heresy.) In the beginning was the prince’s confession. At the base of Cranach’s portrait panel of Johann the Constant, made just two years after Augsburg, stand the words: ‘Freely I confessed for reasons of the heart, / And there, in person, I myself stood. / Before the Emperor and the whole Empire: / By princes nothing was ever done like this.’15 What is confessed by the Lutheran church by 1590, however, was less something individually believed or even collectively communicated than it was the juridically binding act of its pronouncement itself. In confessing their faith, subjects performed their belonging to a collectivity in which, alone, communications about belief could henceforth occur. Subsumed into a system of dominance and subjection, the Lutheran faith became a regimen of individuals practising individuality in their

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obedience as subjects of the state. In the Schweinfurt picture, the fractious who reject the Augsburg Confession are catalogued just below the altar, as names radiating from the trampled figures of Death and the Devil: Andreas Karlstadt, Ulrich Zwingli, John Calvin, the Pope, etc. Communion becomes a rite of exclusion, defining proper Christians in their difference from ‘arch-heretics’. Several other painted memorials to the Augsburg Confession focus this attack more specifically. In two canvases of 1601 by Andreas Herneisen, figures labelled ‘V. Zwingle’ and ‘J. Caluin’ press their way into the church but are repelled by soldiers’ halberds and biting dogs (illus. 3).16 In 1597 Herneisen had scandalized Nuremberg by displaying in his window a satirical ‘panel with all sorts of Calvinists’, and had served time for another ‘slanderous picture’.17 At circa 1600, the threat to the Lutheran orthodoxy was no longer from Catholicism, which stayed within its borders as fixed in 1555, but from Calvinists active in Lutheran lands. After 1555, the so-called ‘Second Reformation’, while claiming to adhere to the Augsburg Confession, was converting whole principalities as a legally sanctioned ‘Lutheran’ shadow confession. The Book of Concord, together with pictures like those of Herneisen, sought to define for Lutherans what was properly church, in order to exclude what was not. The call for universal church reform in 1530 explicitly served further to delimit that call’s particularity seventy years later. Images of the Augsburg Confession functioned within wider practices of definition, discipline and government. In 1630 Johann Dürr produced a much-copied engraving of the Schweinfurt scheme, which was to influence artists down to the bicentennial of 1730 (illus. 5). Dürr designed his print to advertise celebrations organized for Wittenberg. In 1630, during the Thirty Years War, and in the year of the Edict of Restitution, when the Catholic emperor Ferdinand ii began systematically re-catholicizing formerly Lutheran regions, the commemoration of 1530 was an act of defiance. The ostensible reason for the centenary was educational, though. As Dresden’s High Court Chaplain, Matthias Hoe von Hoenegg, put it in a call for the Reformation jubilee, a church visitation proved ‘that many old and decrepit priests in the countryside possess such poor libraries, or are so shallow and incapable, that one fears they are unable to explicate correctly the set texts’.18 Publications like Dürr’s instructed Lutherans on their scriptural and historical foundations. They complemented mighty doses of occasional sermons, lectures and classes which left the laity exhausted. ‘And should church servants or auditors complain about the length of the procedures’, barked a Saxon court official concerned with attendance at the planned jubilee, ‘they should be reminded that his imperial and royal highness himself was happy to hear the whole Augsburg Confession patiently and gracefully’.19 In fact, Charles was known to have slept through both the

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5. Johann Dürr, Augsburg Confession, 1630, engraving.

Protestants’ Confession and the Catholics’ confutatio, yet in the Schweinfurt canvas, his eyes, open, are fixed on us. What, then, can the attentive learn about the Lutheran altarpiece from this propaedeutic about it? What does the lesson teach? And what questions remain so that I, without the power to reprimand, might command attention throughout this book? The texts materialized in the Schweinfurt picture as tapestry, tablet, book and altar cloth, amply explicate the altar rite. The synoptists support the quotation of Christ’s instituting the sacrament. ‘This is my body’ answers the catechist’s ‘Was ist das?’ concerning the consecrated bread. Similarly, the golden letters at the crucifix’s left answer, in the words of John the Baptist, who Christ is: ‘That is the Lamb of God.’ And the open book gives viewers their proper response in the form of the Lord’s Prayer. All that remains, and indeed all that scholars of the Reformation altarpiece usually do, is to hunt down statements by Luther that might elucidate these Bible quotations. The critical edition of the Reformer’s complete writings, published in Weimar since 1883, helps here. With 109 massive tomes and more to come, and without full indexes (the Institut für Spätmittelalter und Reformation in Tübingen has some three million cards),20 it offers several careers’ worth of apt citations. And other editions published in Wittenberg, Erlangen, Braunschweig, Munich, Calw, St Louis and Philadelphia, in addition to those of Georg Walch, Otto Clemen, Kurt Aland and Hans-Ulrich Delius, make citing Luther a special craft.21 Yet even such labour is pre-empted by the picture. For inscribed on the altar cloth and headed ‘Testaments of Dr Martin Luther on the Holy Supper’ are the relevant quotations complete with publication dates. Thanks to this antipendium of footnotes, the lesson stands complete. I could simply cut

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the inscriptions from their iconic support (cloth, page, floor, cartouche, canvas, frame) and paste them into my text as the kernels of my explanation. Thus would be restored the catechism of academic discourse. You would be pleased by a more spacious painting, relieved of the clutter of words, and I would prove my industry by filling in the blanks. The Schweinfurt canvas’s scene of catechism pictures even this routine. Its pairing of question and answer as golden sentences placed side by side reminds us that knowledge, pious or professional, consists of recitations of the known; that decoding visual meaning, as a method of instruction, has roots in the Christian school; and that a historical line runs from Dr Luther through Baroque catechetic emblem literature and the Enlightened iconographies of Lessing to Erwin Panofsky’s iconology, with its strict distinction between pre-iconographic and iconographic analysis, as if between naïve and learned viewers, and with its pedagogic ambition to cultivate (Bilden) the cultural laity through images (Bilder).22 I set out to work on the Lutheran altarpiece, and the subject already appears exhausted. Meaning – interpretation’s elusive quarry – stands written in golden absolutes: ‘Man is justified not by the works of the law but by faith alone.’ Scholarship isn’t hindered by arcane or lost sources. Neither is it complicated by an aesthetic experience that defies expression. Ugly pictures like the canvas in Schweinfurt say what they mean, advertising their key in a language plain enough that children, sounding letters one by one, or hearing them pronounced by the Hausvater, would leave the image confident that no work had been left undone. Reformation images look less like bad art than like bad art history. They offer a macabre likeness of myself as iconographer responding to the image’s ‘Was ist das?’ with the redundancy ‘Das ist das.’ Art, it is hoped, leaves unsaid an unexchangeable something, distinct from the currency of meaning, which insures that, however much is explained, a minimum deposit will remain. The Schweinfurt canvas seems to empty out this reserve. Its surfaces support words while its depths are filled only with what words refer to. In Herneisen’s canvas, the choirboys sing from a hymnal displaying neither the text nor the music of their song, but the biblical command requiring them to sing. Words bathe in the grey light of what seems a useless significance.

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2 A Tragedy for Art?

To historians of art, the Reformation of the image is a contradiction in terms.1 If, as Samuel Johnson put it, to reform is ‘to pass by change from worse to better’, then the Protestant Reformation – that historical effort to resurrect the Christian faith from a supposed state of decrepitude – seems to have had the opposite effect on the image. The great flowering of the visual arts in northern Europe around 1500 ended in oblivion. In the Reformation heartland of Germany, especially, a phenomenal generation of artists – major painters such as Albrecht Dürer, Matthias Grünewald, Lucas Cranach, Albrecht Altdorfer, Hans Baldung Grien and Hans Holbein, as well as stellar sculptors like Tilman Riemenschneider, Veit Stoss and Hans Leinberger – passed without heirs.2 Even Cranach’s prolific and long-lived son, Lucas the Younger (born 1515), fossilized more than he continued. Decline seems downright quantitative, as if the balance sheet for German art at 1580 records a deficit since 1520, as if more was ruined than survived or was made. And it was the case that, for some radical reformers, faith’s renovation required the destruction of images.3 Church pictures were accused of exciting idolatry, breaking the biblical law against graven images and ignoring the early Christian martyrs’ repudiation of pagan effigies. The very presence of paintings and statues in the space of worship constituted for iconoclasts positive proof of the need for reform. In areas of northern Europe where this attitude held sway – in Swiss and south German cities in the 1520s, in Huguenot France, in England from 1536, in Flanders during the ‘wonder year’ 1566, and elsewhere – the history of art became a story of the image’s annihilation. This is not to say that no residue remained, or that the stripped church had no aesthetic of its own. Nor did iconoclasm always accompany reform. The judgement of Martin Luther was pivotal. He conceded that certain cult images inspired idolatry, that effigies of the Virgin and the saints supported the Church’s false promise of intercession, and that, advertised as pious


donation, votive gift or indulgenced object, church art supported a false theology that claimed, against the sola fides, that salvation came by good works.4 Yet Luther also judged images not for what they in themselves were, but for the function they served. Declaring that the ‘argument is not about substance, but about the use and abuse of things’,5 he tolerated and finally even encouraged church art if it served to instruct. Luther’s mandate hardly changed images for the better, however. Didacticism required that the image become less rather than more: less visually seductive, less emotionally charged, less semantically rich. Deemed useless save as school pictures, images were built to signal the fact of their impotence. Expressing their mundaneness through wilfully crude visible forms, and valuable only for what they meant rather than for how they looked, they emptied out any residual expectation of magical efficacy, any lingering faith in the participation of the likeness with what the likeness represents.6 In areas of Protestant Germany that escaped iconoclasm, the history of art became the story of this conscious curtailment. Its material inventory are the dingy epitaphs, cobwebbed memorials and word-infested panels that hang like forgotten overcoats on the walls of evangelical churches. In studying things like the Schweinfurt canvas, it is pointless to rail against a critical canon that consigns them to oblivion. They were no more made for aesthetic appreciation than are safety certificates in elevators. To art historians, who rarely take the breaking of images to be an art, and who relish decline only when it dramatizes decadence, the Reformation removed most of what holds interest for them in their object. Or as the German Expressionist poet Gottfried Benn put it more bluntly, Luther, that ‘dirty Saxon’, having no understanding of the ‘problems of form’, destroyed the medieval synthesis of beauty and the sacred for the sake of his ‘conscience’.7 The image of the Reformer as enemy of culture is old. Since the sixteenth century, Catholic confessional literature attacked Luther for sowing the seeds of modern social disintegration and disbelief. Even some early Lutherans fretted that what had saved religion damaged culture. Lutherana tragoedia artis;8 levelled already by Erasmus, this indictment expanded massively in scope when, around 1800, art itself assumed the status of a religion. The German Romantics turned Catholic confessional polemic into a tool of cultural critique. While celebrating Luther for the inwardness of his faith, they blamed his Reformation for the disenchantment of the world. At the close of his influential manifesto for re-enchantment, Christendom or Europe (1799), Novalis lamented that Luther’s progeny had purged ‘nature, the earth, the human soul, and science’ of ‘poetry’.9 For Novalis poetry was more than a secular sphere of human action perfected and collected in culture. It was the divinity shared between God and humanity in their

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reflexive capacity for making (poesis). A religion cleansed of poetry was thus a godless faith, and the only way back was by means of a new religious art, one modelled, for Novalis, on the very ‘Gothic’ images that iconoclasm had repudiated. A similar programme had been projected by Novalis’s friend Ludwig Tieck in his medievalizing novel Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen (1798). Set in the time and milieu of the exemplary ‘old German’ artist, Dürer, the book deplores the ‘barren, rational emptiness’ of reform. At its narrative centre, an idyll of a reunion of aesthetic and confessional opposites, stands an encounter between the young artist-hero from Germany (Sternbald) and an Italian master. ‘You studied what should not be studied’, complains the Italian. ‘You touched the divinity of our religion, which stood before us like a wonderful poem and is understandable now to none but he who understands it.’10 Tieck’s imagery is telling. True religion was like a ‘wonderful poem’, enchanted and inscrutable. It ‘stood before us’, concrete and palpable, not like poetry read or heard, but like a cult image in a shrine. Understanding, as the activity of critique, ‘touched’ religion, the poem, the icon. The mental labour of reform becomes thus embodied (and thus debased) as the desecrating grasp of the pariah, understanding. And Romanticism’s religion of art becomes, reciprocally, a nostalgia for belief, for idols. Removed from the temple, the work of art – which Romantics struggled to make inscrutable again – remains the last shrine, the last suspension of disbelief in a world that understanding has profaned. Conversely, bad art, and specifically art that is bad because too easily understood, desecrates the religion of culture. And from the start of its attempt to build a practical criticism of art from its theological aesthetics, Romanticism, and through it academic art history in Germany, reached a negative verdict on art made for Luther’s cause. Thus August Wilhelm Schlegel, in his paradigmatic ‘Lectures on Literature’ of 1802–3, blamed Protestants for ‘killing’ the painter’s craft.11 And a century later, Georg Dehio, the cicerone of German art, tersely concluded: ‘Today it is generally accepted that the art of the epoch after Dürer amounted to a decline . . . Through my work, I believe I have also proved, historically and objectively, that it was so, that decline in fact occurred.’12 What was wrong with Reformation art according to its cultured detractors? Alfred Woltmann, writing in the mid-nineteenth century, granted that the Reformation produced a type of image that he termed ‘true dogmapainting’. But this wasn’t art.‘Dogmatizing propaganda-painting contradicts the very essence of art.’13 For Woltmann, as for Novalis and Tieck, art’s essence consisted in its autonomy, experienced chiefly as the work’s resistance to being understood. By contrast, polemical pictures veritably forced their confessional message on the beholder. And in the case of Reformation images not polemically intended, their value, according to Luther himself,

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consisted in instructing religion.14 Along the same lines as Woltmann, Hubert Schade concluded in 1932, ‘Is there such a thing as Reformation art? Not upon its own basis. Either it is a polemical weapon or it produces school lessons.’15 The Romantic dream of art’s autonomy, of its needing to rest ‘upon its own basis’, doesn’t die easily. As late as 1992, a leading scholar of sixteenth-century German art, Dieter Koepplin, lamented the loss in Lutheran culture of the ‘Ur-textuality’ of images, which Koepplin attributes to a fear of their power.16 And Traugott Koch launches her excellent survey of Lutheran iconography by asking ‘What does the image as image say to me?’17 Stripped of the information it conveys, she ultimately concludes, the Reformation image is nothing. The mechanics of this judgement are neatly illustrated by the literature on the works that concern us here: Lutheran church pictures by Cranach. Cranach’s status as a major master has ensured that at least his pictures for the Reformation cause are mentioned. In the nineteenth century, Cranach’s role as the exemplary evangelical painter won him fame after centuries of obscurity. This was especially true in Protestant Prussia, where his distinctive painterly style influenced local painters long after his death, and where his supposed anti-Catholicism, loyalty to the state and unadulterated Germanness were politically correct.18 Cranach’s portraits of the princes and Reformers of Saxony also fit perfectly in the new museums of local history that sprang up around Prussia. But even here, Cranach’s Lutheran religious paintings were rarely discussed. Around 1900, the basis of Cranach’s fame shifted from his Lutheran patriotism to a savage expressiveness imputed to his pre-Reformation religious pictures. Scholars celebrated the spontaneity, naturalism and drama of his earliest works, a group of prints and panels made in Vienna between 1500 and 1503, just before Cranach settled in Wittenberg (illus. 6). His later œuvre, judged to reveal a decline, was divided into two groups: secular images made for the Saxon court, which were enjoyed for their knowing eroticism and dynamic lines, and Protestant pictures, which were dismissed as pedantry, and neither reproduced nor much exhibited (illus. 7). ‘Cranach’s frigid allegories’, wrote Max J. Friedländer, who had first described the artist’s early style, ‘lay bare this incapacity [to symbolize its own doctrine] on the part of the Lutheran Reformation’.19 The popular art historian Wilhelm Worringer expressed this consensus best. Champion of the pre-Wittenberg ‘Gothic’ Cranach, Worringer dismissed the artist’s Lutheran works: ‘The succession of allegorical scenes, mocking any kind of pictorial closure, achieves clarity only through rationalistic interpretation. Instead of works of art we have mere theological tracts. Instead of devotional images we stand before sad conglomerations of tasteless, external symbolism.’20 Written in 1908, Worringer’s diatribe betrays the prejudices

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6. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion (Schotten Crucifixion), c. 1500, oil on panel. Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna.

7. Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Law and the Gospels, 1529, oil on panel. Schlossmuseum, Gotha.


of its day: the ideal of art for art’s sake, the glorification of feeling over reason, the contempt for allegory as antithetical to life, and the celebration of inwardness as art’s deepest aim. It could be argued that such biases are separate from things they censure, that they tell us much about Expressionist tastes but reveal nothing about Reformation art. But that would overlook the affinities between Worringer’s description and the aims of the culture he condemns. Certainly Cranach’s religious allegories, made for the church and not the museum, served a function different from what Worringer terms ‘works of art’. Certainly, too, they disappoint if measured against ‘devotional images’, by which Worringer means the icons of a piety the Reformers repudiated. Such discrepancies are more, however, than products of a later perspective. They were actively pursued by the earlier culture itself, which valued a type of image distinct both from the treasures of the art collection and from idolatrous church pictures. What Worringer calls ‘external symbolism’ perfectly echoes Luther’s own stated aesthetics. Against the twin threats of idolatry and iconoclasm, the Reformer sanctioned pictures as instructional aids. He recommended a simple style and obvious symbolism that would enable simple folk to see through the image to its didactic charge. In Cranach, Luther found a local artist capable of achieving these pedantic ends. In the scores of works he produced for the Reformation cause, Cranach made pictures unsuitable for idolatry. It remains to be seen how Cranach rendered pictures thus unfit. Suffice it to say that, in making what Luther himself termed ‘crude, external images’,21 Cranach learned to curtail resources specific to his medium and talent. Worringer’s aesthetic invective measures this painter’s doctrinal success. Before evaluating the original conditions of Reformation art, however, I wish to clarify the art historians’ aversion to it. To do this, I shall return to circa 1800, when art history as a school discipline received its call. This detour’s purpose is threefold. First, since our understanding of something is always marked by the biases we bring to it, it is good to understand those biases. From a certain perspective, historical consciousness consists in the dual attention to the past and present point of view.22 Second, it seems to me that the art-historical animus against Reformation art reflects the discipline’s ambivalence about its own didactic calling. Observing those biases, we discover historical links between them and the Reformation they prejudice. Third, though my material is mostly of the sixteenth century, the problems raised haunt German art into the nineteenth. Caspar David Friedrich’s landscapes, which are touched on in the Epilogue, respond to early Lutheran church art and to a new historicist understanding of that art.

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Of all major thinkers on art, only the philosopher Hegel accords Luther’s Reformation a key place in art’s history. This is partly because of Hegel’s place in the history of evangelical thought. Educated for the Lutheran ministry, Hegel began his philosophical career debating ‘positive’ – i.e., formally imposed – religion. This earliest work, all unpublished at the time, reflects the mania for confessional definition that had raged in Germany since the late sixteenth century.23 While applauding the freedom Luther granted the believer, Hegel denounced the obsession of contemporary Lutheran orthodoxy with historically instituted doctrine and ceremony. The debate over Luther’s legacy carried into Hegel’s mature work. Like no philosopher before him, Hegel saw the Reformation as the turning-point in the history of thought.24 By situating salvation in inner faith, Hegel argued, Luther initiated a new movement of the spirit. In reaction to the Roman Church’s emphasis on the externals of ritual and institution, Luther’s faith in Christ alone – occurring, in Hegel’s terms, as pure ‘subjectivity’, as spirit ‘coming to itself ’ – made Christianity itself into a historical contingency and revealed the ‘absolute spirit’, whose first philosopher was Hegel. Hegel explicated this break through a universal history of art. Delivered as lectures in the early 1820s, Hegel’s Aesthetics first systematized the view that the autonomous work of art is the modern heir of the medieval Christian cult image. At the outset of his account, Hegel admits that ‘the general conditions of our present age are not favourable to art’.25 With a reflexivity that abstracts laws from concrete particulars, modern artists treat artworks as a field for global judgements. But art ought to resist abstraction, being a hybrid of spiritual meaning and material expression. Art’s survival is therefore in doubt: ‘[A]rt no longer affords that satisfaction of spiritual needs which earlier ages and nations sought in it, and found in it alone, a satisfaction that, at least on the part of religion, was most intimately linked with art. The beautiful days of Greek art, like the golden age of the late Middle Ages, are gone . . . [A]rt, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past.’26 Hegel’s taste for Gothic art derived from Friedrich Schlegel’s criticism and from the collecting efforts of Sulpiz and Melchior Boisserée, who, in 1804, began purchasing old German paintings from churches secularized by Napoleon’s troops.27 But while for Schlegel and the Boisserées, late medieval painting overturned aesthetic norms and systems, for Hegel it belonged to a dialectic of universal history. Hegel divided this history into three stages – symbolic, classical and romantic – corresponding to prehistory, antiquity and Christianity. These stages differed in how meaning connected to sensual form. In the symbolic stage, the link was arbitrary but not perceived as such: the fetish claims its contingent substance is the god carved in it. Once the disparity between meaning and expression was made

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conscious, the symbolic yielded to the classical, where meaning was synthesized with expression in ideal images of the human body. Yet even the Greek statue, that beautiful man-god, failed in its vocation. Its ‘defect’ lay in ‘just art itself, and the restrictions of the sphere of art’. In its Romantic stage art owned up to its limit. Born from the task of representing the fleshly but transcendent god of Christianity, it supplanted the classical by making the difference between how art looks and what art means fully apparent. As body negated by spirit, Romantic art succeeded itself, leading art out of itself into religion.28 For Hegel, the crucified Christ exemplified this last phase of art. Such art represented God not as beauty, power and life but as ugliness, impotence and death. As I will describe in Chapter 12, the idea of God’s revelation in negation comes straight out of Luther’s theology of the Cross, where Christ was termed a ‘hidden God’ (deus absconditus). Equally Lutheran was Hegel’s account of how Christian art, endeavouring to show God’s concealment, succeeded itself. At the close of the Middle Ages, the story goes, the Roman Church mistook the gruesome spectacle of Christ’s Passion for God himself. Pilgrimage and crusade, positively sanctifying ‘things’ such as graves, relics, icons and shrines, fetishized what Hegel terms the ‘this’.29 The late Middle Ages were ‘golden’ only insofar as a purer religion supplanted its art. It was the Reformation that accomplished this and, in doing so, made art ‘a thing of the past’. When the urge for knowledge and research, and the need for inner spirituality, instigated the Reformation, religious ideas were drawn away from the wrapping in the element of sense and brought back to the inwardness of the heart and thinking. Thus the ‘after’ of art consisted in the fact that there dwells in the spirit the need to satisfy itself solely in its own inner self as the true form for truth to take.30 This was the tragedy. Luther unwrapped and internalized what Christian images dialectically revealed and concealed. Purified, Christianity became philosophy’s truth, and art became pure fiction. Or to put it another way, the Reformation not only produced low-quality images; it appropriated to thought art’s ‘highest vocation’, belief. ‘No matter how we see God the Father, Christ, and Mary so estimably and perfectly portrayed: it is no help; we bow the knee no longer.’ Hegel’s phrase ‘it is no help’ echoes the iconoclasts’ favorite taunt: ‘The idols help nothing.’31 The image-breaker’s slogan becomes the art lover’s sigh. Hegel’s account clarifies why Reformation images clash with inherited ideas about art. His famous dictum that art is ‘a thing of the past’ manages a contradiction. On the one hand, ‘art’ is a modern category. It arose at the

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end of the Middle Ages, when religious images, rejected, were remade into objects of disinterested satisfaction. ‘We have got beyond venerating works of art as divine and worshipping them’, writes Hegel. ‘The impression they make is of a more reflective kind.’32 On these lines, Hans Belting subtitled his story of the Christian imago ‘a history of the image before the era of art’.33 On the other hand, religious pictures remain a nostalgic ideal of the newly constructed category of art. Detached from the cult, post-religious art is perpetually vilified for being without ‘vocation’ (the word itself echoes Luther’s idea of a ‘calling’, a person’s God-given task in life). This helps explain why art history avoids studying works contemporary with it.34 Modern art’s constitutive anteriority to the medieval image gives our discipline its programme: ‘Art invites us to intellectual consideration, and that not for the purpose of creating art again, but for knowing philosophically what art is.’35 What, then, is Reformation art? Neither is it of the Middle Ages, for its inward religion brought that epoch to its close, nor is it quite of ‘the “after”of art’, when the artwork’s impression is ‘of a more reflective kind’. Indeed art historians repudiate it not for its inwardness but for its exteriority, as if it were the empty ruin of ‘the image before the era of art’. This brings me to another point at which Hegel and art history find a stumbling block in Reformation images: the presupposition of meaning.36 Hegel understood art to be historical both in its forms, evidenced by developments in style, and in its meaning, which changes with the wider culture. His three-stage history of art chronicles the shifting attachments between the two. However diversely art attaches meaning to form, though, meaning remains art’s essence. Each work ‘wraps’ differently, but all have content nonetheless. Hegel’s is the first aesthetics based on meanings rather than forms. It lines up its chronology of materials to reveal the history of the spirit they express. A telling symptom is Hegel’s cavalier attitude to translation. Though he grants that translated ancient works ‘taste like flat Rhine wine’, he does without original citations in his own published texts even for poetry, which, he claims, translates ‘into other languages without essential detriment to its value’.37 Academic art history still assumes that its objects above all communicate. It may require archaeology and connoisseurship to define the object, but its labour is chiefly one of translation, of making pictures into messages. Unwrapping sense from the enchanting envelope of the sensible is the essence of what Germans, establishing a university based humanities, termed Geisteswissenschaft, where Geist (‘spirit’) names the underlying message sought, and Wissenschaft (‘science’) the rational means toward that end. This procedure of excavating the meaning of works penetrated the privacy of home and heart by way of the person-making practices of

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reading literature and viewing art. Now second nature to us, these routines have a specific history. As Friedrich Kittler demonstrated, they depend on contingencies such as compulsory schooling, large-scale book production, the rise of the civil service, and the modern university curriculum. Together these create the conviction that minds communicate with minds by way of sensible inscriptions.38 Hegel still could glimpse the origin of this condition. It was during the Reformation that the ‘spirit . . . satisf[ied] itself solely in its own inner self ’. Luther invented religion as an interpretive act: in the word, believers’ grasp the content that saves them. Modern hermeneutics, as both a method for the humanities and a general philosophy of interpretation, has long discerned its origins in Luther’s faith. Its earliest historian, Wilhelm Dilthey, reflecting in 1860 on the interpretive system of Lutheranism’s Romantic reformer, Friedrich Schleiermacher, traced the beginnings of a science of interpretation back to the Reformation.39 Systematic hermeneutics, Dilthey argued, arose within the Protestant defence against the Catholic Council of Trent (1546), which declared tradition – embodied in the accumulated practices of the Roman Church – to be of equal authority to Scripture. Three decades earlier, Luther had declared the opposite: the Bible was the sole authority in religion, it was ‘its own interpreter’, its message was clear in its wording alone.40 Luther’s conviction was sorely tested by controversies among Protestants, where the Bible’s simplest lines occasioned radically divergent readings. In the decades following the Council of Trent, Lutheran apologists supported the scriptural principle by proposing authoritative systems of interpretation. Dilthey’s tale of the origin of hermeneutics in the Reformation was repeated a century later by Hans-Georg Gadamer, who defended meaning against language philosophy’s focus on sentences and against modernism’s celebration of subjectless productions.41 By linking his method to Luther’s, Gadamer claimed for hermeneutics an apostolic authority. Reformation art challenges the hermeneutic perspective. On the one hand, its formal blandness and semantic transparency accord with Luther’s and Hegel’s presupposition of content. Outfitted with explanatory glosses and labels, it appears to be, like Scripture, it ‘own interpreter’. On the other hand, despite its eminent translatability, it reminds a mind trained for reading that the eye sees things, that between the inner voices of writer and reader there rises soundproof inscription. In its profusion in Lutheran pictures, language itself reveals an opacity at odds with a hermeneutics of inner sense. Like the crosswords of letters common in early Lutheran school primers, the inscriptions in Reformation art, often illegible or abbreviated, recall that, for a culture of limited literacy, writing functioned as token, rather than as vehicle, of sense (illus. 144–5). The

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word-altarpiece in the Schweinfurt canvas displays Scripture as something ornamental but blank, like a picture. Conversely, as a picture, such an ensemble is inadmissible to an aesthetics of content. Commenting on didactic poetry, Hegel complains that in it ‘the meaning, cut and dried, [is] explicitly defined but not given outward shape, so that for artistic purposes there is nothing left but to add to it a purely external and capricious adornment’.42 Yet while it is not ‘numbered among the forms of art’, the didactic poem also agrees with what art, elsewhere in Hegel, essentially is: matter that signifies but never quite constitutes inner sense. Like didactic poetry, the Reformation image lays bare the impoverishment of pedagogy. It particularly repels academic art historians, whose endeavours it most resembles. Gathering dust in the auditoria where we teach, it displays what things look like to an eye required to understand.

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3 Territorial Battles

What did Reformation images look like when understanding was still a fresh revelation? In 1511, in the Praise of Folly, Erasmus labelled the Christian cult of images a ‘superstition’ (illus. 8).1 But by 1526, writing to his friend Thomas More, he condemned the iconoclasm in Basel with the lament: ‘Here the arts freeze.’2 Occasioning Erasmus’s despair was the painter Hans Holbein’s move to England, an event that, then as now, symbolized artistic decline in Germany.3 Artists such as Holbein experienced the Reformation’s negative effects on their craft even when they personally embraced its message. Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder, a painter, printmaker, publisher, eyedoctor, hymnist and Lutheran pamphleteer, expressed this quandary in a little manual for artists issued on his Strasbourg press in 1538 and often reprinted.4 Its opening line tempers elation with regret: After God, in his mercy, through a special dispensation of his Holy Word, has brought about – now, in our times, in the whole German nation – an obvious diminution and arrest of all subtle and liberal arts, many thus have been forced to abandon such arts and take up other occupations; wherefore it would indeed seem as if, in a few years, there will scarcely be found in German lands anyone working as painter and sculptor.5 Vogtherr aimed to keep local craftsmen from becoming ‘vulgar barbarians’. He gave illustrated instruction in ‘all alien and difficult things’, specifically for readers who were ‘burdened with a wife and child’, or ‘by nature unused to long-distance travel’. The imagined readership of impoverished, immobile craftsmen bespeaks real conditions for artists. In Zurich in 1524, the iconoclastic town council decreed that ‘no one was to commission any more images for the churches, nor should sculptors make them, under threat of severe punishment’.6 In nearby Basel in the year of Erasmus’ letter, two sculptors


8. Hans Holbein the Younger, ‘A Woman Praying Before a Status of the Virgin’, c. 1515, pen and ink marginal drawing on a copy of Erasmus, Praise of Folly (Basel: Johannes Froben, 1515). Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel (Kupferstichkabinett).

complained to authorities that ‘skill and training were totally useless’, and that joiners and cabinet-makers refused them jobs (presumably to protect their own trade from jobless competitors).7 And in the same year in Strasbourg, the painters’ and sculptors’ guild petitioned the city council for relief because their occupation ‘has been eliminated through the Word of God’.8 One wonders in what tone the words ‘Word of God’ were written, whether in pride or resignation. A Strasbourg chronicle reports that in 1530 ‘all the painted retables, images, and crucifixes, as well as the altars, were taken away and the places where they stood all painted over in stone-

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colour, so that no one could see where they had stood’.9 Painting conceals its own erasure in trompe-l’œil stone. In the city’s cathedral, forty altars were thus eradicated, along with any holiness associated with their placement. In the iconoclasts’ view, the hardship brought to artists was but collateral damage. A Nuremberg broadsheet of around 1525 by Hans Sebald Beham expresses this viewpoint (illus. 9).10 All artists working for the church, from ‘bell-founders and organists’ to ‘illuminators, painters, goldsmiths, and sculptors’, stand lumped with the clergy to the left. Labelled ‘godless’, they complain that Luther ‘despises’ all ‘church building, ornament, and decoration’. To which the Reformer, pointing to his Bible, and backed by God and the common folk, responds that nobody can halt his task. Luther did in fact preach against donating pictures. ‘Whoever places an image in a church’, he warns in a largely image-friendly sermon of 1522, ‘imagines he has performed a service to God, and done a good work, which is downright idolatry’.11 And his Formula Missae of 1523 states, ‘There is hardly any art that does not largely support the business and commerce of the Mass, and is not nourished by this.’12 By this account, artists belonged to a corrupt economy, in which goods and services were offered via the Church to God in the hope of benefit. Such ‘I give so that you give’ thinking had its main ritual expression in the Catholic Mass, understood and orchestrated as a sacrifice to God. It also underwrote the donation of images, which expended labour and materials in their production and precious resources in their use. Termed ‘oil-idols’ by their foes, church pictures were honoured by the lamps, candles and incense that expensively burned before them (illus. 8). Even the prayers said before them squandered wealth, for they were led by an army of chaplains and prebends whose sole function was the daily reading of Masses. Max Weber’s famous thesis revolved around the idea that not only capitalism but ‘economy’ proper, as a rational relation of people to things, was released by the Protestant disenchantment with Catholic potlatch.13 A correlate of this stands signalled by the first iconoclastic tract of the time. In 1522 Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt pamphleted his tract On the Removal of Images together with another arguing ‘that there should be no beggars among Christians’.14 The Roman Church permitted begging in church space even if – or perhaps because – it countered lavish decor. Where images honoured God by conspicuous consumption, begging made poverty public, as part of ecclesia’s dialectical tableau. By stretching out their hand, pilgrims and mendicants exemplified humanity’s desire for God’s mercy.15 In outlawing begging and images in one go, Karlstadt, like many Protestant town councils afterwards, tried to dismantle the Church’s gift economy. He sought to make giving and taking symbolically neutral. To Protestants, invisibility was a chief predicate of the ‘true church’. Commenting in 1520 on Paul’s statement that faith is ‘the evidence of

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9. Hans Sebald Beham, Luther and the Artisans, c. 1525, woodcut.

things not seen’ (Hebrews 11:1), Luther wrote: ‘Invisible but graspable by faith is the church that is called a new heaven and new earth.’16 And again in 1521, in his diatribe against his Dominican detractor Ambrosius Caterino: ‘Just as the rock (Christ) is invisible and spiritual, graspable only in faith, so must necessarily the church without sin be invisible and spiritual, graspable only by faith.’17 How, though, does faith grasp the invisible? In 1545, in a sermon on the eighth Psalm’s paean to creation, Luther suggests one answer: ‘Christ’s kingdom is a hearing-kingdom, not a seeing-kingdom; for the eyes do not lead and guide us to where we know and find Christ, but rather the ears do this.’18 The superiority of hearing was a fixture of Christian thought. The Old Testament figured God in voices more than in visions; St John’s Gospel equated Christ with the spoken word; Paul advised that ‘faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’ (Romans 10:17); and the church fathers tirelessly warned that ‘sight is often deceived, hearing serves as a guarantee’.19 Beyond these commonplaces, though, Luther’s trust in hearing rested on the concrete situation of his

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faith. In 1545, with Catholic forces against him, the Reformer could only trust that, against the ‘apparent and observable’20 fact of the Church, against the brute visibility of forms and traditions, preaching – his preaching there and then – could make believers ‘grasp’ the true church. Strasbourg’s iconoclasts concealed their gesture with stone-coloured paint. Sometimes, though, they marked their work indelibly and legibly. By one contemporary account, in 1529, the parishioners of Old St Peter’s, together with their pastor, ‘white-washed’ the church ‘within, and instead of saints’ portraits, the walls were written all over’.21 The gesture of overpainting pictures with texts, widespread in the sixteenth century, visualized the attack against the visual. In his book of artists’ lives (1603–4), Karel van Mander censured an unnamed Calvinist painter for overseeing the ‘injury’ of a Crucifixion altarpiece in Bruges by Hugo van der Goes: ‘because that church was used for preaching this picture was used for writing the ten commandments upon in golden letters on a black ground’.22 Evangelical church space was visibly saturated with words. In 1606 in the village church of Türkheim near Ulm, a local pastor ordered 195 Bible quotations painted on the walls, with 40 in Hebrew; and in 1649, the preacher and pedagogue Balthasar Schupp outfitted Hamburg’s Church of St Jacobi with 229 choice sayings.23 Similar to the text decor of the Huguenot ‘Temple’ in Charenton, these programmes made texts into the image of a word-based faith. More commonly, Lutheran churches coupled pictures with inscriptions, so that the two might be ‘read’ together. In his response to iconoclasm in Wittenberg in 1522, Luther expressly recommended that ‘the whole Bible [be] painted before everyone’s eyes on the inside and outside of homes’.24 The image cycles still gracing the walls and balustrades of many north German churches were usually copied from German and Netherlandish printed picture-Bibles which, in turn, elaborated on Luther’s Bible.25 His translation’s first instalment – named the September Testament after its printing in September 1522, just months after Wittenberg’s iconoclasm – contained twenty-one full-page woodcuts of the Apocalypse.26 Following in 1523, Luther’s Old Testament had eleven, some probably conceived by the Reformer himself, who doodled details of the Temple of Solomon as he imagined them to have looked, perhaps to think through how Jews, too, used images.27 For his complete German Bible of 1534, Luther oversaw the design of 123 prints, establishing his translation as a fully illustrated book. In a memoir of 1563, Christoph Walther, a longtime editor of Luther’s Bible, wrote that the Reformer insisted ‘the content of the text be painted and drawn as simply as possible’. He ‘could not stand it if one smeared in difficult and superfluous things that did not serve the text’.28 In 1522 Luther justified ecclesiastical art partly by noting that even iconoclasts utilized his illustrated Bible. Patterned after those illustrations,

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Lutheran church pictures were designed to visualize nothing but the Bible’s content. And they appeared accompanied by the text passages they illustrated, allowing churchgoers to feel they stood inside the picture books they kept at home. Texts transmitted and visualized a word-based faith. Their appearance in places formerly reserved for sacred icons announced reform. We can observe this in a pair of engravings made by an anonymous German artist around 1600 (illus. 10 and 11).29 The one showing a Lutheran service, titled True Image of the Ancient, Apostolic Evangelical Church, argues that reform is a return, and that Luther’s church, and not the pope’s, is ‘apostolic’. The title’s polemic carries into the picture itself partly through the depicted setting: blank walls, classical columns, no priestly choir. Apostolic purity is also signalled by two lonely adornments at the church’s rear: a pair of round-topped tablets and an open codex. Symbolizing the law and the Gospel, these materializations of Scripture appear framed under a huge clock. Both the old and the new covenants are valid in, and validate, the here and now (marked by the clock), ordering its rhythms and routines. Neither priesthood nor place, church itself is what occurs whenever and wherever the word is preached. Even without tablets, book and clock, the word appears as temporal practice. It fashions the engraving’s chief event: a minister preaching from his pulpit to auditors gathered about. This is the church’s in-the-world incarnation, the word made visible in the assembled bodies of what Luther, seeking a translation for the Latin word for ‘church’ (ecclesia), termed ‘congregation’ (Gemeinde). Scattered across the floor’s Cartesian grid, these bodies nonetheless cohere into one. The church as ‘congregation of believers’ and as ‘body of Christ’ occurs through rapt, collective attention to the word. The Reformation’s ‘great reduction’30 of everything to one – alone faith, alone the word, alone Scripture – effects coherence by causing persons to do nothing but hear. Hearing and speaking negates the contingency of person and place. Yet these aren’t the only practices pictured. At the margins, two other activities are under way. Infant baptism and Communion in both kinds constitute the proper ‘sacraments’ of the evangelical church.31 Reduced to two from the Roman Church’s seven, the Lutheran sacraments depend on the word, hence their marginality, here, at the fringes of preaching. Verbally instituted and commanded by Christ, and repeating his words in their liturgy, they exist so that a word-based faith has something to grasp. Using a terminology borrowed from Augustine, Luther called the sacraments ‘visible words’.32 By this he meant that in baptism and Communion the word becomes attached to, and therefore perceptible in, an act and a thing (the water, the bread, the wine). One might even say that, in Protestantism, sacraments are the image of the word. Luther himself sometimes called

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10. Anonymous German, True Image of the Ancient, Apostolic Evangelical Church, c. 1600, engraving.

11. Anonymous German, True Image of the Papist Church, c. 1600, engraving.


them thus. Calvin, too, regarded the ‘living and symbolical’ images constituted by baptism and Communion as being the only permissible pictures in church: ‘consecrated by [God’s] word’, they should replace the ‘boon’ of papist idols.33 Luther never went so far as to sanction liturgy as the church’s only ornament. Instead he settled for church pictures that redundantly visualize the sacraments performed before them (illus. 28). It is this peculiar scenography of the visible that the anonymous engraver puts on display and that stands at the very heart of our present study. In a late defence of his religion, Luther reflects on the status of church, preaching and sacraments as follows: ‘It is a high, deep and hidden thing, the church, that no one can know or see it but must alone grasp and believe in baptism, sacrament, and word.’34 Whereas the church’s predicate is invisibility, the word’s is visibility. For it is the word alone, through the verbal practices of preaching and sacrament, that makes the church visible in its ‘high, deep and hidden’ form. Luther speaks here in paradoxes, since for him words are also the medium of God’s ‘hearing-kingdom’, set against the ‘seeing-kingdom’ of the Roman Church. Even writing, which makes sounds visible in letters, disappears the moment it is read. ‘The letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life’ (2 Cor. 3:6). This self-erasure clarifies the inscriptive mania of Lutheran church decor.35 Materialized as painted or carved ornament, writing of this ostentatious sort may make us see more than read God’s word. More importantly, however, the ultimately selfnegating visibility of words evidences the nature of church as, in Luther’s terms, invisible to the eye but visible to faith. Decorative inscriptions, as well as the word-based imagery of Lutheran church pictures themselves, did not aim (as did so much of pre-Reformation religious art) to make the invisible visible. Rather, they sought dialectically to preserve the church’s hiddenness by showing what its invisibility looked like. That there remained something to see, that church still had observable rites in fixed places administered by distinctive persons, was why Lutherans could justify organizing themselves in the way they did, as an institutional church with actions, spaces and offices in the end quite similar to the ones they replaced. Reformation art, for its part, was given the second-order task of visualizing what ought to be visible of the invisible church. The circa 1600 engraving depicts this residue in the form of action and decor (illus. 10). It displays a tableau of language incarnated as ordered bodies and ornamental books. Yet in this representative endeavour of picturing the invisible church through visible words, the print raises the question of its own visibility. What does such a picture really depict? The anonymous engraver calls his work a ‘true image’ (vera imago) of the apostolic church. This is like saying the church ‘as it truly is’. Factual and

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without adornment, the depiction itself stands in an analogy to the blank walls it features. Self-negating, these empty, shaded surfaces announce that the true church is invisible, that it is indeed anything but the brute facts of bricks and mortar. But in the print’s case, the facts displayed are irreducibly churchly, being Luther’s definition of the same: church is the ‘congregation of all believers’ and takes place wherever ‘the word is preached and the holy sacraments are properly administered’.36 The engraving hides church in the whitewash of the everyday. Three features of this self-concealment stand out. First, to signal that its image is a true one, the engraving restricts itself to the mundane routines of the evangelical church. Because those routines are religious ones, one forgets how massive this restriction of religion is. It is as if Lutheran art foreswore all indications of the sacred, all depictions of the Wholly Other37 toward which the everyday routines are turned. Instead we behold religion from the outside, in its contingent, confessional particularity, as the sum of these practices alone thus pursued. Second, although the image’s truth depends on this (for want of a better term) documentary perspective, its title asserts that this particular church is the true one, and that it is to be believed, as in the words of the apostolic creed, ‘I believe . . . in a holy Christian church.’38 This accords with Luther’s dialectical understanding of church as being invisible if observed from without but visible if grasped by faith. Third, the print, observing church from without, sees above all one thing. Tablets, book, preaching and sacraments visualize what fills and makes the true church: God’s words. To Protestants, this triumph of the verbal over the visual is a proper reformation of the image. Sola scriptura was a rallying cry in a territorial war between rival communicative media. On the one side stood the word, that which (to its partisans) was apostolic and is now, once more, ‘special dispensation’ of truth. On the other side stood the image, instrument and emblem of the Roman Church’s deceit. The anonymous German engraver of circa 1600 titles his pendant picture of the latter simply True Image of the Papist Church (illus. 11). He portrays, without apparent embellishment, how such a church truly looks and acts. By implication the viewer, allowed to pit the one portrayal against the other, would recognize which truly is church. Comparison itself does much of the work. By 1600, viewers were used to images pairing the warring confessions. From Cranach’s anti-papal Passional Christi of 1521 through the satirical broadsheets of the 1540s and 1550s juxtaposing ‘true and false religion,’ visual antithesis sharpened the eye to difference within likeness and freighted that difference morally (illus. 55–6 and 140). In the 1600 engravings, chaos contrasts with order: chaos in the papist church, due to its many altars and rites; order in the

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apostolic church, because of its plain decor and reduced cult. On the papist side, the clutter of images seems actively to cause the clutter of deeds. The many retables in side chapels, on piers and in the choir, as well as the effigies hung about, both capture and disperse visual attention, just as they evidently absorb and fragment the crowds portrayed. The crowd – a bewildering mass of lay folk, pilgrims, monks and priests – becomes a correlate of the effigies revered. Things made in the shape of persons, images make persons into things. At the far right, grouped around a painting of Hell flames, clerics, churchgoers and painted and sculpted saints merge into a static ensemble. This isn’t the order of a ‘congregation,’ however, where listening bodies stand dispersed but with minds aligned in belief. It is just the opposite: bodies aligned but with minds dispersed. Linked to the profusion of images, the plurality of Catholic ritual indicates falsehood, as gestures without thought, signs without content. The anonymous engraver simultaneously orders and exoticizes the confusion by labelling each scene with a number, probably referring through these to a now-lost textual key. Ironically, it is the church filled with pictures of the holy that, when pictured, seems by comparison the more mundane. Because, as the labelling numbers imply, beholders have no natural grasp of Catholic church routines, these routines appear artificial and contingent. Human rather than divine institutions, they betray the falsehood of what Erasmus, already a century earlier, termed ‘mere’ ceremony, and what Luther, in the last section of the Schmalkaldic Articles entitled ‘On Human Traditions’, listed and condemned as the pope’s ‘bag of tricks’.39 At the start of the modern, ‘critical’ study of religion, enlightened Protestants such as John Spencer, David Hume and Charles de Brosses lumped ritual together with habit and superstition. The first instance of the word listed by the Oxford English Dictionary has this charge: ‘contayning no manner of Doctrine . . . but onely certayn ritual Decrees with no purpose’ (1570).40 Because it lacked speech, ritual was senseless and indecipherable. There are cruder pictures than this of the mereness of Catholic ceremony. In an engraving of 1605 comprised of several sheets, the Monogrammist DG (a Netherlandish anonymous) packs a church interior with Catholics, images and monsters (illus. 12–14).41 Sacred portraits line the walls, ex-votos dangle like cured meats, and figured reliquaries are worshipped and processed. As in the 1600 pendant engraving, profusion itself vilifies images by brutely exposing them as so many things. To make the villainy more apparent, the artist portrays his living subjects grotesquely and spreads among them hideous hybrid beasts. A bannerbearing goat above an altar suggest that such fiends represent the demons worshipped in the idols, as in the old motif of a devil springing from a

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pagan statue as it disintegrates before the infant Christ.42 Yet in the print, idolatry code-names all the Roman Church’s rites. The engraving stations us outdoors, but allows us to peer through the church’s walls and curtains to the activities inside. There a trouserless priest elevates the Host, a chalice lies toppled on the altar, and a lone woman gulps consecrated wine. Catholic ‘uses’ stand undistinguished from such ‘abuses’, and, as in the 1600 engraving, all are outfitted with letters referring to a (lost) key. Whatever else they do, letters and key imply and construct an audience for whom the actions may not make sense. Deeds are senseless when they lack ends. They are basic bodily movements (kneeling, begging, etc.) that carry nothing through. Observed from outside, they look absurd. The engraving’s mingling of living bodies with sculpted images manifests the emptiness of ritual. It turns on its head the magically meant likeness between suppliants and

12. Monogrammist DG, Satire of the Catholic Church, 1605, engraving.

13. Detail of Satire of the Catholic Church.

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14. Detail of Satire of the Catholic Church.

the ex-votos of their afflicted bodies (illus. 15). Catholic ceremony, as an early Lutheran church ordinance put it, is itself a ‘puppet play’.43 Like the effigies it shapes, the body becomes inert and thing-like. The Monogrammist drives this home by depicting Catholics more grotesquely than their idols. For they, the idolaters, are the idols’ underlying demons. Catholics, of course, understood their deeds teleologically. They held that, by gesture, image and gift, they effectively communicated with God in the manner, chiefly, of ‘thanks–please’. Is it just because Protestants did not personally believe in the efficacy of intercession and sacrifice that those actions look senseless? Are gifts inherently less articulate than words, or do the communicative acts depend for their rationality on being inside a language game? In short, is ritual speechless, and speech fully distinct from ritual? The engraver of the ‘apostolic’ and ‘papist’ churches tries above all to fashion for his viewers a point of view from which this question cannot be raised. He endeavours, by way of an image, to confess the special dispensation of words. It is not only that the three actions undertaken in the Lutheran church are ones instituted, and thus rationalized, by God’s words, or that, reduced to a manageable number, such actions are visually more transparent to their ends. The apostolic church appears as nothing but communicative action: the activity of speaking and listening per se. As we will see in Part ii, the word in Lutheran practice becomes not just the legitimating ‘why’ but also the communicated ‘what’ of action. More crucially, the order that ensues (one voice speaking to many attentive ears) evidences

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15. Anonymous, ‘Pilgrims to the Shrine of St Wolfgang’, detail from left inner panel of the Altarpiece of St Wolfgang, c. 1478–9, oil on panel. Pasing near Munich.

that its truth transcends what one person believes. Speech places actors in the same order whoever and wherever they are. This mental alignment is nothing less than the global order of ‘society.’ Pictured as that order, the apostolic church can have no outside from which its service can appear senseless or contingent. And yet insofar as the engravings display communicative action in a visible scenography, that action appears markedly contingent. It is not simply that the auditors scatter themselves loosely around the church. Stepping back from what the prints depict to the ‘how’ of their depiction, a curious reversal comes into view. In the papist church, sacred pictures establish multiple centres that fragment action and attention. But at the same time, the engraving itself in its overall composition mimics the centralized layout of the built church it portrays. And with its three-part plan of two aisles symmetrically flanking a nave, that built church reiterates the triptych altarpieces cluttering it. Centring his composition on the high

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altar in the choir, the engraver aligns his perspective with that of the church and of church art which he seeks to vilify. He pictures idolatry as though through idolatrous eyes.44 In the engraving of the apostolic church, by contrast, he captures his subject obliquely. He shifts Communion to the right, staggers the piers irregularly in the nave, and effaces the central axis through the force-field of preaching generated from the right. In the manner of their depiction, that is, each engraving mirrors the particular visuality – the ‘world picture’, if you will – of the confession it portrays. An abstract, perspectival and disenchanted coordination relation between eye and world contrasts to the absoluteness and fixity of papist enchantment. Because these pictures compare churches, disenchantment wins out. By depicting its subject obliquely, the engraving of the apostolic religion shows the cultic centre to be but a point of view. Moreover, since priests already occupy the centre of nearly all the altars visible in the papist church, the lay perspective must be oblique. This might explain why, at the middle of the off-centre apostolic Communion table, there appears a wine pitcher, sign of universal priesthood by way of the lay reception of the chalice. Repudiating the sacrality of spaces and offices, perspectivism corresponds to a world picture in which deeds (rituals and works) are not necessary but contingent. Pictures like these construct a confessionally neutral ‘comparative religion’, in which preaching itself becomes as particularistic as Catholic ceremony. In 1600, though, perspectivism renews the enchantment of words. Showing church as it truly looks, it intimates that church is, in truth, something else. Historians of art, however, must concern themselves with the disenchanted residue that serves to say ‘not this’. Within the grid of the floor, as part of the very fabric of contingent positionality in the apostolic church, the engraver includes floor slabs with graven images of the dead. The only figurative ornaments remaining in the church, these funerary portraits (sanctioned by the evangelical church) compromise the purity of the word’s newly conquered territory. They remind us that evangelical church takes place in a built space never quite purged of prior inscriptions, and that the Reformation art, picturing chiefly that space, must metabolize both the Gothic image and its erasure.

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4 Appropriations

Old pictures could have a place in the purified church. In Strasbourg’s cathedral, in 1524–5 and 1529–30, iconoclasts smashed images and altars, and painted the gaps in ‘stone-colour’.1 Of special interest are some sculptures that survived on a capital in the triforium, in the first southern bay. Carved just before 1252, during the Cathedral’s main building campaign, they were for centuries wrongly attributed to the master-builder Erwin von Steinbach, whom Goethe famously praised. Around 1568, this capital, with its four scenes of animals performing churchly rites, became the subject of an illustrated broadsheet probably composed by the Protestant satirist Johann Fischart (illus. 16).2 The woodcut, attributed to Tobias Stimmer, shows the sculptures both in isolation and in situ. Today we know broadly what such things are: instances of a medieval grotesque imagery that flourished at the edge of the holy, on the backs of retables, under choir-stall seats and misericords, and in the borders of the illuminated page.3 Here the imagery relates to the animal allegories of vernacular literature, in particular the French Roman du Renart, which includes a burial of its hero, the fox.4 But while they recognize and can source such grotesques, historians still disagree on what originally they were for, whether they were meant as amusing distractions, apotropaic charms, sacred parodies, anti-clerical critiques, or some mix of these. Early on, people accused them of diverting attention away from God, as when Bernard of Clairvaux, in a letter of circa 1100, repudiated the perverse delight taken in decorative drollery.5 Luther repeated the indictment when he complained of ‘difficult and superfluous things smeared’ around the pages of a Bible he owned, ‘inane phantasms of devilish faces, owls and other foul, hideous faces and monsters’.6 The Strasbourg broadsheet announces its take on the iconography already in its title: the scenes are ‘seriously intended images of Romish idolatry’. The capital’s pictures, in other words, surreptitiously vilified the Catholic clergy’s occupancy of church.


16. Tobias Stimmer, Depiction of Various Noteworthy Images of Roman Idolatry, c. 1576, woodcut.

Fischart’s text finds a critique behind each individual motif. The fox carried by the sow and ram stands for the hypocrisy (‘Heuchelthumb’) of the cult of relics (‘Heyligthumb’), while the ass reading a book symbolizes sermons debased into braying. Fischart muses on the image’s penitential purpose for its makers. Sculptors who elsewhere fashioned ‘puppetpictures’ for the Church offered here ‘hidden and unnoticed’ a ‘mirror’ confessing their complicity. To Fischart, this unofficial self-critique proves that, even in its darkest moments ‘three or four centuries ago’, there existed an invisible congregation of believers, just as (according to Fischart) there had been Jews who did not bow to Baal. The iconoclasm that stripped the Cathedral of most everything but these figures now belongs to the authentic church. The argument restates, by way of an archaeology of a pre-existing church edifice, Luther’s understanding of church per se, as something he does not newly found but only renovates. That is why the Augsburg

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Confession opens with the Apostolic Creed, indicating that what follows agrees with what Christ’s disciples collectively confessed.7 Fischart reads the old church pictures against the claims of the building they ornament. The grotesque scenes testify to a counter-history, much older than the official story the Roman Church tells, one that reaches back to Christ and manifests itself occasionally in individuals who, despite their historical condition, proclaim God’s word.8 In the wake of the Peace of Augsburg (1555), when the Lutheran and Catholic confessions achieved legal parity but urged each other’s extinction, this search for the hidden story of truth engendered critical historiography, in which causes are discovered behind the bias of the chronicles. Among the first to recover the past in this way was the Lutheran polemicist Matthias Flacius Illyricus, whom we’ll meet throughout this book.9 Beginning in 1556, Flacius catalogued all extant ‘testaments’ of a counter-history culminating in Luther. The Church, being expert in documenting its apostolic succession, could read the same testaments differently. In 1588, a press in the Catholic town of Ingolstadt published a copy of Stimmer’s woodcut with a commentary by the Franciscan preacher Johann Nas.10 A tireless and effective Catholic polemicist, Nas reads the grotesques as foretelling corrupt reformers to come. Thus the ass depicted at the lower left signifies Protestants disputing the chalice, the book from which it reads is the Augsburg Confession, the fox stands for the sola fides that does away with all good works, and so on. It is hard to say which of the two broadsheets was more effective, although Nas’s prophetic allegory seems more convoluted than Fischart’s. Anyway, in 1685, under the aegis of Strasbourg’s Catholic authorities, and perhaps by a certain sculptor-apprentice bent on demolishing their perceived ‘scandal for religion’, the capital’s decorations were all chipped away.11 The details are less important than the overall picture, though. Protestants and Catholics alike appropriated medieval church art to claim they were the Cathedral’s legitimate occupants. Another striking case is again a print by Stimmer after sculptures in Strasbourg’s Cathedral: a pair of chiaroscuro woodcuts depicting statues of Ecclesia and Synagoga from the south portal (illus. 17 and 18).12 A couplet below Ecclesia explains the prints’ purpose: ‘So that one can see the old art / And what else they used to believe.’ Like his slightly earlier broadsheet of the figured capital, Stimmer’s pendant woodcuts claim to recover earlier religious convictions from the residue of images. The rhymes under Synagoga state those beliefs: Of the gospel and the law How faith alone has a place And how the same [i.e., faith] conquers

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left 17. Tobias Stimmer, Ecclesia, c. 1572, chiaroscuro woodcut. right 18. Tobias Stimmer, Synagoga, c. 1572, chiaroscuro woodcut.

Both the world and the law And the power of sin . . . The antithesis of Synagogue and Church, traditional symbol of Christianity’s triumph over Judaism, becomes the Protestant contrast between the law and the gospels.13 Equated with Synagoga, but linked to the world and sin, the law fosters the conviction that we can be saved by avoiding evil and doing good; since we are fallen creatures, however, that path leads only to death. The gospel, equated with Ecclesia, overcomes the law and death by preaching salvation by faith alone. This core Reformation tenet, which Lucas Cranach visualized in several influential paintings and prints (illus. 7, 90, 93, 132 and 135), appears thus already inscribed in the ‘old art’ itself. And this apriority justifies allowing such statues to stand: ‘For that reason,’ the woodcuts’ verses conclude, ‘for instruction and artistry / One preserves such images today.’ Old art can stay if it confirms the antiquity of the renewed faith, yet such faith also renders that art obsolete. If Ecclesia stands for gospel and not for an institution or building, and if it does not succeed synagogue historically but is a perpetual inner condition of faith, then the erection and ornamenting of cathedrals is pointless. Church edifices belong to the law, sin and death. From the 1520s Protestants likened Catholic works of righteousness with Old Testament legalism, and equated their break from the Church

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with Christ’s repudiation of Jewish law. In Stimmer’s prints, anti-Catholic polemic finds further expression in the motif of the chalice. The inscription above Ecclesia – ‘With Christ’s blood I conquer you’ – indicates first that, through Christ’s death, the Jewish covenant is fulfilled and overcome, hence Synagoga’s broken lance and toppled crown. And second, it also asserts that the true church dispenses Christ’s blood to all members, both priestly and lay, at Communion. Ecclesia is herself evangelical. This explains the crumbling building behind. Justly in ruins, the post-iconoclastic Strasbourg Cathedral symbolizes the old toppling before the new, as in the many late-medieval Epiphany pictures in which the infant Christ receives the Magi before dilapidated Jewish buildings (Bethlehem being the ‘City of David’).14 Like his 1568 broadsheet, Stimmer’s chiaroscuro woodcuts appropriate physical territory along with the old pictures themselves. They announce that the Cathedral, justly conquered by faith in faith alone, was not the true church, despite what some of its monuments taught. Stimmer’s prints find virtues in the remnants, but the taint of idolatry lingers. In 1617, in the year of the Reformation’s hundredth jubilee and on the eve of the Thirty Years’ War, Strasbourg’s Protestant pastor Oseas Schadaeus published a laudatory history and description of his town’s Cathedral. The book includes an illustration of the capital as depicted in Stimmer’s broadsheet, a transcription of Fischart’s text and a summary of Nas’s counter-arguments.15 Siding with Fischart, Schadaeus concludes that the disputed carvings prove how people living under its regime knew the Papacy to be perverse. Just after this document of secret resistance, though, another kind of picture is introduced: a Marian icon inscribed with a prayer. Schadaeus notes that, during the Reformation, words were hewn into the wall below: ‘Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’ (Matt. 4:10). The Strasbourg Cathedral is contested territory, as it had been from the start. Its history reaches back to pagan times, when, by Schadaeus’s own account, it enshrined a sort of Hercules-idol called ‘Krutzmanna’.16 This effigy was removed in Strasbourg’s iconoclasm of 1525, along with statues of Christ, the Virgin and the saints. For their part, Christian images (according to Schadaeus) had begun to accumulate in the Cathedral only after 775, following an episcopal degree that saints’ portraits and relics be placed on the altars. Destroying these along with Krutzmanna, iconoclasts completed a cleansing long overdue. For Schadaeus, the Cathedral is a messy, syncretistic space. Its conversion from pagan shrine to Christian church demanded the merging of different gods – Hercules, Krutzmanna – into one, Christ. Syncretism was a mechanism in the rise of all world religions. But it achieved its most self-conscious form in the mystery cults of late antiquity. Fusing heterogeneous myths by understanding them symbolically rather than literally, syncretism stood

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19. Title-page illustration from Martin Luther, Ratschlag von der kirchen (Wittenberg, 1538).

opposed to the Christian belief in the historical incarnation of Jesus. And yet to ease its spread, Christianity also accepted compromises with the religions it sought to absorb.17 A key document of this is Pope Gregory’s letter to the English mission. Written in 601, the text recommends destroying pagan idols but occupying their shrines, for one cannot cut out ‘everything at once from their stubborn minds’ but must proceed slowly, eliminating first the errors ‘from their hearts’.18 Adapting extant edifices to their needs, Protestant reformers, like the early missionaries, simultaneously purged and preserved the products of a demonized cult. Some reformers tolerated the residue, defining it as morally indifferent and suggesting that its preservation comforted the weak. ‘Those [images] that are of no hindrance in the churches’, states Johann Bugenhagen’s Hamburg Church Ordinance of 1524, ‘let them stand’.19 Others, as in Strasbourg, demanded a thorough cleansing in which even the gaps were concealed. Although opposing full-scale iconoclasm, Luther despised inadequate purification. In a title-page woodcut of 1538 probably conceived by the Reformer himself, the Papacy endeavours to ‘reform’ itself by sweeping the church with foxtails, symbols, throughout Luther’s writing, of hypocrisy (illus. 19).20 The retable in the background features Pope Paul iii flanked by demons in the pose of saints. Appropriating Christ’s place on the altar, the Pope corrupts the church he attempts ineffectively to reform.

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How deep must church cleansing be in order that its prior corruption does not secretly pervert its appropriated form? From the moment of Luther’s struggle with Wittenberg’s iconoclasts in 1522 through the ‘Syncretistic Controversy’ of the mid-seventeenth century and onward, the remnants of the Catholic cult divided Lutheranism. On one side irenic theologians like Georg Calixtus sought consensus between confessions by modelling church practice after what Christians did during the first five centuries. On the other side the Lutheran ‘zealots’ rejected such compromises, arguing that they placed tradition above Scripture and works above faith.21 Yet even ultra-Lutherans rejected the kind of cleansing undertaken by Calvinists in 1566, when the entire contents of Antwerp’s churches – relics, images, sacred vessels, legal documents, tomb slabs and commemorative inscriptions – were demolished, ‘so that’, in the words of one contemporary observer, ‘they will leave nothing in the church whereof any memory will be’.22 As in so many things, Lutherans formed their attitude towards church cleansing within their struggles against not only Catholics, but Calvinists, as well. An empty, white-washed church proclaimed a wholly spiritualized cult, at odds with Luther’s doctrine of Christ’s real presence in the sacraments. Some of the period’s strongest opposition to image-breaking came not from Catholics but from Lutherans. In 1614 rioters defended Berlin’s Domkirche against court-sponsored iconoclasts, cursing the ruling margrave with the taunt, ‘You black Calvinist, you give permission to smash our pictures and hack our crosses; we are going to smash you and your Calvinist priests in return.’23 The defence of images stemmed partly from the Lutherans’ claim to be more ‘ancient’ and ‘apostolic’ than the Roman Church. Integral to the appropriated edifices, the old pictures, readjusted, could legitimize the new occupancy. In the engraving of Protestants celebrating their word-based faith, the floor was still traced with tomb effigies of their ancestors (illus. 10). The appropriation of property was a central element of reform. Protestants seized church buildings, furniture, treasure and land, and abolished or redirected clerical privileges and rights. To purify sacred spaces, they confiscated as much as they destroyed. Valuables – pictures, vestments, plate, etc. – were sometimes returned to the donating families or corporations. Generally, however, they remained physically in the church but on the balance sheet of the town; out of sight in special rooms, they stood ready for melting down or sale in times of calamity.24 A Marian retable donated by its sculptor, Veit Stoss, to the Carmelite Monastery in Nuremberg, reverted in 1543 to the artist’s heirs, who sold it to the bishop of Bamberg for a church in his care.25 In Nuremberg’s Lorenzkirche (Lutheran

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since 1522), Stoss’s polychrome sculpture of the Angelic Salutation (1517) was left hanging before the choir (illus. 26). In 1529 the city council merely ordered it to be covered by a ‘bag’ that could be lifted for visiting Catholic dignitaries. The shrouded treasure required extensive repairs in 1655 after it was discovered to be infested by nesting birds.26 Dürer’s altarpiece for the Paumgarten family, by contrast, was confiscated from the Lorenzkirche by the town council, which sold it to princely collectors.27 In the Church of St Mary in Zwickau, offensive images were taken to a storeroom called the ‘idol-chamber’. There they languished, baleful documents of superstition until, around 1850, they were earmarked for the city’s new historical museum.28 Appropriation redescribed what was taken. Calling church pictures ‘art’ often saved them from destruction. In a printed circular of 1522, Franz von Sickingen, predatory baron and outlawed destroyer of cities in France, the Palatinate, and Hesse, confessed the evangelical cause.29 Writing from the Ebernburg, Sickingen denounced monastic orders, clerical celibacy and the cult of saints. On images, his views were more traditional. He condemned burning them, arguing that they become idols only through false use. But he admitted that people see in them ‘art and beauty and luxury’, and that this distracts faith. Therefore, he writes, ‘they might be more useful in beautiful chambers as ornament than in the church, so that all the expense and wasted effort is not lost’.30 Leader of the beleaguered petty nobility and self-styled protector of the poor, Sickingen championed a Germany freed from the territorial princes and urban merchant oligarchies. In the 1522 circular, he expresses the ambivalence of his estate. He opens the church to simple folk; it was in his castle that in 1521, for the first time in Germany, Mass was said in German, with Communion provided in both kinds. But he also affirms an exclusive space where images can be appreciated for their ‘art and beauty’ alone. Church is for everyone but its seductive pictures belong in ‘beautiful chambers’ of nobles like himself. This has been a dominant story of the origin of the category ‘art’. Transferred from church to collection, images become neutral objects of aesthetic experience. A woodcut from John Foxe’s popular Book of Martyrs still pictures the rescue of sacred effigies as a Romish plot (illus. 20).31 At the top, labelled ‘the Papists packing away their Paltry’, Catholics rush with their treasures past a bonfire of images to a waiting ship. People were known to smuggle church pictures from and through Calvinist regions. On 9 May 1587, a gang of boys in Zurich spotted and smashed three crates of statues and altar panels on the road to the Catholic towns of Sursee and Muri; probably rescued from an iconoclasm elsewhere, the images fell victim to this one, but in this case, unusually, Zurich reimbursed Sursee and Muri for their

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20. Anonymous, ‘King Edward the Iconoclast’, from John Foxe, Ecclesiasticall History (London, 1570).

losses (illus. 69). In the Foxe illustration, in the ‘Temple well-purged’, preaching, Communion, baptism and a congregation fills a bare interior. Here cleansing derives visibly from secular rule. The iconoclastic Edward vi (lower left) ‘deliver[s] the Bible to the Prelates’ in a scene perhaps derived from depictions of the Augsburg Confession (illus. 131 and 3–5).32 Church pictures sometimes survived by entering a rational economy. In Berlin in 1614, during the struggles between Lutheran burghers and courtly iconophobes, the Augsburg art agent Philipp Hainhofer wrote to a Catholic client that he could acquire pictures by Lucas Cranach: ‘Because I believe that in Berlin there are supposed to be beautiful altarpieces, and that the Calvinists, who are enemies of images, do not value them, I should wish to inquire whether you, through our agency, might want to have something beautiful obtained, although it will have to be mere panels without ornaments or frames.’33 What Calvinists called ‘monkey-work’, Hainhofer (famous for his miniature curiosity cabinets) rescued in the name of beauty.34 A painting of 1465 by the Colmar master Gaspard Isenmann bears scars of this redescription (illus. 21).35 The light patches on the gilt sky are imprints of carved tracery that once crowned the painting’s scenes. They testify that what has hung since 1849 in Colmar’s city museum is

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21. Gaspar Isenmann, Lamentation and Entombment of Christ, 1465, oil on panel. Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar.

a fragment: a panel from the shutter of a carved altarpiece.36 In 1617 Hainhofer offered paintings without ‘ornaments or frames’ to facilitate transport. Later, such removals served to isolate the image from place and function, allowing it to be experienced aesthetically. Inside the frame, though, the painting’s scars, oblong format, and abrupt pairing of discrete scenes bespeak its past belonging to church use. In the nineteenth century, nostalgia for just this context awakened appreciation for its vestiges in these paintings. The pleasures of the fragment, and of painterly awkwardness bared by museological display, belong to a yearning for objects of belief. Appropriative redescription comes full circle. First, church pictures escaped the charge of superstition by being categorized as art, only then to fall prey to the vagaries of taste. Measured against the norm of classical art, they languished, useless and artless, until their very eccentricity, now the sign of naïve conviction, rehabilitated them. It is with regret for a idolatrous past that Hegel wrote ‘we bow the knee no longer’.37 For centuries now, the master term for the appropriation of church property has been ‘secularization’. Originally a word in canon law for the release of a cleric from his order into the status of a secular priest, saecularisatio became a designation for the juridical act of seizing assets from ecclesiastical custody.38 A diplomatic euphemism, the expression implied that property was not taken but transformed, and that use was questioned but not ownership. In 1803, however, in response to the appropriation of church property by German princes in the wake of Napoleon, secularization acquired the attribute of illegitimacy which it still retains.39 Secularized

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entitites, such thinking goes, devolve from sacred entities to the point where the secular per se – the worldliness of the world – becomes the sacred’s unrightful heir. In art-historical writing, his model underlies such origin myths as the gallery picture as secularized cult image, the museum as secularized church and the artist as secularized divinity. The term secularization can be applied to Reformation pictures, as well, deciphering them as efforts to appropriate church space by displaying its mundane condition. Depicted empty of magical presence, church becomes a morally indifferent arena in which the practises of an inworldly society (the local congregation in its mix of sin and grace) unfold under the jurisdiction of secular rule (the city, the prince) according to rules set down in Scripture. This model does little, though, to account for the ambivalence of that disenchanted display. In particular, it overlooks Lutheranism’s tendency to preserve, as much as to purify, the marks of enchantment. Church pictures represent but one of a host of props that Lutherans took from Catholic worship. Wearing traditional liturgical vestments, evangelical pastors administered Communion at altars that were lit by candles, decked in precious cloths, marked by free-standing crucifixes, and backed by altarpieces.40 They sometimes displayed the host in elaborate monstrances; and when they elevated it in the Mass, sacring bells rang and incense burned. Many Lutherans rejected such pomp as a corrupting compromise with Rome. The use by pastors of the cope (a festive priestly garb) launched the ‘adiaphorist controversy’ that raged within the evangelical church between 1548 and 1552. Generally, though, the old church ornaments remained, with the proviso that, as one Church Ordinance of 1574 put it, simple people should be ‘instructed that such things ought not to be worshipped or idolatrously misused but are for external decoration’.41 Such instruction could be affixed to the ornaments themselves, as in Zittau in 1619, where a pre-Reformation altarpiece featuring the Virgin was restored with the admonishment ‘Maria honoranda, non adoranda.’42 Sometimes avoiding abuse required more substantial modification. In the shrine of the High Altar of Erfurt’s Predigtkirche, a carved Coronation of the Virgin was replaced in 1525 by a Lamentation of Christ from another retable.43 Luther objected to extravagant Marian imagery not only because it was non-biblical and potentially idolatrous, but also because, by equating the Virgin with Ecclesia, it aggrandized the Church inappropriately, as the ‘Papal Altarpiece’ in Luther’s 1538 title-page showed (illus. 19).44 By appropriating Catholic imagery, Lutherans could submit the old to condemnation. When, in a drawing of the late 1530s, Cranach the Younger draped a cape over Christ’s shoulders in Limbo, he at once invoked and criticized a stock motif of intercession: the Virgin’s Mantle of Mercy that protects a crowd of believers (illus. 22–3).45 Christ alone, Cranach’s sketch

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left 22. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Christ in Limbo, c. 1538, pen and ink with wash. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett). right 23. Anonymous German, Madonna of the Mantle of Mercy, c. 1380, polychromed wood. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

seems to say, comforts and saves; there exists no way to him besides his mercy. With a long and productive career stretching from 1500 to 1553, Cranach had occasion to revise his own works, either to make them acceptable to new religious sensibilities or simply to keep them current. Sometimes this involved the mere removal of an offensive text. When it was first issued in 1511, Cranach’s woodcut Annunciation carried a prayer and promise of 80,000 years of indulgence. Later it was re-released, but with an ornamental frame instead of the texts (illus. 24).46 Sometimes the artist added new texts that altered the purpose of a print. His woodcut of the Holy Family, made in 1510 to serve the burgeoning cult of St Anne in Wittenberg, received around 1520 a text advertising the pious function of Christian schools.47 In certain instances, the judgement reached against the original version seems to be the reason for a print’s second edition. Cranach’s large woodcut, The Heavenly Ladder of St Bonaventure (first published around 1510 and loosely linked to Bonaventure’s Itinerarum mentis in Deum), started off as an admonishment that one might ascend to Christ through good behaviour and saintly intercession (illus. 25).48 As an emblem of earned and mediated salvation, the print would have been anathema to the doctrine of faith alone. Like the title ‘Pontifex Maximus’, which makes the pope the bridge between earth and heaven, such ‘ladders . . . on which one climbs to heaven’ (Luther)49 make God the passive focus

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24. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Annunciation with Indulgence Prayer, 1511, woodcut.

of human designs. Yet some time after the Reformation, Cranach reissued his print with different texts, otherwise changing nothing. Out of a ladder of human virtues, he indicated a ladder descending from Heaven and consisting in God-given gifts of salvation. As Gottfried Seebass has detailed, Cranach transformed the admonishing ladder of works into a comforting emblem of Christ as ladder, in order to affirm that christocentrism had as authoritative a source as St Bonaventure.50 What is most striking about this endeavour, however, is the insistence on preservation itself. Altering only the inscriptions, Cranach can say that God is the only active agent, that the word is his instrument, and that the verbal gloss, rather than the picture itself, makes an image true or false. The reformation of church decor is an analogous revision. Little changed when Catholic buildings were adapted for evangelical use. The interiors of Lutheran churches of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries were not the ‘cleanly white’ extolled by preachers during the Enlightenment, when the imperative ‘Let your spirit become bright and your heart pure!’ was applied as an aesthetic ideal.51 Johann Ulrich Kraus’s 1685

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above and below 25. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Heavenly Ladder of St Bonaventure, 1510–15 version, handcoloured woodcut. Schlossmuseum, Gotha.


engraving of Nuremberg’s Lorenzkirche shows a church interior virtually unchanged by the Reformation (illus. 26).52 A Marian altarpiece still decorates the choir, though with Stoss’s Angelic Salutation in its bag above. What has changed is chiefly the seating. Pews now dominate the space. Facing the pulpit rather than the choir, they insure that the use of the edifice runs crosswise to its architecture, and therefore that churchgoers will distinguish the true ‘church’ from the lovely Lorenzkirche where church still takes place. In 1609 Freudenstadt’s preacher Andreas Veringer asked that the heart of his listener – that ‘the temple of the holy spirit’ – be as beautifully painted as his town’s newly built church.53 Destroyed in 1945, this parish church was most richly decorated with paintings, statues and reliefs. Each of its principal members – its pulpit, altar, font and organ – supported pictorial programmes that explicated their proper use. Veringer often drew on these decorations to illustrate his sermons. The still extant decor of the Palatine Chapel in Celle, commissioned in 1565 to ornament a structure built in the 1480s, boasts a similar visual profusion (illus. 27). Besides its monumental Crucifixion altarpiece, allegorical sandstone pulpit, seventeen half-length portrait reliefs and densely figured galleries and

26. Ulrich Kraus after Johann Andreas Graf, View of the Lorenzkirche in Nuremberg, 1685, engraving.

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27. Interior view with altar of the Schlosskirche, Celle.

walls, the interior contains seventy-six paintings by the distinguished Antwerp master Marten de Vos, which fill every bit of remaining space. Even when a church received no such renovations, the remaining Catholic decor was often abundant enough.54 The number of late medieval altarpieces still in place in the Lutheran heartland bears this out. In Saxony and Saxon-Anhalt alone, 545 retables survive in their churches.55 Although the abolition of private Masses obviated side-altars, the winged retables backing them were frequently made into flat, fixed ensembles that were hung (as Mecklenburg’s 1552 Church Ordinance advised) ‘with nails’ on the wall.56 By adding a commemorative text or portrait, retables could also be turned into acceptable epitaphs, while new epitaphs, formatted like retables, occupied the former site of side altars. The spectacle of the church thus remained unchanged. Even the alterations that evangelical services commonly required, such as the erection of pews and galleries to seat whole congregations on Sundays, offered more surface for pictures. Certainly these pictures differ subtly from the old ones; defining that difference is a chief task of a historian of Reformation art. For example, where pre-Reformation altarpieces featured saints as mediators of salvation, Lutheran epitaphs memorialized deceased persons as models of faith in Christ alone. Again, the picture looks the same and only the gloss has changed. Focus on the gloss blinds us to the peculiar effort to look the same. Even where the pictures change – where, for instance, Reformers’ portraits replace images of saints – prior forms are carefully preserved.57

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In a letter of 1541 to Georg Brück, Chancellor of Saxony, Luther gives a reason for this conservative impulse: Praise God that our churches, in regard to neutral things, are so arranged that . . . an Italian or a Spaniard who can’t understand our sermons would say, when he sees our mass, choir, bells, vestments, etc., that this is a properly papal church, and there’s no difference or little in comparison to variations among [Catholic] churches themselves.58 Observers did, in fact, puzzle over such ornamented interiors. In a letter of 1538 to his father in England, Thomas Goldwell, a Catholic, reports of his travels from Ingolstadt to Innsbruck. Passing through Windesheim, Markt Erbach, and Nuremberg ‘wherein were few other than heretics’, Goldwell notes that ‘in all these towns are goodly churches full of images, which they regard as ornaments of the church and monuments that such holy men have been before us’.59 Whereas pictures like the pendant engravings of 1600 magnify the contrasts between evangelical and Roman worship (illus. 10 and 11), actual church interiors in Luther’s orbit were designed partly to conceal those differences. One might understand this as a syncretistic tactic for easing Catholics into the Lutheran fold: comforted by a familiar spectacle, members of the rival faith would be more apt to convert. Or one might recall, from the example of Stimmer’s prints, how appropriation legitimated the new by announcing that it was already present in the old. Alternatively, one might think of appropriation as a ‘dissimulation’ strategy by which consensus is ostentatiously affirmed in order to allow difference safe expression at the margin. Dissimulation was a chief method of ideological settlement during the confessional period, when peace was reached in law and politics (Augsburg, 1555; Westphalia, 1648) but war still raged among religions.60 By pretending compromise with their opponents on the central point of a controversy, theologians could smuggle in, by way of terminological ambiguities, their rejection of the settlement towards which they seem unilaterally to strive. Mutually incompatible absolutes thus were both suspended and preserved. At the very least, understanding the evangelical appropriation of old church pictures in terms of a tactics of dissimulation suggests that Reformation art might intentionally avoid clarity on what is distinctive about it. Nowhere is strategic ambivalence more apparent than in that most dominant and controversial type of church pictures, the retable altarpiece.

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5 A Reformation Altarpiece

Start over with just what you see: the retable in the church of Luther’s ministry (illus. 28).1 Its limewood panels stand in the middle of the space: upright presences one can circle round, four pictures on the front and four on the rear. Asserting themselves as the necessary focus of the eye, they arrest our motion, encouraging us to take our place before them in the church. Or better, the church, oriented around the choir and with pews facing forward, already places us, and these pictures are the things we see. To that prior necessity the paintings respond. The front panels, the ones displayed to the viewer thus located, affirm their locale by reiterating its architecture. Their triptych format aligns them with what were the three windows (bricked in since 1928) of the wall behind.2 And the centralizing force of these coordinated threesomes is restated in each panel. Each revolves around a central object: in the upper register, the baptismal font, supper table and confessional chair; in the predella, an isolated crucifix. And that crucifix, lined up with tables below and above, affirms an axis coincidental with the center of the choir, where the vault thrusts upward. The paintings evoke specific features of the building around them. In the background of the side panels, vaulting ribs descend as they do in the real choir; and the bull’s-eye windows probably record the rear wall’s original fenestration. More generally, the fabric of all the represented interiors (those shadowed planes of grey-green masonry) accords with the choir’s dressed fieldstone walls. The repetition of the surrounding architecture causes that what takes place in the pictures – everyday life in the church – to be projected into the real space behind, as if it actually occurred in the apse behind the altar. The panels so fit their locality that they nearly disappear. Reproducing their setting, the panels also reiterate a specific ‘production of space’.3 This production derives from a religion made obsolete by the faith depicted in the panels. The retable stands behind a stone altar consecrated around 1439, at the completion of the church’s nave.4 The


28. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Wittenberg Altarpiece, 1547, oil on panels (front view). Stadtkirche, Wittenberg.

much older choir incorporates a pilgrimage chapel indulgenced in the late thirteenth century. Like many late medieval churches in Saxony, St Mary’s in Wittenberg was designed partly for preaching, hence its ‘hall-church’ structure, with side aisles about the height of the nave, allowing large audiences to hear sermons.5 But its main use was for sacrament, procession and pilgrimage. This explains the focus of the design on the high altar in the choir. From about the sixth century, altars were consecrated as sacred places entombing sacred things: saints’ relics, Eucharistic hosts, incense burnt at the episcopal rite of the altar’s consecration, and documents authenticating all these.6 Such entombments emulated an older custom of building altars over martyrs’ graves; and they formalized the fact that relics were what churches necessarily housed.7 Materially endowed with the saving power of the particles interred in them, altars oriented space around them as about an absolute centre. The word ‘orient’ derives from the position of altars. Originally it denoted the layout of churches on an east–west axis, with the

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high altar towards the rising (orientem) sun.8 Altars map the concentric spheres of church, town and countryside into an absolute geography, which the Latin West understood as having its centre in the East, in Jerusalem, where Christ died, was buried, and came to life again. In medieval world maps, the figure of Christ rising from his tomb indicated the centrally placed Holy City.9 Canon law affirmed the fixity of altars by ruling that their table (or ‘mensa’) be of stone: stone symbolized Christ’s sarcophagus, making each altar a Jerusalem.10 For in the altar rite, Christ was sacrificed and resurrected anew, via the elements of the bread and wine. In the late Middle Ages, changes in architecture and liturgy made that rite less accessible to lay people. Spatial divisions in the church, such as rood screens, hindered passage to the high altar, while rite itself, said silently in Latin and tabooed by ever-stricter prohibitions, became increasingly the monopoly of clerics. For the laity, admission became primarily visual. Keeping bodies out, rood screens also ushered vision in, framing the spectacle of the elevated host (see illus. 177).11 Announced by sacring bells, raised dramatically and lit by long candles, glimpsed through special peepholes in the church, and placed in windowed tabernacles for ostentation, the host was received through the portals of the eye.12 People had long believed that harm or help could come from seeing a thing, that the eye either touched the object’s surface through extramission or was intromissively touched by the eidola emitted by the object, and that the eye itself was the soul’s window.13 The custom of preserving the efficacious look of sacred things by holding a mirror to them and then privately treasuring surface on which their reflection fell, documents this model of sight (and of likeness itself) as a form of physical contact.14 Seeing the host achieved a Communion as effective as eating it. Erected behind the altar, altarpieces augmented salvific seeing. Their symmetry elaborated a centre of sight; their winged shutters miniaturized the architecture of hiding and showing; and their images glorified, explicated, and mediated the blank spectacle before them: Christ present as the invisible ‘substance’ of the bread. Beholding that thing, the eye observed only bread, as an old prayer put it: Hyt semes quite [white], and is red Hyt is quike, and seemes dede: Hyt is flesche and seemes brede.15 Miracles of bleeding hosts and of Masses where Christ appeared at the altar confirmed what lay hidden in the bread (illus. 176). But ordinarily only the altarpiece offered something to see. Only it made Christ’s attachment to the world visible.

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29. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Weimar Altarpiece, 1555, oil on panels, seen in its open state in the Stadtkirche, Weimar.

At first glance, the altarpiece in Wittenberg seems to support a faith in sacred places (illus. 28). Judging from other Lutheran retables by Cranach’s shop, it must originally have looked more like Catholic forms of sacramental pomp (illus. 29). Although its outer panels were probably always immobile, and therefore could not join the kinetics of ostentation, fixed wings had been a feature of some German triptychs before the Reformation. Cranach’s ensemble was doubtless crowned by carved finials that, reaching into the vaulted choir, sketched a bond between earth and heaven. Dated 1928, the present frame blunts the top edge, spreading the ensemble horizontally and interrupting its vertical thrust. It replaced a stone framework designed in 1811 by Carlo Ignazio Pozzi. Pozzi embedded the front panels in a neoGothic facade, walled up the rear ones, and topped the whole with a statue of the Christ. Like the present frame, Pozzi’s housing lessened the panels’ dialogue with their setting. Cranach’s repetitions of prior contours complement his appropriation of place. Even within the traditional framework of a triptych set on a narrow predella,16 the altarpiece smuggles its innovations in by way of familiar

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30. Lucas Cranach the Elder, St Anne Altarpiece, 1509, oil on panels. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt.

shapes. The baptism and confession scenes may be revolutionary in their disenchanted display of ceremony, yet the presiding ministers, singled out and arrested in their significant gestures, evoke the saints’ effigies that conventionally flanked a retable’s central shrine. Even as surrogates, say, for John the Baptist and St Peter, respectively, Melanchthon and Bugenhagen seem less anomalous if we recall that in pre-Reformation altarpieces, saints were often portrayed with the features of contemporary individuals. On the wings of his Altarpiece of the Holy Kinship (1509), originally from the Church of St Mary’s in Torgau, Cranach portrays Alphaeus and Zebedee in the likeness of Friedrich the Wise and Johann the Constant (illus. 30);17 before the Reformation, such in figura portraits were common in this and other artists. Similarly, the Wittenberg predella, though unprecedented in its celebration of preaching as the basis of sacrament, is also camouflaged by tradition. On altar tables there usually stood a small, freestanding crucifix intended to display Communion’s link to Christ’s sacrifice.18 Observed from afar, Cranach’s crucifixion looks like but a painted form of this liturgical prop. Finally the Last Supper scene hardly strikes us as out of place, since it shows the Bible event liturgically re-enacted at the altar. A Catholic might have expected an image of the Virgin on the high altar of this church dedicated to her. But the Last Supper seems sufficiently ‘apostolic’, too, a scene to which all Christians would consent. Does this consensus mask differences elsewhere? Does the altarpiece ‘dissimulate’ concord merely to neutralize those who might contest its occupancy? Take the agreement between picture and place. Except for the Last Supper, the front panels depict actions in a church. This strengthens their embrace of the viewer, who also stands in a church. Such spatial coordination is not new. Pre-Reformation art routinely portrayed sacred persons and

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events against the backdrop of a church, as when the Annunciation occurs in an ecclesiastical setting, with figures dressed in liturgical garb. Locating holiness where they stand, church pictures assert that their epiphany is empirically observed, and that their place – the physical church – is a holy spot where the beyond attaches to the here and now. The Wittenberg panels utilize the same device, but strip it of transcendency. Portraying in church what routinely occurs there, they represent what a viewer would see anyway. Taking us into their ‘here’, they return us to where we already are. Celebrating church as action rather than locale, they admit that their place – the church that they orient and that orients them – is not special after all. Images of church in church, the pictures and the church recede from view, as if seen through a telescope the wrong way around. Cranach’s altarpiece dissimulates its belonging to the parish church by marking and at the same time cancelling sacred space. It would be too simple, though, to think that such self-negation was the work’s only aim. Not only do the panels still fill the church with something to see; they show precisely the outward marks of church. In a tract of 1539, On the Councils and the Church, Luther lists these as preaching, baptism, Communion, confession, ministers, prayer and the cross.19 He insists on such marks against the view, held by ‘spiritualists’ such as Andreas Karlstadt and Caspar Schwenckfeld, that grace has no external signs.20 This controversy revolved mostly around the altar rite. With the Roman Church, the Reformer held that Christ’s flesh and blood were really present in the Eucharistic bread and wine. This motivated Lutheran altarpieces, which served as confessional symbols of this faith in presence. Yet Luther also affirmed that Christ was both ‘ubiquitous’ and in the bread and wine. He therefore also rejected claims – central to the Roman Church’s salvific pretenses – to the sacrality of places and institutions. Simultaneously affirming and denying what it shows, Cranach’s retable navigates the narrow channels of theological controversy. On the one hand, because Christ’s presence distinguishes the altar from elsewhere, the retable affirms and celebrates its place. On the other hand, since Christ is also ‘everywhere and nowhere’, it negates sacred geography, revealing church as activity, not place. Beholding it from the nave, one is struck by how the predella duplicates the space behind the altar (illus. 85). Established by a box-like interior built of cubes of stone, the painting’s perspective converges in consonance with the choir’s recession into space. Even the asymmetry of the depicted scene, where only the right wall is visible, picks up a real feature of the church. Because the choir lies to the right of centre of the nave, the left – or south – wall is generally less visible than the right. When the altarpiece was installed, Luther’s wooden pulpit (extant in fragments in Wittenberg’s Luther Museum) still stood on that north side, just before the choir.21 The City

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Church’s preacher for thirty-three years, Luther had delivered about a hundred sermons annually from that spot.22 And although deceased a year before the altarpiece’s dedication, Luther appears across from a congregation of familiar faces, a group portrait, as it were, of Wittenberg’s living notables. Remember also that Bugenhagen, the church’s pastor, preached here until 1558, and that Melanchthon taught and ministered in Wittenberg until 1560. The chamber shown in the predella and wings must thus have seemed the double of the real space around and behind it. But without altar or image, its space, repeating that of the church, is also a void into which even the Christ crucified only notionally intrudes (as I will detail below). Through an appropriated rhetoric of presence, of holy things and substantial centres, a new apprehension of absence occurs. Yet the redundancy of the Wittenberg Altarpiece also resists any interpretation that seeks its essence somewhere else. Since the pictures show what is the mundane case at the altar, it makes explanations easy but inert: easy, as deciphering it just means naming the actions it duplicates; and inert, because whatever else is said pertains not to it but to the duplicated actions. Scholarship remains thus stalled where it began. Even the first proper textbook of ‘world art history’ adequately states this altarpiece’s subject. In Franz Kugler’s Handbook of the History of Art (1842) we read: ‘These [paintings] represent as testament to the new historical circumstances those religious rituals which Protestantism accepted as truly sacred: Communion, baptism, confession and preaching (the ministers are portrayed in likenesses of the principal reformers).’23 Later historians elaborated by further expounding those rituals. In a standard treatment of the work, Oskar Thulin wrote of ‘listening while beholding’, and of catching the ‘hidden word, the meaning, the message’ in the panels’‘language of forms’.24 Thulin and others heard a roar of words – biblical and Lutheran – about preaching, sacrament, Christ and so forth, but they said little about why they closed their eyes. Exegesis reflects the image’s redundancy by equating the image with what it depicts. The challenge is to escape the Groundhog Day of interpretation, where meaning is plentiful but always the same. I found solace in a remark by Dan Sperber: ‘It would be better, in fact, not to speak of meaning at all, since talk of meaning offers only one, rather suspect advantage: it prevents us from asking, “If not meaning, what?”.’25 Before elaborating what the pictures mean, then, we might ask why they are there at all. No documents survive of the retable’s commission. Municipal accounts for the years 1531 and especially 1547 record payments to Cranach’s shop for ‘various panels and many paintings’ made for and installed in the City Church. The entry of 1 September 1547, registers a five thaler tip to Cranach’s apprentices for helping ‘set up the new panels in the parish church’.26 It is likely that the Wittenberg town council gave the altarpiece its present form

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partly to commemorate Luther. On the eve of the Schmalkald War, on 18 February 1546, he died, and here stands twice portrayed: as the predella’s preacher and as an apostle in the Last Supper. The ensemble may well have been commissioned before Luther’s death, however, and part of it may have been finished and in place by the late 1530s. Already by then Wittenberg had come to understand itself as the cradle and centre of the Reformation, and as the model Protestant congregation. Not only did the key reformers preach, teach and publish here. The powerful nobles resident in Wittenberg, the princes of the Ernestine line of the Wettin dynasty, who, since the division of Saxony in 1485, held the rights of Imperial Electors, had defended Luther against both emperor and pope, and these overlords would uphold the Lutheran orthodoxy ever after. A broadsheet by Jacob Lucius of around 1557 makes Wittenberg the backdrop both to Luther’s ministry at the Saxon court and to the baptism of Christ by St John (illus. 31).27 The rivulet separating modern and biblical history joins the Elbe backwaters to the river Jordan. The City Church appears near the centre of the print, between the recent present and the apostolic past. For Wittenberg’s citizens, this building, and not the princely Castle Church to the left, was the evangelical faith’s definitive locale (illus. 86). With the failure to establish Naumburg and Merseburg as evangelical bishoprics, Wittenberg’s City Church functioned like an episcopal see, where Lutheran pastors from throughout Europe were ordained, with the city’s theology professors examining the applicants.28 Beyond honouring Luther, the altarpiece also marked the place where the evangelical faith founded itself as church. Lucas Cranach was the obvious artist for the commission.29 For nearly a century, from his arrival in Wittenberg in 1505 to the death in 1586 of his second son and namesake, Lucas the Younger, Cranach’s shop dominated art-making in the city and in Saxony generally, and established the painterly style for much of northern and eastern Germany. Through his pay as court painter to the Saxon princes, through independent work as a painter, printmaker, publisher and landowner, and through monopolies (acquired by way of his well-born wife) of pharmaceuticals, spices, sugar and wine, Cranach also grew enormously rich, becoming one of Wittenberg’s two wealthiest citizens. A city councillor from 1519 through 1545, and eight times council head and twice mayor, he mediated between Wittenberg and the Saxon princes, whom he had served as court artist from 1505 on.30 In an obituary of 1556 recovered during the restoration of the City Church’s tower pommels, Matthias Gunderam, tutor to the artist’s grandchildren, reports that Cranach ‘was loved by Dr Luther his whole life long, and was bound to him by bands of intimate friendship and sponsorship’.31 In 1519, as city treasurer, Cranach funded the celebrations

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31. Jakob Lucius, Baptism of Christ with Prince Johann Friedrich and Family, c. 1557, woodcut.

greeting Luther on his return from the Leipzig Disputation, where he had narrowly escaped being condemned for heresy. As chief councillor, Cranach paid for Luther’s passage to the Diet of Worms. It was Cranach who received Luther’s famous letter of 18 April 1521, describing his hostile treatment at Worms and confiding, ‘I will allow myself to be taken in and concealed, I know not where.’32 Hidden in the Wartburg, Luther still corresponded with Cranach; and during a clandestine visit to Wittenberg in November 1521, he let the artist draw him disguised as Junker Jörg (illus. 32).33 When Luther wedded the renegade nun Katherina von Bora in 1525, Cranach filed the petition for the bride, and served as the sole lay witness at this potentially explosive event.34 That year the artist named Luther godfather to his eldest daughter; and he sponsored Luther’s first child in 1526. When Cranach lost his eldest son Hans in 1536, Luther comforted him with words recorded in the Table Talks.35 Cranach and Luther were also linked by professional bonds. Over three decades, the artist produced scores of paintings, broadsheets and book illustrations for the Reformer’s cause. His Ten Commandments panel, completed in 1516 for Wittenberg’s town hall, was designed under Luther’s influence.36 In 1521 his woodcuts for the Passional Christi und Antichristi (1521) gave visual form to Luther’s attack on the papacy (illus. 55 and 56). From the late 1520s, in altarpieces, epitaphs and didactic prints and panels, he reworked art-making to fit the new faith, creating, with Luther,

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32. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Martin Luther as Junker Jörg, c. 1521, oil on panel. Staatliche Kunstsammlung, Weimar.

appropriate subjects and styles. And in his many portraits of the Reformer, he created an iconography that shaped and preserved the popular image of Luther. Some impressions of Cranach’s 1520 engraving, Luther as Monk, contain a likeness of a bearded man (illus. 33).37 Printed faintly on the blank ground at the upper left, this profile resembles known self-portraits of Cranach. Rays extending from his brow toward Luther’s suggest a bond of inspiration. Cranach’s altarpiece in Wittenberg confirms this bond. An old tradition had it that the altarpiece was dedicated on 24 April 1547, the fatal day of the Battle of Mühlberg, when Charles v defeated the Lutheran forces of Johann Friedrich.38 Bereft of their famous preacher, and now surrendering to Catholic armies, the Wittenberg congregation must have regarded this dedication as bold defiance. ‘Pray’, the aged Luther had cried from the church’s pulpit as war drew near, ‘Pray without cease.’39 As Leopold von Ranke wrote in his chronicle of the Schmalkald War: ‘Luther believed in the power of prayer, especially in the congregation, where all personalities and names vanish, and only Christians remain, Christ himself among them, in the company of God victorious.’40 The Wittenberg

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33. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Martin Luther, 1520, engraving.

Altarpiece shows that prayer in the predella, and pictures Christ’s victory on the rear (illus. 128 and 129). What message did this send the Spanish invaders? The fact that Luther’s preaching church had an altarpiece at all, and that it preserved tradition in its outward shapes, might have suggested that the Reformation’s break with the past was less abrupt than its opponents claimed. This was the burden of Luther’s remark (cited above) that, ‘in regard to neutral things . . . an Italian or a Spaniard’ would see ‘no difference’ between a Lutheran and a Catholic church interior.41 As a strategy of self-defence, consensus frustrated the enemy’s purpose by dissimilating the grounds for their antagonism. No sustained examination of the altarpiece can overlook its protestation, however. Dedicated on the day of disaster, it gestures subtle resistance to its foes. After his capture, Johann Friedrich was sentenced to death, and Wittenberg passed to the Albertine princes of Saxony, who had allied themselves with Charles. Although Johann Friedrich’s sentence was commuted to banishment to Weimar, Wittenberg was for some time held by the Spanish. An old story has it that a Spaniard slashed and stabbed Luther’s

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portrait in the altarpiece; the damage was said to be visible as late as 1707.42 While probably apocryphal, this tale of Catholic iconoclasm dramatizes the altarpiece’s sectarian charge, its summa of an evangelical definition of church. In 1530, Protestants confessed at Augsburg that ‘there must be and forever remain a holy Christian church, which is the congregation of all believers where the pure gospel is preached, and where the holy sacrament is administered’.43 Visualizing the doctrine ‘where word and sacrament, there church’,44 the Wittenberg Altarpiece ought indeed to disappear into the routines it portrays. Yet in showing church as action not place, it also legitimizes its occupancy. ‘To be’, wrote Archytus of Tarentum, ‘is to be in some place’.45 Previous to any commission or event, there has to be a space. And for the altarpiece that Cranach painted for his church, that space was produced by the first hammerblow of Protestant iconoclasm. This book commences with this inaugural cleansing. Part One, ‘Cleansing’, reviews the events and circumstances of Protestant image-breaking, principally in Wittenberg. My account differs from previous ones in two ways. On the one hand, I shift the focus from the iconoclasts’ complaints to the images the iconoclasts themselves produce. Whether intentionally or not, defacement left behind a face, and this residue shaped the more deeply metabolized iconoclasm of Cranach’s altarpiece. On the other hand, I discern an iconoclasm in the Christian image itself. Like the defacements to which it is periodically submitted, the image of Christ was self-negating from the start. Having discovered that the place of Cranach’s retable already stood both empty and full, I proceed outward from the new centre the altarpiece proposes. Part Two, ‘The Word’, begins with the crucifix in the predella. It passes outward to the activity of preaching depicted at its sides, and then forward to the ritual of Communion implied in front of it. Part Three,‘Sacrament’, analyses the panels that the predella supports. Again, the movement is from the centre out, from the scene of Christ at the table to the flanking panels of baptism and confession, and via these to the actions, institutions and edifices of the real church beyond. In a final chapter on church building, I consider where these centripetal movements take us, from the image of the hidden God to an unattainable portrait of society.

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pa rt i


6 Actions

Sometime between 27 January and 5 February 1522, six months after their preacher, Luther, had disappeared without a trace, a mob of Wittenberg citizens entered the City Church and set about stripping altars, breaking images and burning the debris.1 The exact date of this, the first significant Protestant iconoclasm, is forgotten. But a specific one had been fixed by Wittenberg’s city council in an effort to keep church cleansing under its control. On 24 January the council, on its own and without princely or episcopal consent, issued a new church ordinance (Kirchordnung) decreeing that ‘the images and altars in the church should be removed, in order to prevent idolatry, for three altars without images are enough’.2 And to the dismay of the Saxon court, the council acted ‘zealously and energetically’3 toward this end, setting an immediate schedule for the images’ removal (no copies of that decree survive). After the turbulence, the council explained that such actions ‘should be done by the authorities, who, prepared, suited, and fit, are alone entrusted with that task, and no one should lay a hand on anything unless he has been ordered to do so’.4 In Wittenberg, then, iconoclasm was sanctioned from above, and for the first time in the Latin West. But in the event, things got out of hand. On the day decreed, or perhaps before it, zealous burghers stormed the altars unauthorized, embarrassing the council and prompting an apology to the prince. At least one man was punished. Municipal balance sheets for 1522 record a fine paid by ‘a tanner, who on his own and uncommanded, scandalously tore the picture in the City Church from its panel’.5 It is impossible to reconstruct what happened in the mother church of Protestantism. Who led the rampage in the City Church, whether council members took part, and exactly what was destroyed and how: all this remains a mystery. No panel painting or movable sculpture from before 1521 has survived in situ, which suggests that the damage was great – although on 13 February, just after the tumult, the Saxon court ordered that surviving ‘images remain in the church’,6 indicating that not everything had yet been


eradicated. And as late as 1524, the council ordered the removal of a certain image of the Virgin set before the high altar, along with the ‘priest’s altar’, probably a remaining side altar documented by 1442 and originally fitted with a retable with Mary, St Gregory, and several other holy figures.7 It is highly probable, though, that the altar where Cranach’s panels now stand had been stripped in the first attack.Altarpieces – of which there were at least nineteen in the City Church before the Reformation8 – were especially disliked by iconoclasts. Again, not a single one, nor even a fragment thereof, survived in this church beyond 1524. Wittenberg’s most vociferous imagebreaker, Andreas Karlstadt, assumed the role of city preacher during Luther’s absence. In the second sentence of his manifesto against church pictures, he stated ‘the carved and painted oil-idols standing on the altar are that much more damaging and devilish’.9 Moreover, the City Church, or Great St Mary’s – originally built to serve Wittenberg’s expanding citizenry, who formerly crowded into the nearby Castle Church – was constructed around an earlier pilgrimage chapel devoted to the Virgin, and retained her as its titular saint. Its high altar would probably have been dedicated to her, and must have featured, within the retable once attached to its rear, painted and carved effigies of her. Promising intercession, and symbolizing the Church itself as Bride of Christ, Marian icons were among the church pictures most vilified by Protestant reformers.10 Because of its subject and its placement, then, the altarpiece originally behind the City Church’s high altar would have been a prime target of iconoclastic wrath. This is speculation, however. In Wittenberg, as in most sites of iconoclastic destruction, church cleansing left no record of things removed or broken. Eventually all that remained were empty spaces. And it was in one such void that, by 1547, the citizens of Wittenberg chose to erect a new altarpiece to commemorate their purifying efforts. This chapter is about the conditions and motivations of that prior, enabling void. I attend to this partly because the blanks that iconoclasm engenders often stand as icons of its passion to purify the church. As in some performance pieces by John Cage, in which the ambient noises of a silenced auditorium divulge music of their own, the void that Cranach’s figured panels were made to fill was itself already a figure. Mainly, however, I attend to blanks because Cranach, too, in his post-iconoclastic icons, keeps emptiness on display. In the bare walls of his predella’s interior setting, in the engineered unreality of the crucifix there visible, and in the upper panels’ showing routines (which were observable in the real church), Cranach preserves the blank he fills. In his work the iconoclastic gesture is simultaneously celebrated and suspended. I will try first to freeze-frame the hammer while it strikes, in order to observe in it what Cranach cancelled and what he sustained. Actions, then, are the initial topic of this chapter, and not merely those that image-breakers

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performed. Iconoclasts directed their actions against other actions they deemed abominable. ‘Idolatry’ stood for the sum of all the false, superstitious and devilish practices fostered by the Roman Church; iconoclasm was more a war against these than against the things toward which they seemed directed, since in the image-breaker’s view the idols were nothing. Against an unregulated multitude of customary practices, of rites, routines, gestures and poses that had come to constitute Christian piety by 1520, Protestant reformers sanctioned alone those actions reckoned to have been mandated by Christ. Rule-bound and radically reduced, these were also actions of a particular kind. Articulated in Scripture, they were chiefly articulations of Scripture: communicative actions of giving and receiving God’s word. Motivating iconoclastic action, then, was a concept of action itself, which I study in the present chapter. Luther’s initial call to faith alone had already repudiated works as a means of salvation. It had sought to replace deeds with an internal affair of understanding and belief. To reformers sympathetic to this call, sacred images exemplified an activistic religion. As the focus of practices unsanctioned by the New Testament and forbidden by the Old, church pictures made ‘works-righteousness’ concrete in patronage, production and prayer. Moreover, the words and gestures constituting the pious use of images were deemed to travesty communicative action, for they treated things as if they were persons. In the next chapter, I focus on the beliefs invested in actions: on one hand, the convictions implied by – or read into – iconophile behaviour; on the other, the creed of iconophobes themselves in their certitude that they know what iconophiles believe. It turns out that the religion of sola fides required for its reduction a counter-idea of ‘mere’ belief. To this end, Protestant reformers held up for scorn the naked facts they claimed to uncover behind the fictions: the wood and stone that idols really are. Fictions – the topic of chapter 8 – stand both for the icon thus unveiled, and for the rhetoric necessary to its unveiling. The fiction which iconoclasm chiefly unveiled was that of mediation, of a middle ground of acts, objects, institutions and persons that spoke on a person’s behalf. The fiction that iconoclasm engendered – by way of new mediations – was that of speech itself. By turning sacred rituals and objects into acts of language, image-breakers sanctified communication. The detour through church cleansing’s void thus passes to chapter 9 on communications, both as the ideal of a wordbased faith, and as the reality of stubborn admixtures of words with images, objects and acts that communicate the ideal. Chapter 10 treats Luther’s response to the image-breakers in his city, which I regard as the general and specific brief for Cranach’s altarpiece.

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In Wittenberg’s iconoclasm, as with most, the first questions are causal. Who initiated the 1522 iconoclasm and why? In the aftermath, backtracking authorities, as well as Luther on his return from the Wartburg, singled out Karlstadt for blame. In the pamphlet On the Removal of Images, published in Wittenberg on 27 January 1522, Karlstadt had indeed raged against an idolatrous Church, summoning all Christians to read God’s lips:‘Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image.’ But when attacked for his opinions afterwards, he retorted, and not without reason, ‘I did not undertake this alone, but rather, the three councillors and many of their people decided it and afterwards took their head from the noose and left me standing alone.’11 For the ordinance of 24 January was certainly drafted and approved by the council in consultation with university theologians, including (along with Karlstadt) those quintessential ‘moderates’ of early Protestantism, Philipp Melanchthon, Nikolaus von Amsdorf and Justus Jonas. The earliest extant document concerning the iconoclasm in the City Church – an ‘Instruction’ by the Saxon court chancellor – accuses preachers (in plural) of ‘wanting to excite the common folk to rebellion or impassioned feelings’, and of giving iconoclasm ‘cause’ (Ursach).12 This points the finger not only at Karlstadt (whose pamphlet probably summarized sermons he had delivered), but at other reform-minded clerics as well, such as the young firebrand Gabriel Zwilling, whose preaching, as we will see, stirred rowdy crowds in Wittenberg and Eilenburg. And there was talk, too, of trouble from outside: student radicals from Erfurt, self-styled ‘prophets’ in flight from Zwickau, and a smuggled treatise, perhaps containing Cornelius Hoen’s ‘foreign expositions’ of the Mass.13 The image-breakers expressed themselves with hammers, not words. Although inspired by sermons and encouraged by decrees, their actions unfolded unpredictably and left no explanations behind. Besides the cleansed church, we possess only a protocol of breached protocol: belated enquiries by the Saxon court, nervous assurances from the city, fingerpointing among the theologians. Wittenberg’s iconoclasm from above seems to have both excited and reacted to impulses arising from below, from the unarticulated passions and tactics of the ‘common folk at Wittenberg’, hence the princely council’s bewildered demand to know from the perpetrators ‘why you’ve undertaken these reforms’.14 As such the event has become a model of iconoclasm as expressing social tensions between the people and the ‘authorities’, here the magistrates and the princes.15 Even in the absence of explanations, however, image-breakers in the City Church had precedents to follow. Just one week earlier, on 10 January 1522, a group of monks led by Zwilling had stormed the Augustinian cloister, seizing ‘wooden altarpieces . . . and all other panels, painted and carved images, crucifixes, flags, candles, lamps, etc.’, which they heaped in a pile and

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burnt.16 Before that, on 3 December, students from Erfurt had destroyed a wooden altar in Wittenberg’s Franciscan friary.17 And on Christmas Eve, crowds had vandalized both the City Church and the Castle Church, breaking windows and destroying utensils.18 And prior to Wittenberg, iconoclastic incidents are recorded in 1521 for Erfurt, for Zwickau and for the Holy Blood Chapel in Treptow (Pomerania).19 Historians tend to distinguish iconoclasm from isolated cases of vandalism recorded throughout the Middle Ages. Typically, drunks and gamblers perpetrated acts of the latter sort, as a boisterous blasphemy akin to cursing.20 In a woodcut by Hans Weiditz, the motif of a soldier vomiting on a crucifix goes with the scene of gaming, as the sacrilege that goes with sin (illus. 34). Sometimes, though, it is hard to draw the line between drunken profanation and religiously motivated image-breaking. What clerics and councils before the Reformation condemn as blasphemy might have been intended as iconoclasm. In 1520, for example, the Zurich council tried a certain Uly Anders for wrecking a crucifixion at an inn in Utznach.21 Although the council prosecuted Anders as a traitor to the common good and a blasphemer against God, beheading him for his crimes, the words he used to accompany his gestures foreshadowed those of Zurich’s Protestants just three years later.As he smashed the carved effigy and tossed it out of the window, Anders was said to have exclaimed:‘The idols bring nothing and they will help with nothing!’ It is possible that the phrase ‘the idols bring nothing’ simply put words to a retaliatory action, as when a gambler loses and curses his luck by blaming his talisman. Such gestures were not always deemed irreligious. In twelfthcentury monastic culture, ineffective saints were sometimes ‘humiliated’ by having their effigies placed on the ground.22 More probably, though,

34. The Petrarcha Master (Hans Weiditz), ‘Tavern Brawl’, woodcut illustration in Petrarch, Von der Artzney bayder Glück des guten und widerwertigen (Augsburg: Heynrich Steyner, 1532).

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Anders’s actions, like those of the tanner fined in Wittenberg only two years later, were intended to repudiate images formally and publically rather than to punish them privately. Iconoclasm proper had a long if sporadic history in Christendom prior to 1520. Even before the great iconoclasms that divided Byzantium from Rome during the eighth century, early martyrs sometimes smashed the idol they scorned, allowing their bodies to be broken by pagans angry at their apparent irreverence; and many of the Church Fathers (most influentially Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria) remained true to that uncompromising cause. Much later, sanctified ascetics of the Latin West, such as St Bernard of Clairvaux, as well as persons condemned as heretics, such as the followers of John Wycliffe and Johann Hus, criticized pictures for being wasteful, distracting and superstitious, and called for their removal from church space.23 More vital than these historical precedents, however, were certain ritual patterns that Wittenberg’s iconoclasts apparently followed in cleansing their church. For example, when they submitted the debris to fire, this was partly because flames symbolized the images’ just deserts. Not only did the fire agree with the verdict of Isaiah, who assailed idolaters for carving their abominations from the ‘residue’ of firewood (Isaiah 44:17); it also invoked and travestied the flames of purgatory. For it had been by threat of a purging fire that the Roman Church, promising less pain in purgatory, had received as donations those very luxuries that Wittenberg’s rioters now destroyed. In the same mocking spirit, iconoclasts called for Wittenberg’s stripped altars to be ‘washed down with bitter lye’,24 as if to undo the spell that the Church, in anointing those altars, had actually cast on a credulous flock. This action was scheduled for Green Thursday, when altars were customarily washed with holy water. Image breakers thus purified by desecration. Scrubbing away as superstition any spirit that might be thought to adhere to matter, they endeavoured to disenchant church by making it an unadorned nowhere (illus. 35). And it was in this purified space, or rather, this space that would be purified of all claims to be, in any special sense, pure, that the iconoclasts also purified practice. Already, in 1521, Karlstadt had rejected private Masses, religious vows, clerical celibacy and the cult of the saints as unbiblical. With Luther, he had reduced the functions of the church to preaching the gospel and administering the two sacraments instituted by Christ. Not private observances practiced by an endowed clergy but public services mandatory for a congregation, the functions of preaching and sacrament were to take place only on Sundays and holidays.25 Only then were the church doors open; only then was church truly church. ‘The house built for God’, wrote Karlstadt, was alone a ‘house of prayer’.26

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35. Anonymous Netherlandish Master, Calvinist Iconoclasm, 1566, engraving.

On Christmas Day 1521, in the Castle Church before a gathering of two thousand (the ‘whole town’, as one chronicler put it), Karlstadt celebrated Mass not silently and in Latin, as had been done for centuries, but audibly and in German, so that all could hear and understand (illus. 36).27 Skipping all mention of sacrifice, he neither made crossing gestures over the host nor did he elevate it. He distributed both bread and wine to everyone, lay folk included, whether or not they had fasted or confessed. He invited communicants to take the host in their hands, insisting that they were as much priests as he. And when in the rush two wafers fell to the ground, he merely said ‘Let it lie where it is; just don’t step on it with your feet.’28 Behind this studied nonchalance was the growing conviction, perhaps awakened in Wittenberg by Cornelius Hoen’s notorious writings, that Christ’s words ‘this is my body’ merely meant ‘this signifies my body’. Not material but message, Communion was communication. In answer to why they favoured a German Mass, Wittenberg’s reformers responded ‘because all Communion is useless unless one understands the words of the institution’.29 Champion of disenchanted action, Karlstadt sought even to disenchant himself. Though of no less an office than archdeacon of the Castle Church (just one rank below bishop), he performed that first German Mass ‘in worldly clothing, without any ornament’.30 Thus he endowed his person with the plainness he insisted on for practice and for place. A few years later, he would dress down even further, donning a grey peasant’s coat, disowning

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36. Anonymous German, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, c. 1600, engraving.

academic degrees, and calling himself ‘Brother Andreas’ – although by 1534 it was back to ‘Dr Karlstadt’. Wittenberg’s other radical preacher, Gabriel Zwilling, underwent a yet more ostentatious make-over.31 After Christmas Day 1521, this renegade monk and early champion of the German Mass travelled from Wittenberg to nearby Eilenburg. There, in a chapel at the foot of the castle hill, he took aim against the regular pastor, Johann Müller, and preached swift, uncompromising reform. On New Year’s Day 1522, his tonsure (as the sources tell us) grown out, he ascended the pulpit to proclaim an inward faith, along with some quirky ideas of his own, for example, that God forgives us the instant we sin, and that one need not rest on the Sabbath, since one day is as holy as the other.32 Outdoing Karlstadt in his liturgical nonchalance, he sincerely encouraged communicants to eat heartily before church service. During Communion, which he administered to a mixed crowd of two hundred men, women and children, he handed out fistfuls of

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consecrated hosts, explaining that people ought to see and feel what they eat. Five or six went to Rentmaster Hans von Taubenheim, who, first in line, had just consumed ‘such a big fish’. Sacramental wine was drunk liberally from two great tumblers, and Zwilling, growing sleepy, declared he would not preach again until next Sunday, when everyone should return. Communicants left the church laughing, some still drunk from the night before. Windows of the chapel were smashed, and Eilenburg’s conservative pastor, who had been forced to watch all this, was threatened and jeered. It was for this improvisation of actions and ideas that Zwilling concocted his novel costume. He wore a long, black student’s robe, a shirt with black trimming, and a beret lined and decorated with two bits of fur. Church vestments, he explained to the congregation, were papal ‘works and spectres’. They were ‘ertichtet’ (modern German, erdichtet), by which he meant something like ‘made-up’ or ‘humanly fabricated’: costume as mere custom.33 Whereas Karlstadt merely neutralized his vestments, Zwilling, with a certain revolutionary vengeance, veritably paraded their fictiveness and contingency. It was he, after all, who had led Wittenberg’s earliest iconoclasm in the Augustinian cloister. One wonders, nevertheless, how Zwilling decided on that particular beret, whether he thought it, more than some other headgear, better suited his grown-out tonsure, or lent him an air of learning. To a culture with dress codes strictly based on age, profession, marital status and degree, Zwilling must have looked exceptionally grotesque. This might explain the laughter that runs through the eyewitness reports. At odds with Zwilling’s seriousness, and linked to the chroniclers’ mention of ‘tough guys’ (such as Rentmaster Taubenheim) leading him about, it pictures someone not master of his situation. These are sideshows of disenchantment: magic eliminated not by reason but by farce. On Luther’s return, Zwilling was one of the easiest radicals to tame, perhaps because, having once been its plaything, he knew the crowd’s volatility.At bottom, however, his had been a programme of practical reform: what one inwardly believed renovated by way of what one outwardly did, wore and beheld. It would be wrong to attribute this endeavour solely to Wittenberg’s interim leadership. Beginning in 1518, Luther himself had preached change in the practical sphere, outlining proper ways to confess, pray, work, celebrate and die.34 Elevating matters of private conscience to the level of public creed, such reforms also redefined community itself. Not merely the sum of persons with divergent local and familial fealties who happen to live in one place, community, identified with the religious congregation – the gemeinde – became an overarching unity to which all members actively had to conform, both by confessing common beliefs and by adhering to a common way of life. Massively accelerated by new communicative media, especially printing, this extension of faith into a

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homogeneity of thought and action marks the ‘beginning of ideology’ in a modern sense.35 In Luther’s absence, Wittenberg’s religious leadership carried out a reformation from the outside in. Through plain-style ceremony and dress, and through iconoclastic cleansing of the physical church, Karlstadt and others sought to give external form to a radically internal faith. A German Mass reduced sacrament to what Scripture dictated it to be; and what sacrament expressed was Scripture’s message itself, for again, ‘Communion is useless unless one understands.’ And the emphasis on preaching, as sacrament’s necessary model and support, further stripped church service of any purpose but communication. Void of numinous things and efficacious gestures, and subject to the rule of words, action per se lost its magic, was rationalized, became simply what ‘happened’. Karlstadt’s and Zwilling’s opinion that churches should be open only when they were being used for collective worship suited the idea that, indeed, church is only what it does. Against the sacred edifices of the Roman Church, where material things – saints’ graves, relics, icons, the Eucharist – had sacred force independent of any collective action or conveyed meaning, Wittenberg’s reformers cleared a space for communicative action alone. There the spell-binding power of the holy stood sublimated in the binding power of collectively enunciated personal confession.36 The anonymous German print of 1600 discussed above is one emblem of this sublimation. The ‘apostolic’ church is equated with synchronized practice, which in turn is equated with like-mindedness (illus. 10). Cranach’s altarpiece is another such emblem (illus. 28). In visualizing the church only in its normative actions, it also portrays a social world: the Wittenberg congregation, depicted as a group of recognizable individuals with no ‘authority’ save Scripture and a local ministry. This world is constituted by the performed agreement with a behavioural norm. But to the individuals thus portrayed, this likeness of their consent would have pointed beyond itself to the true church which, constituted by inner faith, remains invisible. The image-breakers’ ideal thus becomes image. Like the purification of actions to which it logically was bound, iconoclasm did not quite seek to eradicate things in themselves, but rather the spirit’s false attachment to things. Its quarrel was with mediators, with the hybrids of object and person, matter and mind, action and end, that gave the Roman Church its authority and power. Sweeping these away, it could leave walls and ceiling standing – a non-reactive space where spirit communicated with spirit. In the formula endlessly intoned by radical reformers from Karlstadt through Zwingli and Calvin,‘out of the eye, out of the heart’ (ab Auge, ab Herz): that is, to rid ourselves of idolatry, one must physically

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get rid of the idols.37 At the same time, however, iconoclasts also held that ‘an idol is nothing in the world’ (1 Cor. 8:4), and that the real error lay not in physical things but in a mind that imputes attachments where there are none. To more cautious Reformers, most notably Luther, this meant that once the idols were no longer in the heart, they could do no harm when seen with the eyes.38 As Martin Bucer observed in 1524: ‘It’s true that the idols ought firstly to be torn from the heart, and this, through the word, then they don’t do harm.’39 Moreover, to strike the idol before tending to the heart is to mistake representations for their ultimate, making iconoclasm akin to the idolatry it condemns. To the non-conformist Karlstadt, however, and, by 1530, to Bucer, too, church cleansing was a necessary campaign in the battle for true belief. Its imperative rested on at least two convictions: scripturalism, or the belief that if the Bible forbids something, as the Old Testament does graven images, and as the prophets tirelessly do, then it must be eliminated; and spiritualism, or the belief that all created things, all corporealities, stand between ourselves and God. To these two convictions can be added a third: the belief in belief itself.

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7 Beliefs

Andreas Karlstadt opens his pamphlet On the Removal of Images by announcing he knows what the idolaters believe: ‘We can never deny that it is out of love that we have placed the so-called saints in churches. If we had not loved them, we would not have set them up where God alone should dwell and rule . . . Our deeds convict us of loving images’ (illus. 37).1 To venerate images is to love them (the images) rather than the persons they portray. However the idolaters might understand their own attitudes, their actions – the term here is ‘gestures’ (geberge)2 – indict them. For example, they place images in the church, or worse, on the altars, which were ‘invented so that one might invoke God’s name on them, and make sacrifices and venerate him and him alone’.3 They adorn images ‘with velvet, damask, silver and golden robes’, ‘bow down and kneel before’ them, ‘light candles before them,’ ‘bring them wax offerings in the form of [their] sick legs, arms, eyes, head, feet, hands, cows, calves, oxen, tools, house, farm, fields, meadows and the like’, ‘seek them in particular places, such as Wilsnack in the Brandenburg Mark, Grimmenthal, Rome and similar places,’ ‘bring them tools, silver, gold, wax and goods as if they were their gods who have delivered them’.4 Karlstadt records what late medieval Christians actually did with church pictures, beyond what the Church theologians of the time said they ought to do. The list of rites and objects reads like an ethnographic survey of what remains unnamed–or unnameable–by the natives themselves. Karlstadt, however, seeks to condemn what he catalogues. He believes that to name the nameless, to make the implicit explicit through public sermons and printed pamphlets, is to expose its illegitimacy. Meanwhile, he refuses to take at face value the statements the natives actually do make about what they mean by their actions. Karlstadt’s strategy prefigures what Peter Berger, describing the modern sociologists’ sceptical viewpoint on religion, termed ‘methodological atheism’.5 Whatever the analyst’s own convictions are, he or she will subject the beliefs of others to scrutiny on the


37. Anonymous, title-page woodcut from Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Von abtuhung der Bylder (Wittenberg: Nickel Schirlentz, 1522).

assumption that they are not literally true. In the case of idolaters, action testifies against them, as did the rituals and things archived in True Image of the Papist Church (illus. 11). When, like a bullying prosecutor, Karlstadt lets the accused ones speak, he trips them on their words. ‘Is it a trifling honour that we call images saints?’ he asks of what surely could be taken as merely an idiomatic shorthand. ‘If we were to think clearly’, writes Karlstadt, for whom nothing is innocent, ‘we would find that we deflect honour from the true saint and tranfer it to the deceitful pictures of them’.6 Clear thinking unmasks the hapless idolater. Or rather, since Karlstadt writes here in first-person plural, it reveals ‘us’, to whose muddled minds the knowing iconoclast seems to have perfect access. Or again, taking the words right from ‘our’ mouths, ‘what do you want to say about the reveller’s verse: O Saint Christopher, your powers are so great that whoever looks upon you early in the morning shall laugh or live in the evening’.7 Huge, apotropaic effigies of the implausible giant-saint were ubiquitous in German churches, and already Erasmus, in the Praise of Folly, had mocked this ‘new Polyphemus’ as a glaring

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example of superstition (illus. 38–9).8 For Karlstadt, such effigies silenced any claim that people could distinguish the image from its prototype: ‘What do you want to say about that?’ asks the prosecutor, resting his case. Loose ends remain, however. Comparing image worship to the honour shown a marshal of a prince, Karlstadt concludes: ‘I venerate the servant as the servant of the prince, and do so before I venerate the prince. Thus it cannot be denied that some of the veneration goes to him as a servant.’9 But what harm can come from this ‘some’ that adheres to the representative? Is that little extra not simply what motivates representation – the participation of any sign, no matter how arbitrary, in its signified? And then there are Karlstadt’s hyperboles of certitude that cause one to wonder what doubt they seek desperately to dispel: ‘Now I want to prove that Christians must confess that they venerate their idols. The grounds: because they bow and scrape before them . . . I can definitely conclude that they venerate images.’10 Yet if such conclusive proof is not enough, then the accused still maintain their innocence for other reasons. And of these reasons, Karlstadt can admit only two. Either the accused are fools, loving images without knowing it. Or else they are knaves, knowingly deceiving the foolish with images but covering up their intent. What Karlstadt cannot admit is that the accused literally believe what they say they do: they love and venerate not the picture but the pictured person. But would anyone plead guilty to idolatry? Has anyone ever believed in images in the ways described by iconoclasts? Certainly, people sometimes worship images, and treat them as agents that can answer their requests. But this is not the same as identifying the image with the God. As Alfred Gell wrote, ‘It is not that priests cannot distinguish between stocks and stones and persons, rather, they hold that in certain contexts stocks and stones possess unusual, occult, properties; of which the religiously uninstructed would remain ignorant, and the instructed but sceptical, wrongheadedly incredulous.’11 The iconophiles of the Reformation period invoked idolatry as a real but abject type of belief that had nothing to do with their convictions. In his pamplet That One Should Not Remove Images, published two months after Karlstadt’s tract, the Catholic apologist Hieronymus Emser includes a chapter titled ‘Of the Origin, and Misuse of Images among the Pagans and their Idolatry.’12 He reports that the Devil, having entered a certain statue set up by King Nimus of Assyria to honour his deceased father, taught the people ‘how to worship and make sacrifices to him’, with the result that ‘they considered images not just images but rather living gods’.13 Similarly Johannes Eck, in his pamphlet of July 1522 refuting Karlstadt, refers to ‘the abuse of images’ and cites ‘a certain good, learned man’ who, in Christian times, sought to prevent abuse by removing church pictures. But for Eck, as for Emser, idolatry,

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left 38. Hans Holbein the Younger, ‘A Fool’s Prayer to St Christopher’, pen and ink marginal drawing on a copy of Erasmus, Praise of Folly (Basel: Johannes Froben, 1515). Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel (Kupferstichkabinett). right 39. Attributed to Albert of Nuremberg, St Christopher, 1496–8, formerly on the Christoffelturm, Bern; shown here in a photograph of c. 1864.

asserted to have been actually practised in some past, illustrates what the Christian cult of images is not: ‘Now when men are no longer inclined to idolatry, no such danger exists. And the reason justifying the use of images, in such a way that they can pose no danger to the laity, is simple and singular, and that is, according to the great Basil, that the cult, veneration and respect shown to an image does not go to the image itself but to the archetype; to that which is represented.’14 Basil’s formula, invoked by Christian iconophiles since the Byzantine image controversy, does not merely tell people how they ought to pray. It describes what prayer to images of Christ, the Virgin and the saints will always automatically do. And to this diagram of the semiotic circuitry of pictures, Emser and Eck add variations on the doctrine – as canonical as the image-prototype distinction itself – of the threefold function of church pictures, as Bibles for the illiterate, memory aids and incitements to devotion.15 This is what images do for Christians. Not the abomination of those perennial Others, the idolaters; the use of images is rule-bound and reasonable. Unfortunately, this rationality-conviction is challenged on two fronts. On the one hand, the abominable idolaters would surely also reply that they can distinguish between the gods and their statues. On the other hand, the iconoclast will know all these alibis and more, but not believe them.

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Idolatry is an accusation, not a belief.16 It makes no difference how learned the defences are, the accuser can always say ‘you deceive’ or ‘you are deceived’. Taking up Karlstadt’s argument that to honour the prince through the marshal is to honour the marshal himself, Emser draws a distinction between honour pro subiect (‘as a Hans, or Peter or whatever his name might be’) and honour pro forma (‘because he is the marshal’). It is the latter that the marshal receives, just as we revere images ‘not for the sake of the material of which they are made’.17 To drive the point home, Emser applies it to Karlstadt’s own conviction: the faith in Scripture alone. ‘We do not worship the paper or material on which the holy gospels are written.’ Protestant church decor might indeed prompt one to turn the tables and accuse iconoclasts of idolizing words. Lutheran text-altarpieces, especially, raise the question as to why writing should be less of a fetish object than images (illus. 156). Of course, Protestants themselves would vigorously protest. But then as an accusation, idolatry is para-critical. It resists protests by the accused with the settlement-stopping ‘you don’t mean that’, or worse, ‘you protest too much’. One could perhaps imagine a religion in which devotees not only behave as if, but also explicitly proclaim that, the carved likeness is the deity. Anthropology specializes in accounting for beliefs that are patently false to us but seem like facts to those who hold them. In his classic account of ‘primitive’ religion, E. E. Evans-Pritchard reports that the Nuer (a pastoral people of north Africa) believed ‘that a twin is a bird as though it were an obvious fact, for the Nuer are not saying that a twin is like a bird but that he is a bird’.18 Revisiting this so-called ‘my brother is a green parrot’ problem, Dan Sperber distinguishes sharply between belief in facts and belief in representations.19 According to Sperber, to say we believe something is often taken to mean that we have a mental attitude of conviction towards a certain proposition. A proposition can either be true or false. Yet what we believe can be more multiple, ambiguous or half-understood than that, in which case it is, in Sperber’s terms, a ‘semi-propositional representation’. Most of the religious beliefs that people hold are of this semi-propositional kind. Being only partly understood, they admit – indeed positively invite – many possible interpretations, inciting believers to seek within that range one relevant to them, and salvaging information that a strict true-or-false response would discard. Belief, for its part, can be of two kinds, according to Sperber. There are ‘factual beliefs’ – more or less what we call ‘knowledge.’ And then there are ‘representational beliefs.’ These process something one step removed from a fact, something embedded in another representation to which the believer is committed. Sperber takes as his example the statement ‘Hamlet saw the ghost of his father.’ The idea here conveyed is implicitly embedded

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in the larger representation ‘In Shakespeare’s play, Hamlet etc.’ Sperber concludes: ‘That Hamlet saw his father’s ghost, I take to be true in Shakespeare’s play and false in the world.’20 We hold representational beliefs not factually, but by holding factual beliefs about them. In this play, on this authority, in the view of this author, such and such is true. To behave as a believer has less to do with the content of the belief we hold than with our commitment to the representations that frame it. Catholic doctrine endlessly spells this distinction out. It insists, in different but no less explicit terms, that apparently irrational beliefs are representational, and of a semi-propositional rather than propositional content. If asked to explain the founding miracles of their faith, believers are taught to respond that these are ‘mysteries’. Witness how the statement ‘this is my body’, which all Christians utilize but interpret differently, appears even to the literalists both false and true: false to the senses but true to faith. As the master term for false belief, ‘idolatry’ makes its accusations by itself falsifying belief. In Sperber’s language, the iconoclast vilifies his foes by erroneously treating their representational beliefs of semi-propositional content as if they were factual beliefs of propositional content. To put this another way, the iconoclast refuses to acknowledge the figure – indeed the image – in which image-based piety is embedded: venerating X because it is like Y, not because it is Y. The iconoclast is therefore the only one who takes the image literally, indeed who refuses to see that it is an image. Thus when Catholics casually call their icons saints, and when they behave toward them as they would toward the depicted persons, their critics choose to ignore the larger representations – both discursive and pictorial – in which these apparent facts of speech and action are embedded. Catholic theological discourse did not even keep these representations hidden, as did the Nuer in saying ‘a twin is a bird’, as Sperber puts it, ‘without batting an eyelid’. In dogma and in practice, the medieval Church explicitly proclaimed the difference between image and prototype. It sanctioned an art essentially of dissimilarity rather than resemblance,21 and fostered a vigilance against literalism for which the myth of pagan idolatry was cultivated. Answering the accusation of idolatry, therefore, Catholics did not defend their belief in images but instead contested the description of what they, the iconophiles, believed. In amazement Emser replies that Karlstadt’s accusations are ‘specious’, for surely no one could be so naïve: ‘I do not believe there is a Christian man so crude or stupid as to believe images are saints and worship them.’22 Not even Luther, who elsewhere railed against the credulity of simple folk, took seriously the existence of widespread idolatry: ‘I believe’, states the Reformer in 1522, fifteen days after his return to iconoclastic Wittenberg, ‘that there is no person, or certainly very few, who

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does not understand that the crucifix that stands over there is not my God – for my God is in Heaven – but rather only a sign’.23 And a few years later, ‘People were not made so as to think that images, wood and stone are the real God.’24 The accusation of idolatry contradicts both what common sense says about people and what people say about themselves. From whence, then, does the accusation derive its own conviction? From the fact of a cult of images, or from a representation of that fact, a representation to which the iconoclast, like any true believer, is strongly committed? There are moments when even Karlstadt comes close to admitting the latter. In answer to the Church’s most familiar defence of church pictures – that they are Bibles for the illiterate – he replies: ‘I wish to God that those who use images for books really did know that in their hearts, but I cannot believe it.’25 Indeed most of what Karlstadt, as well as Emser, Eck and Luther, say about image veneration stands within in the framing representation ‘I believe that . . . ’. This indirection stems from the fact that the thing in question is not a thing at all. It is a mental condition or inner state that can only be surmised but never known. ‘Now I want and shall say to all pious Christians’, states Karlstadt, ‘that all those who stand in awe before pictures have idols in their hearts.’26 Saying this takes conviction: ‘I will and shall say.’ And what the iconoclast believes – his conviction about what goes on in the black box of the individual subject’s mind – the idolater must be forced to confess. Confession, Christianity’s main technology of self-knowledge,27 models idolatry as a sin that one perpetrates without knowing it. ‘Now I want to prove that Christians must confess that they venerate idols.’28 Idolatry is torturously embedded in two layers of representation: ‘I want to prove that Christians must confess that.’ At once an accusation and an imputed state of mind, it is paradigmatically not knowledge but belief. Perhaps for this reason Karlstadt ends his diatribe by confessing to his own residual idolatry: I want to confess my secret thoughts to the whole world with sighs and admit that I am faint-hearted and know that I ought not to stand in awe of any image and am certain that God expects of his people that they should not stand in awe of images . . . And I know that God dwelling in me is as small as my fear of idols is great.29 Karlstadt believes in idolatry because he discovers in himself a ‘fear’ that both compels and stays his hammer. Is this a personal confession? Or does Karlstadt merely envision what his audience might think? His opponents, at least, took him at his word. Mocking his superstition, they used it to show that iconoclasts alone stood

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under the image’s spell.30 But one can also understand the feeling Karlstadt describes. Transgression has a habit of rebounding on the transgressor; the mechanics are easy to imagine. Karlstadt’s fear is of the object to be violated. A wrathful God commands him to smash the idol, but terror makes him pause, arousing fear of God. Traces of this anxiety might be discerned in certain ruined images where iconoclasts have defaced marginal elements but left the central images untouched. A southern German Mass of St Gregory, dated 1491 and inscribed with the signature ‘Seewald’, bears scars of an iconoclastic attack (illus. 40).31 The assailant has attacked only the eyes of clerics and not the visions and effigies they behold – the man of sorrows, holy face and embroidered crucifix toward

40. Master Seewald, Mass of St Gregory, 1491, oil on panel. Stadtmuseum, Münster.

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which idolatrous gazing might be directed. To overcome such hesitation, Karlstadt narrates its cause: ‘From my youth onward my heart has been trained and grown up in the veneration and worship of pictures. And a harmful fear has been bred into me from which I would gladly deliver myself and cannot.’32 Fear of images is not natural but social, a learned habit. In 1522, the authorities, too, assumed that people had enough ‘cultivated fear’ in them to prevent them from violent action. The princely magistrates were scandalized mostly by the image-breakers’ sheer audacity. To impel his readers to act without caution, Karlstadt identifies their fears with the dread not of punishment by a government but of vengeance by the image itself. ‘As a consequence [of my training], I stand in fear that I might not be able to burn idols. I would fear that some devil’s block of wood would do me injury.’ The phrase ‘some devil’s block of wood’ compounds the paralyzing double fear of acting and not acting. Spoken in the voice of a hesitant iconoclast, it suggests that the image’s mere wood is possessed, as pagan idols were believed to be. Karlstadt then paints a portrait of full-scale enchantment: ‘Although, on the one hand, I have Scripture and know that images have no power and also no life, no blood, no spirit, yet, on the other hand, fear holds me and makes me stand in awe of the image of a devil, a shadow, the notice of a small falling leaf.’ As Karlstadt pictures him, the idolater lives in the world as spooked as the images he adores. This is due neither to devilment in objects, nor to demonic possession of the subject. Rather, it is symptom of a world picture lodged in a mind, a mode of thinking that the social mechanisms of upbringing and education have made irrational or ‘savage’. Karlstadt, or his Wittenberg publisher, Nickel Schirlentz, already signalled a bridge between residual, indigenous superstitions and ‘primitive religion’ in the title-page of a rare edition of On the Removal of Images. Whereas most copies feature Abraham and Isaac carrying firewood to the sacrificial mount, emblem, perhaps, of faith as a response to the voice of the unseen God,33 at least one edition used a 1519 border decorated with New World peoples holding idolatrous props (illus. 41).34 Iconoclasm, Karlstadt’s text will argue, cleanses the mind of its idols by striking at things in the world. Touching the untouchable, it commits the original crime of sacrilege: exposing the image’s mere wood, it demonstrates that the spirits thought to dwell there are mere belief. Yet the two elements that the hammer yields – brute facts on the one side and childlike convictions on the other – are unstable under ordinary conditions. Facts are enlisted in new fictions. And belief becomes the iconoclasts’ necessary creed, holds that the savages naïvely believe.

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41. Anonymous, title-page woodcut from Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Von abthieung der Bylder (Wittenberg, 1522).


8 Fictions

Protestant iconoclasm sought disenchantment – mere wood and nothing else. How, though, was one to bare a fact? Sometimes image-breakers acted casually, as if unmasking required no great to-do. In Zurich in the early hours of 7 September 1523, a visitor to the Church of St Peter’s discovered a ‘wild mess’ by the high altar. Approaching the scene, he encountered there the new church assistant, Lorentz Meyger, who pretended to be stunned and saddened by the wreckage. Twelve days later Meyger, due to comments he had been earlier heard to make against images, was summoned before the town council. There he testified how, during the night, he ‘discovered’ a carved retable on the altar. After asking an assistant, ‘What is that picture doing there and who brought it there?’, he tried to remove it. But the retable, ‘being very old, broke apart’.1 At the time of the incident, Meyger was already an important member of St Peter’s staff, and a year later he would become a preacher in that church. His surprise at encountering a ‘very old’ and probably also a massive and much-venerated ensemble behind this important church’s twelfth-century principal altar seems deeply disingenuous. Yet as Lee Wandel has pointed out, Meyger’s question ‘What is that picture doing there?’ put the ball back in the council’s court. It asked, implicitly, ‘By what right, what rule, what authority is it there?’ On the high altar without reason, and thus the real trespasser on that September night, the retable toppled when moved – not by magic, but just because it was old. Agency was detached from both the image and its demise. Not spoken for, the retable broke by chance, revealing its inertness in this contingency. Meanwhile, Meyer proved his point and handed the authorities grounds for pardoning him. City authorities themselves frequently gave bland reasons for removing images. In 1542, three retables in Nuremberg’s Church of St Sebald were eliminated, in the council’s words, ‘because people way behind them could not see or even hear the preacher in front of them’.2 Hildesheim’s council justified similar removals in 1543 ‘to make space and room for preaching’.3


And when they stripped altars, authorities often concealed their action from public view. They cleansed the churches at night, behind locked doors, even closing the city gates to keep out agitators.4 For there were iconoclasts who sought to break the image’s spell by dramatically exhibiting its destruction.‘Behold’, these zealots liked to cry, showing the broken effigy to a crowd, ‘Can’t you see? It’s nothing but wood!’ The eye, believed to have been dazzled earlier into seeing a god is forced to gaze more closely and see nothing but an empty thing. ‘Look’, cried a weaver in Tournai, grabbing the host from a priest, ‘Deceived people, do you believe this is the King, Jesus Christ, the true God and Saviour? Look!’ Then he crumbled the host and ran. ‘Look’, exclaimed an iconoclast in Albiac holding up relics, ‘Look, they are only animal bones!’5 Degradation followed display. Reified and emptied, the image was treated like the lowliest of things. In the half century following the Wittenberg events, images were broken, burned, toppled, beheaded and hanged.6 They were spat, pissed and shat on, tossed into toilets, sewers, fountains, canals, rivers, rubble heaps, garbage dumps, pigsties and charnel houses, and lewdly handled in brothels and inns. Stone statues were used as cobblestones, keystones and infill, or were modified to represent something new. In 1608, a statue of the Virgin on the clock of the Basel town hall was turned into a personification of Justice simply by removing the Christ child and replacing him with scales (illus. 42).7 Wooden statues became table ornaments and toys, or were sold on the market as firewood or distributed free to the poor. In Bern in 1528, images were taken from the church, broken and buried in a ‘hole before the cathedral’. There they would lie, as one contemporary poem put it, ‘until Judgment Day’.8 At its most absolutist, iconoclasm directed itself to all externals and left nothing in its wake. Thus Oliver Cromwell’s official iconomach, William Dowsing, boasted ‘at Clare . . . we brake down 1000 pictures superstitious; I brake down 200’.9 By ‘pictures’ he meant not only paintings and sculpture, but also brasses, crosses, glass and even inscriptions, for example ‘ihs the Jesuit’s badge’.10 For a radical religion of the inner word, even Christ’s name, written, might have a face and must be annihilated. But such gestures, most often publicly performed, never quite neutralize the thing. Desecrating the sacred icon, exhibiting it not as object but as abject, they release a strange, transgressive power. Image breakers delighted in pretending effigies could speak and then mocking them for their silence, thus demonstrating in language the idolater’s mistake of confusing things with persons. An illustrated broadsheet of 1530 bears the title ‘Complaint of the Poor Persecuted Idols and Temple Pictures’ (illus. 43).11 Spoken as if in the images’ voice, the verses ridicule both the church pictures and the righteous works of eager iconoclasts. The

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42. Hans Thurner, Virgin and Child, 1510–11, transformed into Justitia, 1608, red sandstone. Historisches Museum, Basel.

more iconophobic Protestant John Calvin, in his Institutes, lets the idols speak through a line from Horace: ‘Once I was a little fig tree trunk, a useless bit of wood, when the workman, in doubt whether he should make a stool, preferred that I be a god.’12 Aside from what it says, such ventriloquy parodies the agency of images. It imaginatively animates the ‘bit of wood’ only to expose as illusory that very animation, like slowing down a magic trick until you can see how it is done. Yet images are nowhere as vociferous as when handled by an iconoclast. Defacement leaves behind a face. When the Anabaptists in Münster cleansed their city’s churches, they left the ruined idols standing as emblems

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43. Erhard Schön, Complaint of the Poor Persecuted Idols and Temple-Images, c. 1530, woodcut.

44. Anonymous, Portrait of an Abbess, c. 1450, sandstone sculpture, defaced by iconoclasts in 1534–5. Cathedral, Münster.


of defeat. The carved portrait of an abbess still in place in the cathedral exhibits blows to its face and hands (illus. 44).13 Scores of extant sacred sculptures evidence a similar destructive routine (illus. 45). As well as conveying the looks specific to the individual, these features – organs of sight, speech and action – had been places of the image’s purported power. The erased eyes, mouth and hands display the object’s impotence, as blind, mute and anonymous stone.Yet in the targets of their aim, iconoclasts also treated that stone as if it were a criminal to be punished. As Martin Warnke wrote in his seminal study of this material, such blows reference the deformations with which offenders at the time were disciplined.14

above 45. Anonymous, Christ as Man of Sorrows, 1475–1500, polychromed wood, defaced in the 1530s. Musée d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva (from the church of Saint-Germain, Geneva).

46. Michael Wolgemut and workshop, ‘Mocking of Christ’, from Sketchbook, c. 1490, pen and ink, watercolour and body colour. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett).

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below left 47. Michael Wolgemut and workshop, ‘Flagellation’, from Sketchbook, c. 1490, pen and ink and watercolour. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett). below right 48. Michael Wolgemut and workshop, ‘Flagellation and Torment by Spit’, from Sketchbook, c. 1490, pen and ink and watercolour. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett).

Convicted criminals were variously scarred, burnt, blinded, castrated and dismembered, then left alive to advertise that, on them, justice had been served. But in similarly punishing and preserving idols, did not Münster’s iconoclasts invest them with the seeming personhood they abhorred? How material did materiality become when, as sometimes occurred, a saint’s effigy was decapitated by the town executioner?15 The people who fervently venerated pictures became, in the course of the Reformation, the very ones who fervently smashed them. Guided by Hermann Heimpel’s dictim ‘the image donors were the image breakers’, historians have studied how iconoclasts used church pictures to dramatize their cause.16 In The Power of Images, David Freedberg argued that the way people mutilate an image indicates their belief in its power.17 By his account, the Anabaptists’ hammerblows become a version of volt sorcery, where one attempts magically to harm one’s enemies via images of them.18 Can we distinguish an iconoclast’s assault from the defacements evident in a sketchbook from the shop of the late-fifteenth-century Nuremberg master Michael Wolgemut and now in Berlin (illus. 46–8)?19 The book is a puzzling object both in form and in function. As a material object, it gathers drawings by at least four different artists: the Nuremberg master Michael Wolgemut, to whom Albrecht Dürer was apprenticed; two anonymous shop assistants; and another, later artist who, inspired

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by the sheets, added new ones and corrected some of the old. Functionally, the sketchbook probably began as a draft for the pictorial program of Stephan Fridolin’s large devotional book, The Shrine or Treasury of the True Riches of Salvation, published in 1491 by Anton Koberger with ninety-five large woodcuts by Wolgemut.20 But it ended up as a devotional aid in its own right. Of its 105 sheets, thirty-five are full-page drawings of Christ’s Passion. In these, violence begets violence. First there are the blows of the tormentors who, in page after blood-filled page of the sketchbook, are shown variously to whip, club, kick and slash Christ; to strip, blindfold and mock him; to suffocate him with their spittle and then to drag him away and start all over again; and finally, in several repeating scenes, to nail him to the cross and crucify him. Then there are the painters’ gestures, those hectic brushstrokes of colour that, painted over outline drawings of cruelty,themselves turn cruel,rendering gore in wild, red scribbles, while managing their sadism in crucial spots – evocative of bedrock reality – as where Christ’s blood, after flowing from his multitude of wounds, meets the ground and pools neatly about his feet. Almost none of this blood finds a place in the woodcuts of Fridolin’s Shrine, however, not even in its hand-painted copies. It seems to belong to a logic of production and reception particular to these sketched and painted sheets. The culminating violence of the sketchbook is different, however.At some point after the intervention of the fourth painter, who was himself inspired by the extant sheets to paint more violent scenes, an owner – or user – of the sketchbook attacked eighteen Passion images with a sharp object (illus. 46). The thrusts are inflicted on the painted image itself: offended by what the tormentors do, some viewer has jabbed away their faces. This attack responded to the image, not against it, meeting the depicted violence with force. Yet it nonetheless produced wounds not unlike those on the portrait bust in Münster or, more selectively, on the panel of the Mass of St Gregory, where only the painted eyes of the clergy attentive to the idols have been scraped away, and not the eyes of the idols themselves (illus. 40). Similarly, a dorsal from the dismantled choirstalls of a Franciscan church in Geneva displays the theological skill of iconoclastic anti-carving. Elements gouged away in 1535–6 (the patron-saint’s face, hands, halo and insignia, as well as the face and hands of the Christ-seraph) play off against the carving from circa 1445 that retains, in this case, tellingly, the stigmata (illus. 49).21 Fridolin’s Shrine itself provides the programme for such a response. Fridolin’s text insists that loving Christ means also hating passionately his enemies, the Jews: even if they did not directly scourge his body, the Jews ‘pleaded, screamed, begged and threatened and forced the heathen judge against his will to give him the death sentence . . . and so it is appropriate that the flagellation of Christ, as well as the crucifixion, is attributed to the wrathful and merciless Jews, by which one should

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49. Anonymous, St Francis, Dorsal of a choir-stall from the Franciscan church in Geneva, 1445–7, wood, defaced 1535. Saint-Gervais, Geneva.

understand that the same people whom the Lord freed from their scourgers by scourging them, they scourged the Lord.’22 Religion becomes a negation in infinite regress: chosen people scourged, their redeemer scourged by them, their scourging by his people, the Christians, who, from time to time, in order to renew their faith, will scourge his effigy. Whether done in anger against the evil that an image shows, or against the evil that images are thought themselves to be, defacement leaves some residue of face: the outlines of St Francis; Christ’s visage behind blindfolds, blood and spittle; remnants of the torturers’ features around the vellum’s gaps.23 Image-breakers thus become image-makers, especially when they seek to publish their endeavours. Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, a Calvinist iconophobe with an immense imagination, gave defacement an unforgettable face (illus. 50).24 Produced in the immediate wake of Protestant iconoclasm in the Low Countries in 1566, when within weeks a

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50. Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, Allegory of Iconoclasm, after 1566, etching.

good proportion of Netherlandish church art was smashed and burned, his large anamorphic etching is the most dialectical icon of sixteenth-century iconoclasm. Surviving today in only one impression (in the British Museum), it presents to the eye two distinct images, the one forming and deforming the other. Viewed up close, at reading distance, it displays an image war: on a strange, bulbous hill, along its terraces and in its hollows, swarming figures engage in religious practices of the type that Protestant reformers branded as idolatry. The seven sacraments of the Roman Church, along with such Catholic usages as pilgrimage, bell-ringing, the sale of indulgences and

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image-veneration itself, are each described with an ethnographer’s precision. It is only the stray detail (e.g., at top right, a bird shitting on a monk from atop an icon-bearing pole), plus the overall chaos of the whole, that condemns and consigns them to a gallery of folly and deception. Iconophilia is at once censored and preserved, like the Zwickau’s ‘idol chamber’ and the Soviet Union’s museums of atheism. To vilify something it is necessary to exhibit it. At the base of his print, in the undulating flatlands from which the hill of idolatry rises, Gheeraerts repudiates what he displays. Image-breakers – tall, bearded men in long fur-lined coats – break, bury and burn church ornament as if it were garbage. Viewed from afar, from the distance not of reading but of beholding, the print displays an altogether different aspect: the grotesque icon of a tonsured monk. The bonfire of vanities in the landscape’s lower right, suggestive of a topology of Hell, rises also from the monster’s heart. In their Archimbaldesque interplay, the etching’s dual aspects as place (landscape of iconoclash) and as person (icon of monk) at once perform and undo defacement. Instances of idolatry are fitted into appropriate zones of the face which they (the little structured scenes themselves) reciprocally shape and reinforce. The Eucharist is elevated in the monster’s mouth, where the wheaten disk will be received, and confession is heard in his ear. And right between his cavernous eyes – which are filled, and thus blinded, by the (to Protestant eyes) unbiblical sacraments of marriage and orders – stands a venerated crucifix: Christ on the cross as the veritable icon of icons. The grotesque face, in turn, is modified by these scenes. The figures crawl on and into it, like insects picking over a cadaver. Note how the birds that dot the sky read like flies buzzing above carrion. The iconophiles infiltrate the orifices so that the monk’s face becomes like the idols he adores, those monsters of whom the Psalmist warns ‘They have mouths but they speak not: eyes have they, but they see not: they have ears, but they hear not.’25 Gheeraerts’s image argues that, even before the hammer strikes, idolatry, having mistaken objects for humans, makes humans into objects. Iconophilia is its own defacement, creating through its own energy the etching’s festive furore. Iconoclasts, for their part, do not deface the face but merely bare its prior defacement. Clearing things away to unmask an monster, they disenchant a world that, even after their toil, will be haunted still. These ghosts support Heimpel’s dictum, ‘the image donors were the image breakers’. So do the many legends of miraculous iconoclasm. In 1530 the iconophobic Martin Bucer wrote of statues in Basel breaking at the touch of a wand; in 1554 the Calvinist martyrologist Jean Crespin reported of great stone idols being more easily removed by women and children than by workmen;26 and the traveller Richard Clough, in a letter of 1566, describes Antwerp’s iconoclasm as if it were a supernatural event: ‘It was

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the marveylest piece of work that ever was sene done in so short a tyme; and so terybell in the doing, that yt wolde make a man afrayd to thinke uppon it – being more like a dreme than such a piece of work.’27 Already at the moment of their earliest circulation, Erasmus labelled such tales of wondrous cleansing ‘superstitions,’ and accused them of the naïve conviction they pretended to vanquish. Thus arose the ‘critique of the critique’ that is omnipresent still today. What is gained by calling image-breakers idolaters?28 If idolatry is indeed but an accusation made by iconoclasts to caricature certain uses of pictures, if it is less a belief than a fiction about belief, what function is served by accusing the accusers of their accusation? For some historians, most eloquently Freedberg, turning the tables is a way of insisting that, deep down, everyone – the iconoclast, the idolater, the connoisseur, even the historian – is a naïve believer, hard-wired to exhibit or else repress certain ‘universally and transculturally markable’ symptoms of response.29 For others, table-turning is a sly, polemical trick. When Luther blames Karlstadt for idolatry, he knows, of course, that the iconoclast is not his seeming opposite. Calling him an idolater while smiling knowingly at his denial merely inflames the iconoclast’s self-incriminating zeal. Yet when a reformer holds up the broken idol and cries ‘Behold, it’s only wood’, wood is what he knows he holds. If, in seeking to make that knowledge vivid, he further breaks, burns or degrades the wood, it is still wood in his mind. Granted, from outside, his antics seem possessed by a fury that exceeds the fact. But this is because he believes the wood had been everything to someone else. He assaults the deception he believes attached to the wood, the fiction of a spirit inhabiting the fact. That the iconoclast believes in idolatry does not make him an idolater, though. He is simply a believer, a person with ‘a strong commitment to representation’, in this case, that of naïve belief itself. To phrase this in terms borrowed from Dan Sperber, believers in belief do not confuse representations with persons (the idolater’s imputed error). Rather, they confuse representations with facts.30 Imagining that iconophiles know the wood falsely (as God, not wood), they hit the wood but instead strike representation – of a deity, of an institution, of a social body. No wonder the critical gesture rebounds. Representation from the start, the wood becomes, in its ‘specious’ (as Emser put it) exposure, representation once again. We can observe this succession of image by image in the polemical art of the period. Protestants and Catholics did battle by disfiguring each other’s representations. As early as 1519, before the war against idols had even begun, images of Martin Luther began circulating in the form of printed likenesses (illus. 33).31 A woodcut by Hans Baldung Grien depicts the

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51. Hans Baldung Grien, Martin Luther, 1521, woodcut, defaced impression.

Reformer nimbused like a saint, and with the Holy Spirit overhead, affirming his divine election as interpreter of the Bible he holds (illus. 51). Catholics were scandalized by this and similar prints, and accused its purchasers of idolatrously ‘kissing it and carrying it’. At the Diet of Worms, the papal authorities banned Baldung’s woodcut, and burned and mutilated extant impressions. One surviving example displays such a defacement, including, in addition to the mocking moustache, marks on the eyes that cancel Luther’s heavenward gaze.32 Within a few years, Catholics consolidated their critical gestures in a printed image of infamy. The Seven-Headed Martin Luther accompanied Johannes Cochlaeus’s refutation of the Protestant altar sacrament (illus. 52).33 Probably designed by Hans Brosamer, the woodcut shows the Reformer as the dragon or Antichrist described in Revelation 13. The seven heads – a doctor, a saint, an infidel, a priest, a fanatic, a church supervisor and Barrabas – visualize Luther’s deception as well as the falsehood of his creed, the sola scriptura. Although Luther reads from one book (as in Baldung’s woodcut), his opinions will be as various as his heads.

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In the next year, Protestants responded with the woodcut The SevenHeaded Papal Beast (illus. 53).34 This effigy of an effigy of an effigy assaults church pictures on several levels. Giving Antichrist the heads of the Pope and his officers, it mocks Catholic mockery of Luther portraits. The monster placed on an altar of Mammon also specifies what the likes of Cochlaeus do to the sacrament they feign to defend. As an accompanying text explains, the papacy ‘places itself in the temple of God and thereby declares itself to be God’. Behaving like an idol, demanding material tribute in return for salvific reward (‘for money a sack of indulgences’), the Church stands condemned by its own representations. Altar and altarpiece, turned into cash box and apocalyptic beast, become the ‘kingdom of the Devil’. And the total is produced by the deformation of another instrument of Catholic piety, the devotional woodcut. Robert Scribner observed that the Seven-Headed Papal Beast parodies popular images of the Mass of St Gregory. One such print, published in Augsburg in 1476, promises in its inscription some 430 years of indulgence to ‘he who honours this figure with a Pater Noster’ (illus. 54).35 The Protestant satire so resembles this, its target, that a casual viewer would be led to think that it is itself an indulgenced print. Only close inspection reveals the defacements. Instead of the resurrected Christ, there is the Antichrist;

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left 52. Attributed to Hans Brosamer, ‘Seven-Headed Martin Luther’, titlepage woodcut from Johannes Cochleus, Sieben Köpfe Martini Luthers . . . (Leipzig: Valentin Schumann, 1529). right 53. Anonymous, Seven-Headed Papal Beast, c. 1530, handcoloured woodcut. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett).

54. Anonymous, ‘Mass of St Gregory’, woodcut illustration from Johann Bämler, Cronica von allen Kaysern und Künigen (Augsburg: Johann Bämler, 1476).

instead of the wine chalice, a demonic flame, etc. These deformations might signal the work of some iconoclast, like Zurich’s Lorentz Meyger, who left the altar a ‘wild mess’, were it not for signs of an inside job. Papal flags fly at both sides; and on a seal of the indulgence letter stands the Medici coat of arms of Pope Clement vii. Contrasted with the humble arma Christi (the cross, lance, sponge, crown of thorns, etc.), the papacy’s symbols profane their setting with worldly pomp. Not some transgressive reformer, but rather the Church itself has defiled this altar. The Protestant woodcut strikes a blow both against the things it depicts and against the framing depiction it parodically appropriates. Images of the Mass of St Gregory were meant to celebrate clerical agency. They portrayed the miracle, attributed by legend to Pope Gregory the Great, in which Christ appeared visibly at the altar sacrament.36 The priest’s power to transubstantiate bread into flesh was thus for once made visible. Various versions of the legend link this capacity to represent Christ sacramentally to the cult of images. To commemorate the miracle, Gregory was said to have

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made a portrait icon of Christ as he appeared in the vision: a ruined cadaver risen from the grave and backed by the tools of the Passion. This portrait, identified with an actual icon displayed in the church of Santa Croce in Gerusaleme in Rome, and enormously indulgenced (up to 32,755 years of pardon), modelled all late medieval images of Christ as Man of Sorrows. And because of their narrative link to the altar rite, and due also to Gregory’s role as main apologist for Church art, such pictures became meta-emblems of Christian images generally. To pray to the Augsburg woodcut, then, meant embracing the Church’s institutional, sacramental and pictorial representation of Christ, hence the pope’s generous indulgence. Imitating such pictures in medium, layout, composition and motif, The Seven-Headed Papal Beast disfigures their model from within. Christ, whom the target picture makes multiply present, has vanished. The altar’s specific debasements explain his absence. The money chest accuses the Church of transforming sacrament into business by selling private Masses and receiving pious donations. The Papal Beast, in its turn, pictures what corrupted sacrament re-presents: not Christ but the Church itself. The woodcut makes these charges by using elements from its Catholic prototype. For example, it shifts the triple-crowned pope from the margin to the centre, indicating that priestly mediation, idealized in Gregory’s Mass, stops with the mediator, who celebrates himself. By placing the Papal Beast on the altar in the manner of an idol, the woodcut extends its critique to the cult of images. At one level, the heads of the pope and his officers evoke late medieval polyptych altarpieces, which featured mediators (the Virgin and saints) more prominently than Christ. Also, the Beast’s pomp, contrasting with the aesthetics of the Man of Sorrows, repeats the old complaint about church art as contrary to Christ’s humility. At another level, the putative indulgence letter hanging from the cross recalls that the Protestant print’s pictorial model – the Catholic indulgenced woodcut – belongs to the same corrupt regime, and that what one worships in it is Antichrist. It is tempting to seek a message behind each specific deformation, as if the idol’s fragments catalogued every reason for its ruin. Yet like the broken statues and scratched-out paintings that iconoclasts preserved (illus. 44, 45 and 49), pictures such as the Seven-Headed Papal Beast speak chiefly in negations. To every statement appropriated from the model they append a mocking ‘not!’ Antithesis is the controlling device of polemic prints in this period. Sharpening doctrinal controversy into an Armageddon of absolutes, it stamps the opponent’s ‘yesses’ with indelible ‘nos’. To say ‘no’ is at once to communicate rejection and to reject communication.‘No’ defies social interaction in the double negative ‘I will not do what you want if you do not do what I want.’37 Reformation historians often ask whether visual propaganda persuaded, or whether it

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only preached to the converted.38 We might rephrase this by asking if the polemist’s ‘no’ is a communicative event at all. On the one hand, it states its refusal to belong in the same world with the Other: the opponent is false, the Devil, Antichrist. On the other hand, negation cannot stand on its own, but depends on the societal communication to which it negatively refers. Instead of sending messages, ‘no’ is communication’s background noise, the broken idol’s dumb stock and stone. Yet noise is also negation’s resource, and fills each ‘no’ with alien communiqués. Protestant visual polemics begins with a resounding ‘no.’ Published in Wittenberg in March 1521, the Passional Christi und Antichristi consists of thirteen woodcut pairs designed by Cranach the Elder, with Bible quotations, papal decretals and explanatory sentences gathered and composed by Melanchthon and the jurist Johann Schwerdtfeger.39 This ‘cornerstone in the armoury of Reformation Kampfbilder’40 translates into pictures the idea (first formulated by Luther to refute Ambrosius Catharinus’s attack on his works) that the pope heads the church of Antichrist, and that the true church is invisible except for these marks: baptism, Communion and preaching.41 Cranach assaults Rome by depicting and vilifying its visibility. Based on a prophecy in the Book of Daniel, and embellished in popular legend during the Middle Ages, the idea of Antichrist undermined the legitimacy of any established order by hinting that it might secretly be false. Rather than introducing the pope into episodes from this fable, the Passional shows him as he represents himself, in ceremony, procession and feasts, and it contrasts these to scenes from Christ’s life. The Gospel subjects model their papal distortions not only antithetically, as type to antitype, or via the reading sequence of left to right. Based in old iconographies, and possessing familiar pictorial shapes, they also predetermine their negatives formally through the device of symmetry. Thus in perhaps the most famous of the pamphlet’s pairings, Cranach reproduces the scene of Christ’s entry into Jerusalem as it appeared in countless earlier German panel paintings and prints: mounted on an ass, and in perfect profile to us, Jesus pushes through the crowd to the holy city’s gates (illus. 55). And upon this old pattern Cranach constructs a new antithesis: the pope and his retinue, all on powerful mounts, leave Rome in military splendour. The accompanying texts unpack the contrast (latent in the symmetry) between humility and pomp. Whereas Christ, the true king, comes to save, not to reign, the pope feigns kingship in order improperly to rule. To this Cranach adds embellishments, such as the opposition of Jerusalem’s gates, far left, to the fires of Hell, upper right, which entice viewers to impute meanings to everything they see. Here, as

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in all good conspiracy theories, not just some things, but the whole of the visible, stands exposed as a machinery of concealed villainy. And symmetry, which makes antitheses appear as likenesses, becomes the figure of this deception. Cranach lets church images undo the image of church. He appropriates the visual forms developed to mark ecclesiastical space – the Bible scenes familiar from the walls, windows, furniture and vessels of the physical church – in order to anathemize the institution currently occupying that space. Illegitimacy is made to appear self-evident in the difference, set forth by symmetry, between those inherited visualizations and the visible ceremonies of the present. Although staged as an antithesis, the correspondences between Christ and papacy are ones the Church actively pursued by consciously shaping its actions after biblical models. In the late Middle Ages, for example, priests performed Mass as a choreographed reenactment of Christ’s Passion, and wore vestments designed to liken themselves to Christ. It will be interesting to compare such engineered correspondences of past and present to the ones displayed in Lutheran art,

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55. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Christ Entering Jerusalem’ and ‘The Pope Going to War’, woodcut illustrations from Passional Christi und Antichristi (Wittenberg: J. Grunenberg, 1521).

56. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Christ Crowned with Thorns’ and ‘The Pope Crowned with Gold’, woodcut illustrations from Passional Christi und Antichristi (Wittenberg: J. Grunenberg, 1521).

in which pictures of an apostolic past merge with church practices of the mundane present, as in Cranach’s altarpiece in Wittenberg. In the Passional, Cranach negates the likeness asserted formally between Christ and the pope by exposing the worldliness of the latter’s pursuits. Derived from its opponent’s own visual resources, however, this ‘no’ stamped over the Church’s apostolic claims is itself stamped with ironies, qualifications and negations. In one of the pamphlet’s neatest antitheses, Cranach juxtaposes Christ crowned with thorns to the pope crowned with an ornate tiara (illus. 56). The clash between humility and vanity is so clear that Cranach needs hardly to work to make it speak. The Bible itself presents Christ’s crowning as a parodic antitype, invented and performed by his tormentors, of a royal coronation: ‘And when they had plaited a crown of thorns, they put it on his head . . . and they bowed the knee before him, and mocked him, saying, Hail, King of the Jews’ (Matt. 27:29). Placed next to the pope’s crowning, this episode seems perfectly to undermine papal pomp not only by inverting high and low, but also by intimating that the papal coronation mocks Christ’s suffering, and that, in crowning himself, the pope sides with Christ’s tormentors. Indeed, as the great visual satirist Peter

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Flötner makes explicit in a woodcut of around 1530, the pope is Christ’s principal tormentor, ever renewing the Passion through the ungodliness of his Church (illus. 57). Coronation goes to the very heart of the Passional’s critique. The pope craves worldly rather than heavenly dominion, and that fact signals he is Antichrist. Cranach indicates what earthly power does in the battle scene at the margin, where soldiers fire towards the left, in Christ’s direction. What does the crowning of thorns itself say about power, though? While the tormentors’ words ‘Hail, King of the Jews’ were intended as mockery, the insult backfired. Resurrected and glorified, Christ revealed that he was king, his death was life, the instruments of his Passion were victory arms, and so on, through all the inversions by which the Good News was announced. At the centre of the great machinery of Christian images stood the paradox of the cross. To the rest of the world crucifixion was the ultimate punishment, the most painful, humiliating and public of deaths. Reserved for criminals, traitors and slaves, it was ‘most crude and horrendous torture’ (Cicero) and an unspeakable ‘sign of shame’ (Hebrews 12:2).42 To Christians, it was the emblem of their God. There survives some visual evidence of how this paradox was received in the third century by non-Christians. In the Palatine in Rome, on the walls of former barracks, someone scratched a crude caricature of a donkey-headed man crucified on the cross. Below, a mocking inscription probably targets some Christians in the scribbler’s midst: ‘Alexamene worships his god’ (illus. 58).43 As divine symbol, the crucifix scandalized non-Christians, for how could anyone worship a punished criminal or slave? St. Augustine, seeking to reconcile the low literary style of the Gospel texts (especially the Vulgate) with their divine

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57. Peter Flötner, The New Passion of Christ, c. 1535, woodcut.

58. ‘Alexamene Worships his God!’, anti-Christian graffito from the Palatine, Rome, third century ad.


content, argued that humble expression not only spoke to all humanity, but fitted Christ’s incarnation as man.44 The humility of Christ’s birth and life among the poor, the rumour of his illegitimate birth, and most of all his cruel death formed a sermo humilis that ought to be preached in a humble way. The Bible is an aesthetics of the ugly, not the beautiful. And its ontology of the image is based as much in dissimilarity as in resemblance: the likeness and difference of man, of Satan, of Christ, to God. Created in God’s image (‘resemblance in humility’), but tempted by Satan to be God’s equal (‘resemblance in equivalence’), man fell into sin (‘resemblance in conflict’), was expelled into the world (‘region of dissimilarity’), there to remain until Christ (true ‘resemblance in equivalence’), through his crucifixion (which makes him dissimilar again), regains our blissful seat.45 The aesthetics of the ugly, whether Christian or modern, are a provisional, deceptive stage in a larger movement at the end of which truth, beauty and power stand revealed. In light of this great design, the Church could legitimately clad itself in glory, since Christ, triumphant in suffering, rules gloriously.And the Church’s principal member could therefore rightly wear the tiara even in imitation of Christ’s gruesome coronation because the plaited thorns were already, if secretly to his tormentors, the most regal of crowns. Through its play of symmetry and antithesis, Cranach’s Passional simultaneously repeats and negates the likenesses cultivated in its target. The scandal of the pamphlet’s own portrayal gets shifted to the self-portrayal of the pope, fostering a scepticism toward appearances conducive to eschatological hopes and revolutionary acts. Yet the Gospel scenes Cranach uses to negate papal representation are already negations of a negation,‘nos’ cancelled by an ultimate ‘no’. In its final image pair, the Passional itself confirms that the Passion is indeed glorious. Christ ascends to heaven to rule ‘a kingdom [that] has no end’ (Luke 1:33). Meanwhile, reversing that reversal, the pope is at last cast down. Religious imagery has iconoclasm built into it. Charged with portraying God’s miserable, human death, church pictures were engineered both to save appearances and to reject them. In his incarnation as Christ, God became visible and circumscribable, i.e., ‘contained within spatial limits’.46 (In the Passional’s Ascension woodcut, Christ’s bare feet leave prints behind.) True icon of his father, Christ could be pictured – indeed he produced pictures of himself miraculously, as befitted his virgin birth. The likeness on St Veronica’s cloth was created purely, i.e., ‘acheiropoetically’ (without human hands), since the Old Testament repudiates not images per se but only the ones made by hands. In the virginal Veronica and her white cloth, the vera icon had a pure support.47 In the Passion, however, Christ’s divinity was also concealed. God’s true likeness turned into the ugliest of

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left 59. Master of St Veronica, St Veronica with the Sudarium, c. 1420, oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich. right 60. Master of St Veronica, St Veronica with the Sudarium, c. 1420, oil on panel. National Gallery, London.

things:‘with no beauty in him nor comeliness . . . the man of sorrows’ (Isaiah 53). On one page of the Berlin sketchbook, dirt, blood and spittle wholly conceal Christ’s face, the last layer (spittle) being painted in opaque, white bodycolour over layers of black and red watercolour (illus. 48).48 Here, it might seem, is the antithesis of the non-manufactured image of God: the Holy Face thoroughly defaced by the sinful hands of men. On her cloth, Veronica received the image as a stain of sweat and blood.‘Our Lord’, wrote a pious laywoman around 1420 of her visions of Christ, ‘showed her on his face how he was treated and how he appeared when he was in the cruel hands of the Jews who had imprisoned him. And his face was stained a brownish colour from the great duress in which he found himself.’49 In the late Middle Ages, painted, carved and printed images of Christ’s image on the sudarium reflected this duality.50 Depicting – often in the very same format – Christ’s face untouched by the Passion (because outside of death and time) or else abjectly distorted by it, these hybrid index-icons merge beauty with ugliness, concealment with ostentation (illus. 59–60). Goethe, observing a panel by the Master of St Veronica in the collection of

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the Boisserées, remarked that Christ’s visage on the sweat cloth, based on some ‘Egyptian, Ethiopian, Abyssinian’, had the colour of ‘a Moor’.51 On the one hand, everything about these holy faces shouts visibility: the shining halo, the en face view without viewpoint, the visage on cloth that in no way adheres to that cloth’s heavy folds, etc. On the other hand, typically, those faces are difficult to see, and not only because they have often been effaced by use (e.g., in oscularies, where kissing rather than beholding is the key receptive practice). The gilded frames, mirroring silver surrounds, and crystal capsules that encase the face, which is itself often dark and featureless, eclipsed the image in a blaze of reflective light.52 In his brief account of the sudarium in the Golden Legend, Jacobus de Voragine stresses how being affected by the Holy Face is contingent on the viewer: ‘Can this image be bought for gold or silver’, enquires a friend of Pontius Pilate, to which Veronica responds, ‘No, only true piety can make it effective.’ Along these lines, the thirteenth-century mystic Gertrude of Helfta, in her meditations, glimpsed in the sudarium both darkness and light, concealment and clarity; for her, as Jeffrey Hamburg put it, ‘the Veronica cannot simply be characterized as either blank or stained, brilliant or sullied; it is,paradoxically, both at once, just as Christ is both human and divine’.53 On the eve of Protestant iconoclasm, people revelled in grisly depictions of Christ’s abject body, in which every bit of necrotic flesh stood artfully portrayed. Ubiquitous paintings and woodcuts of Christ’s wounds and of the ‘arms’ of his Passion, wounded images, even, of those wounds, in which the image of the cut is printed, painted over in red, and then physically slashed, give collections of fifteenth-century prints a grand guignol character (illus. 72–3).54 In a Crucifixion by Matthias Grünewald, everything that Christ became – hands and feet wrenched and dislocated by the nails; loincloth hyperbolically shredded; skin darkened by filth, gangrene and congealed blood and bristling with thorns, each causing a specific infection; rib-cage collapsed in the suffocation that, were it not for the centurion’s lance, would have killed Christ that much more painfully – becomes surreally visible within the deprived visibility of a night-time setting (illus. 61). For Christians of the time, this spectacle would have aided their piety. The practice of religion consisted primarily in meditating on Christ’s death by imaginative recollecting (on the basis of stories, pictures or improvised fancy) of its minute particulars. Yet the end of this exercise of achieving a mental picture of the ruination of a body was finally the recognition that what we end up seeing – in our head, in the painting – is also everything Christ was not. The incarnation of Christ as man, hyperbolized by his humble birth and by his humiliating death on the cross, conceals his divinity. This erasure had been applied by his human tormentors, racialized as the Jews, who, unable to see Christ’s majesty, concealed it under the form of supreme abjection.

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61. Mathias Grünewald, Tauberbischofsheim Crucifixion, 1520–25, oil on panel. Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe.

Long before the hammer strikes them, religious images are already selfdefacing. Claiming their truth by dialectically repeating and repudiating the deception from which they escape, they are, each of them, engines of an ‘iconoclash’ that periodically destroys. Not surprisingly, then, such spiritbound descents into flesh play tricks on those who seek to negate them, short-circuiting their critical gestures or writing them into contrary plots. Protestant iconoclasts took a special relish in breaking crucifixes (illus. 62–4). Certainly, they smashed other church pictures with zeal. They vented great fury on effigies of the Virgin and the saints. Held to be invested with miraculous powers, and venerated in special cults, these exemplified for iconophobes both the idolatrous belief in pictures and an erroneous faith in

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62 Anonymous, ‘Wir wöln kein Crüty, kein bilder han’ (‘We want to have no more cross, no images, on the streets where we go out’), woodcut illustration to Eyn Wahrhafftig erschröcklich Histori von der Bewrischen uffrur so durch Martin Luthers leer inn Teutscher nation (A True, Shocking History of the Peasant Turmoils . . .), c. 1530.

63. Anonymous, ‘Den gecreütyigiten Abgott, schlezffen wir auß mit kyndschem spott’ (‘The crucified idol we cut down with childish mockery’), woodcut illustration to Eyn Wahrhafftig erschröcklich Histori von der Bewrischen uffrur so durch Martin Luthers leer inn Teutscher nation (A True, Shocking History of the Peasant Turmoils . . .), c. 1530.


64. Anonymous, ‘Klaus Hottinger and his Accomplices Topple the Crucifix in Stadelhofen’, 1605–6, pen and ink and watercolour, from the manuscript copy of Heinrich Bullinger, Reformationsgeschichte. Zentralbibliothek Zürich.

intercessors: both as images and as personages, that is, the Virgin and saints were an affront to the one unrepresentable God. The cult of the so-called Beautiful Maria stands advertised by a large woodcut by Michael Ostendorfer (illus. 65).55 Ecstatic pilgrims crowd into a temporary wooden church containing an icon that, in 1519, was believed to have healed a man injured while demolishing the synagogue of the city’s violently evicted Jews; the ruins in the right background are remnants of that Jewish house of worship. One impression bears an inscription by its original owner,Albrecht Dürer, who laments the disgrace such idolatry represents: ‘God help us that we do not thus dishonour [Christ’s] mother.’56 In the public performances of church cleansing, however, it was the degradation of crucifixes that held pride of place. Perhaps this was because the crucifix seemed to instance idolatry in its most primary form, as the worship of the image instead of God. Yet never is the ambivalence of iconoclasm more evident than when it strikes the image of Christ on the cross. A few examples from a host of documented instances: in Stadelhofen near Zurich in 1523, a certain Klaus Hottinger, having obtained a wooden wayside crucifix from its owner, broke it into pieces, which he gave to the poor as firewood, in a typical gesture of critical economy (illus. 64).57 First exiled, then tried for blasphemy in the Catholic city of Lucerne, Hottinger refused to honour a crucifix brought before him (illus. 66). He confessed that ‘the passion of Christ must be received in true faith in the heart’, and declared the picture itself to be a mockery: as with the prophet Jeremiah, inward religion

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66. Klaus Hottinger is Executed, 1605–6, pen and ink and watercolour, from the manuscript copy of Heinrich Bullinger, Reformationsgeschichte. Zentralbibliothek Zürich.

opposite 65. Michael Ostendorfer, Pilgrimage to the Beautiful Maria of Regensburg, c. 1520, woodcut with inscription by Albrecht Dürer.

repudiates external pictures. Hottinger’s was the most global Protestant objection to images: as spirit to flesh, as inner to outer, religion had to be purified from things of this world, and to achieve this, certain things that were not thus purified had to be eradicated. Burnt at the stake, and immortalized in Heinrich Bullinger’s Chronicle of the Reformation, Hottinger became the first Protestant martyr. On one manuscript copy of the Chronicle, an early seventeenth-century illustrator depicts Hottinger toppling an empty cross rather than a crucifix, perhaps because he (the watercolourist) was unwilling to paint a statue of Christ (illus. 64). Hottinger, meanwhile, wields a shovel that extends, formally, into the lance that, according to legend, was wielded by the Roman centurion and delivered Christ’s mortal wound.58 This is a typically ambivalent motif, on the one hand pictorializing the idea that Hottinger, in being martyred, suffered a Passion, while on the other hand linking him ambiguously with the Passion’s original perpetrators.

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In Basel in 1529, a crucifix was pulled from the Münster’s rood screen and dragged to the market, where a crowd mocked it with the words ‘If you are God, then save yourself, but if you’re a man, then bleed.’59 Spoken by people who deny that pictures can hear or speak, this taunt recalls the standard plea, repeated in prayers and votive inscriptions attached to images, ‘Help me!’ At the same time, it also echoes the words that Christ’s tormentors spoke at the crucifixion: ‘If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross’ (Matt. 27:40); ‘If thou be Christ, save thyself and us’ (Luke 23:37) and ‘You who tore down the temple in three days and built it up again, help yourself ’ (Mark 15:29). Complexly allusive, the iconoclast’s taunt seems oddly wellrehearsed, more like a chronicler’s embellishment than an image-breaker’s spontaneous cry. Yet it plays throughout Protestant iconoclasm like a steady refrain.60 It adds insult to another ubiquitous injury: the public demonstration that the image is a fabricated thing, an object made of wood or stone. But unlike that gesture, ‘save yourself ’ enrolls the crucifix in new fiction, one in which it, as object, is ritually crucified. A Catholic broadsheet of 1621 vilifying Calvinist iconoclasm in Veltlin (in present-day Lombardy) records the gesture (illus. 67).61 A carved crucifix has been hung upside down, presumably after being whipped by the scourge on the hook. Woodcuts of a Catholic pamphlet from one century earlier depict similar calculated degradations (illus. 68).62 In the rituals of violence they improvised, iconoclasts seemed to relish their role as scoundrels. During carnival celebrations in Hildesheim in 1543, members of the tailors’ guild hauled a much-venerated statue of Christ from the church of St Andreas into their drinking hall, where they ordered it to drink. Playing off its nonresponse, they began to taunt the effigy with words like those spoken by Christ’s tormentors in Passion plays of the time: ‘Now how’s he supposed to drink? Can’t you see? He’s been whipped, his blood is squirting out of him and he’s holy and impotent, so he just can’t do it.’63 Then, after a pause that made muteness audible, the statue was ‘forced’ to drink, and a cup was rudely tossed in its face. More rude still was the gesture of a burgher in Ulm in 1534, who emptied his bowels into the mouth of an effigy of Christ from Our Lady’s Gate. From a protest lodged against the tailors by the bishop of Hildesheim we know that the ‘misused’ Christ was a statue ‘which, for the remembrance of the bitter suffering he endured, showed [Christ] scourged, bloodily crowned, and with the cross on his shoulder’.64 In other words, it was the sort of statue – grimly detailed, life-sized, sometimes with movable limbs – that was used in staging Passion plays, and that became a special target of iconoclastic fury (see illus. 45).65 Perhaps the tailors were good at playing the bully because bullying is what men in drinking halls generally do best. Perhaps, though, they knew their roles because they had already acted

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67. Anonymous German Master, Calvinist Iconoclasm in Veltlin, 1621, engraving. 68. Anonymous, ‘Here speaks a pious Christian and admonishes scandalous folk . . . ’, woodcut illustration in Eyn Wahrhafftig erschröcklich Histori von der Bewrischen uffrur so durch Martin Luthers leer inn Teutscher nation (A True, Shocking History of the Peasant Turmoils . . .), c. 1530.


them in church, in para-liturgical dramas, where the evil characters often got the best lines. In Dresden, for example, in a scene worthy of Monty Python, a layman playing the Bad Thief improvised on Christ’s ‘I thirst!’ (John 19:28) by calling for a beer. But the joke cost the actor his freedom. Now everyone in that culture was taught that Christ’s biblical henchmen (his villainous judges, torturers and executioners) were Jewish. And rumours routinely circulated of contemporary Jews who, itching to crucify Christ again, spied on or infiltrated Passion plays – hence the practice, recorded for several German towns during the fifteenth century, of locking Jews in their houses and barricading town gates during performances of sacred theatre. In Regensburg, a baptized Jew named Kalman was drowned in 1470 for (among other crimes) allegedly watching, in disguise, the municipal Easter play.66 On the eve of the Reformation, it was on Jews that image desecration was usually blamed, as in the case, publicized by Pamphilus Gengenbach at Emperor Maximilian’s instigation, of a Marian statue mutilated in Camberon near Mons in 1322.67 How, then, did Hildesheim’s tailors understand the likeness between their iconoclastic acts and the crimes pinned upon the Jews? If, as Sergiusz Michalski argues, such ‘rites of violence’ aimed to punish Christ’s false image,68 why did they model retribution so overtly on the scandal of all scandals, Christ’s murder by his own people? And mightn’t the effigy’s inertness, theatricalized as inaction by means of the mocking command ‘save yourself ’, have resembled Christ’s stoic endurance? Christ, after all, allowed himself to be crucified. His activity was precisely to accept, passively, the actions of sinful humanity against him. In the religious plays from which the iconoclasts borrow, Christ himself has the immobility of a sacred doll or image. Like the fabricated likenesses of him, that is, Christ in the Passion embodied ‘passive agency’, i.e.,‘the agency attributed to social others who, or which, are only the target of an agency, never the independent source’.69 What a strange demonstration, behaving like villains and allowing the effigy to act like Christ! ‘By mocking and jeering his effigy’, observed a Lutheran preacher in 1596, ‘you tear open the holy wounds of Christ the Lord again and crucify him anew.’70 But then again, in Christian thinking, every semblance hides a dissemblance and every dissemblance, a semblance. Sacred theatre sometimes delighted its audience with a routine in which the actor playing Christ, as if suddenly fed up with being beaten and mocked, pretends to step out of character and strike back with words like ‘If that’s the way you’re going to play the Passion, then next time let the Devil be your God.’71 Comic interludes like these encouraged more serious suspicions. Might the actor playing Christ be the Devil? Might the play-acting tormentors be Jews disguised as Christians representing Jews? Representations of Christ,

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whether pictorial, dramatic or ritual, were self-consciously deceptive, partly to reflect the deceitfulness of the world, partly to accord with the vagaries of subjective response. Historians have long observed the resemblance between iconoclast riot and carnival rites.72 Often breaking out during the revelry prior to Lent, image-breakers modelled their actions both on church rites (as when Wittenburgers stripped the altars on Green Thursday) and on parodies of those rites that were tolerated on certain days of the year. Such travesties flourished on Fastnacht, on the food-and-drink-filled eve of the fast, after which the eating of meat, along with a host of carnal pleasures, would be forbidden (‘carnival’ means carne vale, ‘farewell to flesh’). Under the motto ‘the world upside down’, carnival jumbled transgressive antitypes: parodic Masses sung by children, Passion plays with Christ impersonated by a devil, crude mimicry of local notables. Sometimes sanctioned, sometimes curtailed, and often slipping uncomfortably into general unrule, these serio-comical interludes violated the order to which they, as part of the liturgical year, also belonged. For Mikhail Bakhtin, whose study of Rabelais shaped current attention to this material, one essential feature of carnival was that, like the literary forms derived from it, it spoke in multiple voices. Expressing itself ‘dialogically’, it mimicked official speech to reveal that speech was mimicry already. ‘Discourse lives’, wrote Bakhtin, ‘on the border between its own context and another, alien context.’73 In staging their destruction, and in retrospectively describing it, iconoclasts used the places, gestures and timing of carnival transgression.An illustration of Johann Jakob Wick’s report of an iconoclastic episode in Zurich in 1587 shows young men tossing sacred effigies into a fountain (illus. 69). Such public shaming is

69. Detail of Johann Jakob Wick, Iconoclasm of 1587 in Zürich, 1587–8, pen, ink and watercolour. Zentralbibliothek, Zürich.

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scripted by carnival pranks, which mix cruelty and comedy. Note how Wick’s illustrator carries forward this mockery by showing at the fountain’s centre a statue of St Veit boiling in his cauldron; the nude martyr seems comically content in his new bath. The Basel chronicler and iconophobe Fridolin Riff termed the bonfires of images set in his town on 10 February 1529 ‘carnival fires’ not just because they blazed on the Wednesday before Lent. Riff also termed them thus because, like the bonfires that concluded carnival, their flames were meant symbolically to purify the flesh of its attachments – to meat, to drink, to beautiful things.74 But these transgressions were appropriated from rituals that were themselves carnivalesque to begin with, serving a faith whose God was mocked and crucified. No wonder image-breakers often stood accused of enacting the folly they abhorred. Historians tend to treat the link to carnival as if it explained, rather than complicated, iconoclasm’s underlying motives. Discerning ritual in riot, but bracketing out the tumult surrounding the rites discerned, they believe that iconoclasm’s transgressions communicate messages to a public, that what image-breakers principally make are statements. Thus one of the best scholars of early Protestant iconoclasm writes of ‘excavating the means of the acts of those who did not have access to more protected and fixed forms of communication’.75 Iconoclasts, this author argues, enunciated socially specific views about religion, polity, economy and law in the ‘language’ of acts, just as theologians stated their opinions in the medium of sermons and treatises. For example, that Basel’s burghers specifically attacked the crucifix on the Münster’s rood screen is understood as protesting their exclusion from clerical space by that screen, and further, as asserting Basel’s economic and political independence from church authority more generally. Each iconoclastic gesture gets a precise communicative charge. But do acts, and especially ones of such a negative sort, communicate like language?76 Are ashes, rubble and whitewashed walls meant primarily to be understood? Church cleansing may have been coordinated by communication: people somehow convincing each other to do something according to a particular script. Karlstadt’s treatise and sermons, as well as the transgressive woodcuts examined above, had such organized persuasion as their aim. But the iconoclasm that may or may not have resulted is not the same as communication. The historian’s impulse to regard iconoclastic deformation as if it were always, at bottom, information is particularly strange given that image-breakers ceaselessly say – and in their rituals ceaselessly demonstrate – that images cannot speak. This was the chief pillar of Karlstadt’s diatribe: pictures do not communicate, they simply are, and for that reason they should be destroyed. Iconoclasts and their modern interpreters share one thing, however. Both stand convinced that communication alone matters.

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9 Communications

Karlstadt devotes about one third of On the Removal of Images to refuting the notion that pictures are Bibles for the poor. This idea had long been the Roman Church’s best justification for religious art, because it shifted the question from cult to pedagogy. Propounded by Paulinus of Nola in the fifth century, it received its canonical declaration in 599 in a letter from Gregory the Great to the iconoclastic bishop of Marseilles, Serenus. Gregory agreed with Serenus that images should not be worshipped. Placed on church walls, however, they allowed ordinary people to ‘read’ what they might not be able to in books. ‘In pictures’, writes Gregory, ‘those can read who do not know letters. The picture serves such people especially as reading material. What has been placed in church not for prayer but alone for teaching must not be destroyed.’1 Reaffirmed by John of Damascus in his eighth-century defence of images, and endlessly cited by doctrinal handbooks, confessors’ manuals, catechisms and vernacular sermons throughout the Middle Ages, Gregory’s became the standard statement of what Christian images do: they communicate information to the people. The people, Latin populus or gentes, are by definition illiterate. Ignorantes or idiotae are their synonyms. At the eve of the Reformation, belief in the legibility of pictures was strong enough to hold the populus accountable for their salvation. The educator Jean Gerson, writing in the early fifteenth century, ruled that nobody could excuse themself by saying they were unable to read, since they would surely have a crucifix before them and could reflect on Christ’s five wounds.2 Karlstadt rejects using images as books by ruling that the practice violates the Old Testament interdict, and by insinuating that it masks their abuse as idols. More fundamentally, however, he disputes the premiss that pictures are legible about things that count. ‘Tell me, dear Gregory’, sneers Karlstadt,


what good things could the laity learn from images? Certainly you must say that one learns from them nothing but the life and the suffering of the flesh and that they do not lead further than the flesh. More they cannot do. For example, from the crucified Christ you learn only about the suffering of Christ in the flesh, how his head hung down and the like. Now Christ says that his own flesh is of no use but that the spirit is of use and gives life.3 The spiritualist condemnation of the body becomes, in this statement, the model for a new ideal of information transfer. Since images show Christ in the flesh, like flesh they are also empty, of messages as of spirit. What they convey therefore cannot be in-formation, i.e., content put in a material form.4 Rather, they show only what they show, point only to themselves, teach only ‘how his head hung down and the like’. Transported nowhere, their viewers remain immobile, ‘stunned’, as John Calvin put it a few years later,‘in looking at the bare sign’.5 Karlstadt goes on to explain this failure of image-based piety, and to contrast it to with transfer of information through language. ‘Now, finally, you should also take to heart that I absolutely cannot advise the mortally ill to cling to carved or painted crucifixes.’ The crucifix was a worthy target for Karlstadt. At the end of the Middle Ages, the deathbed had become a developed ritual site, and in its standard scenography crucifixes held pride of place. Illustrations in contemporary handbooks for dying – the Ars moriendi – often show a cross at the foot of the bed, between angels and demons, as the focus of a person’s final gaze.6 The iconoclast Klaus Hottinger, condemned to death for toppling a wayside cross, was executed with a crucifix thrust before his (blindfolded) eyes (illus. 66). Along with oil for extreme unction and the Eucharist for last Communion, crucifixes were thought to have special apotropaic powers at the moment of death. The Devil, it was believed, tried to steal the soul during the despair that grips us in our last hour; this was prevented if the dying person continuously beheld, touched or kissed a cross. Such convictions about its miraculous powers, together with the Thomistic doctrine that images of Christ merited the highest veneration – more than the ‘reverence’ accorded to the saints and the ‘honour’ accorded to the Virgin – made the cross a favourite target of iconoclasts, as we have seen.7 Karlstadt’s argument is not against superstition or idolatry, however, but against the claim that deathbed crucifixes teach: But our image-lovers want the laity to know Christ in the flesh, which avails nothing. They want to teach how Christ hung on the cross rather than why he was hanged. They teach about his body, his beard,

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his wounds. Of the power of Christ they teach nothing at all. But without the power of Christ no one is saved.8 Images are tautological. They show what they show – that a wound is there, not what the wound means. They banish the dying to the flesh that fails them, offering instead of content only more surface: the wound’s internal contours, filled not with information but with another surface, that of the material output of blood, sweat and tears. But what sort of mediator was the deathbed cross? Serving to ward off the Devil and transport the dying to Christ, it was never discussed as a Bible for the illiterate. But neither was it understood as a container for the God it represents. Long before Karlstadt, churchmen had warned against worshipping it idolatrously. An early English priests’ manual instructs the dying first of all to ward off idolatry with the prayer: ‘I wot wel thou art nought God, but thou art imagened aftir him, and makest me have more mind of him after whom thou art imagened.’9 What does ‘more mind of him’ consist of, and how does it differ from information verbally conveyed? In short, what did the dying see in the cross? On 8 May 1373, the recluse Julian of Norwich, then 30 years old, received from Christ her prayed-for gift ‘to understand [his] Passion’.10 Paralysed by a sudden illness, she was visited by a priest who, assuming death was near, set a crucifix before her eyes and said ‘Look at it and be strengthened.’11 Her gaze fixed on the image, her body almost deceased, she received sixteen visions or ‘showings’ that, on her recovery, she wrote down during 25 years of seclusion. One ‘showing’ – part of Julian’s first vision – captures what Karlstadt ignores: messages are not the religious image’s primary charge. While Julian stared at the cross, the room became dark and horrible, as if ‘occupied by fiends’. The cross itself remained lit, however, and visions played in and around what it depicted, including one of the crown of thorns: I still seemed to see with my actual eyes the continual bleeding of his head. Great drops of blood rolled down from the garland like beads, seemingly from the veins; and they came down a brownish-red colour – for the blood was thick – and as they spread out they became bright red, and when they reached his eyebrows they vanished . . . They were fresh and living as though they were real: their abundance like the drops of water that fall from the eaves after a heavy shower, falling so thickly that no one can possibly count them; their roundness as they spread out on his forehead were like the scales of herring. I was reminded of these three things at the time: round beads as the blood flowed, round herring scales as it spread out, and raindrops from the eaves for their abundance.12

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In this palimpsest of pictures, Julian sketches an experience of semantic saturation at odds with Karlstadt’s account. As she enumerates them, seeing took three forms: ‘bodily sight’, ‘the word formed in my understanding’ and ‘ghostly sight’. There are also mixed categories: things ‘ghostly in bodily likeness’, ones ‘more ghostly without bodily likeness’, etc. Christ’s wounds pictured on the crucifix thus hardly show themselves as nothing but those wounds. But neither do they therefore point beyond to one intelligible meaning. Beads, raindrops and herring scales come to Julian’s mind through the painted wound without being synthesized in an ‘understanding’ about the wound. Like the red paint excessively applied to actual effigies of Christ (illus. 70), these figures tangle objects with perceptions, images with words, empirical experience with recollections of Scripture, all of which point to something ineffable.13 ‘And for the “ghostly sight”,’ admits Julian,‘I have said some deal, but I may never fully tell it.’14 The word ‘mysticism’ comes from myô, meaning ‘to close the eyes’. While the crucifix draws Julian closer to Christ, her path ultimately transcends the images she sees. In the language of Meister Eckhart, image ‘de-image’ (entbilden).15 They allow the mystic to encounter Christ negatively, in the blackness of death, and in the uncanny darkness of Christ’s empty grave. The deprivation described in the Gospel – ‘he saw nothing and he believed’ (John 20:8) – holds true for us all. In the decades after she was healed, Julian – entombed in a cell – arrived at certain discursive understandings of what she saw. Offered tentatively to preserve the mystery, however, these merely sketch further figures traced over by further responses. Compared to Karlstadt’s ideal of information-transfer via the word, it seems to me the crucifix teaches too much, not too little. Through the analogies and contrasts it evokes, it weaves all appearances, visual and visionary, into a network of correspondences that can neither be differentiated from the primary fact nor penetrated for the one idea. Anthropologists used to identify such networks with ‘mythical’ thought and source them to the ‘savage mind’.16 According to this model, mythical thought is peculiarly concrete. Unlike rational thought, which measures ideas against observations, it fastens to the whole perceptual surface of the world – in Julian’s case, the crucifix’s red that looks like blood, raindrops, beads and scales. Every individual perception resembles or contrasts with every other perception. As Claude Levi-Strauss summarized it, a world thus ordered is round and hollow: round because everything hangs together, and hollow because it posits no centre of signification, no ‘there’ there.17 What irritates us moderns about this round and hollow world is its concealment of distinctions that we believe belong to the real structure of the world. Mythical thought seems to ignore the distinctions between

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70. Anonymous (Lower Rhine), The Vision of St Bernard, c. 1340, pen and ink and watercolour. Museum Schnütgen, Cologne.

nature and culture, reference and language, the world and its representation. Long before the philosophers debated the rationality of mythical worldviews, the war against superstition, of which Karlstadt’s iconoclasm was but one early battle, sought to separate facts from faith in God – not, in the beginning, to investigate the former (in the activities of science) but to purify the latter as the domain that counted.18 In the later Middle Ages, in practices ranging from persecuting witchcraft to meditating on Christ, techniques were developed to draw distinctions among visual phenomena, differentiating, say, physical objects from fantasies, dreams, visions and

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diabolical or artful deceptions.19 Some of the best testimonies of this sorting operation come from artists.20 This is not surprising given that imagemakers specialized in manipulating one thing (their materials) in order that a viewer should see something else. A drawing attributed to Albrecht Dürer weaves altar and crucifix into a plot about the vagaries of sight (illus. 71).21 It shows clergy and lay folk gathered round an angelic celebration of Mass. And in accord with that ritual arrangement, Dürer also aligns his own representation with the central altar. In the intermediary space, however, within a band of clouds separating the altar, with its backing ensemble of reliquary and carved crucifixion, from its depicted supplicants, the artist has sketched little figures representing what the people individually think and see – or better, what temptation induces them to desire and imagine.22 These thought bubbles show some people visualizing wine, women, food and games, which are served up by demons, while others appear contemplating visions of the Virgin, their own salvation or indeed the crucifix itself (at the upper right, between a backgammon board and a roast chicken), in a curious doubling of the altar cross. Around the sheet’s centre, and therefore aligned with the altar, an angel (above) and a devil (below) draft testimonies that, filed away in the gabled box, will damn or save. Dürer’s drawing is itself not easy to decipher. Unconventional in subjectmatter, and lacking any clarifying labels, it invites us to engage visually in the good and evil visions it so cleverly imagines. At the sheet’s base, as if to provide space for an explanatory gloss, Dürer has drawn a blank tablet and headed it ‘Here write whatever you want.’ Yet someone, probably the artist himself, has beaten us to the task, filling the space not quite with writing but with skilful calligraphic lines. It is tempting to take these inimitable arabesques as enacting at the level of fabrication the free play of response staged above. Laying bare the image’s liminal condition between fact and fiction, however, the lovely, errant lines – this German painter’s signature artistic medium – aestheticize, and thereby to a degree also neutralize the dangerous errantry of representation. Whereas there are good and bad responses to the carved crucifixion represented in the picture, the picture itself can be labelled with ‘whatever you want’.23 The premier image-maker of northern European culture in 1500, Dürer recognized that pictures are, at best, mediators, affecting without determining what their viewers see in them. Or as Bruno Latour puts it, ‘Images count . . . because they allow one to move to another image, exactly as frail and modest as the former one – but different.’24 In Dürer’s sketch, the worshipper who thinks of Christ while beholding the Mass does so, it seems, with another image in mind: not the carved crucifixion scene raised above the mensa itself but something more like a memory tag – a crucifix held by a

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71. Albrecht Dürer, Angel’s Mass, c. 1500, pen and ink and watercolour over metalpoint. Musée des BeauxArts, Rennes.

mediating angel. During the 1510s, just prior to the outbreak of Protestant iconoclasm, Dürer argued explicitly that, contrary to what ‘many crude people who hate art say’,25 images do not corrupt their viewers. Only their improper use does this, just as weapons don’t kill but murderers using weapons do. ‘Non est disputatio de substantia, sed usu et abusu rerum’, wrote Luther in a similar vein.26 In his sketch, though, Dürer indicates the crisis that iconoclasm seeks to resolve. On the example of the altar crucifix, it documents an unease about images on the part of image-makers themselves.

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But what about pictures more certain of their task, ones that confirm, rather than dismantle, the round and hollow world of mythical thought? From Karlstadt’s perspective, a fourteenth-century drawing of the crucifix teaches nothing but Christ’s wounds (illus. 70).27 Painted to its very outlines in red, like a blood-stain in the shape of a man, Christ’s body has itself become a wound. Blood veritably explodes over those who venerate the cross: at the left, St Bernard, exemplar of Passion-based piety, and at the right, a nun, who stands for the viewer or artist or both. As in the Wolgemut sketchbook, to draw Christ is to deface and conceal him; and again, the effacing gore is subtly managed, its shapes symbols as much as symptoms of the Passion. At the cross’s base, the artist brushes little rivers with gentle, wavering strokes. And under these we see how such a cross would physically be erected, with two pegs buttressing its base. In a style at once ‘horrifying and dreadful, sweet and lovely’ (Julian), the painter establishes in Christ a surface that obscures what it is a surface of. There is no underlying object here, no stable information to be understood. Instead, we observe marks indicating a quintessential breach of surface, the wound. Veneration of Christ’s wounds had been a mainstay of pre-Reformation piety.28 For that reason, images focused devotion on these penetrations, so that, by way of the wound, the eye could physically enter Christ’s body. The breach of surface discovers no definitive ‘inside’, as Karlstadt would wish; instead, it facilitates a ceaseless movement in and out.29 A late fifteenthcentury Swabian woodcut proclaims that ‘the red stripe in the heart’– that is, the image itself imprinted on the page – is of exactly the same width and breadth as Christ’s mortal side wound (illus. 72).30 Like the stain of blood on a bandage, the stripe, hand-coloured in red in this impression now in Berlin, becomes the wound’s icon and index, a double signage that supports the print’s claim to power. ‘He who looks at it with devotion’, boasts the inscription, ‘will achieve seven years indulgence.’ Georges Didi-Huberman has observed in images of Christ’s wounds a tendency to display what they physically are, fabricated effigies of a certain size, shape, colour and material. Drawing on the image-theology of Pseudo-Dionysius, he termed such nonpictorial self-displays ‘visual’, as opposed to the ‘visible’ that they mimetically represent. In one evocative example, he notes that Gothic artists sometimes depicted Christ’s side wound not by applying red paint to the working surface of the panel, but by scraping away the picture’s painted surface to reveal the preparatory red-coloured ground required for gilding.31 In an impression in the Albertina of a tiny woodcut Heart of Christ, made in Germany around 1470, the wound is represented both by an imprinted line and by being carefully cut from the paper itself (illus. 73).32 The artist physically wounds the image he makes, opening lesions in the mimetic order akin to those that occurred post-production in the sketchbook from

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72. Anonymous German, Heart of Christ, c. 1480, hand-coloured woodcut. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett).

73. Anonymous, Heart of Christ, c. 1460, handcoloured and handincised woodcut. Graphisches Sammlung Albertina, Vienna.

Wolgemut’s shop. For Jean Gerson, we recall, to know Christ was to behold his wounds: seeing them was the essence of believing. Such faith involves a certain movement from sight to touch, performed both by the artist and the viewer. The apostle Thomas, in whom belief was both demanded and elicited by the wound, offered a pattern for this procedure. In an ecstatically carnal painting by the Master of St Bartholomew, Thomas stuffs two fingers up to their third knuckle into the wound to dispel his doubt (illus. 74).33 What more information could one want than this?

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By Karlstadt’s time, however, such interiors were tainted by fraud.A famous scandal about deceptive wounds erupted in Bern. In 1507, a novice named Hans Jetzler arrived at the Dominican friary in Bern and received miraculous dreams and visions attesting to the Virgin’s immaculate conception (a doctrine fervently promulgated by Dominicans).34 On a June morning, after having received the stigmata, Jetzler prayed to a carved pietà housed in the Dominican church, which suddenly shed blood-red tears. The statue continued to weep at Jetzler’s devotions, and did so until, some months later, Jetzler was discovered posing as the Mary atop the church’s rood screen.Under torture, Jetzler confessed complicity in a plot hatched by four Dominican

74. Master of St Bartholomew, St Thomas Altarpiece (central panel), c. 1500, oil on panel. Wallraf-RichartzMuseum, Cologne.

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75. Urs Graf, ‘Fraudulent Miracle in Bern’, 1509, woodcut illustration to Thomas Murner, Von den fier ketzeren Prediger ordens der obsedrvantz zü Bern im Schweytzer land verbrannt (Strasbourg: Knobloch, 1509).

brothers. Chronicled by the Franciscan satirist Thomas Murner, who traveled to Bern for the trial, the ‘Jetzler Affair’ became a household word throughout Germany.A woodcut illustrating Murner’s account lays bare the mechanism of enchantment (illus. 75).35 At the left, from behind a curtain, a man ‘conjures forth’ (in Murner’s words) red tears by blowing them into the statue through a pipette. At the centre, Jetzler prays with his stigmata clearly on display. And at the right, the Dominicans point toward their profitable attraction. In 1525, iconophobes exposed a similar automaton in Lübeck cathedral: a carved Virgin mounted on a swivel, with internal plumbing and a sponge inside its head, that could shed tears and turn away when offered too-stingy donations.36 No less an authority on magical engineering than the alchemist Theophrastus of Hohenheim, better-known as Paracelsus, charged that the Beautiful Maria of Regensburg, whose hectic cult was advertised by a host of engravings and woodcuts, was built to weep oil concealed in a cavity in its head (illus. 65).37 Such cases illuminated the logic of image-breaking. Not only did they reveal a mere hollow beneath the surface of stock and stone. They also discovered in that interior a mechanism to deceive, and, with that, the agent behind the semblance of personal agency. On the one hand, iconoclasts purified the facts of their fictions. On the other hand, like Toto barking at the real Wizard of Oz, they traced the fiction’s hidden cause: the man behind the curtain, the cunning conjurer, the knave that makes us fools.38 And in place of an illusory dialogue between viewers and sacred personages, they excavated the real social relation between deceiver and deceived. This hidden relation of power and money they sought also to replace by a new and explicitly social relation of mutual understanding.

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76. Rogier van der Weyden, Deposition, c. 1435, oil on panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

Facts and nature on one side, humans exercising power on the other, and no messy imbroglios in between: thus was the world discerned through disenchantment.39 Modern interpreters still take Murner’s side, categorizing Jetzler’s drama as simple fraud rather than exploring its affinities with fictions now deemed laudable, for example, the lifelike tears in Rogier van der Weyden’s Deposition (illus. 76).40 In any case, convinced that Wittenberg’s burghers, now aware of how they had been duped, would reduce images to rubble, Karlstadt endeavoured to reconstruct the specifically social context in which images were claimed to transcend things: ‘The popes observed that when they pastured their lambs in books their rubbish market did not flourish.’41 Split open, the image yielded neither spirit nor meaning but money, like the cash-box altar of Antichrist or, more vividly, like the coin-filled statue in Marcus Gheeraerts’s illustration of an idolater impatient with his wooden god (illus. 78; see also illus. 53). One can appreciate why Marx and Engels traced the origins of the critical gaze to the ‘early bourgeois revolution’ of sixteenth-century Germany: Karlstadt peers into the fetish’s hollow core and recognizes there the facts of power and capital.42 But what, in 1522, would be a better alternative? How exactly are words less deceptive and more communicative than images? Instead of the customary practice of beholding a crucifix, Karlstadt sketches out an alternative deathbed ritual. He advises that the dying should have read to them the two

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77. Detail of Rogier van der Weyden, Deposition, c. 1435.

78. Marcus Gheeraerts the Elder, ‘A Wooden God Yields Gold When Smashed’, etching from the Aesopian Esbatement Moral des Animaux (Antwerp: Galle, 1578).


Gospel texts that Christ ‘gave at the end and before his death’. ‘That is to say’, Karlstadt hastens to add, ‘that you explain to a sick and dying man the content and meaning of these comforting words: “My body is given for you; my blood is poured out for you for the forgiveness of sins.”’43 Observe how, to make the Gospel texts communicate reliably, Karlstadt carves out an interior from which they seem to speak. First, serving as a container, the words to be spoken are ones said by Christ ‘at death’. They are short Bible verses that ought to be given to the mortally ill in place of a cross. Then, to articulate what lies inside those words, there is a supplementary gloss:‘That is to say . . . you explain . . . the content and meaning of these comforting words.’ At first glance, Karlstadt seems merely to clarify what he, not Christ, means. But the shift is from the Gospel text to its gloss: ‘you explain’. This turn will forever haunt Protestantism’s word-based faith. For if the Bible needs instructions to download its information, does that mean it does not communicate properly in its naked state? Do words teach more effectively than images simply because their content can be rephrased in other words? A structural relation between text and exegesis gives language the illusion of a referential centre, and distinguishing it from the round but hollow image. ‘These Gospel texts’, writes Karlstadt of Christ’s words, ‘have living spirit’ – as opposed, he means, to images that do not. But spirit exists as the ‘content’ of words that only pedagogy can release. How strange, this new art of dying: the layman as an eternal student receiving lessons until the last! Karlstadt believes that comfort and salvation arrive when information is transferred and understanding is reached. For him information is the ‘living spirit’ of the word. And yet, are the bare signs ‘my body is given for you’ more informative and less ‘stunning’ (Calvin) than a picture of the body thus received? Let’s listen closely to the wording of Karlstadt’s communiqué. The words Karlstadt recommends are less informative than performative. They come from St Luke’s account of the Last Supper, in which Christ gives bread to his followers with the words ‘This is my body which is given for you; do this in my remembrance’ (Luke 22:19). With these Christ instituted the sacrament of Communion; they are the Gospel’s linguistic epiphany. In them speech designates a thing present to the speaker (‘this’ bread) and transforms it into something else, into the speaker himself (‘is my body’). And it conveys that thing, the son of God, to each and every auditor (‘which is given for you’), and commands that such conveyance to be repeated ever after (‘do this’). Karlstadt derives the verse from the administration of the Eucharist to the dying. But in the case of the customary last Communion, comfort lay in what these words miraculously effected, and not in what they gave the mind to understand. The Ars moriendi’s imperative not to despair at death (a

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requirement aided by the deathbed cross) pertained to a state of mind rather than to some cognitive content. By taking the host consecrated by these words, a dying person connected physically with Christ’s saving death. This stress on the performative function of words – on language as a ritual action rather than as communication – is evident from the fact that, in Germany before the Reformation, Christ’s instituting sentence was said silently, and in Latin. (Protestants mocked this quasi-magical incantation as ‘hocuspocus’.) At death those words, plus the bread they turned into flesh, were ‘journey money [viaticum] for our pilgrimage, solace of all our longing’, as one late-medieval indulgenced prayer put it.44 What reasonable person would immediately cash in these words simply for what they had to say? Wittgenstein once wrote of language ‘going on a holiday’.45 Released from its everyday uses of reaching understanding and coordinating action, it could luxuriate as something unto itself, as it does in poetry and ritual. Karlstadt calls Christ’s statement back from the holiday to which the Roman Church had put it. He does this by subtracting the two mere words that were thought do the saving work. In the centuries after Karlstadt, what those words meant has divided Christians. Christ’s ‘This is my body which is given for you’ becomes, in Karlstadt’s tract, ‘My body is given to you.’ Deleting the performative ‘this is’, and omitting the thing (the bread) that is designated and transformed, Karlstadt strips language to its communicative function. This accords with the entire campaign, waged in Wittenberg by way of the German Mass, of turning ritual into communicative action, indeed of making Communion communicate. Karlstadt’s omission of the troublesome ‘this is’, together with his removal of the Eucharist and of images from the deathbed, reflects the link between iconoclasm and the disenchantment of the cult. Within a few years of publishing On the Removal of Images, Karlstadt, along with most Protestant iconophobes, would assert that Christ’s ‘this is’ should be understood as ‘this signifies’, and therefore that the Eucharistic bread is not really Christ but only a sign of him. Sacrament becomes information-transfer, like language. Its material elements convey not substances but meanings, and these latter are immutably conveyed regardless of the form they take. Karlstadt’s seeming afterthought, that Christ’s words need explaining, completes a scenography of data downloaded from a storage medium. Even the words of sacrament count only if they mean something, for all else ‘serve[s] no purpose’.46 In Wittenberg, iconoclasm visualized the new monopoly of language in the domain of the sacred. Cleansing the church of everything but preaching and prayer, it belonged to the effort, launched in the weeks leading up to it, of replacing symbolically mediated interactions of ceremony with speech acts aimed at understanding. Step by step, the sacred was ‘linguistified’.47 Formerly manifested objectively, in special elevated things, places, persons

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and institutions, it now unfolded subjectively – everywhere and in everyone – in the language-based activity of understanding and being understood. Ultimately, a church founded on communicative action alone would depend for its authority on the binding effect of consensus reached by way of communication. The controversies that raged within Protestantism itself, and especially those surrounding the words ‘this is’, powerfully demonstrate how the absolute authority of the holy was replaced by a relative authority of consensus performed in the compulsory speech act of confessing one’s particular faith. At the time, it might therefore have seemed fitting that Luther should return from hiding in the Wartburg to a mother church cleansed of pictures. For it was he who, in matters of faith, had first repudiated all authorities save Scripture, and who first had sought to reform the church by recovering its sole, apostolic task of preaching and administering God’s word. Luther would seek a different scenography of communication, however. And precisely in his differences with Karlstadt over images and sacrament, he marked off the limits of what the authority of consensus could historically achieve in a religion of the word. Appropriating iconoclasm’s enabling void, the Wittenberg Altarpiece fills that empty centre with a new scenography: the cross as visual image of verbal consent.

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10 The Arrested Gesture

From the moment of his return to Wittenberg on 6 March 1522, Luther worked to undo what the iconoclasts had accomplished.1 On 8 March, he revealed his agenda to Melanchthon and other allies, and on the next day he ascended the pulpit of the City Church to denounce the cleansing enacted there during his eleven months of asylum in the Wartburg. As it happened, 9 March was Invocavit Sunday, the Feast of Orthodoxy. Traditionally, that feast commemorated the Seventh Ecumenical Council of 783, which had affirmed, among other doctrines, the legitimacy of church images against the iconoclastic emperor Leo iii. In his Sunday sermon, and in seven more delivered the following Sunday, Luther sided with church orthodoxy, rejecting the innovations of Wittenberg’s iconomachs. Though appropriate to the day of its announcement, Luther’s ideological turnabout – nearly as decisive for the future of the evangelical movement as were his Ninety-Five Theses five years before – must have come as a surprise. For it had been Luther who initially advocated most of the changes his Invocavit sermons repudiated. Long before Karlstadt, he had railed against the idolatry of the Roman Church and outlined a programme for practical reforms. In August 1520, he vowed never again to celebrate private Masses; and by 1521 he publicly advocated a Mass spoken in German, with Communion administered to the laity in both kinds, and he urged that the sacraments of baptism and confession, as well as the vow of celibacy, be freed from the jurisdiction of the pope. Even during Karlstadt’s stormy governance, Luther gave little sign that he opposed the changes underway. On his surprise visit to Wittenberg on 4 December, he informed Georg Spalatin that he agreed with the new reforms,2 and as late as 24 February 1522, in a letter to a nervous Friedrich the Wise, he advised the Elector to bear his land’s troubles as ‘a whole cross, together with nails, spears and scourges’.3 These were cheap compared to Friedrich’s famous relics of the True Cross, which Luther despised (he called the All Saints’ Foundation that housed them Beth-aven, a place where idols are worshipped).4


Friedrich feared the social unrest that accompanied reform.5 He worried that iconoclastic riot, the seizure of property and the assertion of the ‘common man’ vis-à-vis the clergy and the magistrates would give outsiders – the emperor as well as the rival Albertine house of Saxony cause – to interfere in the affairs of his realm.6 These fears were well-founded. In a mandate issued in Nuremberg on 20 January 1522, the Imperial government forbade all changes undertaken in Wittenberg and demanded that Catholic practices be restored. Four days later the City Council answered by issuing its church ordinance sanctioning liturgical reforms, calling for the removal of images and transferring religious endowments to a common chest for poor relief.7 More far-reaching than its specific demands was the Wittenberg Ordinance’s underlying assumption that a local secular body – in this case, a city council – had the right to issue any such orders. Perceiving rebellion, the Imperial Governing Council soon commanded Friedrich to oppose the innovations by force, and, if necessary, to install preachers sympathetic to that task. It was in response to this that the elector, in a letter of February 26, hinted to Luther that he should return to Wittenberg. By that time, however, Luther had himself resolved to leave the Wartburg and bring Wittenberg’s radicals to bay. ‘I was not afraid of rebellion’, he reported to Friedrich upon his return, ‘Thus far I have taken it quite lightly, thinking it was directed only against the clergy. Now I am worried, however, that it might also surge against the authorities and, like an epidemic, draw in the clergy as well.’8 It was their assault on secular authority, and on the right of princes to rule their territories, that earned the radicals Luther’s wrath. And nowhere was this unrule as dramatic and threatening as in iconoclasm which, as we observed, rapidly occurred in Wittenberg as the riotous destruction, rather than the orderly removal, of church pictures. Observe how one nineteenth-century Protestant imagined the Reformer arresting the gesture (illus. 79).9 In an etching from 1847 by Gustav König, Luther, freshly shaved and tonsured (as he in fact was on his return), and dressed again as an Augustinian monk, lays a hand on Karlstadt’s shoulder and calls on him to halt. This gesture occurs at a high altar whose winged Gothic retable the iconoclasts are just now toppling. Behind Karlstadt and above Luther’s admonishing hand stands the shadowed focus of these men’s contention: the image of the crucified Christ. König seems to say that all other things thus far destroyed – the saints’ effigies, along with other instruments of Catholic worship – were of little consequence, and that one image alone was saved by Luther in the nick of time. This accords with Lutheran practice, which cleansed church selectively; and it fits the action here staged, in which the gestures of destruction are partly ongoing and partly suspended. Dramatizing Luther’s return to Wittenberg as a physical

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79. Gustav König, ‘Luther Quells the Iconoclasm in Wittenberg’, etching from Gustav König and Heinrich Selzer, Dr Martin Luther, der deutsche Reformator (Hamburg, 1847).

intervention, the gesture has a rich iconographic resonance. König portrays the Reformer in the pose of Christ driving the money changers from the temple. Church cleansing is thus turned on its head. Luther purifies by driving out those who seek violently to purify it. König makes his sympathies apparent. Cast in shadow, their faces scowling, the iconoclasts contrast with Luther’s saintly form. In 1847, after the destructive fury of the French Revolution, and a year before new revolts in France and Germany, the stereotype of the image-breaker as cultural ‘vandal’ would have been of topical interest.10 But this vilifying image of the image-breakers had a long history. In the seventeenth-century, Catholic painters caricatured Protestant iconoclasts as madmen and monkeys (illus. 80), and the restoration of broken church effigies occasioned proud, commemorative inscriptions on the works themselves.11 And soon after his death, Luther’s campaign against Karlstadt became a fixed episode in his biography, serving both to summarize war against radical Protestantism and to celebrate Lutheranism’s alliance with the princes. The Wittenberg Altarpiece helped to shape this myth. Let us therefore look closely at how and why Luther intervened. Although he returned to Wittenberg effectively as the city’s emergency government, Luther took command less by actions than with words.

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80. Hieronymus Francken ii (also attributed to Adrien Stalbemt and Jan Brueghel I), Allegory of Painting, 1617, oil on panel. Museo del Prado, Madrid.

During these months, he signed himself ‘ecclesiast’, indicating that he reentered Wittenberg as city preacher. He had held this office since 1514, and he had fulfilled its duties alongside those of his university professorship in biblical theology. But from 1522 preaching became the centre of his activity. Because it was understood to be the primary way that God’s word was proclaimed, preaching gave the evangelical preacher an authority in a sense far weightier than anything the bishops and the popes had had. Within his congregation, the ecclesiast was nothing less than the ‘evangelist of God’s grace’.12 From 1522 to 1524 Luther preached almost daily in the City Church. Many of these sermons were soon published on the basis of authorized and unauthorized transcriptions, so great was the hunger for his words. And of the sermons of this period, few were as momentous as those he delivered in the week of Invocavit Sunday. Part of their force derived from the impasse they negotiated, that collision course within a congregation between authority and revolutionary zeal. Partly, though, their force derived from the way Luther recast this impasse. The Invocavit sermons placed Wittenberg’s political turmoil against a horizon that eclipsed all human efforts. ‘We are all summoned to death’, began Luther in his first sermon, the threat of his own capture never greater. ‘No one can die on behalf of another.’13 This is a familiar reactionary ploy. Reminding people of death isolates them, diverting energy from social engagement back to the self. Luther’s memento mori separated the necessary from the desirable. What matters at death is only salvation, and Luther taught that it depends on faith alone. All

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other endeavours paled next to its necessity. Other works, it is true, were laudable when born from Christian love and serving the common good. Luther conceded that the reforms made in his absence were mostly sound: it was right that private Masses were abolished, and offensive effigies destroyed. ‘I am not well-disposed towards images’, asserts Luther in the opening sermon.14 He disputed how the changes were implemented. Such reforms must be voluntary. No one can die for another, no one can believe for another, no one can be forced into belief. ‘Do not make a “must” out of what is “free”, as you have done.’15 Christ frees us from the ‘must’. He releases us from the Old Testament law and Catholic legalism alike. The Wittenberg Council imposed its reforms even though Christian freedom was the only law in the area of works and practice.16 Luther would soon accuse iconoclasts themselves of idolatry. For since the real trouble with church pictures was their belonging (as pious gifts) to a religion of works, then a righteousness attached to their destruction was equally abhorrent. Karlstadt had urged iconoclasm both because the Mosaic law forbade images and because images corrupted worship. Luther urged restraint instead, because (he argued) the Decalogue forbade the worship but not the making of images,17 and because what counted was not the image but a person’s response to it.18 Restraint accommodated the weak, who reacted to instruction better than to command. If any activism remained after attention to the soul, then Christian love should direct itself to the weak of faith, by attending to them in patience and not through force. In matters of practical reform, the needs of the feeble came first. And it was they who, having required the props of traditional religion, would be most offended by – or erroneously fanatical in their pursuance of—church cleansing. Where Karlstadt termed images a ‘scandal’, Luther preached consideration for those who might be scandalized by the picture’s desecration.19 Such regard did not extend to articles of faith, however, where truth had no regard for audience. Christian freedom reigned only in the realm of externals, which Luther called ‘adiaphora’. Images are not necessary, stated Luther in the third Invocavit sermon. They are ‘unnecessary, and we are free to have them or not, although it would be much better if we did not have them at all’.20 Defined by orthodox Lutherans as ‘those things which for God are neither commanded nor forbidden’,21 the term ‘adiaphora’ carved out a morally neutral space where differences of practice could provisionally be suspended. As it happened, this conceptual tool became the site of conflict within Protestantism, first between Lutherans and Calvinists, then between compromising Lutherans and self-styled purists. I will later consider how these struggles influenced pictures derived from the Wittenberg Altarpiece. All parties agreed one thing: ‘The images are free, not a necessary thing.’22 But while for most

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Lutherans this meant that images could stay, for Calvinist iconoclasts, such as Théodore de Bèza at the Mümpelgart Colloquy of 1587, it mandated their elimination.23 Sometimes the conflict caused Calvinists to destroy Lutheran church pictures, as occurred in Langenburg in 1584, under orders of the ruling count.24 Instead of demarcating an arena where factions agreed to disagree, ‘adiaphora’ became a cry against settlement per se. In a time when many Lutherans dissimulated to survive, the name ‘adiaphorist’ was used to deride those whose compromises seemed to betray the evangelical faith. But the most far-reaching consequence of treating images as adiaphora was that, by being separated from faith, images acquired a new secular location. In Lutheran areas, iconoclasts were judged and punished by magistrates; the decision to keep or to remove religious pictures fell into the hands of secular rule. Already in the Invocavit sermons, Luther censured image-breakers on procedural grounds. Their actions, he complained, had been rash: begun before the people had been properly prepared and executed without control by the authorities. Preparation was the preacher’s job, the labour of reaching the ‘hearts’ of the weak.25 Leadership, by contrast, fell neither to the ministers nor to the congregation (via plebiscite rule), but to the sovereign. As the 1532 church ordinance for Soest put it, only ‘worldly authority’ could order church cleansing; ‘Mr Everybody’ has no rights in this domain.26 And in Wittenberg, Friedrich the Wise had repeatedly urged restraint. Luther’s Invocavit sermons achieved their goals. The reforms of January were mostly rescinded, agitators like Zwilling renounced their actions, and Melanchthon, who previously vacillated between caution and zeal, reported that ‘everything here has been well restored by Dr Martinus’.27 Alone Karlstadt stood by his views. Forbidden to preach or to teach, he moved to Orlamünde, where, first as archdeacon (derived ex officio from his Wittenberg archdiaconate), then as pastor elected by the local congregation, he continued to agitate for reform. Meanwhile, however, ‘radical’ Protestantism received its self-definition negatively from Luther’s actions on his return. A range of reformers, from Karlstadt and the Allstedt ‘enthusiast’ Thomas Muentzer to moderates like Johann Agricola, accused Luther of betraying the movement he had begun.28 Like many historians today, they understood Luther’s 1522 efforts to have been the crucial step away from a religion based on personal faith to one commanded by secular authority. In arresting the iconoclast’s blow, so the argument goes, Luther inaugurated the process of ‘confessionalization’, of that hardening of doctrinal differences in a divided Christiandom that would haunt Europe for centuries. Religious subjectivity turned into political subjection. Though released by Luther’s religious breakthrough, assertive individualism was

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denied its sphere of action. Exiled to the inwardness of a private faith that would itself become routinized and commanded from above, it now made persons into submissive ‘subjects’ of the state.29 Matters of indifference for faith, church pictures were controlled by civic administration. They belonged to the sphere of what, in the German of the period, was termed policey: the state’s framing and policing of a principle of action. Wittenberg’s image-breakers acted on the basis of personal conviction and Scripture. Though perhaps coordinated by instances of leadership (e.g., the preacher or zealot engaging a crowd), their gestures escaped the social mechanisms of negotiated consent. The Bible alone told them what they, individually, had to do. Insofar as those gestures were coordinated, the sphere of agreement was not territory or city, not even congregation (since that included the scandalized weak), but something undefined and improvised, something its detractors would call a ‘mob’. One person’s mob is another’s community. Church cleansing had its social motivations. Karlstadt, we recall, attached to his iconoclastic tract a diatribe against begging. There he argued that the poor should get relief only from a common chest funded by seized church property and administrated by the city. Images embodied the church’s improper distribution of wealth, and their removal introduced a rationalized, self-regulated social order. Whereas for Luther, then, images were the business of the whole community, and breaking them violated the consent on which that whole was based, for Karlstadt, they violated the community by diverting its funds and occupying its spaces. Observed from this standpoint, the dispute pitted not rule against unrule, but one idea of community against another. In 1522, Luther was still against religious pictures, but he opposed iconoclasm even more. By 1525, during the peasant uprisings that he opposed, and after three years of struggle against what he called the ‘fanatics’ of Orlamünde, Allstedt, Strasbourg and Zurich, his attitude had shifted, and he could recommend images for Christian books, homes and churches: ‘They should be painted on walls for the sake of better remembrance and better understanding.’30 A badge of evangelical victory, images in church space signalled the return to order. This clarifies two features of Lutheran art: its churchliness and its celebration of secular rule. Despite the Reformer’s efforts to disenchant church as a place and as an institution possessing saving power, Reformation images obsessively represent ecclesiastical personages and activities, covering church walls with heroizing portraits of local preachers. And interspersed among these are effigies of the princes and magistrates through whose policey church received its local form. Still, this zealous production of religious pictures does seem at odds with their status as ‘adiaphora’. Preserved at first because neutral in regard

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to faith, they soon were used and fabricated as requisites of church. Theoretical grounds for this practical necessity were set by Luther in 1525 in a massive public attack on Karlstadt. His treatise Against the Heavenly Prophets chiefly combats understandings of the Last Supper that take Christ’s words ‘this is’ to mean ‘this signifies’.31 But it opens with Luther’s definitive statement against iconoclasm. Reaffirming arguments made in the Invocavit sermons, Luther declares that image-breakers misread Scripture, violate freedom, scandalize the weak, undermine authority and practise a false righteousness of works. And to this old litany of errors he adds a new statement about the impossibility of an image-less faith: I know for certain that God desires that one should hear and read his work, and especially the passion of Christ. But if I am to hear and think, then it is impossible for me not to make images of this within my heart, for whether I want to or not, when I hear the word Christ, there delineates itself in my heart the picture of a man who hangs on the cross, just as my face naturally delineates itself on the water, when I look into it. If it is not a sin, but a good thing, that I have Christ’s image in my heart, why then should it be sinful to have it before my eyes?32 This is Luther’s answer to those who claim that pictures of Christ ‘teach us nothing’ and who single out crucifixes for destruction. Far from not communicating, the image of Christ on the cross is the inner message of Scripture itself, the veritable ‘mollusc of reference’ of the word of God.33 It is what the good news looks like when it is received in the human heart. What an unexpected idea this is! If, as Luther argued, Scripture refers everywhere and only to Christ on the cross, if Christ is, as he variously terms it, the ‘middle,’ ‘marrow, or ‘sweetest kernel’ of the word,34 then on the horizon of faith, at understanding’s very edge, there rises everywhere and only this stubborn picture. But what sort of picture is this at the limits of a word-based faith? Luther introduces his ‘picture of a man who hangs on the cross’ into a cascade of other pictures. First there is a scenography of practical action: Christians should attend to the word of God either by hearing sermons or by reading the Gospel. Then there is an inner scenography in which those words, received, turn into images: ‘Whether I want to or not, when I hear the word Christ, there delineates itself in my heart the picture’, etc. This picture is in the heart, not the mind, perhaps indicating that it belongs to faith and conscience and not to cognition.35 In the believer’s heart, then, but without act or will, a picture of what the word means – or better, the picture that is the word’s meaning – ‘delineates itself ’.

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Luther employs the German verb entwerfen to name this generation of pictures by words. Derived from werfen, meaning to throw, cast, emit or bring forth, entwerfen translates the Latin delineare and adumbrare. In Middle and Early New High German, it was most often used to refer to the preliminary sketch, outline or underdrawing that an artist made before beginning to paint.36 In his World-Book of 1534, Sebastian Franck writes of wanting ‘merely to sketch [entwerfen] the world with charcoal, but not to fashion or to paint it’.37 Luther uses the verb reflexively. The picture ‘delineates itself ’ (entwirft sich). This might be translated as ‘projects itself ’, since the Latin proicere means ‘to throw forward’. Christ’s picture ‘projects itself ’ in the heart in the way an object casts a shadow. Automatically, as if due to natural conditions, words generate pictures. (In chapter 14, I will discuss how Lutheran painters give crucifixes the character of a shadow, rendering them in a style that withholds volume and detail.) Luther underscores that entwerfen implies a quasi-natural projection in his very next phrase, where he likens the resultant picture to another kind of image: ‘just as my face naturally delineates itself on the water when I look into it’. This analogy may be called Luther’s ‘meta-picture’. It is his picture of the picture projected by the word: Christ’s likeness is like a mirror image. Likening the inner portrait of Christ to a reflection, Luther makes the inner image a spontaneous, natural event.38 Iconoclasm thus becomes absurd, for even without being manually fabricated, crucifixes will be formed anyway. Whereas in 1522 he had called them adiaphora and wished them gone, here he suggests that images are even salvifically necessary, for faith takes place as that image-filled machinery of the heart. However, the scene that Luther constructs is not natural, even calling itself a rhetorical figure: ‘Just as my face . . . ’. This trope has a rich theological pedigree. One lineage is the discourse about Christ’s incarnation. St Paul termed Christ the ‘icon’ of the invisible father (Col. 1:15). From this the iconodules of the Byzantine image-war argued that, since Christ was already the likeness of his father, humanly fabricated portraits of him were permitted; to destroy the latter was tantamount to repudiating God himself.39 Along similar lines, Lutherans in 1600 claimed that to attack crucifixes was ‘to tear open again the holy wounds of Christ our Lord and to crucify him anew’.40 Discourse on Christ’s incarnation was itself an heir to the Old Testament idea that God created man in his image. These intertwined lineages allowed Nicolas of Cusa in 1453 to argue that beholding a painted icon of Christ was like observing oneself in a mirror, and that self-love, or the act of embracing one’s own image, could mature into love of God.41 Such notions must have informed the drawing sometimes attributed to the workshop of Konrad Witz (a contemporary of Nicolas of Cusa), in which the infant Jesus leans forward from his mother’s lap to observe his outline in a basin

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81. Konrad Witz (follower of), Virgin and Child, c. 1450, pen and ink and watercolour. Staatliche Museen zu Berlin (Kupferstichkabinett).

of water (illus. 81).42 And they motivated Dürer’s 1500 Self-portrait, which endows the artist’s likeness with the idealized features and format of an icon of Christ (illus. 2). What concerns us about Luther’s simile, however, is less the specific figure it introduces (a face reflected in water) than the idea of the image it supports. The notion that thoughts are pictures is powerful and old. It stands suspended in the word ‘idea’, which, deriving from the Greek ‘to see’, is etymologically linked to eidolon or ‘visible image’. Plato and Aristotle famously compared the mind to a wax tablet into which sensible objects

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impress their form; the Church Fathers used the word eikon to denote paintings and sculptures as well as thoughts, concepts and analogies; and even the young Wittgenstein espoused a picture theory of meaning (which he later worked hard to dismantle).43 Pushed to an extreme, the theory that words make mental pictures suggests that pictures are the better medium. The eighth-century patriarch Nicephoros, writing against iconoclasts, argued that words and pictures were equally images of reality.44 But since words, to be understood, had to be translated into images (through a thought-process Nicephoros called analogismos), they were less direct and comprehensible than graphic representations, which were images already. More so than sermons or writ, icons could offer unmediated knowledge of God. Such were the arguments equating thought and language with fabricated likenesses. But running counter to them was a viewpoint profoundly sceptical of images and visibility. From this perspective (also Platonic in origin), the world divided into two realities, one hidden and one apparent, and it was the hidden one that was held to be the truer. Physical objects were shadows of their true form, or eidos, which existed in a supersensible realm. Thought, also being supersensible, stood nearer the eidos than the object. (This elevated man above all other creatures.) And thought was twice removed from the fabricated image, which, reproducing an object, was but the likeness of a likeness. To collapse this spectrum of representations was the very essence of ‘idolatry’ – the worship (latreia) of the eidolon. ‘But what kind of argument is this’, asks the mystic and Lutheran apologist Johann Arndt in his Ikonographia of 1596, ‘to go from figurative, flowery speech to externally formed picture and painting?’45 In the late sixteenth century, during Lutheranism’s struggle against Calvinists in Anhalt, Brandenburg and the Palatinate, controversy raged over the ‘family of images’. People disagreed passionately about whether this family consisted only of graphic representations or whether it also included mental and verbal imagery. The violence of the disagreement indicates that more was at stake than church pictures. For the disputed boundaries were not just those between image and non-image, but also between world and mind, and society and self. Iconoclasts understood images narrowly, as fabricated, material things. This defined their target and prevented their blow from rebounding back on their ideals. It was a hazard discerned by the early critics of Karlstadt. When we ‘see a crucifix’, wrote Hieronymus Emser in 1522, we worship ‘him whom it represents’ and not the ‘wood and materials’ from which the crucifix was made, ‘just as we do not worship the paper and material on which the holy Gospels are written’.46 In Against the Heavenly Prophets, just after his statement about the picture of Christ in the heart, Luther begins to

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make Emser’s point but then feigns concern that Karlstadt might get the wrong idea: ‘I must cease lest I give occasion to the image-breakers never to read the Bible or to burn it; or after that to tear the heart out of the body, because they are so opposed to images.’47 Luther’s worry was not that far-fetched. In 1524, Thomas Muentzer preached that Scripture was itself a created thing, that one could arrive at faith without the Bible, and that the written text led to conflicted interpretations whereas the Holy Spirit, experienced in the abyss of the human soul, worked a uniform faith. For such ‘enthusiasts’ (this was Luther’s term for people like Muentzer), nothing could be trusted except God’s inner voice in us, which led Muentzer to say that the godless have no right to live.48 Luther believed God’s revelation to be ineluctably finite, material and historical, due to humanity’s carnal and fallen nature, which required Christ’s human incarnation in the world. And he understood such materiality in terms of an expanded family of images.49 Commenting on Old Testament descriptions of God as an old man, he concluded: ‘One cannot grasp spiritual things nisi images.’50 Lutheran theologian would later argue that the images that the iconoclasts vilify appeared first in Scripture: ‘Haven’t the anthropomorphists, who make God into a man, taken this form from the Bible and not from painting?’ asked the prolific evangelical apologist Sebastian Schmid in a tract from around 1700.51 This was something to accept rather than to celebrate. God’s human image also conceals him. Christ, we recall, is a man of sorrows rather than a divinity in glory. ‘Our knowledge and understanding is patchwork’, states a group of Wittenberg professors in their Necessary Answer (1597) aimed at Calvinists in Anhalt, ‘although when the coming comes, the patchwork will end’, and we will see him not ‘through a glass darkly’ but ‘face to face . . . as he is’.52 Meanwhile what matters about images is how we respond to them. And that depends on us, on whether we have God’s image in our heart. It is this image, and not the fabricated pictures themselves, that requires reformation. On the basis of Luther’s statement of 1525 about the pictorial nature of Christ in the heart, and in keeping with an evangelical emphasis on the interpretive act, Lutheran controversialists of circa 1600 developed theories about how images were subjectively received. Their test-case was the crucifixion, as a historical event and in its graphic depictions. As an event, Christ’s death aroused antithetical responses. Whereas for most observers the cross elicited ‘repugnance, nausea and grue’, the faithful felt just the reverse, which proved ‘that the Spirit depicts in your heart what you outwardly behold’. As a graphic depiction, the crucifixion similarly divided its audience. Those who were repelled by it betrayed their repulsion for Christ, for ‘whoever despises the outer sign of a thing loathes also its inner form and look, and that’s the real truth’.53

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Centred on a mangled cadaver, crucifixions were admittedly hard not to perceive as gruesome, and Gothic artists specialized in so rendering them. For their part, Lutheran artists tried to capture counter-perceptual responses to Christ’s death, as when the Centurion, from the ranks of the Roman oppressors, converts to Christ (illus. 106 and 126). And they showed Christ’s corpse in soft focus, suspending its abjection and endowing it with a mild, comforting aspect (illus. 103).54 In theory, however, such pictorial engineering was futile since the eye saw what was in the heart. ‘For example’, argues the Necessary Answer, two people visit a popish church, the one a papist, the other a Lutheran. There they see all sorts of images. The question is, are such pictures idols for both? Paul says no. For he who has the knowledge, that is, he who in Christian faith is instructed also in evangelical freedom: to him such a picture even in a popish church is nonetheless not an idol but a piece of wood, a stone like any other stone. For the papist, though, who bows before that picture and prays to it, it truly is an idol.55 Decades earlier a comparable phenomenology of church pictures had been imagined by image-makers themselves. Recall how Dürer’s Angels’ Mass pictured the crucifix’s subjective reception (illus. 71). And it would be another painter, Cranach, who, more than the theologians, showed the Gothic Christ from the new perspective of freedom and faith. Let us remain, though, with the controversialists a moment longer. How did they justify making and using graphic images of Christ when, in their view, the crucifixion already stood imprinted in the Christian heart? At one level, justification was unnecessary since, again, as ‘adiaphora’ church pictures were something one could take or leave. But partly because of conflicts within Protestantism, which compelled Lutherans to indicate that their places of worship were different from those of Calvinists, and partly due to fundamentals of evangelical policy, graphic images, and ones of a particular pictorial style, became a requisite of church. What were these fabricated pictures believed to offer beyond what viewers inwardly possessed? In the convoluted debates over images of the later sixteenth century, Calvinists sometimes charged that church pictures broke not just the second commandment but also the eighth, for in showing how Christ looked, artists falsely witnessed about what they could not know. This argument occasioned rebuttals that sharpened the evangelical understanding of images. In his Calviniana religio of 1615, for example, Simon Gedicke (a Lutheran provost in confessionally divided Berlin) admitted that

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portraits of holy figures did not capture the ‘actual form’ of their prototypes. But they never claimed to be ‘true copies’, serving only as ‘imaginings, and also remembrances of the stories of Christ, the Virgin and the Apostles’.56 The Necessary Answer made this point with different examples. Were mimetic inaccuracy equal to giving false witness, one argument goes, then aspiring painters would sin whenever their hand failed. ‘It is sufficient for their historical purpose that one simply recognize such likenesses and know what is supposed thereby to be indicated.’57 Since their use is informational rather than salvific or affective, all that counts is their reference to a story. Differences between image and prototype vanish if we understand pictures functionally, as mere designators. And so do differences vanish among rival media. Paintings, sermons and texts, each within its distinctive materiality, all serve the same communicative purpose. Communication itself remains unaffected by its medium, which is judged not by how it conveys information but by whether information is conveyed. Although in combating iconoclasm Luther seemed to naturalize church pictures by assimilating them first to mental images and then to natural reflections, he and his followers ultimately consigned them to the realm of custom or convention. Their message may be necessary and absolute, but their medium is contingent and arbitrary. ‘Adiaphora’ designates that space wherein entities function contingently for a given community, and are forbidden or allowed by it. By choosing to preserve images, Luther affirmed ‘adiaphoric’ space as that intersubjectively negotiated sphere within which practical action, including reform, could become legitimate. By calling for patience, he recognized community to be an imperfect, inclusive whole that had to be addressed as it really was, and that might indeed be improved by communication. That is why images could later be removed if and when sermons created a social consensus for doing so. By suspending the iconoclasts’ blow without either erasing its damage or precluding its return, Luther committed his church to the contingencies of community and communication. The arrested gesture shaped the space of his ministry. Church no longer existed in the world of things, of special, sacred objects and places manipulated and occupied by special, hallowed persons. But neither did it exist in the world of pure spirit, as Karlstadt, Muentzer and others contended. For Luther, church – or more precisely the mundane, visible church of actual ministers and their congregations – took place in another world, the realm of the social. At once objective and mental, this ‘third world’ was validated by and for the community through communicative action.58 Within it, images were similarly neither things nor spirits but functions of that validating communication. As the symbol of all these validations, of all these imbroglios of matter and spirit that

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constitute the social world, Luther conjured up the image of an image. Certainly he took the example of the crucifix from iconoclasts who specially targeted this picture for destruction. But in describing how verbal signifiers of Christ cast their signified in the form of an image, by saying that this image is how we ineluctably ‘think’ Christ, Luther suggested that, even for his faith without mediators, the reference of all references was a mediation still. Here we discern the deeper grounds of his intervention of 1522 and of his alliance with secular rule. Bound to the given social world and its contingent communicative means, church must surrender to the rule that contingently functions there. This is not to say that the inner picture is incapable of transcendence. I will show that, in his doctrine of the deus absconditus, Luther held that the crucifixion concealed God in order to designate his existence elsewhere. The ‘picture of a man who hangs on the cross’ replays this dialectic, showing the concealment of the hidden God. Pointing beyond by not pointing beyond, it arrives from the beyond to become the social world’s transcendental value. Johann Arndt, adding mystical colouring to Luther’s by-then canonical statement about the inner crucifix, wrote that ‘Christ allowed there to be portrayed in our heart his suffering and death, which the Holy Spirit, in our heart, every day renews and clarifies.’59 Like faith’s miraculous inscription in the believer, Christ’s self-portrait is continually nurtured by the word, especially in preaching. ‘The best preachers’, states the Necessary Answer, ‘are those who preach the crucified Christ so clearly, obviously and directly, as if the listeners could look at him Him painted before their eyes, as the Apostle clearly indicates at Galatians 3.’60 In Luther’s New Testament translation, Paul reproves the Christians in Galatia with the question ‘Who has enchanted you, you for whom Jesus Christ was painted, before your very eyes, as the crucified one?’ The crucifixion communicates God through something man can see. By ‘painting’ Christ on the cross, congregations could continue to communicate God’s communiqué. On the basis of Galatians 3 and related passages, Lutheran communities displayed the cross as their collective visual emblem. As early as 1520, a pamphlet supporting the Reformer bore the title The Defence of the Christians of the Cross, id est of Lutherans.61 In showing the cross, the early evangelical movement displayed its difference from the Catholic Church. The cross affirmed faith solely in Christ and boasted that, for such faith, Protestants would bear a new cross of religious persecution. After 1522, the cross acquired a new function of repudiating iconoclasm and avowing obedience to authority. A protest symbol thus also became a sign of submission.62

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In August 1524, Luther embarked on a journey to Orlamünde to terminate Karlstadt’s ministry and discipline the congregation. The Orlamünders had duly elected the renegade iconoclast as their pastor. But for Luther, Karlstadt’s views, plus an obscure rule granting Wittenberg’s All Saints’ Foundation final jurisdiction over the Orlamünde parish, invalidated that election. The road from Wittenberg brought Luther through Kahla, in Thuringia, where the pastor was a follower of Karlstadt. Ascending the pulpit in Kahla, Luther had to step over pieces of a broken crucifix left lying after the church was cleansed.63 It was a typical iconoclastic defacement: ‘hatred’ of images visualized as image, here as an effigy without ‘hands, feet or head’.64 Although the spectacle enraged Luther, he made no mention of it in his Kahla sermon, which generally preached tolerance toward images and obedience to authorities. Obedience was Luther’s uncompromising demand in Orlamünde. Insulted by a letter he had received attacking his view on images and doubting his membership in the body of Christ, and with Kahla’s ruined crucifix in mind, Luther entered the town not to counsel but to scold. Undaunted, the congregation listed its quarrels with church pictures, adding to the familiar arguments a new one. To unite with Christ, the Orlamünders reasoned, the soul must arrive ‘naked’, without mediators: ‘The bride must take off her nightgown and be naked, if she is to sleep with the bridegroom. Therefore one must break all images, so that we are free and cleansed of what is created.’65 Inspired by Karlstadt, this homespun allegory reveals the iconoclast’s utopia. When religion is purged of things, spirit enters spirit directly. In Against the Heavenly Prophets, Luther cited the Orlamünders’ opinion as proof of their heretical ‘enthusiasm’. If they can distort the Gospel this bizarrely, he argued, then all their scriptural proofs, as well as their actions based on them, were equally unfounded. It may be true that the church is to Christ what a bride is to her groom. But then the church’s attitude should be one of chastity, of lying side by side enamoured but prudently clothed. Luther’s image of Christ in the heart bespeaks this abstinence. In it the materialities of language and thought become virtues, hiding an unfathomable God. In it contingent, finite communiqués from a social world continually perpetuate and interrupt personal unions with Christ. Acknowledged as the merely ‘created’ that iconoclasts in Wittenberg, Kahla, Orlamünde and elsewhere tried to cleanse, but subsequently restored to church space anyway, the image of the crucifix would never be the same again.

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pa rt i i

t h e word

11 The Cross

Before asking what the Lutheran crucifix is, let us ask where it stands (illus. 28, 127 and 128). What place does Cranach’s image of Christ on the cross occupy in the City Church of Wittenberg? As a material thing, it stands painted on the front surface of an oblong wooden panel raised along the whole back edge of the church’s one altar and supporting the triptych of larger panels above. This locality, we can now assume, had been cleared by image-breakers in 1522, when, among their demolitions, they stripped away an earlier altarpiece to free the principle altar for evangelical use. Erected there 25 years later, Cranach’s predella establishes on this site an image yet again, one that, in Luther’s original argument, repudiates the iconoclasm that gave it its place: it is the ineluctable crucifix of the heart. In 1522, Karlstadt had addressed his German Mass directly to the people. In their language, he celebrated Communion with rather than for them. In the Order of Service of 1526, Luther also recommended that officiating ministers stand behind the altar and face their flock: ‘In the true mass . . . of real Christians, the altar should not remain where it is, and the priest should always face the people as Christ undoubtedly did in the Last Supper.’1 Regardless of what was thought about church pictures generally, altarpieces, due to their location, barred the altar’s proper use as a table. The panel on which Cranach painted the cross obstructs anew the space behind the altar. How Cranach painted the cross, however, rescues that space in the form of an illusion. As noted in our initial description of the altarpiece, the predella’s portrayal of a bare stone interior behind the crucifix reads like the church’s actual choir in its post-iconoclastic austerity. Peering into that virtual space, the churchgoer could think that the predella was not there, and that the altar remains the unadorned, freestanding mensa that it had become in 1522, in conformity with the table where Christ broke bread with his disciples. One effect of this illusion is to make the crucifix itself seem to stand directly on the altar table. Sixteenth-century depictions of Communion show that Lutherans routinely adorned their altars with free-standing


crucifixes (illus. 160). Placed at the mensa’s centre and lit by two candles, the evangelical altar cross, like the carved corpus Christi required for Catholic altars after the Council of Trent, linked Communion with Christ’s death and visualized his ‘real presence’ in the sacramental elements. Centralized, small-scale and frontal, Cranach’s crucifix doubles as a ritually situated altar cross. I will wait until chapter 17 to explore this valence, since it is qualified in one decisive way. Whereas at its crossbar, or patibulum, the cross approaches the predella’s upper edge, as if pushing Christ forward from the picture plane, its base, displaced to the second visible row of represented floor squares, stands inside painted space, within a bare interior that looks like the actual choir, but not quite. That space isn’t quite the choir not just because it leaves out distinctive features of the City Church’s eastern end (illus. 85). The predella does not, for example, record the real choir’s three windows. But these stand high enough on the wall that a viewer of the painting might fancy that its narrow, oblong format would not encompass them anyway. (Cranach does indicate them in the retable’s side panels, which show fenestrated corners of the church.) And the numerous epitaphs and tombstones that now crowd the choir’s walls at eye level all arrived after Cranach’s altarpiece was painted (they were installed there probably beginning in 1563).2 The space where the crucifix stands is not quite a choir because it is shown to be a place of preaching. In the City Church, as in most churches, sermons were preached from a pulpit in the nave, where they supported without supplanting the sacrament celebrated in the choir. What sort of place has the choir become to make it the site of preaching? Except for the pulpit and cross, preaching occurs in an undifferentiated interior. The stark masonry highlights its emptiness. Its regular coursing maps the homogenous space of linear perspective. Here place, as a sixteenthcentury theorist of perspective wrote, ‘exists prior to the bodies brought to the place and therefore must first be defined linearly’.3 Here persons and things occupy mere positions that possess no content except their relation to other positions. We can express the distance between the cross and the centre of the background wall as a specific number of floor squares, or better, as two points—(a, b) and (c, d)—within a coordinate system. Yet occurring within an isomorphic and potentially infinite grid, the points thus expressed are themselves empty. As Erwin Panofsky argued, corporeally and semantically charged locators, such as back and front, left and right, margin and centre, vanish in linear perspective, and only a relation between points remains.4 No longer the volume of this or that substance, space becomes the continuous set, or function, of body and non-body. Functional rather than substantial space suits what takes place in Cranach’s predella. Unlike sacrament, preaching never needed special

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settings or props. Even before the Reformation, it could occur anywhere, inside or outside a church, in a market square or outside the city walls. When Luther made the sermon the centre of church service, he took preaching’s spatial indifference to be the global model of church. The notion that ‘where God’s word is, there must church be’5 functionalized religion’s physical space, predicating it on actions performed. Sermons preached Christ, since as Lutherans ceaselessly proclaimed, ‘nothing if Christ is not preached’.6 They caused church itself to come about ubiquitously, even within the tainted spaces of the Catholic cult. The young Karlstadt, in a verse epistle of 1509 to Christoph Scheurl, had praised Cranach for his command of linear perspective: ‘People he paints perspectivally and captures forever. What superb art! It’s the only way to paint.’7 In works by Cranach and his circle, a paved interior rendered in perspective serves as an ideogram for ‘church’. In a woodcut issued during the Augsburg Interim (1548–55), when Catholic practice was imposed on Protestants after their defeat at Mühlberg, the services of what the print’s title terms ‘true religion’ occur on just such a foreshortened grid (illus. 140).8 Meanwhile, on the print’s right side, the ‘idolatrous teachings of Antichrist’ occur outdoors on barren, stony ground. ‘Worldly’ in its orientation, the Roman Church earns its exile from the edifices it built. A slightly earlier woodcut of Luther preaching situates Protestants similarly on a receding pavement and casts Catholics into a Hellmouth underground (illus. 139).9 In one of Cranach’s illustrations for Luther’s first Bible translation, published in September 1522, the temple that St John, in Revelation 11, was commanded to ‘measure’ has this pavement (illus. 82).10 Its threshold cluttered by bricks and a floor slab, this narrow room is contrasted with a rocky foreground, which represents the court ‘outside of the temple’ that John was told to ‘leave out’ of his reckoning.11 Reworking the image for his German Bible woodcuts of 1534, Cranach made the ‘measured’ interior resemble Wittenberg’s Castle Church, celebrating how the New Jerusalem has been established on Lutheran soil (illus. 83).12 Below a floor slab that it seems to have displaced, the ‘beast that comes out of the abyss’ wears a tiara, associating it with the pope. (This motif derives from the 1522 woodcut, but had been excised, beginning in 1523, on the orders of George of Saxony.)13 ‘Measurement’ means final reckoning. Observe how the evangelist’s gauge runs nearly parallel to the scene’s orthogonals, vanishing into them. Here church is not a disenchanted res extensa but an enclave besieged by demons of the Apocalypse. In the Wittenberg predella, the place of Christ’s cross is at once symbolic and neutral. On one hand, situated at the physical median of the wooden support, and thus centred, with altar and altarpiece, on the centralized plan of the City Church’s choir, the painted crucifix obeys an inherited geography

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82. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Measuring the Temple’, woodcut illustration from Das Newe Testament Deutzsch, trans. Martin Luther (Wittenberg: Melchior Lotter, 1522).

83. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Measuring the Temple’, woodcut illustration from Biblia, das ist, die gantze heilege Schrifft deudsch, trans. Martin Luther (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1534).

of absolute localities where the sacred – present in substances (icons, relics, Eucharist) – stands housed and displayed here, in this cosmically oriented spot, and nowhere else. On the other hand, the central ‘here’ of the crucifix’s inscription is not a centre ‘there’ in the painting’s perspectival view. It is not even in the middle of one of its smallest units. The cross rises from one corner of one random pavement stone, and to the left of the perspectival

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grid’s central ray of vision. Focus of the painted interior, the cross is not marked by that interior. Centred in real space but dispersed in perspectival space, it hovers between the old edifice that enshrines it and a new functionality that ignores it. Cranach’s predella stands before the City Church’s choir like a translucent overlay, outlining and redescribing what it veils. The choir itself had been a privileged enclave, a sanctum sanctorum separate from and elevated above the nave. Two sets of steps – three up from the nave, two more to the altar – divide the pavement into ascending levels of a sacred hierarchy, with the altar (its front reached by another step) at the top. Creating a choir in the choir, this sequence suggests that, before 1522, the whole zone may have been screened off from the nave to create a clerical reserve. The predella shows that enclosure filled with lay people. Possessed by them, it stands purged of the officers, rites and objects that had distinguished it, and its pavement is as flat as can be. Thus does the Reformation image sustain the iconoclasm it suspends. A founder of the reformed Church of England, John Jewel, writing in 1558, noted that Protestantism, in addition to affecting doctrine, entirely transformed religion’s outward settings and circumstances, what he termed collectively its ‘scenic apparatus’.14 Into a cleansed church interior, then, Cranach projects the ‘scenic apparatus’ specific to the Lutheran confession: not an inventory of props and ceremonies but a human activity, enacted by the Reformer and his Wittenberg flock, of saying and hearing God’s word. And it is in this apparatus of communicative action that the crucifix is most securely based. At the left, with one hand laid on the Bible and the other pointing to its reference, Luther proclaims the Gospel purely. In evangelical terms, he preaches ‘the crucified Christ so clearly, obviously and directly, as if the listeners could look at him painted before their eyes’.15 At the right, the Wittenbergers who hear the words behold their message. And in the ‘adiaphoric’ space between rises the crucified Christ (illus. 86). The cross’s location could not be more precisely mapped. Focus of all attention, and sole message issued and received, the cross is communication’s middle. It stands, accordingly, in the middle, between a pointing finger and many eyes, a speaking mouth and many ears, a word and many understandings, a sermon and many prayers. Oddly, though, these flanking elements seem more concrete than their singular centre. Cranach shows preaching as an everyday routine performed by flesh and blood actors who, loosely coordinated as real communities are, stand or sit on the stone pavement. The way they behave, gazing piously but altogether unamazed (some even glancing towards us, as if distracted), does not, however, indicate that Christ, himself is visible to them in flesh and blood. Neither does he

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84. Detail of Crucifixion from the predella of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s Wittenberg Altarpiece (illus. 128).

appear, nor is he dramatically received, as a miraculous vision. To give that impression, Cranach might simply have floated the cross above the floor, or wreathed it, as Dürer often did, in an aureole of cloud announcing heavenly origins. Nor does Christ look quite like an artefact. Before the Reformation, monumental carved crucifixes typically topped the dividing wall between the nave and the choir. (Our term for such walls, ‘rood screens’, comes from the cross, or ‘rood’ on them.) Linked to an architecture of clerical prerogative, such crucifixes excited special iconoclastic passions, as we’ve seen. What probably was a ‘rood’ cross presently adorns the City Church’s east wall. (Dating from circa 1500 it was purchased and installed only in 1929: illus. 84.)16 Cranach distinguishes his cross from such effigies largely by how he treats its base. To stand upright, a larger-than-life-size crucifix would have to be cemented deeply into the pavement, in which case it would not so randomly penetrate one floor tile. Itself a painted image, Cranach’s crucifix does not depict a fabricated thing. Its implausible foundation restates the question of place. At one level, the cross stands not in a world but in a statement about pictures like itself. Against the iconoclasts Luther had argued that ‘God desires . . . one should hear and read his work, and especially the passion of Christ.’17 The predella shows Luther doing just this, with the predicted result. Neither by miracle nor by volition, but automatically and for everyone, an image comes about: ‘Whether I want to or not, when I hear the word Christ, there delineates itself in my heart the picture of a man who hangs on the

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cross.’ Cranach cannot paint the word’s sound, but he can its effect. At the centre of the communicative apparatus, that (suitably linear) picture ‘delineates itself ’. And this everyone appears physically to behold as if it stood in the church. Yet Cranach also signals that this picture exists elsewhere, that it must be somehow a crucifix ‘in the heart’. Interiority is first of all pictured as an interior: the windowless room used for preaching. Preaching, too, shapes an enclave with speaker and audience bounding a space in between. The Wittenberg congregation, painted on exactly the same width of panel as is the wall with the pulpit, constitutes the scene’s second wall. It intimates that evangelical interiority will be neither purely objective nor purely subjective, neither merely in the world nor in the self, but social: a space embodied by a community through its communications. Interiority is most of all indicated by the crucifix itself. The cross stands apart from the room that contains it. At its base, where its round timber meets the stone pavement square, Christ’s blood, streaming visibly in rivulets below his feet, stops abruptly short (illus. 84).As we’ve seen, German artists excelled in painting such spillage that Cranach here meticulously halts. To display the touchdown of Christ’s saving blood visualized the world’s redemption. An old identification of Golgotha (‘place of the skulls’) with Adam’s grave belongs to this idea. Christ’s death on Golgotha wiped Adam’s sin clean; therefore Adam, commonly depicted as a skull at the base

85. View of choir from nave, Stadtkirche, Wittenberg.

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of the cross, received the blood first. At the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, just below the enshrined rock where, according to Rome, the crucifix once stood, one can still reach through a special channel to touch the original contact point of Christ’s blood and Adam’s skull. In his earliest extant panel, Cranach embellished this motif by strewing bits of cadavers all through the foreground and letting a dog pick the bones (illus. 6).18 This artist’s first Crucifixion also demonstrates that, theology aside, Christ’s blood showed off an artist’s painterly flair, since its course conformed to the free movements of his brush and its colour paraded the brilliance of his pigments. Contemporaries praised Cranach chiefly for his ‘wondrous speed’.19 One of his first admirers, the humanist jurist Christoph Scheurl, as well as Karlstadt in his aforementioned letter, latinized his name as Lucas Chronus, perhaps to suggest that, through his rapidity, the artist was in league with time, the antique god of which was Kronos. (The winged serpent of Cranach’s signature may also refer to Kronos.)20 Even his tombstone in the Church of Saints Peter and Paul in Weimar calls him ‘the quickest of painters’.21 The 1500 Crucifixion, painted some four years before Cranach’s move to Wittenberg, already earns him this acclaim. Infrared reflectograms reveal unusually spontaneous underdrawing that, partly visible, plays with the hastily applied final layer. As if sketching on a sketch on a sketch, Cranach adds the crimson of the blood of Christ and the thieves. The rivulets running from their hands, ears and mouths obey and articulate their torsos’ subtle contours; yet, switching this way and that, they also yield a mazy figure of their own, amplifying the turbulent ductus of Cranach’s whole painting. Note how the strip of naked wood running down the length of Christ’s cross, where the bark has been shaved away to receive the body and to funnel blood, gets outlined thickly and nervously in red. Such passages are an inheritance of late Gothic painting. In the Torment of Christ from the shop of Michael Wolgemut, we observed how a hectic painterly style mirrored the savageness of its subject (illus. 47). Yet even in this rough devotional sketch, blood behaves naturally when it touches the ground, pouring down one step and spreading out on the floor. Reified by this change of direction, the ground plane becomes a spatial conduit, channelling it out of the picture toward us. This motif gains force whenever it occurs in altarpieces. Spilling forward to the image’s lower framing edge, Christ’s blood – or substances associated with that blood – attaches the altarpiece to its place. For on the altar, chiefly through the sacrament performed there, Christ bleeds again (illus. 86 and 176).22 We have observed such spillage in earlier German art (illus. 70).23 And it remained central to Reformation art as well. True, Luther criticized overly gruesome pictures of Christ. From his days as a novice, he recalled a crucifix in his cloister so grim that it left him hopeless: ‘I was frightened by it, and

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86. Jean Bellegambe, The Mystical Bath, opened state, c. 1510, oil on wood. Musée des Beaux-Arts, Lille.

lowered my eyes and would rather have seen the Devil.’24 Yet he also wrote appreciatively of ‘how, in the olden days, on pictures, one painted his wounds’, since ‘out of them flowed indeed the sacraments’.25 The wounds properly indicated how Christ suffered for us, died for us, though, if too realistically portrayed, they so immersed us in his agony that they eclipsed what he achieved.‘I will not object if Christ keeps his wounds or nail-marks after the Resurrection’, wrote Luther on the ancient question whether to show Christ more as man than as God,‘but only insofar as those do not look hideous, as usual, but comforting. It could be that he kept the scars of his Passion in his hands, feet and side. But whether they should be still fresh, open and red, as the painters paint, I let others decide.’26 Cranach liked them fresh. In the Weimar Altarpiece, completed in 1555 by Lucas the Younger, two years after his father’s death, and serving partly as the latter’s epitaph portrait, a monumental spray of blood jets from Christ’s side wound directly to the top of the artist’s head, splattering little droplets over his hair (illus. 87). (Rivulets also flow from Christ’s feet to a Cranach monogram on the cross, demonstrating again salvation’s perfect aim.) The blood-stream motif comes from Cranach’s many depictions of the law and the Gospel, where similar lines hit the chest of Everyman with a splash, showing (among other things) the immediacy of redemption through Christ (illus. 7 and 88).27 Compared to the gore in Cranach’s early crucifixions, these sprays admittedly seem disembodied and abstract, like the lines of a diagram. Their neatness obeys Luther’s stricture that the cross should comfort rather than repel. But connecting body to body in an ever-present now, they also refresh the Gothic Christ’s concrete excess.

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87. Lucas Cranach the Younger, ‘Cranach the Elder’, detail from the Weimar Altarpiece (illus. 29 and 135).

Therefore when, in Wittenberg, Cranach halts the blood at the crucifix’s base, he defies not only gravity and a received iconography, but his deepest instincts as an artist as well. With this stoppage Cranach announces that, though precisely mapped on the pavement grid, the cross stands elsewhere, in some other interior. We already noted that the grid itself looks indifferent to the cross. Not even the gazes that make Christ their focus include him in their architecture. As Cranach arranges them, and as the pavement grid confirms, Luther and his flock behold the crucifix from the sides. Unlike we who see him frontally, the church’s denizens have Christ in a profile view. Viewing the predella, however, one doesn’t consciously make this calculation. Beholding Christ face-to-face, one somehow knows that the

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people in the picture do so, too, and that wherever one stands the view stays the same. And this supports the intuition that neither the viewers of Cranach’s predella nor the viewers in it actually have Christ before their eyes. Christ’s notional frontality, along with the indifferent pavement grid and halted blood, detach the crucifix from its setting and cast it on the surface of the panel like a shadow. And that is how Luther described the cross in the heart,‘It project[ed] itself ’ naturally, like a reflection, and schematically, like an artist’s preparatory sketch. Cranach further magnifies the detachment of the cross from its spatial setting through his treatment of the loincloth. In the dead air of a windowless interior, its two long ends flap wildly about Christ’s corpse. A device inherited from early Netherlandish art (specifically Rogier van der Weyden), the wind-tossed loincloth animates the crucifix. In its turbulence, it projects the historical ‘now’ of Christ’s death into a present ‘now’. For Luther, that is how salvation works: Christ’s sacrifice is everpresent in faith. Vacuum-packed in the painting, though, the cloth crosses Christ out. Martin Heidegger endeavoured to write about ‘being’ while at the same time arguing that language can never articulate what being is. In his later work, he therefore resorted to printing the word (Sein) with an x over it. Perhaps intimating a resonance with the German mystical tradition – as when he also changes the spelling of Sein to the neo-Gothic Seyn – Heidegger terms this the ‘sign of crossing through’ (‘Zeichen der Durchkreuzung’).28 Cranach, similarly, paints under erasure. Like an iconoclasm launched from inside the image’s resources, the fluttering loincloth stamps the crucifix with a ‘not’: not here, not this. And yet, negating these negations, Cranach adds another qualifier. The crucifix throws a shadow on the floor. Far sharper than the shadows cast by the Wittenberg flock, and cutting obliquely through the pavement grid, so that it bisects the angle of the room’s corner, this tapering strip of darkness seals the crucifix in painted space, in spite of all the alienating displacements. Index of the thing’s opacity, the shadow mutually reifies the world on which it ‘projects itself ’. The pavement, the shadow implies, is not an abstract grid but solid stone. Certainly, Cranach reduces thingliness to a cipher. The chequerboard of plain and mottled floor slabs, as well as the cracks, specks and veining of the masonry of the walls, are patently formulas to make paint look like stone. It is hard to gauge Cranach’s intentions here. The visible falseness of these surfaces may be partly a by-product of expediency. Cranach rushed commissions to completion by painting quickly and by letting assistants execute routine passages such as these. The rusty streaks denoting ferrous deposits in the stone pass implausibly across several blocks, as if the painter first ‘marble-ized’ the predella’s backdrop, then applied the space-

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88. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Sinner Redeemed by Christ’s Blood’, from the second open state of the Schneeberg Altarpiece (illus. 94).

defining grid. Reckoning that his predella would be seen from a distance, Cranach only had to give an impression of masonry, which the daubs of brown do achieve. But the longer one looks at them the looser becomes their grip on the stone. Just to the left of Luther’s pointing finger, one errant stroke looks like the vector of his indication. This ‘reading’ lasts but an instant, and the stroke turns back into noise. In the context of the represented scene, though, the stone that this stroke and others like it indicate is not noise but information. Not only does it signal the concreteness of the painted world, and of the people and practices there contained. Stone is also rich in religious significance. Scripture calls Christ variously the cornerstone of the Lord’s temple, the rock that streams grace, the rock that falls from the mountain.29 Protestants reused this old symbolism to speak for a faith founded solely on Christ. A woodcut of 1524 by the Monogrammist H develops the metaphor of Christ as cornerstone to explain and defend the evangelical church (illus. 89).30 Centred on the

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opposite 89. Monogrammist H, Christ as Cornerstone, 1524, woodcut.


crucifix, this elaborate diagram divides Gospel preaching from indulgence preaching, evangelical Christians from papists, good from evil, the saved from the damned, all by whether Christ is taken as cornerstone. The Wittenberg predella condenses the idea by making the cross seem physically to support the altarpiece’s upper panels, and perhaps also by indicating at the right, where Christ’s shadow points, the ‘cornerstones’ of church. Since Charlemagne, stone had also been the required material of altars in the Latin West. Medieval commentary explained this functionally and symbolically.31 Stone was common, strong and durable, and referred to the biblical trope for Christ. It also recalled Christ’s sarcophagus, thereby figuring the altar as a tomb. Altarpieces, and especially their predellas (the German term for which was Sarg, short for Sarkophag), added force to this idea. Predellas sometimes had entombed in them relics or Eucharistic hosts, or they displayed in their oblong format a likeness of the dead Christ, as in Grünewald’s Pietà from Isenheim (illus. 91). Sometimes their surfaces were marble-ized to imitate the substance of Christ’s grave, doubling the symbolism of the altar. In his study of false marble around and in paintings by Fra Angelico, Georges Didi-Huberman attended to these subordinate surfaces offsetting the religious image.32 Recovering their biblical and liturgical connotations, he integrated them into the figurative programme they subtend. More radically, he discerned their specific task, as mimicry of the mere blank they are rather than as mimesis of another world. The dissemblance of false marble, he argued, displays the painted mark as such, defamiliarizing its imitative powers elsewhere, in the painting ‘proper’, and investing its own process with a sacred charge (e.g., dripped paint as a consecration). Representing the unrepresentable, painted stone lays the icon bare. In the Sarg of Cranach’s altarpiece, painted masonry gives space to, and makes concrete, a represented world. Yet through its unfigured surfaces (signs of a post-iconoclastic church), it also abstracts that world and what it contains. Symbol of Christ, the stone itself is like the crucifix it surrounds: present and absent, visible and invisible. The cross’s shadow on the stone belongs to this dialectic. It falls back in space and to the right, as if cast by a light source at the left. Facing east, however, the choir where Cranach’s altarpiece stands is illuminated from the right, through windows at the south. The scenes in the retable’s upper panels register this, being sharply lit from the right (compare the left and right window frames in the Last Supper scenes). Clearly, the shadow of the crucified Christ is cast by a different sun. On the one hand, the shadow falls there upon the stone pavement, between a famous preacher and his actual flock. On the other hand, the shadow’s vector indicates a counter-natural light from the northwest. Like the airless wind that tosses the loincloth, this sun-less glow unmoors

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Cranach’s cross, strengthening the message that it exists elsewhere.33 In one light, an empirical object, in another, an inner belief, the image straddles the categorical middle-ground of Lutheran settlement. The conflict over the ‘where’ of Christ was fought in the battle over his presence at the altar. Luther staked out a third way between the pope, who (Protestants complained) situated God in outward things, and ‘enthusiasts’ like Thomas Muentzer, Karlstadt and Caspar Schwenckfeld, who trusted only spirit: The spirit of the pope has worked to make the spiritual carnal, just as he makes spiritual Christendom into a carnal, outward congregation. On the other hand, this mob-spirit [i.e., the enthusiasts] is mostly concerned with making spiritual what God makes carnal and outward. That is why we go forth between the two, making nothing either spiritual or carnal, but spiritual what God makes spiritual, and bodily what he makes bodily.34 Luther made this pronouncement in 1525, in the tract that rescued the picture of the crucified Christ. Cranach’s predella commemorates Against the Heavenly Prophets not only by returning the image to the site of church cleansing, but by making that site a middle ground between spirit and flesh. To those who bragged of having spirit ‘without and before the word’,35 Luther replied that the spirit works by fleshly means. To save us, God became a man, and to proclaim that he needs a medium – the Bible, a preacher’s voice, the elements of water, bread and wine. ‘Enthusiasm sticks in Adam and his children from the beginning to the end of the world’, wrote Luther,‘for which reason we should and must insist that God does not want to deal with us save through his outer word and sacrament. But all that boasts of spirit without word and sacrament is the Devil.’36 Cranach’s painted crucifix is built to resist enthusiasm. It fills iconoclastic blanks, externalizes words as things, signals carnal presence at the altar, and affirms sacrament and ministry as pictured in the triptych that it seems to support. Even its generic look, often blamed on shop routines, serves to suggest that this is everyone’s cross, not the product of one painterspectator’s enthusiasm. But it equally resists a religion of things by dialectically preserving the blanks it invades. Spirit is externalized in word, sacrament and ministry; these count only if spirit inheres in them. The Wittenberg crucifix does not literally support the sacrament panels. It merely looks as if it does. That way it can diagram sacrament’s grounding in Christ’s word, which is always and only ‘Christ’. Cranach makes evident that the cross only seems to support the upper panels. As we have seen, he pushes its base inward from the lower frame, so that it cannot be mistaken for a

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load-bearing element. And he preserves a small but visible interim between the crossbar and the predella’s upper frame, allowing contact only at the inri superscription, at the image of the word ‘Christ’, where frame meets name. These ambivalent attachments at once affirm and deny the material presence of the numinous. Their careful parsing is painting’s equivalent of religious compromise, where cease-fires were negotiated between warring confessions by building backdoor denials into every agreement. Although Cranach’s may not be the most artful crucifix in German painting, it may be the most artfully placed. Everything depends on its locality, and on the constitution of the world where it does or does not stand. Sociologists have long endeavoured to map a space distinct from both the physical and the mental. Indeed this space is the sphere of their own analysis. The social, they trust, obeys laws as strict as those of natural objects, but is only embodied in the beliefs and actions of human subjects. This ‘third world’ issues from communication, from people making themselves understood.37 In suggesting a likeness between the painted crucifix’s locality and this third world, I am not denying religion’s absolute (its claim to communicate something far transcending the social); still less am I pleading for a sociological reading of Cranach’s predella. In Cranach, the social is neither the cross’s essence nor a method for discerning that essence. Rather, it is the world in which the cross is purposefully set. It may be other things elsewhere, but painted on the altar of Lutheranism’s mother church, in the scenic apparatus of this predella, the crucifix is the communication of a community. The community in 1547 was Wittenberg citizenry. But it was also a communio sanctorum of the Apostolic Creed. Luther took sanctorum not as the genitive of the neuter sancta (‘sacred things’), but as the genitive of the masculine sancti (‘saints’), which he took to mean ‘believers’, or, better, ‘person’s sanctified by belief ’. And for him communio was not a suprapersonal institution with special powers, as in the Catholic doctrine of the Church. Nor was it an elect within a congregation, as the enthusiasts would have it: ‘According to Christ’s teaching and Paul’s preaching’, states the woodcut Christ as Cornerstone, ‘there shall be no sect in the evangelical church’ (illus. 89). Termed by Luther variously heap, group, people and congregation (Gemeinde),38 and indicated in prints and paintings by a casually arranged group attending a sermon, communio was that set of empirical persons of a given locality who gather to communicate Christ. How does Cranach represent that gathering? Although the predella’s interior grid ought to place its contents in a spatial unity, these seem disconnected and dispersed instead. As if forced apart by empty space, Christ, Luther and the congregation appear deliberately isolated both from each other and from the void that ostensibly contains them. The crucifix looks flush with the picture plane, and the

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signs that it is not are fastidiously qualified. Luther preaches from a raised, ornamented pulpit at odds with its plain surrounds; the calligraphic beast adorning it seems almost to growl at its setting. The pulpit seems temporarily to thrust Luther into the room, his robe linking him to the darkness beyond the doorway. The Wittenberg parishioners, for their part, are heaped up against the picture’s edge; their feet concealed, they cannot properly be placed within the grid that backs them. Physically disconnected, the components of preacher and flock are semantically conjoined, however. They complete a closed circuit of communication. Communication flows like an electric current with the message ‘Christ’ as its charge.39 Drawn from the battery of Scripture, it travels from the open Bible’s printed word, via the Reformer, to receivers at the other end. Luther appears as a complex bit of circuitry that transforms and distributes the original charge. In real life, he would have transmitted the message by scanning the text with his eyes and reading aloud its words. In the predella, his left hand touches the words on the page, while his right hand indicates their message. At one level, this suggested flow (in reading direction, from left to right, by way of the Reformer’s heart) simply makes visible in the silent medium of painting what in preaching is audible: writing transformed into speech. At another level, the medial shift from saying to showing, sound to sight, word to image articulates the difference between any medium of transmission and the information it transmits. Taken as a model of communication rather than as a mirror of the world, everything in the predella falls into place. Cranach presses Luther and his flock to the picture’s edge because, as sender and receiver, they stand for the transmission’s origin and end. Their isolation exhibits the optimal discreteness of their poles, where one person speaks, others listen, and no real-world cacophony ensues. Evangelical preaching aspired to a clarified condition of language: a steady flow of truth releasing a counterflow of amens swelling into the collective voice of the hymn. Catechism internalized this protocol by training subjects to return, word for word, the sentences received.40 Luther insisted that in church God’s word resounded both in preaching and in prayer. Posed, in Cranach, as if appealing to the cross, the congregation shows communication as an alternating current transmitting and receiving the self-same charge. Christ himself is that charge, a message ceaselessly transmitted from Scripture, through preaching, to the congregation, and back again as prayer. And because the crucifix is before us, as well, Cranach transmits Christ as if directly to us, along grid lines perpendicular to those conducting words. Ours is a profile view of speech but a frontal view of the information it transmits. This is another reason why we don’t imagine

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that Luther or his flock behold the crucifix from the side, since no one hears in profile. The Wittenberg predella set Cranach the task of devising a visual model of verbal communication. Unable to paint the voice, and unwilling, in this instance, to turn speech back into writing by inscribing his panel with biblical quotations, he portrayed preaching as a social structure, as bodies gathered in a certain way. Even the gestures of speech are avoided. Luther’s lips are sealed, and his pointing fingers seem less an adjunct to his voice than a sign in its own right, like an arrow. The Last Supper panel above, by contrast, freeze-frames conversation, perhaps because the Apostles’ mouths and hands mirror the speech acts performed in real space at the altar table before them, in the words and gestures of a German Mass. An emblem of discursive concord, the disciples’ table-talk models liturgy as communication. Compared to the Supper scene, the predella seems silent as a tomb. In the midst of its stillness and void, however, there rises what all this talk transmits: the crucified Christ. The painted crucifix represents preaching’s message, not its utterance. Obliged by his medium to leave enunciation out, Cranach can radicalize the difference between annunciation and the information it transmits. He can proclaim, in a way only his medium can, that the word’s reference is pure, that derived from Scripture, it remains both identical in and discrete from any one transmission, like an object passed from hand to hand. In his critique of sociological descriptions of communication, the system-theorist Niklas Luhmann rejected what he termed their ‘thing metaphoric’. ‘The metaphor of transmission’, he observed, ‘is unusable because it implies too much ontology. It suggests that the sender gives up something that the receiver then acquires. This is already incorrect because the sender does not give up anything in the sense of losing it.’41 In place of this, Luhmann proposed a model of communication based in difference. Information, in his view, is not a stable identity passed between persons, but is constituted by its difference both from noise and from the transmitting utterance. And rather than gathering society in understanding and agreement, information-transfer serves to displace conflicts among mutually inscrutable, self-serving entities. Communication socializes by making its participants unaware that they remain at war. We shall later see how well this pessimistic model fits Reformation art and the historical situation it addressed. I would here simply note that the Wittenberg Altarpiece, said to have been dedicated on the day of Protestantism’s first great military defeat, but proclaiming the perfect concord of its congregation, focuses on the sameness and difference of a gift received. On one side of the central panel, Luther takes a cup from a wine-bearer, who, I

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will suggest, represents Cranach, or Cranach the Younger. The Reformer’s presence at Christ’s table renders the altarpiece’s present identical to the apostolic past; in Luther, the thinking goes, Christ’s self-transmission is perfectly received – and perhaps by way of the artist(s) responsible for the painting where this is shown to be the case. On the other side of the panel, seated in the break of the table’s round bench, Judas receives the morsel from Christ. The table’s embracing circle, and by implication the communio sanctorum, is completed only by way of this abject link. Sameness (Christ’s presence in Communion regardless of the communicant) effects difference in the sinner, who damns himself in taking the morsel. But what about the predella, which seems precisely to ontologize communication by showing it to be the giving and receiving of one always identical thing? Of course, at the altar, words do attach to things (the bread and wine) that claim to transmit a body (Christ) as an inexhaustible, oneway gift. Yet physically interposed between this ritual and a picture of its biblical institution, the predella also models communicative difference. First, it radically differentiates utterance from noise. The conspicuous offsetting of the crucifix from its surroundings visualizes how speech, in order to function, must initially stand forth as articulated speech, transforming all background sounds, including other speech, into noise. It had been one of the basic criticisms of church art that it was distracting. ‘The curious carvings and paintings attract the worshipper’s gaze and hinder his attention’, wrote St Bernard of grotesque ornaments that, stationed at the margins, seduce rather than surround the gaze.42 In its visual austerity, Cranach’s predella not only avoids such distraction; with the exception of the calligraphic beast curiously emblazoned on Luther’s pulpit, it embodies pious attention per se. Its empty pavement grid, in addition to giving us nothing to see, makes communication more efficient. Lines parallel to the picture plane map the transmission from preacher to flock, while the orthogonals conduct it outwards to us. And to prevent the grid from conducting sight too efficiently, such that the eye might pass the transmission by, and also to stop up the intervals between the lines, which the eye might be tempted to penetrate, Cranach insulates the circuit with the semblance of stone. Marbleization is a visual equivalent of white noise. Set off against it, the utterance stands forth incontrovertibly. But does Cranach’s crucifix represent the utterance? In Luther’s original argument, the ‘picture of a man who hangs on the cross’ is not information’s transmission but rather its understanding; it is the inner signified for the verbal signifier ‘Christ’. By way of the medial shift from word to image, Cranach sets forth communication’s second constitutive difference, between an utterance and its message. Messages are variously transmitted by words, images, gestures and the like; but they are not felt to be identical to

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those transmissions. As a translator of Scripture, Luther put his faith in this difference. The Bible, his practice and doctrine affirmed, contained the same message in its Hebrew, Greek, Latin and German versions. The words were different but their sense remained the same. The Jews proved that reading the original held no advantage. For all their philological skills, they misunderstood their own testament because ‘their heart was not at home there’.43 By this circular account, understanding already understands; it brings to the text what the text contains. ‘The fast and fluent reader races along, grasping the meaning even though he doesn’t actually see most of the letters and words: he reads the whole letter before another spells out one word.’44 Cranach’s crucifix means to show this constancy and apriority of sense. For a faith grounded in the word, it means to demonstrate that Scripture conveys only Christ, that Christ is Scripture’s only content and key. What a strange reversal of the iconoclasts’ critique! Where for Karlstadt the crucifix was useless because it conveyed nothing of Scripture’s message, here it stands for that message itself. To stand for a message is not yet to be that message, though. While within the diagram, the crucifix denotes information and not utterance, it, together with the diagram that contains it, are themselves utterances. Cranach insists that information is somehow distinct from both of these. He wreathes the cross in negations – not miracle, not vision, not artefact – all of which inform us, so that we forget it could be otherwise, that Christ is not the picture painted on the predella. In Luther’s account, the heart’s picture of Christ is itself yet another sign. It is the subject’s all-too-human enunciation of something almost entirely other. Understanding, upon which faith and salvation depend, rests on this abyss of difference, in which information – the signified – is perennially elsewhere and deferred, like Cranach’s homeless crucifixion. In what follows, I discern a theology of difference behind Cranach’s painting. The negations that seem to displace it are not figments of a post-modern imagination but strict imperatives of evangelical religion. Recovering these we will observe how, in the religion of the word, the visual image rescues the dream of direct reference.

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12 The Outstretched Finger

Cranach condenses reference in one gesture: Luther points at the cross (illus. 128). Pointing is the only energetic action in the predella. It belongs, however, to the set of synchronized movements that orders each scene of the altarpiece. Up above, Melanchthon sprinkles water, Christ gives the morsel, a servant passes the cup and Johann Bugenhagen administers the keys. Cranach correlates these with Luther’s pointing (illus. 28, 127).1 As if to authorize the gesture, he positions it directly below the cup exchanged between the servant and the Reformer. These two elements fall on a vertical beginning at the castle on the hill (a reference, we will see, to Christ as the feste Burg of Luther’s famous rendering of Psalm 46,2 and also to the actual Wartburg, where, in 1521–2, Luther endured his Passion). The vertical passes via the cup, a join in the stone bench and Luther’s fingertips to the point where the predella scene’s right wall meets the lower frame. Luther’s fingers also echo Christ’s at the supper table as he gives Judas the morsel, equating what preaching and sacrament give. Yet whereas in the upper panels the actors handle some object (water, wine, bread), Luther’s fingers engage nothing. Instead they indicate, over a distance traversed by sight and sound, the aim of all the actions that constitute church. Luther’s fingers do not merely refer. They also model how reference works in the best of circumstances, when communicating about can show what is. Preaching, this set-up shows, is of such effectiveness that it directly displays what it seems obliquely to describe. Words, as it were, greet their object as something present before them, to which they mutely gesture, like the tiny, hand-shaped nota bene symbols scribbled in the margins of old books. But in the predella, this pointing has – in and of itself – a supplementary reference. Luther’s gesture reenacts a motif that medieval artists devised for John the Baptist when he exclaims ‘Behold, the Lamb of God!’ (John 1:36). John’s words were the most momentous of announcements. Like the Jewish prophets before him, he preached the coming messiah. But what they merely foretold he personally witnessed and


affirmed. Ending prophecy by verifying its fulfilment, he initiated a ‘new’ testament, one that henceforth referred to the messiah directly. Christ himself called the Baptist a new Elijah, ‘because it was toward John that all the prophecies of the prophets and of the law were leading’ (Matt. 11:13). Embellishing this idea, Luther termed him ‘the origin of the New Testament’. ‘Stand[ing] in the middle of the old and new testaments’, he is ‘a mediator between Moses and Christ’.3 By ‘mediator’ Luther did not at all mean one who intercedes for our salvation. Against an established cultic iconography that showed the saint begging our forgiveness – for example, in Deësis scenes, where he and Mary flank Christ as suppliants (illus. 214)4 – the Reformer made John into the preacher and symbol of salvation through Christ alone. The Baptist, warns Luther, can be called ‘full of grace’ only because ‘he testifies and preaches not about himself but about Christ, and indicates him with his finger’. Announcing the superseding of the Old Testament law that damned, John transmits us efficiently beyond where and what he is toward the information he designates: he ‘points us away from himself and toward Christ’.5 That is how Cranach portrays him. In one of many pictures diagramming Luther’s doctrine of justification, the Baptist, labelled ‘Indicator of Christ’,6 rotates the figure labelled ‘Man’ away from the law that his body still faces, and towards the Gospel that his eyes now behold (illus. 90). In the Weimar Altarpiece, John’s gesture turns the corner from the law, glimpsed in background scenes, to the Gospel, here held and read by Luther himself (illus. 135). Luther regarded the law and the Gospel neither as codices nor as eras but as poles of an ‘imperfect act’ that Christians perform as their faith.7 Sandwiched between the Baptist and the Reformer, as if between two patron saints, Cranach the Elder receives Christ’s grace directly, without intercession, along a line of blood that reifies the pointing finger’s indication. As Luther put it in 1521, in a sermon on the feast day of the saint, the Baptist ‘stretches out his finger and points to the Lamb of God and says, “Behold, this is the Lamb of God, which took upon itself the sins of the world”’. Ironically, although it inaugurates the New Testament, this gesture is not reported there, since the Gospel gives only John’s words. Luther gets the image from the visual tradition, from pictures such as Matthias Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece, where John’s massive index finger stretches as if to touch its referent (illus. 91).8 When the sage points to the moon (so the proverb goes), fools look at his fingertip. Luther may have his metaphors from memorable imaginings such as Grünewald’s, but he does not wish us to dwell on them. John’s significance lies in his ‘office’, not his person.9 This had been forgotten by the Roman Church, which, ignoring his gesture, stalled at the person of the saint and build a cult around him.‘Under the pope’, writes Luther, ‘one used to paint St John on all walls, and carved

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90. Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Law and the Gospel, 1529, oil on panel. National Gallery of Prague.

91. Matthias Grünewald, ‘Crucifixion’ from the Isenheim Altarpiece, 1516, oil on panels. Musée d’Unterlinden, Colmar.


his image and the lamb in wood, and stone, and in gold and silver, and one painted pictures . . . of his finger, as he points to the lamb, but it did not penetrate into the heart. No one understood what these painting and figures mean.’10 Even on his feast day, Luther preached that the ‘indicator of Christ’ be revered only for what he indicates. A mediation that moves us beyond religious mediators, the pointing finger maps referential displacement from signifier to signified. Sign of signage, it should yield only information, picture only the word, say only ‘Christ’. Does Cranach relinquish this by using the gesture also to designate the Baptist? Does its hagiographical provenance shift the finger’s direction back to the person pointing? Completed just after Luther’s death, and iconographically a companion to his now-lost epitaph in the Castle Church (illus. 139),11 the predella commemorates the Reformer in his place of ministry. It operates like Michael Coelius’s funeral oration for Luther at Eisleben, which built a comparison between the deceased and the Baptist on the basis of their both giving epochal testimony to Christ.12 Melanchthon, in a preface to the second volume of Luther’s collected works, also compared his departed friend to John, who ‘points to the Lamb of God’.13 The identification of Luther with the Baptist, and of his writings with ‘John’s finger’,14 flourished in the doctrinal struggles that, from the mid-sixteenth century, divided the evangelical confession. In areas of conflict, the Reformer’s words became a ‘norm of norms’ for Scripture, and on the model of Scripture: ‘We judge Luther’s writings not like those of other people,’ wrote the evangelical hagiographer Nikolaus Selneccer in 1576, ‘And what does not agree with Luther, this we discard, whoever wrote it. For Luther points us always dependably to the word, mouth and ground of Christ; of this we are certain.’15 This attitude survived into the Enlightenment. In the index volume to the Halle edition of Luther’s works (1740–52), Johann Georg Walch, cautioning against ‘superstitious veneration’ of the Reformer, insists that ‘nothing superhuman be attributed to Luther’ by calling him ‘another John’.16 But how is the finger’s tribute to Luther correlated to its signification of Christ? Cranach depicts Luther fulfilling a vocation. He wears the gown, or schaube, of the bourgeois scholar, which labels him a ‘preacher of the word’. Luther first ascended the pulpit in a schaube on 9 October 1524, having preached in his monk’s habit until then.17 Most later portraits show him in this gown, with a Bible in his hand and a crucifix by his side. In 1689, one such likeness, hanging in Eisleben in the house of Luther’s birth, survived a fire unscathed (illus. 92).18 In 1717, its endurance was celebrated by Eisleben’s pastor, Justus Schoepffer, in his tract The Incombustible Luther.19 This and other fireproof Luther portraits embellished the idea, current since 1522, that while his enemies incinerated his books, and sought to

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92. Anonymous, Incumbustible Luther Effigy, engraving from Justus Schoeppfer, Unverbrannter Luther, 2nd edn (Wittenberg: Zimmermann, 1765–6).

burn his person (as happened to Jan Hus in 1415, and to many evangelical martyrs from 1523 on), his message endured.20 Applying to pictures the sort of tales told formerly of martyr-saints (whose bodies and relics resisted fire), legends of the incombustible Luther matched stories of Catholic icons impervious to iconoclasm, at the same time as trumping ritual bonfires of Luther-effigies that occurred in Catholic towns from 1522. According to

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one story circulating around 1700, the Wittenberg Altarpiece’s likeness of Luther had itself resisted demolition. During the city’s occupation by imperial troops (so the legend goes), a Spaniard tried to cut the image’s throat and stab its stomach, but while some marks were said still to be visible in 1707, the likeness endured.21 Along with tales of Luther portraits that sweated and bled, or that came about miraculously, ‘neither painted nor carved, nor chiselled in stone’,22 accounts of indestructible Luther portraits were hold-overs from a preReformation past. They cause us to ask if showing Luther in a saint’s pose shifts attention inappropriately to his person. The question troubled generations of Lutherans. Schoepffer notes that God eventually allowed Luther’s house in Eisleben to go up in flames to prevent it becoming a cult site.23 Aware of the danger, Duke Johann Wilhelm of Saxon-Weimar commissioned a tondo of Luther inscribed with words familiar from reused Marian effigies, ‘non cultus est, sed memoriae gratia’.24 Catholics caught the irony at once. Already in 1522, Emser wrote: ‘For since Luther allows his own charming features to be painted and publically displayed, why should the Church not treasure and venerate images of the beloved saints?’25 And in 1570 the Catholic polemist Johann Nasus explained that Lutherans call their leader a ‘second John’ because ‘they have thrown away all other saints’ festivals and legends, and, as punishment, they now have Lutheran carnivals and lies’.26 Starting around 1528, many Lutheran church ordinances did demand that certain Reformation anniversaries (e.g., the day a region embraced the evangelical faith) receive public celebration.27 Luther would have answered that his pointing finger merely signified the office he and the Baptist shared. John was the prototypical evangelical preacher ‘sent from God’ to preach Christ and Christ alone. Of course, he was unique in having his subject physically before him. Showing directly what others before merely foretold, turning prophecy into preaching, he gestured (in the words of Rupert of Deutz) to ‘the visibly living Christ’.28 It might seem that, after the crucifixion, such pointing would cease, and preaching would turn into history – history being more dependable than prophecy, though temporally distanced nonetheless. But faith insists that preachers point as directly as John did, that Christ lives in the word, and that at Holy Communion, where Cranach’s Luther also gestures, he is present in the flesh. The Baptist’s special case turns out to be the rule. ‘He who hears and believes’, wrote Luther from the Wartburg, will find Christ ‘in his heart’.29 Now it is also the case that the young man physically hailed by John on the River Jordan has now become an image in the heart. As Cranach diagrams it in the predella, preaching’s scenography has changed to reflect contemporary circumstances. Yet its message is what it had been for John,

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causing the crucifix to stand apart precisely from those contingencies in the ways we have seen. ‘Faith’, wrote Luther, affects ‘neither time, place, person, or age, but only the heart.’30 Already the Baptist’s inaugural ‘behold’ designated something empirically not there before him, since the ‘Lamb of God’ refers proleptically to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. This short-term prophecy – testament to John’s own faith – is the burden of arrangements like Grünewald’s, where the lamb is John’s attribute, but the crucifix is his reference (illus. 91). Cranach’s Weimar Altarpiece correlates the two, engaging both of the saint’s hands to equate the crucified Christ with the paschal lamb, and the lamb (because John’s left fingers also point there) with the altar sacrament (illus. 135). But why all this showing? Why these many pointing fingers, with Christ already in the heart? This was the great Protestant divide: whether faith was an inward illumination, as Karlstadt, Muentzer and others claimed, or whether it required the outward signs of preaching, sacrament and ministry. For Luther, John’s pointing finger confirmed the requirement of externals. In a sermon of 27 December 1528, he enlisted the Baptist in his fight against ‘enthusiasts’ who fancied that ‘spirit, spirit must do’.31 Citing from the daily lection the verse ‘There was a man sent from God, whose name was John’ (John 1:6), Luther concludes that ‘there must arrive someone, John, with external word and testament, who stretches out the finger and says, “There he goes”’, because ‘no one can believe except through the testimony of John’.32 The need for outward indication, incarnated in John’s finger, derives from our fallen state. This Luther understands through the pericope’s drama of light: ‘The light shines in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not’ (John 1: 5). Christ is the ‘true light’ (1: 9) that shines into this world unseen, were it not for the Baptist’s finger. When we receive in faith what his finger indicates, then all is illuminated: ‘in all places present’, the lux vera is ‘certainly God’.33 When his finger is ignored, all remains dark and uncomprehended, as it is for the enthusiasts who fancy that faith is their own inner light.‘In these matters which concern the spoken, external word,’ state the Schmalkaldic Articles, ‘we must hold to the conviction that God gives no one his spirit or grace except through or with the external word which comes before. Thus we shall be protected from the enthusiasts, that is, from the spiritualists who boast that they possess the Spirit without and before the word.’34 Synonymous for Luther not only with ‘oral preaching’, but with all the externals that evangelical religion retains, John’s finger is the ‘outer word’ that necessarily gestures towards, but remains distinct from, the ‘inner word’ that is Christ. This clarifies Cranach’s lighting in the predella. As noted earlier, whereas all else in the Wittenberg Altarpiece appears illuminated from the right, in conformity with natural light in the choir, the cross’s shadow indicates a

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light from the left. The existence of a shadow locates the crucifix in the world, announcing that Christ is present in the everyday activities of this church. The shadow’s ‘projection’, however, the way it ‘delineates itself ’, points to a heavenly elsewhere. This ambivalence perfectly diagrams Luther’s understanding of the ‘true light’ as celebrated in the prologue of the Gospel of John. In all his several translations of this pivotal text, the lux vera is said to illuminate ‘every man that comes into this world’ (John 1: 19).35 According to Luther, the demonstrative pronoun ‘this’gestures to the ‘world’ in which we presently find ourselves. It indicates that the ‘true light’ is neither the ‘light of reason’, which does not recognize Christ and continues to shine for the damned in Hell, nor is it the ‘light of grace’, which in heaven will allow us to behold the ‘naked godhead’ not merely ‘through our humanity and through faith, but in itself ’.36 In the predella, the shadow indexes a light that flows into ‘this’ world but is perceptible only to a humanity illuminated by faith. Like the wind that seems to blast Christ on the cross, this supernatural glow is one with the thing it illuminates. Synonymous with light, Christ came into the visible world even though ‘the world knew him not’ (John 1: 10). I will explore how invisibility remains Christ’s condition on the cross, and how Cranach manifested that through his particular painterly style. Here I would note that, in Luther’s exegesis of John 1: 9–10, the lux vera is double: it is both what the Baptist points to and his finger-pointing itself, both the information transmitted and the transmitting utterance.37 At the same time, Luther also distinguishes the lux vera from him who preaches. The Gospel itself proclaimed this difference by stating that John ‘was not the light, but was sent to bear witness to that light’ (John 1:8). This movement away from the person legitimized Luther’s self-identification with the Baptist. And in the predella it determines Luther’s placement relative to the lights that crisscross the scene. Cranach stations the Reformer at the right, so that the supernatural light shines towards, and not from, his fingers. The pitch black of the pulpit’s doorway amplifies the sense of light emanating from elsewhere; perhaps the grotesque on the pulpit is the apotropaic sentry of the dark. Meanwhile, though, the Wittenberg congregation is sided with the light, not quite because they are to be imagined as its source, but because it is through their response that true light can visibly shine. ‘Out goes [man’s] old light, and in goes a new light, faith’, writes Luther in 1522 in his postil on the Gospel of John.38 The Gospel, the Baptist and evangelical preaching all ‘need supra-rational faith’ (Luther) to be believed. The predella’s supra-natural light is that illuminating shine: Christ beheld through believing eyes. Cranach does not filter ordinary light out of his altarpiece. Even in the predella, the diffuse shadow around the parishioners resists being

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attributed to any one light source. And the dark doorway behind Luther at most suggests a shadow cast by light streaming from the left. And if the cross’s shadow indicates but the one light, the sharply lit scenes of the altarpiece’s upper panels indicate the other. Amplifying the real light conditions in the choir, they attach their depictions of sacrament to their physical setting, while reflexively bestowing on that setting the dignity of a space potentially traversed by divine light, too. Luther’s reverence for the Baptist specifically affirmed this everyday splendour of church. ‘On behalf of his office we honour and praise John the Baptist’, wrote Luther in 1537, ‘And thus we still honour the office of the preacher, baptism, the last supper of the Lord and absolution, because they are offices instituted by God that direct us to the light.’39 Not merely the preacher’s finger, but also the altarpiece’s inventory of the sacraments above, with their real-life ministers honoured by being here portrayed: all these direct us to Christ visible in a light different from theirs. Everything that Cranach’s altarpiece shows, indeed everything it is, as a physical thing, stands condensed in the outstretched finger. Luther praised the Baptist’s gesture, and likened his ministry to it, partly because it confirmed the necessity of outward testimony, of material indications by persons, actions and objects. Even with the ‘visibly living Christ’ before him, John had to point with his body toward a body. The Gospel began with that fleshly gesture (est initium novi Testamenti),40 and fleshly it remained, in codex, sermon, sacrament and ministry. Luther’s insistence on externals developed from his war against radical Protestants, who called them idols and discerned behind their surfaces machineries of power. The Anabaptists, for example, against whom the Wittenberg theologians long struggled, got their name from their view of infant baptism as epitomizing empty ceremony, since its candidates could not possibly understand what they do. The Wittenberg Altarpiece’s left front panel affirms infant baptism practice to be both Christ-based (through the supporting predella) and apostolic (through the adjacent central panel). And the panel dignifies a flesh-and-blood minister, Melanchthon, by displaying his likeness where altarpieces traditionally featured saints’ portraits. Indeed of all Lutheran reformers, Melanchthon was the Anabaptists’ most implacable foe. Advising in 1536 that governments should arrest, torture, forcibly reeducate and, if need be, execute them, he helped to shape electoral Saxony into the German territory most repressive to sectarians (more offenders were executed there than in any other Lutheran state).41 The altarpiece displays the externals that its original viewers would have been forced to honour and to praise – by ‘bodily punishment’, according to Melanchthon.42 Beyond visualizing externals, however, the pictures placed behind Wittenberg’s cleansed altar dignify visibility itself. Showing everything that

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shows, disseminating across their own surfaces the Baptist’s outstretched finger, the paintings direct us to the one representation that would stand apart, as pointed to rather than pointing: Christ on the cross. The crucifix designates the signified of the approved set of signifiers, the message that all utterances identically transmit. How to understand its designation, this bit of paint standing in for what has no stand-in?

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13 A Hidden God?

Cranach invites us to follow the reference of the crucifix back to its source. The cross that Luther indicates with his right hand derives from the book he indicates with his left. It does not matter what page he holds open. According to Luther, whatever line of Scripture he reads always refers to the same thing: ‘The Gospel is nothing but a sermon on the one person, who is called Christ.’1 Luther reached his christocentric understanding of the Bible while preparing his earliest lectures on the Psalms and on Romans, delivered in the years 1513–15 at Wittenberg University.2 But his understanding was sharpened by the controversy with which he launched the Reformation. In his 1517 attack on indulgences, he announced the grounds of his certainty that the pope, the Councils and tradition had erred and that he alone was right. ‘Scripture is its own interpreter’, concluded Luther in 1520, again in a text on the Psalms; and in a 1522 sermon he asserted: ‘Thus Scripture is itself its own light. It is therefore good when Scripture interprets itself.’3 With the principle that only Scripture validates the interpretation of Scripture, Luther repudiated not only Rome but also the enthusiasts who claimed for their reading of Scripture a peculiar gift of the spirit apart from Scripture. At one level, the auto-interpretation of Scripture was simply a practical principle of exegesis whereby, instead of imposing one’s ideas on a text, one read what was actually written and solved problems by comparing related passages. At another level, scriptura sui ipsius interpres described the word’s miraculous power to effect the understanding by which alone we are saved. Like the stream of blood in Cranach’s scenes of the Gospel, a straight line leads from the word to salvation (illus. 93).4 What insures this aim is that ‘all of Scripture everywhere deals only with Christ’.5 Sometimes Luther pictures this referential unity in geometric terms, as a ‘middle’ or ‘centre’. Explaining why Moses and ‘all his stories and images’ refer to Christ, he writes that Christ ‘is the midpoint in the circle, and all histories of holy Scripture, if correctly regarded, go toward Christ’.6


93. Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Law and the Gospels, c. 1529, woodcut.

Sometimes the unity is imagined organically, as seed, kernel or marrow. ‘Whenever I have a text that is like a hard nut’, writes Luther in 1515 of his exegetical labours, ‘I fling it at once at the rock [i.e., Christ] and find the most delicious kernel.’7 The Old Testament – Luther’s original academic speciality – calls urgently for such extraction. Ostensibly chronicling Jewish history before Christ, it in fact contains a different kernel.‘In Christ’, writes Luther around 1513, ‘All words are one single word.’8 For example the Psalms, though placed in King David’s mouth, must be understood literally as first-person discourse spoken by Christ during the Passion. To read them otherwise is to find them empty: ‘Take Christ out of the Scriptures and what more will you find in them?’9 ‘Poor and meagre these swaddling clothes are’, writes Luther in the preface to his translation of the Old Testament, ‘but rich is the treasure, Christ, that lies in them.’10 The movement from outer to inner is not accomplished once and for all with Christ’s advent, but must occur each time the Gospel is individually received. Christ is ubiquitous but hidden in the word, as he is also in the world: On earth you will neither see him nor reach him with your senses or thought. Rather, as St Paul says, you will see him covered in dark word or image – that is, in word and sacrament. Those are like his mask or clothing under which he conceals himself. But certainly

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he is present there, since he himself works miracles, preaches, administers sacrament, consoles, strengthens and aids.11 For Luther, this masking explains the Psalmist’s famous plea, ‘Give me understanding, that I might know thy testimonies’ (Ps. 119:125). ‘Whoever cried so fearfully for mere words?’ asks Luther in his earliest lectures on the Psalms. Answer: ‘Because through faith, the invisible things are hidden in the word.’ This concealment of Christ is not confined to the Old Testament. First glimpsed in miserable swaddling cloths, last beheld dying on the cross, Christ remained hidden even in his living form. Should Scripture contain statements that do not refer to Christ, however, these ought to be discarded as being outside the biblical canon. For the canon, as Luther defines it in his prologue to the (in his view) extracanonical Epistle of James, is ‘that which deals with Christ. What does not teach Christ is not apostolic, even if Peter or Paul teaches it.’12 The sola scriptura depends on a massive reduction of what Scripture means and is. Christ is the Bible’s centre and its periphery, as he is for preaching: ‘One cannot preach otherwise than of Christ and faith. That is the general scopus. If you take Christian liberties with the scopus, you go astray.’13 In Lutheran homiletics, the notion that Scripture has a ‘scopus’ does not mean simply that any given passage says something definite, as when Paul, in the crucial verse of Luther’s religion, sums his own train of thought: ‘So we believe that man is justified without the work of the law and through faith alone’ (Romans 3:28). In practice, it is true, evangelical preachers were instructed to scrutinize their daily lection and distil from it a specific message that could be stated in one concise phrase, for example, ‘faith justifies’. In theory, however, even such pithy phrases were too wordy, since their scopus was always one and the same: ‘Christ is the universal scopus of Scripture.’14 In traditional exgesis, Bible passages that said one thing were read allegorically to mean another; that other meaning sometimes might be Christ, but it could also be (taking random examples from Jacques Paul Migne’s ‘Index de Allegoriis Novi Testamenti’)15 the Virgin Mary, evil spirits, the Apostles, the Virtues and Vices, the Last Judgement, even Scripture itself. Against such variety, Luther preached just the one message. Understanding sought not the particular scopus contained in the individual case but the universal scopus that all cases contain.16 Indeed it hardly mattered how a preacher glossed a Gospel passage so long as he made that passage heard. ‘You should not look at me,’ warns Luther,‘but only at Christ, at what he says or shows through me.’17 ‘Communication’, wrote Niklas Luhmann, ‘grasps something out of the actual referential horizon that it itself constitutes and leaves other things

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aside.’18 It processes selections: selection by a sender of a message transmitted, selection by a receiver of information understood, selection by both of a known or unknown repertoire of possible communications. For Luther, Scripture collapses these into one. Regardless of who speaks, one message from a repertoire of one will be the one thing received. Cranach’s predella fantasizes perfect communication. Set off against its surroundings at the panel’s exact centre, the crucifix as the ‘middle of Scripture’ is the scopus of the words Luther reads, of the picture Cranach paints, and of the sacrament any Wittenberg pastor will administer before it. That it does not fully belong to the diversity of the world in which it stands serves but to heighten its distinctness, as repertoire of one. Linguistified, i.e., transformed from an object in the world to a reference of words, the crucifix stands apart from any alternative selection. In theory, one might choose to attend to one of the masonry blocks behind the crucifix, or to the more distracting grotesque decorating Luther’s pulpit. But because of the cross’s separation from these, such a focus would be on a different repertoire altogether rather than on a different item in the same repertoire. Elements of vivacity (the blood, the billowing loincloth, etc.) allow us to experience the pre-selected object as if we ourselves had chosen to gaze on it. Isolating Christ, Cranach manifests how, in grasping the Redeemer, we leave out the rest of the world. All of Cranach’s Reformation altarpieces centre on a crucifix. The earliest, the retable from St Wolfgang’s in Schneeberg (begun 1531–2 and dedicated 1539), features one on its central panel (illus. 94, 132).19 The panels of the law and the Gospel that, on most days, covered this centre, plus the two outer shutters with scenes of Old Testament justice (Lot and his Daughters and The Flood), diagram the movement to Christ as an absolute conversion, a selection that selects you. In the image of the law and the Gospels, Cranach illustrates the sola fides by identifying choice (as in choosing good or evil) with the demands of the law; unable to be fulfilled, the law brings only sin, death and damnation. The turn towards Christ, meanwhile, is figured not as a human achievement, but as blood spraying from the crucifix to man. In the altarpiece’s central panel, Cranach locates the crucifix in a hectic, historical world freeze-framed at the moment of conversion. At the left, the Roman centurion points to Christ with a gesture that, echoing the Baptist’s outstretched finger on the shutters, and attending the Gospel words ‘Truly this man was the son of God’ (Matt. 27:54), typifies the event of faith. At around this time (1539–40), in the newly evangelical principality of Württemberg, the Herrenberg painter Heinrich Füllmaurer placed a similar historiated crucifixion at the centre of an altarpiece featuring no less than 162 individual Gospel scenes on movable wings (illus. 95).20 Probably made for Duke Ulrich i’s Castle Church in Stuttgart, where

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opposite above 94. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Schneeberg Altarpiece, 1539, oil on panels (second open state). St Wolfgangskirche, Schneeberg.

opposite below 95. Attributed to Heinrich Füllmaurer, Altarpiece, c. 1550, oil on panels. Schlossmuseum, Gotha.


there were scores of additional Bible pictures on its galleries and walls,21 Füllmaurer’s retable reduces Scripture to a canon of quotations, each (in homiletic terms) being the scopus of the larger pericope from which they are drawn. Packed into cartouches, these texts crowd their painted illustrations, turning the retable, along with the chapel that contains it, into a huge picture Bible.Yet it is the medium of painting that allows us to see Scripture’s centre. Everything focuses on the crucified Christ of the middle panel, which materializes Scripture’s metaphorical ‘middle’. But what exactly is this middle? Luther gives an answer in a sermon of 1528 celebrating the Baptist’s office. John must ‘stretch out the finger’ because ‘no one can believe except through [his] testimony’.22 And the reason no one can otherwise believe – therefore generating Luther’s rationale for the externals of word, sacrament and ministry that the iconoclasts reject – is that John points to something that bears no resemblance to what it is. God cannot be recognized in the creature born ‘like a servant boy’23 and wretchedly deceased unless his identity is announced in a statement that indicates and negates these appearances. John’s outstretched finger testifies both for and against the evidence it shows. By announcing that belief is impossible ‘except through John’s testimony’, Luther proclaims that faith can only be a commitment to the representation of a truth, rather than to the truth embedded in the representation.24 To accept that this man ‘is the Lamb of God’ means holding to John’s statement over and against what we ourselves directly see and know (illus. 91). According to Dan Sperber, this will be true for most religious beliefs that people hold. Lutheranism, however, makes the representational character of truth fully explicit. Indeed it is this confession’s fundamental creed: faith alone (sola fides) as Scripture over reason and experience alone (sola scriptura). Lutheranism is the original anthropology of ‘apparently irrational beliefs’. The Reformer was not the first ‘theologian of the cross’.25 The first Christians distinguished their faith from the syncretism of other religions by what St Paul termed ‘the word of the cross’ (1 Cor. 1:18). Exemplified by Paul’s own conversion from the anti-Christian Jew, Saul, this distinguishing ‘word of the cross’ consisted of recognizing, against the evidence, and in opposition to the Jews for whom it was unthinkable, that a crucified man was the Messiah. The paradigmatic revaluation of all values, the cross turned the world upside down. It revealed God in concealment, glory in abjection, victory in death. Nor was Luther’s emphasis on Christ’s suffering foreign to late medieval religion. As a monk of the Augustinian order, he had come of age within a culture steeped in Passion-based piety and ‘humility’ ideals.26 And the

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96. Bartolomé Bermejo, Christ Shows His Crucified Image to the Patriarchs, c. 1480, oil on panel. Institut Amatller d’Art Hispànic, Barcelona.

idea of atonement via the infinite satisfaction made by Christ’s torment and death had been doctrine since Anselm of Canterbury in the eleventh century.27 A panel of around 1470 by the itinerate Spanish painter Bartolemé de Cárdenas, called ‘el Bermejo’, describes the crucifix at the very limits of what can be visualized (illus. 96).28 Having passed through limbo, the resurrected Christ enters heaven and points to his own image on the cross. Behind him, rendered in reflective gold, the concealing cherubs of Old Testament aniconism stand guard over the sanctuary. In an interior of multicoloured marble (a celestial version of Cranach’s drab

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masonry), Christ wears a transparent robe that shows him naked underneath. Nudity realizes the eschatological dream of an unmediated vision of God. Yet on these furthest shoals of the visual image, where a painter allows the ‘naked person to see the naked God’ (Luther),29 Christ himself insists that the Patriarchs behind him, and ourselves, as well, contemplate his sacrifice on the cross. Contrary to the iconoclasts’ description of it, late medieval church art manifested the un-representable nature of its representations.30 What exactly is new, then, about the negativity of Reformation art? Luther himself turned the theologia crucis from a motif, however central, in Christian theology into the ‘perspectival centre’ of all of theology.31 ‘crux’, wrote the Reformer in capitals, as if to fashion an icon of this primal word, ‘sola est nostra theologia.’32 This was not because the cross was God, but because it was all we can speak of. It therefore made theology existential (i.e., limited to our condition), rather than ontological (grappling with being itself). Luther first specified this ineluctable boundary in the context of confessional polemics. In 1518, he contrasted the false theologian,‘who looks upon the invisible things of God as if they were clearly perceptible in those things that actually happen’, with the true theologian, ‘who comprehends the visible and manifest things seen through suffering and the cross’.33 The first activity he termed a ‘theology of glory’ and imputed to Rome. The second activity, which characterized his own endeavours, he termed the ‘theology of the cross’. Theologians of glory endeavour to uncover truth concealed behind appearances, either by speculation, as in scholasticism’s dizzying expositions of the Trinity, or by experience, as in the investigations of the created world by natural theologians. Celebrants of themselves and nature, theologians of glory enjoy the power, pomp and privilege achieved by their pursuits, fancying, as does the Roman Church, that glory ought to look glorious. Paradoxically, such putative seekers of ‘invisible things’ remained trapped in the visible, their futile works entrapping them in the world. In a sense, theologians of the cross are also entrapped. But since they fully acknowledge that condition, they can draw the consequences for salvation. They know that God became visible only in the way he did, and that in that revelation he was concealed. In the cross, God hid himself in suffering. For the true theologian, in Luther’s view, the crucifixion arrests speculation, mocks curiosity and chastens claims to righteousness. It locates transcendence where it is least self-evident; for again, based only on reason and experience, no one would place their hopes on a poor carpenter’s son who, many centuries ago, died a criminal’s death. Attentive only to that least believable promise (because they know they are not given more), true theologians bear the cross as the standard of their weakness.

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A quarter century before the Wittenberg predella, Cranach had visualized for Lutherans an inverted perspective on the visual. In the Passional Christi und Antichristi, structured contrasts of papal glory with Christ’s suffering showed, by way of images, that appearances cannot be trusted, and nothing is what it seems to be (illus. 55–6). Yet as I observed in chapter 8, Cranach’s assault on the Roman Church’s visibility depended on defacements inherent in previous religious art. In 1521, before the activities of Karlstadt, Luther had already begun to reform the Christian image by rediscovering its original humility. If the theology of glory sought the invisible but received instead mere appearances, the theology of the cross, in spite of its nay-saying to the world and to works, sought – had to seek – precisely ‘the visible and manifest things’. Such pious resignation illuminates a central feature of Lutheran art. Having repudiated claims of transporting its viewers beyond what they see, the image thrusts them into the church routines in which they presently stand. Encountering there the déjà-vu of a divinity still withheld, they discover and embrace the necessary blindness of belief. In expounding what he famously termed the ‘hidden God’ (deus absconditus),34 Luther returned to the Old Testament, where invisibility signalled God’s immeasurable glory. ‘Verily, you are a hidden God’ (Isaiah 45:15), exclaimed Isaiah in a verse much glossed by Lutherans. Most centrally, the Reformer could recollect that in the key epiphany that occurred before Christ’s, God turned his back on man. At Exodus 33, Moses asked, ‘Show me your glory’, to which God responded with the great denial ‘You cannot see my face; for man shall not see me and live.’ Placed in a cleft in the rock and blocked by God’s hand while his ‘glory’ passed by, Moses beheld God’s ‘hind parts’. Rabbinical exegesis linked this rear view with the interdict against graven images.35 God withholding his face indicated his unrepresentability. According to the twelfth-century Jewish iconophobe, Maimonides, the biblical ‘seeing of the back’ meant that the creator was observable only in his effects, whether as nature, as history or as man.36 Luther discerned the crucifixion within the iconoclastic core of monotheism. In Christ, he argued in the Heidelberg Disputation, God again showed only his back in the form of his ‘Passion and cross’. He remained a ‘turned-away deity’.37 Before any attempt to paint it, the crucifix was already an image and an iconoclasm, a face and its defacement, the epiphany as total eclipse. Luther struggled with how, beholding the cross in our sinful state, we can ever know Christ. According to Luther, recognition depends on two divine gifts.38 First, it requires the word, which clearly announced that – all appearances to the contrary – ‘this is the Lamb of God’. The Baptist’s testimony, along with the Scripture and preaching that it inaugurates,

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negated the gruesome spectacle empirically beheld. Second, at communication’s other pole, the indispensable testament is able to be grasped. It is faith that allows us to understand what God’s word shows.39 How neat, then, is the Wittenberg predella’s diagram: the two gifts, word and faith – the one a voice, the other a light – frame the deus absconditus. In Luther’s theology of the cross, faith is the subjective correlate of the hidden God, and, like God, it lies concealed. ‘Christendom’, writes Luther glossing Hebrews 11: 1,‘will not be known by sight, but by faith. And faith has to do with things not seen.’40 Faith grasps the invisible and is itself invisible. This is why, to visualize the invisible, Cranach bathes the cross in a counterempirical light.And yet (and this is perhaps Lutheranism’s greatest paradox) faith only has externals to work with. God is not simply hidden: he is ‘too deeply hidden’,41 and ‘must first become the Devil’ and make us ‘the Devil’s children’ before we recognize him.42 What distinguishes faith from reason or experience is its conviction in the utterly invisible. And with this, Luther also ‘saves the phenomena’, insisting that the blank, obscuring visibles remain visible, since only by their means are we saved. The argument originally mounted against the Church’s theology of glory became, during the 1520s, a weapon against the enthusiasts who claimed access to spirit without the mediating externals of the ‘shouted word’43 of preaching and the ‘visible word’ of sacrament. The confessional structure of the Wittenberg Altarpiece begins now to be apparent. On the one hand, everything of importance that the pictures can display exists in a state of concealment, thus preserving the iconoclasm that gave it space. Church goes about its business in the absence of the invisible that is its ultimate aim. True, Cranach’s naturally lit portrayals of cult routines, duplicating the sacraments performed in the real space before them, may receive, in the predella that supports them, a divine response: the cross bathed in the lux vera of faith that, alone, makes the cross ‘perceptible’.44 But all this is still not yet the true church, since for Luther, that ‘congregation of believers’ is invisible; what we see is only a ‘pile’ of people as we find them. While not located in the world, and anyway displaying God’s concealment in suffering, the painted crucifix returns us to the world. Part of an altarpiece to the hidden God, Cranach’s picture displays the conditions of that invisibility. Yet because word, sacrament and ministry, and their message, the cross, are all also necessary to faith (because without them no one would know Christ and be saved), so their images, even while enhancing their opacity, are displayed. That is why, behind the altar, there is something rather than nothing. Luther once compared the word to a verbal inscription painted over a badly executed painting.45 When an inferior artist tries to represent a cow

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but paints what looks like a horse, Luther reasons, he will have to write ‘cow’ above it to make it understood. God ‘ruins the painting’ by picturing the ‘most miserable’ of infants in a manger (for no more wretched a child than the baby Jesus exists). Therefore above this image God also writes, in contradiction to his visual portrayal,‘This is the saviour.’ If Christ is a bad painting ‘crossed out’ (ausgestrichen) by the word, then the crucifix in the Wittenberg predella is that erasure crossed out again. To describe this defacement, we must observe how Cranach himself handled paint.

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14 Crude Painting

In 1931, the historian Hans Preuss published a wide-ranging study on Luther and the arts. Dealing with everything from the Reformer’s casual doodles to his achievements as a prose stylist and composer of hymns, Martin Luther der Künstler sought to balance the mass of scholarship on his message with analysis of his communicative means.‘Luther the artist’ designated not only the Reformer’s engagement in music, literature and the visual arts, it celebrated him as a creator whose historical achievement depended on his having given aesthetic form to his ideas. Luther, Preuss explained, ‘is more than’ the theologian portrayed by historians of dogma. ‘Not only a teacher, he is an artist – this is his actual form; and he is not merely a thinker, he is a prophet – this is his actual content.’1 Behind Preuss’s pronouncements lay the dream, powerful in Weimar Germany, of a leadership role for artists, whether as counter-cultural avantgarde or as supreme arbiters of truth and beauty.2 More narrowly, Preuss sought to dispel old biases against Luther as a ‘tragedy for art’ and against Germany’s cultural backwardness.3 He allowed the Reformer to speak for himself against these prejudices, as in Luther’s statement cited at the outset of Preuss’s book: ‘Now we can again say against our opponents that they cannot complain that they do not know the teachings of the Gospel, since we have preached, painted, written and sung it to them.’4 Luther may not have been a painter, his doodles notwithstanding; but his sermons, tracts and translations, which Preuss showed were intensely figural, drew on images that existed in the pictorial tradition alone. The image of John’s ‘outstretched finger’, we recall, derived not from the Bible but from church art even though Luther used it to symbolize the Gospel. And throughout his career, in portraits publicizing his image, in woodcuts for his German Bible, in prints denigrating his enemies and exalting his cause, in pictorial programmes for evangelical churches, Luther supervised a wide spectrum of art production. The altarpieces in Wittenberg and in Weimar celebrated the mutual dependency between the painter and the preacher. Cranach


visualized Luther’s message of invisible faith grasping an invisible God. But how did Luther affect painting itself? What sort of artist did Cranach, through Luther, become? Luther may have himself designed a parodic papal coat-of-arms, widely circulated in woodcut form, that mocked clerical pretensions.5 But he devised for himself an allegorical emblem, as well, which he termed the merkzeichen (literally ‘notice-sign’) of his theology. Almost as ubiquitous as the printed and copied portraits by Cranach of him, the so-called Luther Rose sought to squeeze into a single picture the Reformer’s essential conviction (illus. 97). In a letter of 1530 to Lazarus Spengler, Luther decoded for the Nuremberg humanist the elements of his personal impresa.6 The cross, he explained, is painted in black on a heart-shaped field of red because a mortifying image of the crucified Christ dwells in the heart without blighting it. And since that picture already exists in us, faith alone is required for salvation. ‘If one believes in one’s heart,’ writes Luther in summary, ‘one will be justified.’ Faith therefore consoles, setting the heart at

97. Anonymous, Vita Lutheri, commemorative broadsheet for the Luther-Centennial, engraving (Strasbourg: Jacob van der Heyden, 1617).

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rest; in the emblem, this consolation is figured by the ‘joyous white rose’ surrounding the heart. Finally, the sky blue around the rose stands for the ‘heavenly joy’ that awaits us beyond faith, and the gold ring around it means that such joy is eternal. An engraving published in Strasbourg in 1617 to celebrate the centenary of the Ninety-Five Theses reproduces Luther’s merkzeichen together with a host of images, medals, quotations and facts, all condensing ‘in a short concept’ the Reformer’s ‘whole life and teachings, along with a table of their dates’.7 What seems most odd about this sheet and the Luther Rose itself is the disparity between the inwardness it celebrates (imaged by a cross in a heart in a rose in a shield in a picture in a frame) and its outward expression (the collection of material signs, citations and souvenirs, of which the sheet itself was one). Mementos crowd the page as if squeezed onto a student’s crib sheet. On the eve of the Thirty Years War, in an era when citizenship depended on a person’s allegiance to one of the two legal confessions, being a Lutheran subject meant memorizing, and reciting correctly on demand, information from Luther’s summaries of Scripture (the catechisms) and from summas of Luther’s life itself. Catechism aimed at faith by way of rote learning: ‘He who knows by heart [behertigt] “He who believes in me”, advised Luther,‘does not need to fear the judgment day’.8 Prior even to their understanding, words themselves can save if they are impressed – Luther’s verb is einbilden, to ‘image-in’ or ‘in-form’ – upon the heart. Lutheran artists sought to internalize internal conviction through images; the Reformer recommended having pictures ‘so that the heart can think on these things’.9 But pictures informed faith from the outside, through conventional and arbitrary signs (hence Luther’s need to explain his impresa), even while the information thus in-formed was already in the heart. This paradoxical task finds an odd solution in one of the last surviving works by Cranach the Younger, an altarpiece of 1584 now in Nuremberg.10 In its closed state, two panels shaped as halves of a heart place the Fall next to the Annunciation (illus. 98). These open to a second heart-shaped tableau: a crucifixion brimming with figures and flanked by scenes of Christ’s birth and resurrection on the half-hearts of the open wings (illus. 99). Documents indicate that the retable originally had a superstructure carved by the Wittenberg sculptor Wolff Schreckenfuchs, which framed a third heart-shaped panel (now in Dresden) of God the Father with the dead Christ (illus. 100).11 By 1584, retables with movable wings were out of fashion. Cranach used this obsolete structure to chart a passage towards an ever-more internal interior. The outer shutters, appropriate to their covering function, display matters of the flesh. The sensuous nude bodies of Eve and Adam, caught in the original trespass, stand opposite the Virgin who, receiving Christ in

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98. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Colditz Altarpiece, 1584, oil on panels (closed state). Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

below 99. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Colditz Altarpiece, 1584, oil on panels (open state).


100. Lucas Cranach the Younger, ‘God the Father with Christ’, 1584, upper panel of the Colditz Altarpiece, oil on panel. Staatliche Kunstsammlungen, Dresden (Gemäldegalerie Alte Meister).

her womb, redeems their sin. Although he rejected worship of her person, Luther honoured Mary as model receiver of Christ’s word. We should ‘picture [bilden] the Virgin’s example in our hearts’, he writes, since ‘it must happen in our hearts as it happened to her: we too must become pregnant with Holy Spirit and receive Christ spiritually’.12 Here Luther spiritualizes the plea, common among earlier devotional writers, to be ‘pregnant with Christ’; the imagery itself remains unchanged from the Middle Ages. In Cranach’s altarpiece, Mary’s miraculous conception gives way, by opening the shutters, to pregnancy, visualized as the historical crucifixion inside the heart. And in the smaller heart once enshrined by tracery above, Cranach displays the origin and the end of that inner picture. God the Father, who ‘so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten son’ (John 3:16), now finds his gift miserably returned, while as the panels below indicate, Christ

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now ‘dwells in your heart through faith’ (Eph. 3:17). In other words, Christ has descended from and returned to the Father while remaining in us through faith. And reciprocally we, who thus have Christ, might ascend through faith to God the Father. ‘Thereafter climb further through Christ’s heart to God’s heart’, states Luther in 1519 in his important Sermon on Beholding the Holy Suffering of Christ, ‘and see that Christ would not have shown love to you if God had not wanted him to do so.’13 In this text that guardedly affirms the Passion-based piety of previous popular devotion, Luther affirms Christ’s relation to believers as mystical union through love. From Augustine via Bernard of Clairvaux to the German mystics, God’s love for us and our love of God were salvation’s synergies, and in the late Middle Ages the principal site of their conjunction was the Eucharist, where Christ impregnated believers through the bread.14 Along these lines, Cranach’s heart-shaped altarpiece figures the Communion sacrament administered before it as union through love. Although archaic in format and logic, and displaying incontrovertible subjects,15 these panels also exemplify the new Lutheran position on images. Cranach renders concrete the Reformer’s statement of 1525, made against the iconoclasts, that hearing the word ‘Christ’ causes a picture of the crucifix to ‘delineate itself . . . in the heart’. Yet this last surviving retable by the Cranach shop also reveals how traditional Luther’s ruling on church pictures really was. The idea that Christ paints his portrait – and specifically a likeness of his Passion – in our hearts comes directly from medieval instructional literature on the use of devotional images. The late fifteenth-century author of an encyclical epistle (known from a copy in the Katharinenkonvent, Nuremberg), imagining four painted walls, advises nuns in his care to ‘paint’ one wall ‘with the life and suffering of Jesus Christ, so that your heart is adorned with them’.16 Luther’s ruling would have echoes in Counter-Reformation art as well. An engraving from Antoine Wierix’s popular series Cor Iesu amanti sacrum (published in Antwerp around 1585–6) shows the Christ-child sweeping ‘monsters’ out of the heart, so that it can be ‘empty, swept and garnished’(Matt. 12:45). In two further prints, Christ then appears painting the heart with the ‘arms’ of his Passion, and with scenes of the Four Last Things (illus. 101).17 As in Cranach’s predella, cleansing gives way to the cross, in the church and in the heart. In seventeenth-century Lutheranism, in the hymns of Paul Gerhardt, Sigismund von Birken and others, heart mysticism continued to connect faith and feeling.18 Through his paintings, Caspar David Friedrich carried this impulse forth into the modern age. His crucifixes – rustic artefacts found in the countryside – were sites of an intense feeling that could easily erupt in landscape empty of religious props. But by 1800, even for the pietistic Protestant Friedrich, faith had become an emotion, not a certitude; or better, it was an emotional yearning

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101. Antoine Wierix, Heart of Christ, c. 1585, engraving.

for certitude – ‘outpourings of the heart’ was how one revolutionary bestseller of the period put it.19 Where is the feeling in Cranach’s heart altarpiece? The artist shows us plenty of emotion. At the bottom left, forming a circle of compassion, the Virgin swoons, the evangelist catches her while fixing his eyes on Christ, and three women gesture in sympathy. To their right, ignoring Christ, soldiers draw swords over his robe, indicating, in Lutheran terms, the Jewish people’s scandalous passion for flesh (and the law) over spirit (and the Gospel). And across the picture, as a horizon of massed heads, humanity displays an indifference that, as their catalogue of real and fanciful spears suggests, should pierce the viewer’s heart. Squeezed in the crowds between Christ and the good thief, the Roman centurion stands apart. Indicating Christ, he models the faith that viewers ought to confess. Yet Cranach does not portray him in a way that invites viewers to enter his condition and feel his emotion

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in their hearts. Despite its format, Cranach’s panel is an emotional blank, a litany of Passion motifs to be learned by heart. Cranach’s panels originally stood behind the altar in August of Saxony’s castle in Colditz. At the time of its renovation in 1578, the chapel there had four pre-Reformation altarpieces, three on the ground floor and one in the gallery. Letters between Cranach and Prince August reveal that the patron requested the eccentric format. He writes of wanting the new retable to be ‘formed like a heart’.20 Cranach, reporting that he had measured the space and ‘seen everything there’,21 cautioned that the round form was unsuitable, and sent drawings of a heart-shaped and a preferable, rectangular alternative. The prince got his way, but one can understand Cranach’s reluctance. Whatever the form of its original frame, the ensemble must have looked top-heavy and precarious behind an altar. I suspect that Cranach massed the crucifixion’s speared attendants through the width of the panel not only to symbolize evil inwardly suffered, but also to stabilize the panel’s format, rather like filling a wobbly vase with sand. And the picture’s pervasive reds, unusual in Cranach’s œuvre, anchor the format’s figural meaning (as a bleeding heart) to the picture it contains. Despite these efforts, the shape remains distracting, and seems artificially imposed. I know of no imitators in Lutheran art, although precedents from Cranach’s shop exist. The Crucifixion altarpiece in the Augustusburg, made in 1571 for Prince August with tracery by Schreckenfuchs; the Epitaph to Anna Hertzer of 1575 formerly in the City Church in Wittenberg; and the Memorial, possibly to Michael Teuber, of circa 1580, all have compositions that adumbrate a heart (illus. 102).22 But these shapes are internal to the painting. Because of its schematism (real hearts aren’t heart-shaped) and because it deviates from the cultural norm (the visual field is not rectangular, though in the European tradition rectangular pictures imply optical experience), the heart as the physical boundary of the picture seems arbitrary and unnatural, overwhelming the message of inward conviction it is meant to convey. Such a judgement may be anachronistic for a painting of 1584, and Cranach and his patron may have liked the results. From the Reformer’s first battle against iconoclasts, however, through the Pietist movements of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, inwardness posed a crucial challenge for Lutheran culture. Rather than judging the Colditz Altarpiece as an isolated failure – a friend once asked me what chocolates it originally contained – we might discern in it the paradox of evangelical interiority, where inwardness was publically required. As a vision of religion’s climax, the Wittenberg predella is remarkably reserved (illus. 128). Turned towards a cross perceived in faith, the faces of the congregation are as blank as the wall behind them. Opacity of feeling has its emblem in the ‘bricks and mortar’ that Luther ruled was definitively not

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102. Lucas Cranach the Younger and Wolff Schreckenfuchs, Augustusburg Altarpiece, 1571, oil on panel. Schlosskapelle, Augustusburg.


church. This neutrality also holds true for the triptych’s outer wings. Nothing but external requirement (based in Scripture but mandated by authorities) appears to motivate the routines performed here. The painter himself attends excessively to blanks, replicating with his colours the banal surfaces of wood and stone. What moved Cranach to record, probably through his assistants, the grain and knots of the wood of Bugenhagen’s confessional, or the wavy edges, flaws and cracks of each pavement slab? These diligent passages embody a customary value. German painters had long excelled in veristic surface detail. Cranach’s own watercolour studies of fur and feathers are not much inferior to Albrecht Dürer’s famous Hare.23 In the Wittenberg Altarpiece, however, the mastery of materials and textures has become habit. Painting bluntly displays itself as mere routine. True, certain objects receive special treatment. Pulpit, font and confessional contain decorations that set them apart from the blank interior. This is because as requisites of preaching, baptism and penance they earn their embellishment.And if, in the central panel, Christ’s table and bench are of blank stone, Cranach’s altarpiece, in which those empty surfaces appear, itself embellishes another table: the mensa of the City Church. Later Lutherans insisted that cleanliness and ornament honoured God and were necessary for his place of worship. With this was suppressed Luther’s original idea that church occurred wherever God’s word was preached. But the dream of cleansing all adornments survived among radical Pietists, who hated the ‘stone church’.24 ‘Can’t you see,’ confides a vintner’s wife around 1823 to a young pastor, ‘when I kneel down in the straw between my cows, and I can pour out my heart into His lap, then my shed becomes to me a paradise.’25 Simply by being there, the Wittenberg Altarpiece marks one step away from that apostolic ideal. But in depicting what would be the case in the church in front of it, and in doing this with artistic reserve, Cranach insists that church is only the actions he depicts. His focus on, and routinized treatment of, material blanks befits a religion where everything important is visibly concealed, where Ecclesia’s very stones are hidden. We can now make better sense of Luther’s 1521 diatribe against his Catholic detractors: ‘Just as the rock [Christ] is invisible and spiritual, graspable only in faith, so must necessarily the church without sin be invisible and spiritual, graspable only in faith.’26 From the perspective of the theology of the cross, then, not only the predella’s crucifix, but the physical setting around it, the blank ‘rock’ of the built church, is ‘invisible and spiritual’. Cranach lets us see that ‘Christ’s kingdom is a hearing kingdom, not a seeing kingdom.’27 In the predella, preaching and prayer fill the setting only implicitly, through Luther’s gesture and through Christ, who is the word’s message. Usually, though, speech stands openly indicated by written inscriptions that are the aesthetic bane of Lutheran art. In a canvas of 1571

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now in the Lutherhalle in Wittenberg, Cranach the Younger backs an isolated crucifix with two blanks: beyond the tiniest strip of grass and stone, nothing but sky and clouds; and behind the cross’s base, nothing but text (illus. 103).28 Ostensibly written on one oblong panel hanging from the rear

103. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Crucifix, 1571, oil on canvas. Lutherhaus, Wittenberg.

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of the cross by a golden braid, but artificially split into two flanking columns, a Latin inscription addresses the viewer directly in words as if directly spoken by Christ: ‘Oh, you who look at me: look at yourself and your own guilt, for I would not have had to die were you not death-worthy’, etc. In Luther’s view, images function best when accompanied by texts, ‘God’s work and word everywhere is held before the eyes.’ Here the text, painted beautifully in majuscule, is framed and hung like a precious picture. Yet collapsing space by pressing up against the picture plane, the text reciprocally turns the canvas into a page, and the picture into text or hieroglyph. Cranach’s canvas – one of his largest – monumentalizes perhaps the most common type of image in Lutheran art: the crucifix set against a blank ground and surrounded by prayers, mottos and biblical quotations.29 Standard in visual format but able to be personalized through the selection of texts, this image lent itself especially to epitaphs and tombstones, where drabness reigned and it was far too late for artistic innovations and client input. A typical example hangs in the Hospital Church in Dinkelsbühl (illus. 104).30 Dating from before 1680, the epitaph commemorates the evangelical faith of Jacob and Ursula Regner. The deceased probably selected the citations that pack the space between the crucifix and its allegorical frame. Because their death dates were added by a different hand from the rest, it seems that the Regners had the object made during their lifetime. But like the image’s format, the five texts they chose to express their piety belong to a fixed and narrow canon of key biblical quotations. Luther termed these ‘text kernels’ (Kernstellen); modern editions of Luther’s German Bible still print them in bold.31 According to Luther they are special because somehow, in comparison with the rest of Scripture (which Luther ruled was also always perfectly clear), they more clearly and unequivocally pointed to Christ. I will later describe how these text kernels combine word and image through their character as rhetorical figures. Now I wish simply to consider what these bits of text do to the painting in which they appear. The Regner Epitaph’s crucifix stands surrounded by writing and framed by an allegory that asks to be read like writing. Ostensibly, it represents the inner message of all these texts, just as it is the middle or scopus of the Gospel, hence its place at the painting’s centre. On the left, for example, holding a cross and touching her heart, the personification of Faith seems to breathe out the text kernel of Romans 10 with what Lutherans termed a ‘devotional moan’.32 ‘For if one believes in one’s heart one will be justified, and if one confesses with one’s mouth one will be saved’ (Rom. 10:10). Because it is written diagonally before her, and because she points at it with her cross, this inscription – actually Luther’s personal motto – seems to emanate from Faith’s believing heart via her confessing mouth. The crucifix

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104. Anonymous, Epitaph of Jacob and Ursula Regner, c. 1675, oil on panel. Spitalkirche, Dinkelsbühl.

painted below it, fleshing out her simpler cross, is both what she believes and what she confesses, both what her heart contains and what her mouth speaks, both the inner picture and the real thing. Reduced as it is to the merest cipher on a flat, blanked-out pictorial field, however, the crucifix seems less like an image or a thing than like another text, while conversely the texts and flourishes materialized around it seem less like spoken words than like pictures. That is, where we think we should arrive at the inner content or message or signifier, we encounter instead, insistently, more outward containers, materialities and signifiers – and this, even though the tableau claims to represent the Regners’ heartfelt prayer.‘Descend to me into my heart’, begs the humble verse near the epitaph’s base,‘into my heart, that I may think on your ever-presence.’ In an epitaph, movements from speech to inscription, kernel to shell and spirit to thing are perhaps fitting, since they render a mortifying verdict

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against faith as ever a ‘lived experience’33 of a visible God. The contradiction between Lutheranism’s message of inwardness and its arbitrary, outward means was the theme of Walter Benjamin’s Origins of German Tragic Drama. Early modern allegory, Benjamin argued, staged its cunning play of signs as a melancholic loss of the signified in death. Luther’s was a mortifying theology.34 It had as its object the crucified Christ who revealed God in his concealment, while its subjective corollary was the believer who experienced Christ’s death as his own. Not surprisingly, Benjamin observed, Protestant art flourished above all in epitaphs, tombstones and graveyards, and in the festivals of death staged by Baroque Trauerspiele themselves. From the sixteenth century through the eighteenth, funeral effigies of Lutherans confessing their belief, and (for simpler folk) long decorative lists of proper names, replaced the old icons of the saints, just as in literature the most powerful Lutheran expressions were funeral poems. The inert materiality of Lutheran art becomes most poignant when it reflects its pious audience in their physical demise. In a humble panel in the parish church of Aldingen, the texts (dating into the eighteenth century) around the crucifix (dating from 1662) are simply the names of the dead, along with the sums they donated to the church (illus. 105).35

105. Anonymous, Crucifixion with Donor Inscriptions, 1662–1732, oil on panel. Evangelische Kirche, Aldingen, Kreis Tuttingen.

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Cranach deadens his pictures by inscribing their surfaces with biblical quotations, which collapse pictorial space, or by announcing in the gesture of his figures, or through his own painterly style, that what we see is only a visual quotation, an image of an image rather than the thing itself. His Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion, known in at least five versions all dating from 1536–9, exemplifies this mortification of painting through text, gesture and style (illus. 126).36 As in Cranach’s altarpieces in Colditz and Schneeberg, the centurion appears at the moment of his conversion, when he points to the crucified body and says, against the evidence of what he sees, and in the words now inscribed before him in German: ‘Warlich diser Mensch ist Gotes Son gewest’ (‘Truly this man was God’s son’). At the top of the panel, meanwhile, over the inri where Cranach’s Crucifixions usually end, Christ’s last words, directed upwards with his gaze, synchronize the centurion’s confession with another moment: ‘Father, into your hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46). The one text identifies for the reader the man who dies, and, in stating this, it announces what Christians believe. The other, whispered by the son to his father and only overheard by us, draws us into that death and shows what, because of it, dying will become. With and through Christ, our spirit too shall be commended to heaven. In Luke, Christ speaks these words after his dialogue with the good thief, who requests and receives redemption. Faith (the thief ’s, the centurion’s, the viewer’s) and salvation thus converge on Christ at the threshold of death. Our visual experience of this convergence is anything but immediate, however. Whereas in Cranach’s altarpieces in Colditz and Schneeberg the centurion makes his gesture in the bustle of the real world – Christ’s death on the cross (to borrow Leopold Ranke’s famous phrase) ‘as it actually was’ – here he gestures alone on Calvary, which itself stands isolated from the world as a weird swelling of rocky ground set off from the blankness of the sky. And elements that elsewhere locate the action in space and time here increase the scene’s abstraction. The centurion’s horse rears up, wild and mobile, against the flat and static background as if it had galloped into the wrong movie set. Its left eye occurs along the picture’s median, in unnaturally exact alignment with the cross, Christ’s body and the inscriptions ‘this man’ and ‘I my’. It gazes at us straight out of the picture, as if to interpellate our response to Christ in all his visual and verbal appellations. But no one thus hailed feels that this is how it actually was on Calvary. At best, one feels monitored during one’s attention to a difficult lesson. Here, as in the Wittenberg predella, Christ dies in the dead air of a schoolroom, again despite the fluttering loincloth. Although the freeze-framed horse and drapery convey its temporal status as historical event, Cranach’s crucifixion takes place more in words than in a world. It stands as one element in the syntax of a sentence. In the versions in

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106 Lucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion, 1536, oil on panel. National Gallery of Art, Washington, dc.

Aschaffenburg and Washington, the deictic ‘this man’, denoting the object of the centurion’s statement and gesture, occurs directly over the wood of the cross, thus physically connecting word to thing – and perhaps even to the image, since Cranach painted his picture on a wooden panel (illus. 106).37 The artist made no effort to integrate the text into his represented world – for example, as words carved into or painted on the cross’s depicted timber. Rather, speech stands represented as inscription over painting, even as the

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image ‘crossed out’38 by the text. In the Seville version, the cross interrupts the inscription, pushing ‘this’ and ‘man’ apart (illus. 126). This unusual interaction between writing and its support seems courteous to painting. But it benefits writing more. It allows us to ‘read’ the cross as if it were a word in a grammatical sequence. Here is reversed Wittgenstein’s famous dictum, ‘A sentence is an image of reality.’39 This painting is a sentence, one that claims to state, from the universe of the sayable, what most crucially is the case. Note, too, that in the Aschaffenburg panel, probably copying a version of 1536, the inscription occurs just below the centurion’s mouth, emphasizing its aspect as enunciated speech, whereas in the Seville panel it occurs at eye level, as something one sees (or reads) rather than hears. Speech as well as painting aspires to the condition of writing. In chapter 16 I will consider what this condition was during a period of limited literacy, when printed texts were not yet standardized, and whether scribes and artists still ‘painted’ words letter for letter. At this point I shall focus on the connection, made material in Cranach’s panel, between a certain type of sentence and a certain kind of painting. In the Phenomenology of the Spirit, in its famous Preface, Hegel argued that sentences that point demonstratively to the contents of experience – to the phenomena of a phenomenology – inevitably miss their mark.40 The words ‘this’ and ‘my’ seem to speak from the time and place where the object designated lies close at hand. But they are general expressions, words spoken by others on different occasions; they have no special purchase on the here and now. Hegel makes his point in writing, a medium where the object referred to will generally be absent. Yet Hegel’s ‘this’ and ‘my’ connect to something present to them: the Phenomenology itself, to which the Preface refers. (In his Aesthetics, by the way, Hegel celebrated a rare form of writing that points to itself. Physically inscribed on an object, the ancient epigram takes as its topic the thing it is written on. Writing thus grasps the ‘this’ of its own material support.) Reared as a Lutheran, and launching his academic career with a study of ‘positive’ religion, Hegel was steeped in a Christian dogmatics of the word. Before him, during the three centuries of bloody confessional conflict that ravaged Germany, Lutheran theologians wrestled centrally with the power and frailty of verbal testimony. In their view, God’s word transmits only Christ; yet Christ, and with him his ‘external’ transmissions, are not what they seem. ‘This man’, whom the centurion beheld, manifested ‘the Son of God’ not just poorly but altogether negatively, as we’ve seen. In their home-baked way, Cranach’s paintings of the converted centurion grapple with the paradox of an absolute message transmitted by incommensurate means. Everything struggles to attach the ‘my’ and the ‘this’ to their object. Christ’s body literally spans the space between them,

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between the Gospel’s first-person ‘I my’ and third-person ‘this man’, epigrammatically inscribed on or about the painted cross. And to this painted conjunction of word and object, Cranach adds a finger pointed upward at Christ. Here gesture returns words to that primordial movement of hand to thing which St Augustine, in his Confessions, describes as the very origins of language: ‘this’ names what the pointing finger shows.41 In Cranach, moreover, Christ hardly needs denotation, since he veritably is the painting himself. His frontality, spotlighting and isolation make him a pure silhouette, as if the minutest obscuring of the hidden God through foreshortening, shadow or overlap were taboo. Cranach does not merely display what the centurion shows. He paints it in a state of exaggerated ostension. His Christ is visual deixis simultaneously transmitted and received. Indeed the audience (an implied second-person ‘you’) will have seen ‘this man’ before noticing the Roman soldier’s gesture. The centurion himself sees first and speaks second. As pagan outsider, he confronts Christ as an abject visual spectacle – a state criminal being publically eradicated – that he penetrates:‘And when the centurion, who was standing right in front of him [in Luther’s German, gegenüber], saw the way He breathed His last, he said “Truly this man was the Son of God”’ (Mark 15: 39). Cranach shifts the centurion to the side of the cross only to place the viewer in a position ‘right in front’. Unlike the ‘cryptic’ (kryptos) of the Greek Gospels that names the cross’s secret in terms of illegibility, the Latin absconditus of the Vulgate (as in the ‘abscondito’ at Matt. 6:3) means ‘that which retreats from the visible’. The Bible that Luther inherits expresses secrecy in visual terms.42 The existence of Lutheran church pictures, as visible things for a hearing religion, along with their inertness and their reluctance to visualize any invisible beyond, thus follows from the nature of their task. Scripture does not mention the centurion’s name. The name ‘Longinus’, etymologically connected to the Greek word for ‘lance’, derives from fourth- and fifth-century apocryphal sources, which link a certain early Christian martyr thus named both to the Roman soldier who, in the synoptic Gospels, sees and knows Christ, and to the figure in John 19:39 who pierces Christ’s ‘side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water’. In the Middle Ages, when piety increasingly centred on details of the Passion, writers and artists filled out the meagre Gospel story with material from extra-Gospel sources. From Pseudo-Nicodemus there arose a legend that Longinus had been blind and regained sight when Christ’s blood, by the grace of God, dripped into his eyes from his lance. In a Crucifixion panel now in Karlsruhe, the Master of the Sterzinger Altar Wings depicts the path of the blood along the length of the lance to the centurion’s hand (illus. 107).43 Sometimes explained as a reward for his compassionate

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107. Master of Sterzinger Altar Wings, Crucifixion, c. 1460, oil on panel. Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe.

killing of Christ (who would have otherwise died by slow suffocation), but motivated by the Gospel’s saying that he had seen the crucifix, the story of the centurion’s miraculous cure symbolized the conversion of the Gentiles. Whereas Christ’s own people, the Jews, did not recognize his divinity, Longinus, a blind pagan, did. Part of a matrix of anti-Jewish beliefs out of which so many Christian symbols were generated, Longinus’s grace-given sight, or insight, contrasted with the scandalous blindness of Synagoga to Paul’s ‘word of the cross’ (Synagoga’s attribute is the centurion’s broken lance).44 In Cranach’s panels, the Jews’ refusal to recognize their own God stands condensed in the bad thief who, with sunken, unseeing eyes, twists his head from Christ.45 The Roman soldier’s clarified sight, meanwhile, models our visual perception of the picture itself. Christ shines forth in eerie clarity against a world where there’s nothing else to see. Unlike many earlier pictures, Cranach depicts no sight-restoring blood. He disentangles the centurion from the legends of Longinus, and shows the crucified Christ still alive, suffering and open-eyed before receiving the

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mortal wound.46 Vision itself has instead become a quasi-physical force that connects or repels the seer and the seen. Eye-level with Christ, the good thief stares ahead with a fixity that renders his body stiff and alert, as if his crucifixion were in a pious imitation of Christ’s, while the bad thief, as noted, receives Christ like a blow to the chin. The centurion’s gaze has further to travel. But its path is mapped both by his outstretched finger and by the loincloth, one end of which points, arrow-like, back to finger and eye. Christ, for his part, gazes up toward heaven, channelling all the gazes that behold him. It is only through Christ (the picture tells us) that believers are saved; there is no way to heaven but by way of his covering form. Finally, completing this circuit of vision, the centurion’s horse stares out of the picture, directing everything at ‘you’. Other German painters of the time, most notably Hans Baldung Grien, specialized in outward-gazing horses, stationing them in crucifixions and martyrdoms as omens of disaster.47 White or grey in colour, these mounts recollect the equus pallidus of the Apocalypse: ‘And I looked and behold a pale horse’ (Rev. 6:8). In Cranach, the centurion’s ghostly stead links the viewer not only back to Christ’s death but also forward to judgement day, collapsing present, past and future into one Augenblick.48 In Cranach’s paintings of the converted centurion, Christ’s sight-saving blood is present only in its effects. In other pictures from Cranach’s shop, the ‘sudden flow of blood’ from the coup-de-lance takes centre stage. It structures the redemption scene in all of Cranach’s images of law and Gospels, where, spraying from Christ’s wound onto the breast of the believer, it concretely answers the believer’s gaze and the Baptist’s pointing finger (illus. 7 and 132). Depicted as a diagonal descending from right to left, the blood also echoes the diagonally placed spear of Death which orders the scenes of the law. Pointed at the sinner’s bare buttocks, the corpse’s comical weapon perverts the target and effect of the centurion’s lance, showing how, when people try to save themselves by following the law, Christ’s death damns them. The most monumental of these streams of blood occurs in the great retable in Weimar, completed by the Cranach shop, where it connects Christ’s side wound to a posthumous likeness of Cranach the Elder (illus. 29, 87 and 135). Again, the blood materializes and inverts the glances and gestures aimed at Christ: Luther’s gaze, the Baptist’s finger, the artist’s prayer all point upstream. But here the blood belongs to even denser sacred indication. Its spray, for example, traverses the background scenes of the Annunciation to the Shepherds and The Brazen Serpent, cutting directly through the pointing gestures of the distant figures; New and Old Testament ‘promises’ thus meet their ‘fulfilment’ in Christ, whose blood all pointing finally designates. And although it strikes Cranach’s head, its trajectory is

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picked up at the right by one of the vanquished serpents (shaped like a splash and bleeding from the mouth) and down below by Luther’s index finger, which points to a medley of appropriate Bible verses on an open book: ‘The blood of Jesus Christ cleanses us of all sins . . . ’.49 Turned in our direction, and with quotations, again, in the German vernacular, the book orients the picture around the activity of reading. Meanwhile, Luther’s gesture itself, as continuation of the flow of blood, is echoed in miniature by Moses in the scene of the law; Moses’s finger is echoed by the lance of Death, as the consequence of following Moses’s indication; and Death’s lance is echoed by the transparent pole of the victory banner that the resurrected Christ thrusts into the Devil’s mouth. What is striking are not the various messages that underlie these echoes (since these could be stated by any number of biblical texts, including those painted on Luther’s open Bible), but rather the image that these messages structure. In effect, all gestures, and with them the painting itself, repeat the one that the Baptist, the centurion and Luther variously make. All show Christ; and in this retable altarpiece, showing is answered, as it was for the centurion, in the best possible way, as the miraculous and immediate reception of the thing shown: the blood shed at the crucifixion and now present in the altar rite. The spray of Christ’s blood turns the corner on the viewer’s own experience of the painting, for it transmogrifies into the deceased painter’s outward gaze toward us. In this painted epitaph to Cranach (who died in 1553 during its making), the blood guarantees both his salvation and his vision, being the object both of his faith and of the painting before us. Sandwiched between the Baptist and the Reformer, as between the Gospel’s initial and current proclamation, Cranach is shown to see and to indicate the crucified Christ. Receiving the word, he implicitly, and inwardly, beholds the crucifix we behold even as he looks at us – in rather the same way as the parishioners in the Wittenberg predella behold Christ while looking Luther’s way. In the Longinus legend, beholding Christ as Christ was radicalized as a conversion from blindness into sight: the Roman soldier saw nothing until he saw Christ. Cranach preserved this previous deprivation in the setting of his pictures of the centurion. Besides the crucifix and those who behold or ignore it, there is nothing but night and death. But then, blindness was implied by all his crucifixions, since blindness was the historical circumstance of Christ’s death, in which no one but the centurion identified who ‘this man’ was – except in the double irony of mocking labels like the crown of thorns and the inri superscription. And how could it have been otherwise, beholding the ultimate penalty?50 In arguing, contra the enthusiasts, that hearing God’s word is obligatory, Luther pointed out that those who actually witnessed Christ stood infinitely less chance of grasping

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him than we who, though remote in time and place, have the Gospel to inform us. The facts of the story reveal that Christ was imperceptible in those facts, and that he is available only through testimony headed counterfactually. Abbreviated in the centurion’s equation ‘this is God’s son’, the reference of Cranach’s crucifixes must remain invisible. In the Weimar retable, we peer into the artist’s eyes as into the gaze of one who believes (and appears redeemed in his belief) that ‘this is God’s son’. Moreover, Cranach the son introduces his father into a painting remarkable for its visual clarity; in its meticulous finish and close attention to fine details and surface texture, this belated triptych altarpiece is a swan song of Gothic realism. Yet shaped into a diagram of salvation, all this conviction and veracity confronts us as pieces of a doctrine we must believe blindly. Cranach’s paintings of the converted centurion visualize the relation of facts to faith as a relation of images to words.At their centre, Cranach crosses the vertical member of the cross with the inscription of Longinus’s statement, so that the crucifix reads as if it were part of the sentence and vice versa. With its subject sealed to its referent (‘this’ and ‘man’ straddling the crucifix), the sentence itself identifies in the simple grammar of equality what that referent ‘is’. I have observed, however, that ‘God’s son’ hardly states the obvious, since the masses would have mockingly replied, ‘is not!’ If anything, the painted cross serves to remind us (perhaps so that Scripture does not become mere words) of how great an abyss of appearances the copula ‘is’ must span. Cranach therefore pictures something specific about the sentence. Sealing the words to the centurion’s lips, he shows it to be testimony of a empirical witness. Linking it to both the object and the speaker, Cranach shows what the sentence says and what it is. To use Gottlob Frege’s famous distinction, he surrounds its ‘reference’ (the cross) with a framing scene of their ‘sense’ (words voiced by the centurion). In their mode of presentation, the texts that clutter Lutheran crucifixes are all reported speech and stand implicitly in quotation marks. For Frege, quotations exemplify the distinction between sense and reference. As ‘signs of signs’, they indicate foremost the statement itself and only indirectly its content, so the latter can be false without affecting the fact that it has been stated.51 Frege cites two sentences where the subordinate clause has a belief as its reference: ‘Copernicus believed that the planetary orbits are circles’ and ‘Copernicus believed that the apparent motion of the Sun is produced by the real motion of the Earth.’52 Both are true in their main clause (‘Copernicus believed’), but only the second is true in both clauses. A similar distinction was drawn by Sperber in his account of apparently irrational beliefs.53 In religion, we recall, the objects of belief are not facts about the world but representations. Believers believe in the authority of statements, rather than in what the statements say, as measured,

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for example, against experience. In the centurion’s case, the statement is explicitly one of irrational belief, since it is made against everything that Christian culture itself would agree were the factual standards: physical evidence, popular consensus, the authority of the ruler, even the verdict of the relevant ‘congregation’, i.e., the Jews. Even without his speaking and pointing effigy stationed right beside him, the centurion’s confession comes with a bracketing ‘this man believes that . . . ’ attached, and it is to his irrational statement and not to the fact, or image, of the cross that viewers must commit. In Luther’s sola fides, this belief in belief becomes fully manifest as doctrine. Long before the modern language philosophers, Protestant theology and Protestant art had revealed the codes that allowed belief statements to be processed. According to Luther, we do not receive Scripture’s message on our own strength. Faith passes with the word to its receiver like a format code enabling him or her to access the text. Opened, the text chiefly makes a promise about its own code, namely, that the words we read are God’s. All of Scripture is indirect speech. In every word is embedded the implicit or explicit main clause ‘God says,’ which ensures that all subordinate clauses, however implausible, are true in that framing sense. Conversely (according to Luther) not a single word of Scripture is understandable without faith, since faith alone reveals that all words, no matter what they seem to say, are spoken by and about Christ. ‘Both of them, word and faith together,’ writes Luther, are ‘bound in one, just as God and man in one Christ is one person.’54 It was on sense rather than reference, i.e., on the brute fact of Scripture’s enunciation rather than the fact enunciated, that Luther based his belief in Christ’s real presence in the Mass. Whether or not one understands how, the bread becomes Christ because Scripture says so, and no gloss affects this fact. The statement ‘“This is my body”’, wrote Luther, ‘comes not from men but from God himself, spoken by his own lips and set down in these very letters and words.’55 The centurion precedes his statement with a declaration of its truth. Painted by Cranach in the narrow gap between speaker and reference, the word ‘truly’ (‘Warlich’) adds yet another code, itself modified by the hidden codes ‘this person believes’ and ‘God says’, that frames off the statement as something to be trusted. ‘Truly’ ensures that, although the crucifix faces us as if it were our experience, the truth of Christ’s death appears in profile, as something someone else saw and penetrated. Luther taught that faith depends on personal testimony, that from the Baptist on it takes preachers to proclaim God’s word, and that all believers should state what they believe in the public form of a confession. All the images we have been studying, in the way they seem simply to repeat what would occur anyway in the world before them, function to focus individual faith on

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representations of individual faith. While seeming to glorify faith as inner conviction, the reliance on the external word in preaching, sacrament and ministry displaced belief from reference to sense, from inner message to material inscription, from personal understanding to obedience to a codified confession. In Cranach, the centurion’s sentence ends in darkness. Whereas English Bibles render the centurion’s words with the preterit ‘was’, Luther used the compound ‘ist . . . gewest’ to emphasize that Christ died just now. In the way he inscribes it on the panel, the sentence keeps pace with death. Cranach flanks Christ and his label (‘this man’) between ‘truly’ and ‘is’, so that, at that point in the sentence, those words describe the portrait of a still-living Christ. But Cranach lets the past participle ‘gewest’ ring out afterwards like a death-knell, in the space before the damned thief. Viewing and reading begin as if in the present only to end in the past. Long before the curtain closes, however, Cranach already absented his image of Christ. He extracted it from the world where the enunciation occurred (the historical situation as imagined in the paintings in Colditz and Schneeberg, illus. 94 and 99), placing it inside a sentence, inside a statement about that sentence, and inside a scene of the centurian stating both of these. Moreover, Cranach so standardized his painting of the crucifix that no viewer would judge the truth of the centurion’s words on what they see. Materially and syntactically embedded in the Gospel quotation, and itself resembling other painted crucifixes by Cranach more than a ‘visibly living Christ’, the image stands as if inside implicit quotation marks. It is a ‘sign of a sign’ (Frege) – what can be understood and believed without being directly experienced. I will argue that the drastically formulaic character of the painting as painting suits a religion where the real truth, by definition, lies not in faithfulness to a world but in faith in words. This was not true of Cranach’s early pictures. His 1503 Crucifixion, now in Munich, does all a picture can do to make the viewer feel that he or she stands physically in the event depicted, as if painting could answer the plea of a Julian of Norwich ‘to be actually with Mary Magdalen and the others who loved him, and with my own eyes to see and know the physical suffering of our Saviour’(illus. 108).56 Cranach conveys real presence (Latin praesse,‘to stand before’) not just by detailing Christ’s gruesome death, for example how, split by the nail, his feet express their distorted anatomy (illus. 109). Cranach frames those details as the subjective perception of an eyewitness, endowing them with the structures and distortions of lived experience. Focusing his composition on Mary, towards whom both the crucifix and John the Evangelist are turned, Cranach moves us from our oblique view of Christ to the Virgin’s face-to-face perspective. What we behold in the

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108. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion, 1503, oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich.

picture seems to look the way it does only in this oscillating here and now. And just as Christ’s body signals suffering through unnatural contours, postures and hues, so too nature itself shapes itself to Christ’s pain. In the background, Cranach portrays a wilderness observed under the changing conditions of weather and light. Everything appears to ‘see and know the physical suffering’ he endured. In contrast to the Wittenberg predella’s airless interior, storm clouds gather behind Christ, explaining the wind that tosses his outsize loincloth, so that we can almost feel the gusts blasting

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through the pictured world. Expressing naturally the miraculous eclipse that followed Christ’s final breath, those clouds keep time by their movement from the right, synchronizing the world to his last heartbeat. And it is into this spectacle of death occurring on earth, as within a subjectively and objectively interwoven whole, that the viewer is ineluctably absorbed. The radically oblique view of Christ, the partially glimpsed foreground thief, the abrupt upper framing edge, the sharp highlights throughout: these all introject us into represented space, specifying our position through the contingency of forms beheld as if at this specific place and time. Observed from a comfortable proximity, Cranach’s panel seems to show Christ life-size on the cross. (The picture may have hung on the left side wall of a chapel, so that its represented obliqueness would have worked with the physical angle from which it was beheld.) What the Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion indicates with the words ‘this’ and ‘my’, the Munich picture communicates through the very structure of its view. It is this immediacy that Cranach curtails in his later crucifixions. In the Centurion panels, as in the Wittenberg predella, the cross rises isolated from its surrounds. Although it ‘stands before’ us in strict frontality, everything about it says it is absent. An image of the heart’s image of the hidden God, Cranach’s painting is appropriately thin, dry, two-dimensional and inert. It signals non-presence not only through its scenography, but through the character of the painterly mark as well. In the panel of 1503, the contingencies of Christ’s silhouette expressed his and our situatedness in the world, and this was magnified by variations in painterly means. Cranach defined Christ’s back though a wavering, luminous outline in the midst of shadow; his chest and legs, through contrasts with the background; and the upper edge of his arm, through reinforced dark underdrawing. In the Wittenberg predella, by contrast, Christ seems circumscribed by a continuous outline from which all accidents have been ironed out, and within which details appear like items on a checklist. ‘Eyes closed, cheeks hollow, arms distended, diaphragm fallen, heart pierced, bleeding from the wounds’, the coroner’s report would read. Art historians have long lamented the apparent waning of Cranach’s artistic powers. Already imputed to works from his first years in Wittenberg, where he was called in 1505 to be court painter of Friedrich the Wise, this decline is usually attributed to the changed conditions of his craft. Swamped by duties and commissions, and busy also with publishing, real estate, politics and trade, Cranach, it is argued, geared his shop for the production of multiples, and to that end he increasingly delegated the execution of paintings to members of his shop. In addition to Cranach’s sons, grandsons and a stable of up to eleven apprentices at a time (e.g., in 1535), we know of some seventeen collaborators by name.57 On the basis of technical and

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documentary evidence, scholars have begun to assemble extensive œuvres for some of these helping hands. The volume of the surviving objects that go under the name ‘Lucas Cranach the Elder’ argues for collaborative, serial production. About a thousand panel paintings are extant, and some four hundred more are documented but lost. And if one adds the hundreds that are lost and unrecorded, the acres of canvas paintings (all destroyed) that Cranach is known to have made for new or enlarged castles of the Saxon princes, and countless other works from Germany, the Baltic and eastern Europe that bear the imprint of his manner, it becomes obvious that Cranach oversaw a painting factory, by far the most prolific in the Germanspeaking world. What Cranach made in a painting associated with him may be its style, composition, underdrawing, final paint layer or a mix of these, but the whole will typically be by many different hands. The matter of Cranach’s authorship seems to have vexed his contemporaries. A tutor of his grandchildren, Matthias Gunderam, reported that, during his siege of Wittenberg, Charles v summoned Cranach to his camp to ask whether a certain ‘painted panel’ he had received from Johann Friedrich in Speyer was by the artist’s hand or by his son’s.58 Gunderam does not give Cranach’s response, and the question that brought the painter before the emperor has troubled collectors ever since. In a recent exhibition in Augsburg, Claus Grimm tried to plot the personal participation of Cranach the Elder in each of his major works. For the Wittenberg Altarpiece, for example, Grimm gave most of the painted surface to apprentices and to assistants hired specially for the job.59 This seems correct, provided that it does not translate into a simple ‘not Cranach’. In a work of such prominence, it is unlikely that the master did not fully oversee its design and execution. More crucially, routinized painting befits a picture of faith’s everyday routines. A division of labour in Cranach’s works remains visible in the smallest details. Grimm compares the feet of Christ in the 1503 Crucifixion to those in a circa 1526 portrait of Albrecht of Brandenburg (illus. 109 and 110).60 The specificity of the grotesque distortions so remarkable in the former, as well as the organic integration of these into a turbulent painterly whole, are missing in the latter. Fleshly presence – both of Christ and of the artist – grows feebler with time. In the Longinus panel in Seville (1538), the feet have become so generalized that the nails piercing them have no effect on their contour, and stand forth like tokens applied retrospectively to an a priori form (illus. 111). Standardization of outline and brushwork is not without its benefits, however. For Cranach, of course, it ensured that his original design and something of his gesture – the quick, supple lines that earned him his praise as ‘speediest of painters’ – could be reproduced by assistants, regardless of their talent or style. For the viewer, standardization makes

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109. Detail of feet in illus. 108. below left 110. Detail of feet in Lucas Cranach the Elder, Albrecht of Brandenburg in Prayer, c. 1520–25, oil on panel. Alte Pinakothek, Munich. below right 111. Detail of feet in illus. 106.


forms more legible by setting them off against their surroundings, like articulated speech against noise. More deeply, it is fitting that the crucifixes of Cranach’s Lutheran pictures look like the stencilled copies they sometimes are since they announce themselves to be conventional representations of something unrepresentable. What is lost, however, in putting the image scenographically into quotations is the sentient and sensible quality of flesh. Christ’s body becomes a cipher, like those neatly aligned nails that pierce it. Time, which causes certain paints to become translucent as they age, as well as infrared reflectography, which detects marks covered in the painting process, have revealed remarkably fluid underdrawing in Cranach’s earliest panels.61 In the 1503 Crucifixion, Christ’s billowing loincloth is painted over an amazing swirl of preliminary outlines that imitate movement by being mobile themselves (illus. 108).62 That Cranach’s hand is present from start to finish is consistent with what the painting ostentatiously displays: not only the event of Christ’s death but the moment of the picture’s manufacture. Compare this to Cranach’s underdrawing of the loincloth executed several decades later (illus. 113).63 Traced or pounced64 from a pre-existent template and retraced by the final layers of

112. Infrared reflectogram of illus. 108.

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113. Infrared reflectogram of Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Penitent St Jerome, c. 1545, oil on panel. Stiftung LudwigRoselius-Museum, Bremen.

paint, the picture is quotidian in its very facture, an image of an image of an image. One need not penetrate to the underdrawing to see this difference, however. The 1503 panel registers uniqueness at the level of what it shows (the contingent instant of Christ’s death viewed from a hyper-specified point of view) and of what it materially is (paint on a wooden panel). As in Cranach’s 1500 Crucifixion discussed earlier (illus. 6), the blood that forms errant patterns as it drips down Christ’s corpse connects the immediacy of suffering to the immediacy of painting: even this final layer of paint is, as it were, sketched by the youthful Cranach’s brush. The later crucifixes obliterate all contingencies, whether arising from torture, viewpoint or technique.

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It is interesting to compare the appearance of quotidian flesh in different arenas of Cranach’s work. In his female nudes (the serial production of which climaxed around 1530), the body silhouetted against a black backdrop condenses the master’s fluid ductus in a traceable outline. These memorable pictures depend on an limited range of formulas that still manage to look lively in each individual case. Exactly the same torso may be used for a Lucretia, an Eve, a Venus, a Judith or a Justitia, and only the dance of head and limbs, plus an attribute or two, tells figures apart (illus. 114–15).65 Though flamboyantly neglectful of correct anatomy, these pastiched forms possess a distinct integrity – one based on interlaced lines and on an erotic intertwining of the nude with its viewer. Re-presentation, or the cascade of images of images that is this artist’s method and manner, has an altogether different effect here than in the icons of Lutheran religion.At once seductive, elegant and humorous, Cranach’s nudes release the erotic and aesthetic energy of external flesh. Standardization had quite different consequences for another line of the Cranach shop. The serial production of painted portraits demanded special modes of making. At the death of Johann the Constant in 1532, his

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left 114. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Venus, 1532, oil on panel. Städelsches Kunstinstitut und Städtische Galerie, Frankfurt. right 115. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Lucretia, 1533, oil on panel. Staatliche Museen, Berlin.

successor, Johann Friedrich, commissioned Cranach to paint in oil 60 double portraits of the deceased and his predecessor, Friedrich the Wise, along with commemorative verses (illus. 116).66 Celebrating the princes’ struggle against the papacy while also affirming their obedience to the emperor, these little panels, along with the several triptychs of Friedrich flanked by Johann and Johann Friedrich, affirm the legitimacy of the Ernestine line as imperial electors (illus. 118).67 Several sorts of resemblance overlap here: those of portrait to sitter, brother to brother, father to son, original to copy and (especially in the triptych format, with its sacral connotations) princes to holy personages. Cranach used different replicative technologies to achieve these ends. To record the princes’ features, he may have employed a perspective machine like the one illustrated by Dürer in his 1525 manual on measurement.68 And to transfer this original outline to the individual panels, he probably utilized stencils, or perforated tracing sheets, as are extant for Holbein the Younger.69 The similarity among portraits produced by different hands over several decades, together with the linearity of the finished works, impress the pictured faces quasi-mechanically on the viewers’ minds. Cranach’s portraits of Luther were even more widely disseminated (illus. 32–3). The ubiquity of printed and painted portraits of the Reformer as Junker Jörg, drawn by Cranach ‘from life’ during the Wartburg captivity, made it inevitable that viewers of the Wittenberg Altarpiece would catch Luther’s cameo in the supper-table scene. The production and distribution of likenesses enable the Reformer’s unveiling both in his 1522 disguise and now among the Apostles. For its part, Luther’s likeness in the predella conforms to a yet-more famous type, one that recurs through most of our principal examples (illus. 119). The reproductive technique of a standardized outline achieves a semantic charge here. Abstracting the face to a repeatable template, the image turns the individual into a representative type that will model other persons. As I will describe, Cranach’s routinization of the image augments a ‘routinization of charisma’ that was the Reformation’s social and political legacy. But how exactly does standardization affect our experience of Cranach’s altarpieces? Research on Lutheran church pictures has focused almost exclusively on iconography, on the way that evangelical doctrine changed, added or rejected traditional subjects. Partly this reflects a general habit in art history of separating style from content, and of scrutinizing the latter after using the former for dating and attribution. Like its modern interpreters, Lutheran art itself seems to favour meaning over form through its visible attachment to texts. But this emphasis is not without its analysable stylistic effects. And since the Reformation was, in some deep sense, an upheaval in ‘the imaginary apprehension of the real’,70 how Lutheran

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116. Detail of Lucas Cranach the Elder (workshop), Friedrich the Wise, c. 1535, oil on panel. Szepmüvezeti Museum, Budapest.

117. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Friedrich the Wise, 1532, oil on panel. Lutherhalle Wittenberg.


118. Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Princes of Saxony, c. 1532, oil on panel. Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg.

119. Lucas Cranach the Elder (workshop), Martin Luther, 1546, oil on panel. Fogg Art Museum, Cambridge, Massachusetts.


images visualize their objects is as revealing of the culture as which objects they visualize. It makes a difference to our experience of the Wittenberg predella that its focus, the crucifix, is almost a perfect replica of several other crucifixes in Cranach’s æuvre: the theological idea that all Christians share an internal image of Christ, indeed that Christ and his message are the same for all believers, is expressed through the routinization of painting itself. Serving and constructing a new communicative model, Lutheran art communicates differently, transforming the medium as much as the message. The Reformation reshaped what the visual image is. There have been exceptions to the historiographical focus on messages. In a path-breaking essay of 1967, Charles Talbot argued that the painter’s late style had a doctrinal function, seeking to emulate the clarity of Scripture.71 Donald Kuspit’s idea of a ‘simple style’ shared between Dürer and the Reformers, as well as Michael Baxandall’s account of Riemenschneider’s monochrome retables as defences against idolatry, are two other notable efforts to discern meanings in an artist’s style in this period.72 Kuspit argued that his account had precedents in the historical culture. Melanchthon borrowed a scale from ancient rhetoric to grade the three leading painters of his day from high to low, with Dürer at the top, Grünewald in the middle and Cranach at the bottom.73 ‘Low style’, here, did not mean what it does for Cicero, who considered it a mode fit for base genres and humble subjects. As I noted in chapter 8, St Augustine had affirmed that humble language – the sermo humilis of the Gospels – best befits Christ, who was born in poverty and murdered like a slave. More practically, Augustine extolled a low style for ‘instruction and exegesis’ – precisely the jobs that Reformation art was engineered to do.74 Sometimes, it seems, Cranach’s coarseness offended his client, as in the case of his lewd illustrations for Luther’s diatribe Against the Papacy in Rome, Founded by the Devil of 1545 (illus. 120).75 In a letter to Nikolaus von Amsdorf, the Reformer complained: ‘But Master Lucas is a crude painter. For the sake of God’s creation and of our mothers, he should have spared the female sex [such mockery].’76 That it was Luther himself who conceived the scandalous picture of the Place and Origin of the Pope, and signed his name to it, explains his concern.77 In the sixteenth century, as today, the word ‘crude’ (Luther uses grob) meant both ‘common’ and ‘obscene’. Some time ago I tried to link a quintessential Lutheran iconography – Cranach’s images of the Law and the Gospel – to an anti-aesthetics of the crude. By way of Luther’s thinking on the figurative nature of biblical language, I presented a statement by the Reformer about the church pictures he preferred. In his Easter sermon of 1533, Luther identified four subjects that help us to understand Christ: the Baptist pointing, the risen Saviour crushing death and the Devil, the paschal lamb with a victory banner and the crucifix.78 This list cites the principal

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120. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Place and Origin of the Pope’, woodcut from Martin Luther, Wider das Baptstum zu Rom vom Teuffel gestifft (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1545).

elements of the gospel scene in Cranach’s compositions (illus. 93). Luther championed these both because they pictured the unimaginable and because, being visually absurd (e.g., a lamb cannot really carry a banner), they were self-evidently mere signs for something else.About the fact that, in the realm of art, a cloth flag and a wooden door can stand before Hell’s fire without being burnt, Luther writes: ‘These intend sharply to say that [Christ] did not journey anywhere [i.e., did not travel physically to Hell].’79 Through their illogical design, sacred images acquired the syntax not of the world but of words, and specifically of a sentence about faith – i.e., a confession. They ‘fix and bind . . . our hearts and thoughts on the word of faith . . . which says: I believe in the Lord Christ, God’s son . . . of the Virgin born . . . died, was buried, and travelled to Hell.’80 Church pictures should be

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linked to specific biblical texts, which are themselves loaded with verbal images. More than that, by their awkward look, as ‘crude, external images’ (grobe eusserliche bilde),81 they should proclaim themselves to be absurd if taken literally. That way they can be relied upon to point beyond their visible form to what they mean. What modern scholars regard as aesthetic poverty in Cranach’s art is, from Luther’s perspective, a pious self-effacement. Like the language of Scripture, and like Scripture’s kernel (the crucified Christ), images display their concealment. Why, though, the rush from picture to meaning? Luther argues that ‘one has to represent things to the simple people as childishly and simply as one can. Otherwise they will understand nothing. Or they will want to become smart and reason themselves into high thoughts, so that they abandon faith. I say this because I see that the world wants now to be smart in the name of the Devil.’82 Complex images are unreliable. They set interpretation into play, causing the viewer to speculate and contradict faith. Images must therefore be rough-hewn so as to be grasped by simple people (‘groben volk’). They also must look rough-hewn so that the simple recognize them for what they are: not representations of reality, but mere indications of what cannot be represented. Luther’s worry over a viewer’s interpretative excess arose from his pessimism about the expanding role of the thinking self in his era. Intelligence is ‘in the Devil’s name’. On the one hand, Luther taught that truth was not mediated by tradition, but had to be personally received by believers through hearing or reading the Gospel. On the other hand, through his struggles with Karlstadt, he came to distrust immediacy, admonishing that belief was not the believer’s capability but a gift of God. While investing the individual self with a new authority as the arbiter of Scripture’s meaning, he also admonished that its understanding was fallen. The Wittenberg predella celebrates the clarity of the word by means of a certain picture (illus. 128). It displays the collectivity of a congregation receiving through their preacher the same message: Luther ‘paints’ the crucified Christ before everyone’s eyes (Gal. 3:1). There is another painter present in the scene, however, and not only in the form of his product. If we follow the path of Luther’s outstretched fingers, guided by the lines of masonry, we pass via Christ’s heart to the eyes of a bearded man who, set slightly apart, dominates the congregation. His eyes are placed in perfect symmetry to Luther’s fingers on the predella panel, so that seeing and showing are equidistant from the cross. Designing images like those of the Law and the Gospels had taught Cranach to structure pictures like diagrams. Here he positions the pointing finger directly below Luther’s reception of the wine glass in the Communion scene, associating the give and take of Christ in preaching and sacrament. At the altarpiece’s opposite

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pole, Cranach aligns – to the millimetre – the old man’s eyes with Christ’s at the supper table above, as if to coordinate Christ’s vision with this one vision of Christ.83 Those eyes, I submit, belong to Lucas Cranach the Elder.84 A panel in the Uffizi attributed to his son gives Cranach’s features in 1550, at 77 years of age (illus. 121).85 Adjusting for differences of scale and quality, it matches the Wittenberg likeness in beard, hairstyle, physiognomy and dress, as do several other full-length portraits, including an anonymous woodcut of Cranach at age 70, the artist’s tomb slab in Weimar and his monumental posthumous effigy in the Weimar Altarpiece (illus. 135). One might be tempted to dismiss the identification as local lore, a result of the naive impulse to give every

121. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Lucas Cranach the Elder, 1550, oil on panel. Galleria degli Uffizi, Florence.

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figure in a famous work a proper name. In the predella, for example, the foreground boy in red has been recognized as Luther’s first child and Cranach’s godson, Hans Luther, and the woman behind as Katherina von Bora, Luther’s bride (illus. 122). In the Baptism panel, Cranach the Elder has (also) been seen in the bearded godfather, and his wealthy wife Barbara in the well-dressed woman with her back to us.86 It is Cranach, however, who encouraged this game, peopling his altarpiece with what remain recognizable likenesses, including the crucial one of Luther disguised among the Apostles. Given that he openly celebrates the Wittenberg flock, it seems likely that he would have included cameos of individual parishioners. Self-portraits were made almost as frequently by Cranach as they were by Germany’s supreme self-portraitist, Dürer (illus. 2). The Weimar Altarpiece, completed by Lucas the Younger, is a monumental instance of what Walther Scheidig termed ‘self-portraits by another hand’ (illus. 135).87 Often painted by collaborators and assistants, these trademarks of the Cranach shop could diverge considerably from their model. Such mediocre, second-hand effigies, plus fine and pivotal ones like those in Weimar and Dessau, should give us confidence that Cranach is indeed the bearded fellow who, more markedly than anyone else, sees what Luther preaches. Although we accept it in Dürer and his disciples, we find artistic selfcelebration in Lutheran art difficult to grasp. And yet, has there ever been a more exultant ‘artist’s portrait’ than Cranach’s in Weimar? Not only does he receive salvation directly; not only does his gaze channel salvific energy out of the picture, as if the stream of blood became, through him, the vector of sight. Cranach stands between Luther and the Baptist as between knowing Christ through Scripture and seeing Christ in the flesh. This role is clarified through the play of hands that knots the figures together. The Reformer indicates the Bible text; John stretches fingers toward Christ and the lamb; and between them, his body mingling with theirs, so that we almost think all their pointing is his, Cranach holds his hands in prayer. At the pivot of display, between the Gospel’s then and the painting’s now, it is the painter who exemplifies how Christ was and is received by faith alone. Gazing out at us, Cranach sources the picture we see. The vivid portrait of the ‘visibly living Christ’ is of the artist’s imagining; this picture is what ‘delineated itself ’ in his heart when he heard the Gospel word ‘Christ’. Cranach also gazes out of the picture at us from a point symmetrical to the outward gaze of the resurrected Christ; his active left eye is exactly the distance from the panel’s right edge as Christ’s right eye is from the left edge. His eyes parallel to his saviour’s, Cranach sees Christ, and he sees with Christ. The mystical union implied by the (always doubly meant) ‘vision of God’, with which Dürer experimented in his self-portraits, occurs here again in the person of an artist, who, seeing and seen, is assured his resurrection.

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122. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Katherina von Bora, 1528, oil on panel. Lutherhalle, Wittenberg.

In the Wittenberg predella, too, the crucifix arrives by way of the artist. Luther speaks, the congregation listens, but while each individual will have an inner portrait of Christ, it is Cranach’s that they, and we, behold. Perhaps the artist’s prominence reflects his role as mayor and city councillor. But his privilege is pictured through the position of his eye. By way of the artist’s gaze, the ineluctable crucifix of the heart, which had repudiated the iconoclasts, becomes externalized. Through the backdoor of an image of the word, which literally supports his monumental retable, Cranach smuggles art back into Wittenberg’s cleansed parish church. Even when it is emptied of everything but preaching, the church contains pictures and the word does, too.

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15 Preaching

At its installation, Cranach’s predella would have exhibited a subject familiar to its first public. Not only did it portray Wittenberg parishioners in their everyday service, but the predella’s composition – its choice of parts and their fit into a tableau – would have been known to viewers as the emblem of evangelical religion. From the early 1520s, woodcuts and book illustrations displayed the scene: a minister preaches from a raised pulpit to a laity who, standing or seated on the ground or on folding chairs, and mixing old and young, rich and poor, pious and worldly, represent a ‘congregation’ (Gemeinde).1 And somewhere in their midst, a crucifix indicates the ‘word of the Cross’ that everyone hears. Beyond the ordinariness of action depicted, the routine nature of this image itself enabled Lutherans to represent their church as a norm, rather than as an aberration. For what do Christians do but preach and pray to Christ? Lutherans disseminated the image of preaching chiefly in the spheres of pedagogy and polemics. Some of the earliest pictures of sermon-based church services belong to printed catechisms – i.e., books, pamphlets and broadsheets instructing lay persons on the essentials of faith. Around 1528 Cranach produced seven woodcuts illustrating the petitions of the Lord’s Prayer, plus an introductory one showing God’s creation of the world (illus. 123).2 For the first plea, ‘hallowed be thy name’, he devised a portrait of evangelical preaching under which appears the gloss (probably from Melanchthon’s pen) ‘That is, your name should be rightly known through right teaching and faith, and thereby honoured and praised.’ The one surviving impression of this image occurs on a single-sheet with all eight woodcuts printed on it. But it was probably intended to illustrate a bookform edition of the so-called Small Catechism, completed by Luther in May 1529.3 The Small Catechism was a hugely popular and influential text. By 1563, some 100,000 copies had been printed, and it had inspired countless imitations – fifteen in Hamburg alone.4 It reduced to three articles, printable on a one-page placard, all that a person ought to know about what to believe


and how to worship. The Ten Commandments, the Apostles’ Creed and the Lord’s Prayer condensed, respectively, the code, dogma and cult of the Christian religion. In his woodcut, Cranach displays the scene of preaching as the opening emblem for the Lord’s Prayer. Chastened by laws they cannot obey, but consoled by Christ’s message, Christians learn here to beg for the forgiveness and salvation that are theirs. But what does this image actually illustrate? At one level, the image of preaching shows God’s name being ‘hallowed’ in sermon and prayer. And according to Luther contra Karlstadt, God’s name, when read or heard, engenders in the heart a picture of the crucifix. At another level, Cranach’s woodcut, along with Melanchthon’s gloss, shows how hallowing occurs at the end of a process that begins with the school. ‘Right teaching’ yields the faith that is the only proper honour and praise of God. Catechism puts itself on display as religion’s starting point. Made for instruction but depicting church service, the woodcut fashions the cult in the image of the school. When, two decades later, Cranach imported this scenography into an altarpiece, the preacher and his audience, as well as the empty, perspectival space where preaching takes place, support scenes of sacrament. It is as if to say that first we must learn, and then we believe, and only thereafter can we receive Christ. And in these bare spaces of pedagogy, as the lesson learnt, a crucifix that does not quite belong casts its shadow on the ground. In another image of preaching used for teaching, the crucifix has an even more ambivalent presence. The second edition of Luther’s Large Catechism (published some months after the unillustrated first edition of April 1529) contains ten woodcuts by Cranach illustrating the Decalogue (illus. 124).5 The one for the Third Commandment – to observe the sabbath – shows Sunday service as a sermon delivered in a walled churchyard, while outside a sabbath-breaker collects firewood. The preacher points towards a blank at the print’s centre which gives way, below, to a vertical gap vaguely resembling a gap in the wall. From two swirls at the sides of this break, and from a shadow just above the foreground child’s head, we can deduce the prior presence of a crucifix. Except for the stubborn loincloth, it has been cut away from the wood block of what is presumably the second state of the print.6 What prompted this intervention? The other nine woodcuts in this series elucidate the particular commandment by depicting Old Testament instances of its trespass. Only the illustration of sabbath-keeping pairs a Hebraic ‘shall not’ with a Christian ‘shall’, and reduces the former to an obscure episode in the background. At Numbers 15:32, ‘a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day’, whereupon God ordered him to be stoned ‘outside the camp’. Unschooled viewers might have missed this biblical reference and, informed

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by the other woodcuts in the set, found ways of reading the scene as a trespass. After all, the woodcut of the First Commandment shows the dance around the golden calf. It was not necessarily that viewers took the crucifix two prints later to be another idol – although in 1529, with iconoclasm raging in Basel and elsewhere, this would have been an easy association for many Protestants. Rather, in the context of the school all ambiguities, however resolvable they may be, are best omitted. (It is possible that a viewer, confused by seeing Christ within an Old Testament series, might have improvised a connection, say, between the crucifixion and the sabbathbreaker’s brutal death, thus obscuring just about everything in the illustration.) In this crucifix now doubly under erasure, the balance elsewhere achieved between the visible and the concealed stands renounced for legibility’s sake. Cranach’s woodcut preaches that on the sabbath day people should go to church and that church-going means receiving God’s word. The image shows this activity in the scene of preaching. And it is itself part of that activity by training viewers visually in the word. That teaching takes place outdoors fits its propaedeutic function. Catechism occurs in the forecourt of the temple (Rev. 11:2), where people gather in advance of church service

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left 123. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Hallowed Be Thy Name’, from a woodcut illustration of the Lord’s Prayer, 1527. right 124. Lucas Cranach the Elder, woodcut illustration of the Third Commandment, from Martin Luther, Deudsch Catechismus (Wittenberg: Georg Rhau, 1529).

proper. In this chapter and the next, I will analyse the scenography of teaching constructed by woodcuts like these. Instruction will appear as the bodily routine of listeners focused on a speaker. This corporealization of the communicative act is not only a function of a medium – graphic images – that must express sounds and meanings through material things. Lutheran catechism was itself a bodily affair: mouths choreographed to shape a fixed set of sounds. And while the goal of this activity remained personal understanding, catechism worked to display Christian faith as public image and performance. The deleted cross in Cranach’s woodcut reflects the ambivalence attending any inscription, pictorial or textual, of the lesson learnt. Pedagogy erases what it teaches in order to prove that information has passed from outside in. School pictures, by which I mean images of and for the school, portray in profile a religion and a social order founded on the give and take of words. Originally, these pictures were also tools of confessional polemic. They affirmed the truth of Lutheran preaching by contrasting it to sermons that were untrue, or to rituals that eclipsed or contradicted preaching. A woodcut of around 1529 by the Nuremberg artist Georg Pencz juxtaposes an ‘evangelical’ and a ‘papish’ preacher in symmetrical scenes (illus. 125).7 Accompanying verses by Hans Sachs summarize the sermons so that we can grasp the distinction, yet Pencz already displays the difference in how each looks. At the far right, a monk gestures limply from a decorated pulpit that amplifies both his girth and the lavishness of his vestments, while at the left, a gaunt Lutheran minister, exuding piety and strength, speaks from a pulpit that is plain and hard-edged like himself. These coded contrasts extend to

125. Georg Pencz, The Content of Two Sermons, 1529, woodcut.

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the two audiences. The Catholic flock is chiefly high-born and divided by class – note the ranked pairing of a nobleman at his prie-dieu and a servant on a folding chair below. Artisans and labourers dominate the evangelical congregation, yet their attitude (reflected by their postures) is assertive. Just before the pulpit, an exemplary ‘common man’, to whom Lutheran preaching understood itself to be directed, raises his eyes to the preacher. This contrasts with the downcast glances of the Catholics who ‘pray upon beades’ (observe the rosaries in everyone’s hands). Deemed repetitive and unthinking, this form of devotion was branded by Protestants as superstitious.8 The Protestants instead carry books, presumably bibles, with which they follow with the Bible-based sermon. Preacher and flock both possess Scripture. This makes priests of all believers by dispensing the same words to everyone equally. The printed text does not reproduce those words but, as Sachs put it, it ‘grasps their content in general, in a short summary’. The monk’s sermon yields a list of some 50 actions that the pope orders Christians to do in order to be saved. As in later Protestant depictions of Catholic ceremony (illus. 11 and 12), the sheer number of rituals, mocking all summation, damns them as empty of content. By contrast, the evangelical sermon stands neatly condensed in a single phrase. After explaining that, according to the Gospels, we can do nothing but sin, Sachs boils Christ’s promise down to the couplet, ‘He who believes in me / Shall not die eternally.’ In the Apology of the Augsburg Confession (1531), Melanchthon phrased this message a bit more amply: ‘This is the summa, the kernel of the Gospels: that we do not receive the forgiveness of sins through our works, but through belief in Christ.’9 Size matters. What Ernst Troeltsch called Protestantism’s epochal ‘reduction of the whole religion’ was more than a quantitative change.10 The collapse of all dogma and ritual into one belief transformed the very character of belief. Ultimates now depended on grasping the three little words ‘Believe in me.’ Summaries like Sachs’s seem already to enact this understanding for us. They grasp Scripture for simple folk by packaging it as a simple statement of its content. Nevertheless, although they have the shape of understanding, of a kernel pulled from its shell, these summaries are strangely empty, for what can be extracted from the belief in belief itself? The ability to summarize, and by extension to preach and teach, seems to stack the deck in favour of a religion of understanding rather than one of action. But the reduction of Scripture to one phrase threatens to turn all those bibles in Pencz’s print into materialities as inert and opaque as the rosaries of routine devotion. In his analysis of Pencz’s woodcut, Robert Scribner observed that the contrasting preachers look like disputants before a single assembly.11 During the Reformation, the pulpit was a contested territory; for a still-oral culture, it was where opinions were publically disseminated. Towns often took their

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126. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Crucifixion with the Converted Centurion, 1538, oil on panel, Museo de Bellas Artes, Seville.



opposite top 127. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Baptism’, ‘Lord’s Supper’ and ‘Confession’, front centre and side panels of the Wittenberg Altarpiece (upper triptych), 1547, oil on panels. Stadtkirche, Wittenberg. opposite below 128. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Luther Preaching to the Wittenberg Congregation’, predella of the Wittenberg Altarpiece, 1547, oil on panels. Stadtkirche, Wittenberg. above 129. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Wittenberg Altarpiece, rear view, 1547, oil on panels. Stadtkirche, Wittenberg.



opposite 130. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Memorial for Joachim of Anhalt, 1565, oil on panel. Johanneskirche, Dessau. above 131. Anonymous, Augsburg Confession, c. 1590, oil on canvas. St Johanneskirche, Schweinfurt.



opposite 132. Heinrich Göding the Elder, Mühlberg Altarpiece, 1568, oil on panels (open state). Marienkirche, Mühlberg. above 133. Lucas Cranach the Elder, The Law and the Gospels, from the Schneeberg Altarpiece, 1539, oil on panels (first open state). St Wolfgangskirche, Schneeberg. below 134. Heinrich Göding the Elder, Predella from the Mühlberg Altarpiece, 1568, oil on panel. Marienkirche, Mühlberg.


135. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Weimar Altarpiece (central panel), 1555, oil on panel. Stadtkirche, Weimar.


first step towards Protestantism by electing or supporting an evangelical preacher.12 Answering to the city councils that generally selected them, preachers reflected the needs of the laity more closely than did the episcopally elected pastors and priests, and in times of conflict with Rome, religious leadership fell to them. Preachers sometimes occupied the pulpit by force, as did Gabriel Zwilling, whose iconoclastic sermons in Eilenburg mocked the local pastor’s command that they cease. Pencz’s print belongs to a context in which evangelical preaching was literally a battle of voices. The Roman Church had its own army of preachers. Celebrated as rectors of the soul, they had long been entrusted with public instruction in morality and faith. Though deemed inferior to priests, to whom alone the power to represent Christ in sacrament was given, preachers, gathered round the edge of sacred action, held a central place in lay religion. Sermons could arouse intense religious passions, as when, in the 1450s, the Observant Franciscan John of Capestrano called for repentance from pulpits throughout Europe; the bonfires of vanities he inspired foreshadowed iconoclasm, as did the activities of Savonarola in Florence.13 Evangelical preachers, some of whom (like Luther and Zwilling) were formerly monks, learnt from the example of mendicant preachers and from visionaries like Hans Böheim, the ‘drummer of Niklashausen’, who, prophesying judgement, urged radical reform of church and society.14 Yet evangelicals also sharply distinguished their sermons from those of their predecessors. They boasted that, whereas the Church’s sermons were ‘human inventions’,15 theirs proclaimed only God’s word as written in Scripture. This caused problems for the Protestant movement, since it soon became apparent that most elected preachers were unqualified for their job. Already in 1522, Luther began composing and publishing model sermons, called ‘postils’, which less competent preachers could simply read aloud.16 In 1523 the Zurich council urged Zwingli to write a general instruction on how to preach the Gospel.17 Supplied with Bible translations, handbooks and indices, and monitored through state-controlled visitations (the first occurred in Saxony in 1528 on Luther’s advice), Protestant preachers were trained to teach only those readings of Scripture authorized by catechisms, church ordinances and confessions validated in their territory by government decree. Evangelical preaching preached salvation through faith in Christ. This contrasted to Catholic sermons that, set apart from the salvific mechanism of sacrament and consigned to an inner-worldly arena of good and bad behaviour, laid down mere rules about how to act, not about what to believe. For Protestants, the preaching of indulgences best exemplified the Catholic perversion of the sermon’s sacred task. In his Ninety-Five Theses (1517), and in his best-selling Sermon on Indulgences and Grace (1518), Luther launched

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the Reformation by criticizing what the ‘indulgence preachers’ falsely promised.18 Pictures of false preaching often feature a monk announcing an indulgence from the pulpit while other clerics gather up cash. A title-page woodcut of 1521 by Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder gives this enterprise a telling visual structure (illus. 136).19 A Dominican friar reads the papal letter to an audience mostly of women. At the lower right, along the direction line of the preacher’s gaze, an assistant distributes indulgences in exchange for money. And in between – the crux of the problem – a wealthy burgher is poised to drop a coin into an indulgence cross while a monk and a peasant (perhaps representing Luther and the rustic everyman Karsthans, respectively) try to intervene. Festooned with papal and Medici arms, the church stands defiled as if by moneychangers, whose actions are directed downward, with the preacher’s glance, gravity and damnation. Present also in the Seven-Headed Papal Beast (illus. 53), this arrangement reverses the Church’s promise, condensed in the motto attributed to Germany’s most notorious indulgence preacher, Johannes Tetzel, ‘As soon as the coin in the coffer rings, / The soul from purgatory springs.’20 Vogtherr’s woodcut conveys its meanings through oblique connotations, trusting that the pamphlet it introduces will make the point more directly. For example, do the intervening monk and peasant stand for Luther and the common man allied against the Church, as some scholars believe, or are they foes competing for the burgher’s coin? The woodcut of 1524 by the Master H (an anonymous member of Cranach’s circle) inscribes the indulgence preaching in a self-explanatory diagram (illus. 89).21 Built on the metaphor of Christ as cornerstone, middle and key of Scripture, this paradigm of schematism in Lutheran art merges the image of preaching with the crucifixion, and layers over these a cascade of allegories all expressing one idea: true preaching preaches Christ and saves, while indulgence preaching turns away from Christ – like the Bad Thief whose place it occupies—and therefore damns.22 These outcomes shape a cosmic geography indicated by symbols of heaven and Hell. It would be interesting to revisit all the images studied in the present chapter through this ambitious composite. (Note how the outstretched fingers of the good preacher, the centurion and the Baptist form a suite.) Reducing the motifs of Reformation art to hieroglyphs in an abstract construction of circles, lines and letters, Christ as Cornerstone exposes the diagrammatic character of all Cranach’s Reformation paintings, where meaning counts more than empirical veracity. The Master H’s image is so formalistic that it takes some effort to work out what it says. A contemporary pamphlet that explains the woodcut (without, it seems, being issued with it) takes this initial obscurity as its theme.23 The anonymously published Dialogue Between a Christian and a

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136. Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder, ‘Evangelical Preaching and Sale of Indulgences’, title-page woodcut from On Aplas von Rom kan man wol selig werden durch anzaigung der götlichen hailigen geschryfft (Augsburg: Melchior Ramminger, 1521).

Jew tells us of an enigmatic print picked up by a travelling Jew who, in the dialogue as recorded, begs a Christian to decipher it for him. In the Master H’s broadsheet itself, which matches the woodcut described in the pamphlet, details are labelled with numerals that suggest a lost table or gloss. The numeral ‘I’, occurring at the centre of Christ’s body, has the shape of a keyhole, suggesting that it will unlock the meaning of the whole.Yet it is only after we have read the print’s inscriptions, understood the logic of its

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antitheses and consulted its separately published gloss that we recognize the moral coding of evangelical versus indulgence preaching. More direct in its message, and closer in date and iconography to the Wittenberg predella, is a single-sheet woodcut of 1546 by Matthias Gerung (illus. 137).24 The sale of indulgences has become an overtly devilish activity. It is directed by the Antichrist-pope himself, who sits at a huge changing table. Placed within a church choir and set parallel to a Eucharistic tabernacle in the background, this table becomes the travesty of an altar mensa, with its coins and goblet as anti-types of hosts and chalice. The pope, by extension, resembles a carved

137. Matthias Gerung, Evangelical Church Service and Catholic Indulgences Sale, 1546, woodcut.

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retable set behind the altar, or, more specifically, a portrait bust of Christ as salvator mundi. Meanwhile, in the narrow scene above, the mundane routines of Lutheran religion constitute heaven to Catholicism’s hell. Although neatly divided between word and sacrament, proper church service is dominated by the preacher, who is the pope’s formal antithesis, and whose gesture is picked up by God at the centre of the woodcut’s upper edge. In 1546 Gerung also reworked Dürer’s Apocalypse series along polemically Lutheran lines;25 as in those visionary prints, his broadsheet against indulgences spans the cosmos but leaves the middle out. Weighed down by papal seals and already licked by flames, the indulgence letters drop into hell while above, wrapped in clouds, God’s preached word soars effortlessly upwards. It is not merely that Lutherans dignified the sermon as an integral part of religion. Preaching was the force that infused the whole with divinity. Its word made sacrament efficacious because it awakened in people the faith required for receiving God, and because baptism and Communion were empty actions without the word. Moreover, as Paul wrote, ‘Thus faith comes from preaching, but preaching, from the word of God’ (Rom. 10:17). Himself a preacher, Christ already enters us sacramentally through his ‘living word’ in preaching, for as Christ says, ‘who hears you [i.e., the preacher], he hears me’ (Luke 10:16).26 Hearing Christ preach means having him within us in the good news about us. The perceived inertness of indulgences and of the faith they typify consists in the fact that they do not communicate. Like coins, rosaries and papal seals, they gravitate earthward both because they are mere matter, and because, in their materialism, they lack any information. Set off against this, evangelical preaching creates the tableau of a church brimming with weightless, invisible, but omnipresent messages. The circulation of the word shapes an undivided social sphere because everyone hears equally, and because Scripture’s message is open and clear. Preaching’s publicness did in fact engender a new arena of ‘publicity’ embodied in evangelical congregation, which encompassed everyone regardless of age, class, gender and attention span.27 Those amorphous clumps of listeners depicted in all the prints and paintings of preaching we have discussed stand for the contingent but all-inclusive ‘everyone’ to whom God directs his word. In the title page of a 1522 pamphlet by the utopian reformer Eberlin von Günzburg, a Lutheran preacher with Bible and cross addresses a crowd that seems to debate his words, and that includes, at the left, a woman with a rosary (illus. 138).28 Universal priesthood means that the word travels among all persons, here within a congregation still confessionally mixed. Printed images of preaching illustrate – and themselves embody – the intermediary conditions for such a transmission. Whereas the monk, in

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138. Anonymous, ‘Evangelical Preacher’, title-page woodcut from Johann Eberlin von Günzburg, Ain fraintlich trostliche vermanung . . . (Augsburg: Uhlart, 1522).

Pencz’s woodcut, transmits his commands from the pulpit down to the laity, who receive it like a dull blow, the evangelical preacher reads from a codex that his audience already visibly possesses (illus. 138). Authority resides not in teachers but in textbooks. Textbooks render information ubiquitous. In place of the linear transmission characteristic of oral culture – in the case of indulgences, for example, from pope to bishop to priest to laity – they cause information to arrive simultaneously from all sides.29 As Luther himself understood, the evangelical faith required that God’s word be translated into the vernacular and disseminated through the new technology of printing. Printed books, together with Gospel-based preaching, addressed a public brought about by these new and renewed forms of publication. As visual propaganda and preparation for this verbal regime, printed images of preaching simultaneously addressed and generated the collectivity that they pictured. In the sixteenth century, the ‘common man’ forged his opinions through what Scribner termed the ‘partitur’ of oral, textual and visual information.30 At the base of the woodcut, Pencz’s

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publisher adds the final lines ‘Herein judge, you pious Christian, / Which is the truthful teaching.’ The lines address an at best partly literate viewerreader for whom even the simplest summa would be difficult to read, and they assume that the image will hasten the verdict, since it at least displays what reading looks like. And yet already here, in the 1520s, the audience stands divided, and by 1546, in Gerung’s woodcut, the two systems are worlds apart. The implied viewer in these prints is not invited to choose between two religions, but must confess the true one or be damned. The colloquy pictured in Eberlein’s title-page gives way to disciplined, seated bodies and to voices harmonized with catechism. In the Pencz, it is true, the bearded man seated near the centre of the evangelical congregation seems deeper in thought than is the servant at the left of the Catholic scene. But drilled in summaries such as those that Pencz’s print itself provides, properly trained parishioners would be able to manipulate words as mechanically as they would beads. In a woodcut of Luther preaching, Cranach the Younger radicalized the pushbutton character of the viewer’s response (illus. 139).31 Made just after the Reformer’s death, the print probably reproduces a painted epitaph for Luther that a seventeenth-century antiquarian records hanging in Wittenberg’s Castle Church.32 Attributed to Cranach, the epitaph disappeared in 1760, during the Seven Years War, when the church was devastated. Complicating the identification are the woodcut’s coat of arms, which are those of Duke Moritz of Saxony. Though Protestant himself, Moritz had helped Charles v defeat the Schmalkaldic League at Mühlberg. Perhaps the

139. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Last Supper of the Protestants and the Pope’s Descent to Hell (Epitaph for Martin Luther?), c. 1547, woodcut.

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panel (or its frame) dated from after 1547, when Moritz reaffirmed his Lutheranism despite his brief, dynastically motivated alliance. Or perhaps the woodcut evokes without exactly copying the lost epitaph. But the elaborate frame and the predominance of Saxon nobles taking Communion do support the print’s link to some commemorative panel. In any case, as in the predella in Wittenberg’s other famous church, Luther is honoured as preacher of the word. But whereas in the altarpiece the crucifix toward which his fingers point rises within an empty interior, here it is depicted behind an altar mensa in a bare, fenestrated zone raised up a step – a zone that is the familiar cipher of church. Meanwhile, Luther’s left hand has strayed from the Bible to cast his enemies, the officers of Rome, into hell. In the second half of the sixteenth century, the damnation of Catholic church services belonged to the Lutheran confession as firmly as any positive doctrine. Viewers of the Wittenberg Altarpiece would have understood that its panels of ‘true religion’ implicitly vilify a ‘false religion’, since they and the rites they depict depended on a prior purging of objects and actions deemed devilish. With or without flames, church cleansing condemns those who disagree. This violent subtext is revealed in the period’s most elaborate image of preaching. The woodcut titled The Difference Between the True Religion of Christ and the False, Idolatrous Teachings of the Antichrist recollects the negations on which the evangelical faith was founded (illus. 140).33 In it, the religion of the word displays its dependency on the images it purged.

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140. Attributed to Pancratz Kempf, The Difference between the True Religion of Christ and the False, Idolatrous Teachings of the Antichrist, c. 1550, woodcut.

141. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Prince Johann Friedrich, 1551, woodcut.

This intricate two-block print survives in two versions, one with text columns by Matthias Flacius Illyricus and one without. Flacius probably devised the woodcut and oversaw its publication in Magdeburg, where he was the leading theologian and polemicist. Though close in manner and theme to works from Cranach’s shop, the woodcut lacks a monogram, and its Magdeburg provenance points to the print-maker Pancratz Kempf, whose name appears on several satirical broadsheets in Cranach’s style.34 Carl Christensen has dated the woodcut to the period after the Battle of Mühlberg.35 Johann Friedrich of Saxony, shown in the foreground carrying a cross, bears the facial scar he received in combat in 1547. Portrait prints by Cranach and by Kempf turned this scar into a stigma of the Christ-like ‘passion’ Johann Friedrich endured when, stripped of his powers as Imperial Elector, he lived his final days in exile in Weimar (illus. 141).36 More crucially, by dating the woodcut to the period from 1547 to the prince’s death in 1554, Christensen places it in the context of the religious settlement reached between the emperor and the vanquished Lutheran territories. Dictated largely by the Catholics, but shaped into a compromise by theologians in Melanchthon’s circle under the projection of Moritz of Saxony, the so-called Interims of Augsburg and Leipzig rolled back most

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of the reforms in church practice, but left key evangelical doctrines open to debate. Some within the evangelical camp opposed any compromise. Called ‘Gnesio-Lutherans’ for their appeal to the Reformer’s original positions, this loose group of controversialists singled out Melanchthon for scorn, contending that the externals he had conceded – matters of liturgy, images and vestments that he termed ‘adiaphora’ – could not be forced on communities from outside, and that any return of the scenic apparatus of pre-Reformation piety corrupted the Christian faith. It was Flacius who led this revolt, first from Magdeburg, then from Jena, and finally from exile until his death in 1575. The woodcut in question issues from the initial stage of his struggle for purity in church service. It juxtaposes Lutheran and Catholic practice as if in an atlas of comparative religion, except that one is declared true and the other false and idolatrous. As in Pencz’s print, a pillar divides the image in half, ordering it into a system of binaries: Communion table versus indulgence chest, host versus coin, clerical tithe versus lay chalice, dove versus demon, infant baptism versus deathbed rite, and so forth. On the evangelical side, everything rises with Luther’s outstretched fingers to be received by a merciful deity, whereas Catholics’ coins, cards, puppets and dice fall with the indulgence preacher’s downward gesture, and with the fire and brimstone of an angry God. Symmetries – e.g., the zigzag movement on both sides from heaven to preacher to flock – become antitheses, teaching viewers to distrust apparent similarities. At the upper corners, Christ and St Francis are paired as they often were in medieval art, according to the idea that one was the model of the other and that both suffered and were saved (illus. 49).37 Here, however, St Francis’s gesture of intercession provokes divine wrath rather than mercy, inverting the purpose and the iconography of the Saint’s cult. ‘That one considers St Francis’ work to be equal to the miracles and Passion of Christ’, states Luther in one of his Table Talks, ‘and that one honours it: what a huge offence against God that is.’38 Nothing passes from one half of the woodcut to the other, just as there can be no settlement between the two religions. In an era of forced compromise, when the Lutheran leadership sought appeasement by ‘dissimulating’ the externals of the enemy faith, Flacius insists on the ‘difference’ (Unterscheid) announced in his title.39 Like a portico, the central column divides the image into an interior and a landscape. Not inside a church but outside, in a graveyard behind the Marian chapel on the horizon, the Catholic rites unfold within a world or mundus as base and material as they. Meanwhile, the Lutherans administer word and sacrament on a stone pavement abbreviating the interior of a church. We observed a similar shift of ground in Cranach’s first Bible illustrations. In the woodcut of John measuring the Temple, the excluded

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‘forecourt’ is indicated by a rocky ground occupied by the papal Antichrist (illus. 82). Flacius’s arrangement may also draw on an allegorical reading of ecclesiastical space that influenced actual Protestant church design. In a sermon of 1521 Luther applied the three-part division of God’s tabernacle as described in the Old Testament – i.e., the atrium, sanctum and sanctum sanctorum – to the architecture of churchyard, nave and choir.40 To the first he assigned people who fancy that works can save them, to the second, people who strive to live by God’s command, and to the third (the choir), people who live by faith alone.41 The old sacred-profane divisions remain, in other words, but rather than articulating a priestly hierarchy, they distinguish inner attitudes towards God. Flacius exiles the Roman clergy to a churchyard and places ‘true religion’ on a pavement teeming with lay folk, who practise faith in a movement between nave and choir, pulpit and altar, ethics and grace. Outside, in the churchyard, the laity vanish behind a clergy that enacts its idolatry at several tables. At the scene’s centre, the largest of these is undergoing its consecration as an altar, with a devil anointing it. To the right, the table, now an altar, serves for private Masses; officiating alone, without communicants, the priest turns his back on the scene. In Catholic doctrine, the image reminds us, Mass is a sacrifice made by the Church on our behalf, rather than a communal memorial to Christ’s once-and-for-all sacrifice for us. Just behind, and hemmed in by two pilgrims and a bell, another table serves as a deathbed; for cash, presumably, monks admit a dying man into their order, applying to him ‘cowl, tonsure and [holy] water’, as stated in the banderole. And in the foreground, as the secret purpose of all these rites, the altar cum changing table appears laden with treasure. The clergy based its tenancy of the church upon its monopoly of altars. Here they stand spiritually inert despite their consecrations. Indeed, rather than anointing, the water sprinkled everywhere from ritual sponges joins with the fire and brimstone to condemn the proceedings. Scattered across the bare landscape, and evincing no intercourse with heaven, the localities of a sited piety, of a religion grounded in special persons, places and things, have been stripped, secularized and damned. And in the church where they would have been expected to stand, on a coordinating pavement but under an otherworldly sky, the multiple altars of an idolatrous religion of works have been reduced to one. Shown in the moment of its evangelical use, the Communion table appears labelled by its Bible imperative, balanced by the baptismal font and embraced by God’s word in preaching. Even before we decipher what true religion is, we apprehend a difference in its visible condition as system. Idolatry’s nontranscendence – how it begins and ends with things – yields a messy arrangement of gestures and props that need not be as they are and could

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just as well be otherwise. As Max Weber argued, Catholicism’s cycle of sin, repentance, atonement and release, followed by renewed sin, appeared to Protestants to be anathema to the structured character of God’s plan. To them piety required a ‘unified system’ and ‘method of conduct’ in religious and moral life that evidenced, but did not itself cause, a state of grace.42 On the evangelical side, Flacius’s broadsheet visualizes ‘system’ by means of a restrictive set of components, a perspectival ground plane that rationalizes space, an allegorical machinery that promises a meaning for the whole, and all those disembodied texts that turn figure into discourse. Inscriptions underwrite the contrast between structure and non-structure. Above the indulgence preacher, the ‘I think’, printed in majuscule, signals the contingent, human basis (as mere opinion or Meinung) of everything on the right, while the text on Luther’s pulpit, ‘All prophets testify to this’, etc., refers the whole to a higher authority. Working in the shadow of Lutheranism’s greatest defeat, and with the Reformer deceased and his prince in exile, Flacius stages as an urgent Manichean conflict what Cranach’s altarpiece in Wittenberg celebrated as fait accompli. The proper signs of church – word, sacrament and ministry – stand beside the idolatry that they, in 1522, had overturned, and that now, through the compromising Interims, threatened to return. Yet although the years 1547–55 might have been harder for Lutherans than any time since the 1520s, the idols that Flacius displays in their broken state would have haunted Cranach’s panels as well. Even without the spectacle of Antichrist, the altarpiece’s scenes of preaching and sacrament would have been understood by their original audience as constituting religion by means of an articulated ‘difference’. Standing in the actual choir of a church and a city literally beseiged by the enemy faith, Cranach’s retable transposed the moral landscape evoked by earlier prints of good and bad preaching – and revived by Flacius – to the real world conditions of territorial struggle. But there is another, more striking feature of Flacius’s broadsheet that allows it to gloss the Wittenberg Altarpiece. More explicitly than Cranach’s predella, the woodcut’s scene of true religion models the structure of communication. It renders verbal reference concrete in the band – in the shape of the covenant’s rainbow – connecting Luther’s fingers and the ultimates to which they point. Where Cranach simply pairs Gospel preaching with what it ineluctably says, Flacius assembles a cascade of images and inscriptions that, representing and re-representing the relation of signifier to signified, bridges the chasm between Scripture (again touched by Luther’s left hand) and God in heaven. Luther gestures to the paschal lamb now in direct imitation of the Baptist, and in between appears the relevant Bible verse itself, ‘Behold, this is the lamb of God, etc.’ Beyond the lamb and back to back with it, as living signified to emblematic expression, is Christ, and the

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words in the middle are appropriately about medium per se: ‘I am the way, the truth, the life: no man cometh unto the father but by me’ (John 14: 16), here shortened to ‘I am the way, no one, etc.’ Sandwiched between the lamb and God, Christ stands in the way in order to picture how he is the way. Turned toward God in a posture of prayer, and displaying the wounds of his Passion, Christ enacts his role as intercessor. The final link in the hierarchy is made by way of three texts, each printed in different-sized fonts. Floating in the space between the father’s face and that of his son, in the same font as the indulgence preacher’s words, the top text represents Christ’s prayer spoken on our behalf: ‘Father, sanctify them / I sanctify and sacrifice myself for them, by myself and my wounds, etc.’ In the middle, printed in the band itself, the words ‘there is only one mediator’ reiterate as creed the activity here portrayed. And below, in tiny print, the third text glosses the preceding ones, and enjoins us to enter the religion portrayed underneath:‘So when we sin we have an intercessor before the Father. For which reason, let us step consoled toward the means of grace.’ Inscription stands inscribed in the cosmic order its words elucidate. Although as Bible quotations the words printed in the band could represent what Luther reads and preaches, and thus would trace an upward movement from the codex open on the pulpit, via the Reformer, to God, the direction of our reading, from left to right, sources all words, and with them the salvation they promise, to God. This descent occurs as a rainbow-like spectrum of images, each of which is differently affected by the graphics of the text band itself. The band exits from God without encroaching on his outline. It passes straight through Christ’s body, disappearing as it enters him, but remaining transparent where it first overlaps with his form. When it passes through the lamb, the band is fully opaque, occluding a bit of the animal’s chest before it reaches the tip of Luther’s fingers, where it tapers to a point. It is not that these minute notational differences yield a consistent diagram of the hierarchy in which they occur. Rather, they create an aura of notational consistency at the point where there are bound to be breaks, namely, at the interstice between word and image, and between these and their signifieds. The demand that religion be a system that can be diagrammed derives from a metaphysical faith in the operation shown here. Flacius’s band of words and images improvises a communicative ideal: the clear, immediate transmission of one and only one message. The actual texts connecting the elements illustrate verbal efficacy by occurring along a continuous band. They also themselves are efficacious, consisting of particular Bible passages that Lutherans deemed absolutely clear and true. These are the ‘kernels’ that Protestants collected and displayed, and that Lutheran Bibles still print in boldface, to set them off as more lucid than the rest. As we’ve seen, the Reformer based his faith on the principle that Scripture was ‘its own

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interpreter’. And this he based on the corollary that Scripture was ‘clear’, and required neither tradition nor authority to make its message known. But from his disputes with both Catholics and Protestants, he also knew that the Bible had ‘a wax nose’43 (i.e., was malleable to suit different purposes), and that many of its passages were genuinely hard to penetrate, hence his favourite trope of kernel and nut. In Lutheran practice, text kernels are the bits that, stating clearly what the rest means, enable Scripture to interpret itself. Their typographical boldfacing draws attention to them so that they are what we notice first and what unlocks the rest. But what do we grasp of texts that purport to be the understanding of a text? And what meaning lies in the kernel so that we feel we understand it? I’ve already discussed how Luther used Scripture to unlock Scripture in his first battle with Rome. To defend his doctrine of salvation by ‘faith alone’, which contradicted the exegetical tradition and unhinged the institutional church, he assembled passages (mainly from Paul) that interpolated the word ‘only’ in Romans 3: 28.44 But it was in the years just after his death that Luther’s exegetical practice was turned into a full-dress hermeneutic method. Wilhelm Dilthey, we recall, argued that the Protestant science of interpretation, and modern hermeneutics with it, arose out of confessional debate.45 In Trent in 1546, Catholic theologians ruled that the Bible and tradition were of equal authority, and that conflicts of interpretation – inevitable given manuscript variations, orthographic discrepancies, and linguistic and historical distance – were to be solved with reference to prior readings by the Church Fathers, the Councils and the pope. Among Lutherans themselves there arose huge battles over which passages were key and what they meant. It thus became necessary both to defend the scriptural principle and to create guidelines for exegesis. According to Dilthey, the man responsible for first formalizing how the Bible could be the ‘norm of faith’ was none other than Flacius.46 Flacius was the veritable master of the text kernel. His Clavis scripturae sacrae of 1565 sought to prove that the Bible was not some mix of propositions placed together in a book, but formed an enclosed, coherent system.47 Dark passages could be clarified by reading them in light of the whole, which could be articulated as whole by means of ‘an entire argument, summation, epitome or overview’. Following Luther, Flacius termed this the ‘scopus’.48 Ideally, the scopus was explicitly stated by Christ himself. Most of the time, however, it had to be more cleverly extracted. Text kernels were these statements about the statement, and since everything depended on them, Flacius sought to list for the whole of Scripture its core of all-illuminating parts. He also recognized that extraction, and the rephrasing of extracts into yet-simpler summations, challenged the unity of the whole, causing the kernels to seem as contingent as were the doctrines of the Church.

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What determined the canon in the canon, for Flacius, and what enabled the leap between part and whole, was faith. Faith was not only the means by which we understand Scripture, and not only Scripture’s message understood (as sola fides). It stood in an ‘analogy’ to understanding, in that, like faith, neither the content nor the operation of understanding could be rationally grasped.49 In practice, this meant that what faith was for Flacius, and therefore what all his summations affirmed, was its particular definition as preached by the person Martin Luther. By 1680, the evangelical exegete Richard Simon observed that the kernel of Flacius’s kernels – namely, the ‘sola’ of the phrase ‘sola fides’ – derived from Luther’s own conviction.50 This meant that Flacius’s norm was situated in the mutating historical circumstances of confessional conflict, and that hermeneutics were subordinate to the Protestant creeds as laid down in an extra-biblical canon of confessional writings. ‘Everything that is said about Scripture or from Scripture,’ wrote Flacius,‘must be in harmony with the catechism or articles of faith.’51 Beholding the kernels abbreviated and displayed in Flacius’s broadsheet, I am struck by their semantic opacity. Each states a truth by means of a verbal image: ‘I am the way’, ‘this is the lamb’, etc. (note how, in the woodcut itself, the printed ‘etc.’ objectifies the quote) And each is coupled with a graphic image that looks as if it were the truth to which the verbal image refers. To put this another way, the relation of texts to pictures diagrams the relation of signifiers to signifieds, respectively . Like a medial version of the duck-rabbit experiment, however, we can understand the graphic images exactly in the reverse, as schematic tags or signifiers referring to the text printed beside them. Luther accepted church pictures if they clearly recalled the bible quotation they illustrated and that, for the sake of further clarity, ought to stand physically inscribed beside them. His preference for the image of the paschal lamb, here memorialized as the first station of his deictic pointing, rested on its blatant textuality, since only emblematic animals carry banners, and no one mistakes God for the signifying lamb. Rather than transporting us from signifier to signified, Flacius’s diagram of communicative efficacy keeps us shuttling between signifiers. Wherever our focus rests, whether on the image or the word, our reflex will be to imagine the mollusc of reference that nestles just beside it, in a place and a medium temporarily out of sight. This profile view of understanding reflects more than mere medial hybridity. By means of painting alone, Cranach’s predella, too, displayed and displaced verbal reference in an image that, hovering at the center of a side view of preaching, at once stood for and vacated the message perfectly conveyed. The ‘picture of a man who hangs on the cross’ was the model of a signified that points elsewhere, not only because of the negation at work in the real-world spectacle (God’s son as ruined corpse),

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but also because Cranach’s crude painting of the cross announced that the content of the utterance ‘Christ,’ from which come faith and salvation, was not the painting itself. Everything that is absent but implicit in Cranach’s panel is visualized and explicit in Flacius’s broadsheet: the cleansed temple and the broken fetish, the word and the image, the altar and the pulpit. Flacius shows us: the preached words, the inner pictures they evoke, the words behind those pictures, the picture invoked by these, and so forth until we reach our maker. Yet nowhere in this cascade are we meant to think we have arrived, any more than Cranach wished us to fancy that Christ was there on the predella. The completeness of Flacius’s diagram merely guides us into accepting that information is never a discrete ‘thing’ transmitted from speaker to listener but is ubiquitous in the system as a whole. From the viewpoint of the true religion celebrated, this referential obliqueness is most surprising in those quanta of information communicated between Luther and God. Text kernels are signifiers that pose as signifieds. Typeset for greater visibility and excerpted for isolated display, they claim to be the information transmitted, the message that everywhere obtains. They are also still texts, however, and not some naked communiqué, and their use as ornamental decor only underscores this fact. Flacius’s broadsheet suggests that the kernels themselves contain meanings, even if the crude pictures that indicate content are not the bare message either. But what do these highcalorie texts actually say? The words ‘I am the way / no one etc.’ form neither an analytic proposition to be judged as true or false by logic, nor a synthetic statement to be affirmed or denied with reference to the world. Rather, they state a belief: what should be accepted as true regardless of reason or experience. And even this they do indirectly, as metaphor, which further deflects interpretation by implying that what is said represents but a figure of speech. Text kernels – Lutheranism’s clarifying ‘canon in the canon’ – would seem to be selected precisely for their resistance to understanding. Whether openly, as in Protestantism, or implicitly, as in less linguistified religions, beliefs arrive with quotation marks around them. As Dan Sperber put it, they take the general form ‘“p” is true’, where ‘p’ states the belief to be (as it were) swallowed whole – e.g., ‘this is my body’.52 Outside religion, countless truths come with quotation marks attached. Few are equipped to verify that energy is mass times the speed of light squared. Yet almost everyone believes it is true and enters it into their encyclopaedia of facts because they implicitly grasp and file it in the form ‘“E=mc2” is true’, or ‘“E=mc2” is scientific’.53 On file in its non-understood form, the statement in quotations can be used to say other things (about modernity, about one’s memory of college physics, or what have you). But the statement itself remains beyond dispute. In religion, similarly, conflicts concern the

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commentary more than the text. ‘When the word of God, which is true, is literally false, it is spiritually true’, wrote Pascal, summing up the no-win situation for those foolish enough to trust their understanding of the representation inside the quotation marks. Belief statements tend to be figurative in character because, like beliefs, figures enter the encyclopaedia in quotations (as ‘“p” is a figure’), and accompanied by a gloss that clarifies the expression’s nature and conditions of use.54 The battle over ‘this is my body’ raged outside of the quotation marks. Hinging on the ‘is’, it concerned not the words themselves but how they should be understood, whether literally, as identity, or figuratively, as likeness or similitude. What makes Flacius’s broadsheet so symptomatic of Lutheran culture is how directly it displays its own obliqueness. Before the Reformation, the sacred had been constituted by material, social, and institutional divisions that cordoned it off from ordinary life. With the advent of a word religion, which ‘linguistified’ the sacred as a set of belief statements, the contents of faith were opened to everyone always and everywhere. Soon, however, new divisions rose around the beliefs themselves, which made them hermeneutically off-limits to the minds responsible for holding them. Lutheranism makes explicit what, according to Sperber, is implicit in all symbolic knowledge. It represents its truths in quotations, in the form ‘“p” is the word of God’ – or better, in the doubly-bracketed ‘“‘p’ is the word of God”, is true’. Flacius’s broadsheet pictures the true religion through a multiple sequence of representations in quotation marks, one embedded inside the other: at the centre, God, from whom all the words proceed; then the back-to-back authorities of Christ and lamb; beyond these, the divinely inspired preacher who speaks the words, and the book that materially contains them; around the pulpit, the social conditions and ritual practices in which the words circulate; and finally, outside, the falsehood from which truth differs. Most powerfully, though, it is the print’s alternation between words and images that validates belief statements by isolating them from direct attention. The profile view of understanding achieved in the figurative pairing of ‘this is the lamb’ with the textualized banner-bearing lamb models how information is not contained inside its wording, but stands perennially beside its inscription, as the Other of any present attention. Abbreviated, validated and tagged to the figure it contains, the kernel engages our understanding less than our recollection. Without any hermeneutic effort, our memory files the picture along with the word as if one of them – one cannot recollect which – had been the inscription and the other the meaning there inscribed.

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16 Teaching

In Protestant culture words acquired the status of things by their aggressive material inscription. Text kernels were everywhere to be seen, and they served as much a decorative as a communicative function. Luther compiled long lists of them, wrote them on books, walls and doors, and had them etched in stone, iron and glass, where they could function as enduring emblems – he termed them ‘symbola’ – of his faith.1 In his preface to the Wittenberg Church Ordinance of 1526, he instructed parents to do the same, to write Bible quotations all over their houses and even to sneak them into their children’s ‘little sacks and bags’ as one would a coin, for they were worth more than Rhenish gold.2 And indeed in many Protestant homes, hostels and inns, pious sayings covered every available support: walls, ceilings, furniture, pillows, towels, curtains and tapestries; New Year’s greetings, postcards and Christmas-tree decorations; the blank spots on books, on picture frames and on pictures themselves. Pastors displayed their learning and piety by filling their churches with writing. In their house of worship, or ‘temple’, at Charenton, Huguenots covered the walls with Bible verses, the ceiling with a biblical table of contents, and the vaulting with the Ten Commandments, the Twelve Articles of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer (illus. 142).3 It is hard to judge whether such spectacles were meant primarily for reading. Occasionally an individual will report having been moved by an inscription, as when Johann Albrecht Bengel, writing in the early eighteenth century, recalls his ‘great joy’ as a six-year-old reading ‘sayings from the Letter to the Romans written in the church’ in Winnenden near Stuttgart.4 But if such a reading occurred, I suspect it did so accidentally, in the down time of church service, or when the mind wandered from the words intoned in preaching and sacrament. In Pfaffenhofen at 1617, a wall of the parish church was covered with Bible sayings warning readers not to fall asleep in church.5 Unread inscriptions still feature in the spaces of pedagogy, where they police an audience that should be facing elsewhere. In my high school’s


142. Attributed to Jean Perrissin, The ‘Temple de Paradis’ in Lyon, 1564, oil on panel. Bibliothèque Publique et Universitaire, Geneva (collections iconographiques).

auditorium, a motto was written in grey on grey: ‘know something do something be something.’ Boredom’s last resort, these words focused a regard neither of reading nor of beholding. This was partly because of placement and scale. The letters wrapped around the hall’s upper mouldings so that putative readers had to twist in their chairs to get the sentence, displaying their distraction. Generally the eye rested on a random group of letters which it endlessly pondered: ‘owsomethi’. Meanwhile, the motto denounced these lazy games. A striking feature of the kernels that Protestants displayed is that they speak obsessively of God’s word and, by implication, of themselves: ‘The word of God is God’s strength,’‘Blessed are those who hear God’s word,’‘He who has my word will not see death.’ In 1547, Luther’s editor, Johannes Aurifaber, published a pamphlet of ‘consoling sayings’ that the Reformer had scribbled down and glossed.6 Most of these are sayings about sayings.7 At the head of the compendium stands the line from Matthew 24, ‘He who reads should understand it.’ In his gloss, Luther takes these words to say that one must attend closely to what each Bible passage says. If the letter from a prince compels one to read it more than once, he argues, God’s words should

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be read ‘three, four, ten, a hundred, a thousand, many thousand times’.8 To grasp this line in Matthew, then, means endlessly to reread its commandment to read, until instead of a message we acquire a routine: the mental and physical discipline of reading itself. Words about God’s word constituted the earliest motto of Protestantism. As a sign of their support for Luther, the Saxon princes chose as their device the monogram ‘vdmie’, representing the initials of the line from 1 Peter, ‘Verbum Domini manet in aeternum’ (‘the word of God endureth for ever’).9 In 1522 they had it embroidered on their winter livery and ordered it stamped on the tools and products of Saxon artisans. A drawing of 1535 from Cranach’s shop shows Johann Friedrich still wearing the device; and in the left inner wing of the Weimar Altarpiece it hangs over the exiled prince on the hem of an embroidered curtain (illus. 29). Magical powers were sometimes imputed to it, as when it was served as a talisman – interchangeable with an apotropaic lizard device – on horses’ muzzles to protect their eyes in battle.10 But chiefly it broadcast confessional identity, celebrating the endurance of Luther’s word-based faith through the person who displayed it. When, in his 1525 treatise on measurement, Albrecht Dürer showed how to make high-up inscriptions legible from the ground, the text he used for his illustration was the vdmie motto in German (illus. 143).11 In the process of diagramming how to adjust for vertical distance by calculating the angle of vision and sizing the letters proportionately, Dürer drafts a plan for a fitting confessional monument. The antiqua lettering, which was itself partly of Dürer’s design, bespeaks legibility and endurance, as opposed to the ephemeral, workaday faktur in which his own text is set. Yet there is something contradictory about this side-view of

143. Albrecht Dürer, ‘Model Column’, woodcut illustration from Unterweisung der Messung, 1st edn (Nuremberg, 1525).

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God’s word received, in which eternity is claimed by an expression, each element of which is sized relative to a positioned beholder. Words cannot ‘remain eternal’ if they are to stay readable from different points of view. Northern European art’s first writer on perspective therefore teaches a method for writing in perspective. Erasmus evoked a similar condition of language as surface or inscription when he cited two types of illegibility: one where the alphabet is foreign and the letters do not ‘look back at us’; the other, where the words are far off and eyeglasses are necessary. Although the text on Dürer’s monument affirms the absolute reference of words – ‘the word [that] is Christ’ – his perspectivist scenography, treating words as things, reveals the contingency of their inscription. The code vdmie was particularly vulnerable to distortion. The Lutheran satirist Johann Fischart parodied the motto as the Latin-German malapropos ‘Verbum Domini manet im Ermel’, crossing the phrase with its sartorial location on the sleeve (German = ‘Ermel’).12 More so than, say, the periodic that opens the American national anthem, the Lutheran motto would have been misunderstood by many who took it as their own. The Franciscan polemicist Johann Nas, whom we met earlier as Fischart’s foe, used vdmie’s cryptogrammic character for more mischievous ends. He describes a monster carrying ‘a banner with a strange device’: standing for ‘Verräterisch, Dückisch, Meineydisch, Jüdisch, Ehebrecherisch’ (‘treacherous, malicious, perjurious, Jewish, adulterous’), it marks the beast as Antichrist.13 Beyond their confessional intent, such travesties highlight a period obsession with what today is termed the play of the signifier. Martin and Katherina Luther, we know, entertained each other with acrostics. Together they devised a rebus from asini (Latin for ‘asses’) that could be read in forty different ways.14 One would think that, since reading conventions were less fixed than today, the effort would have been toward standardization, yet a glance at early broadsheets reveals that eccentric inscriptions were a period ideal. For example, Flacius’s woodcut is hardly unique in squeezing bits of texts into a picture. But the specific relation of images to words, and the various notations (e.g., the rainbow-shaped band) that fall between the modalities of the two, are rather unique, and must be learned for this print only. Two centuries later, mental effort would be focused on richer texts and pictures, but not on inscriptive codes itself. Unlike the verbal-visual puzzles in which evangelical polemic and pedagogy was often couched (illus. 144),15 mastering meaning, and not a new media, would be the object of the game. The hybrid engineered around 1566 by Anthony Cortoys begat no offspring (illus. 145).16 But through its medial interbreeding, the broadsheet Lament of Our Lord Jesus for the Ungrateful World returns us to the conditions of early modern textuality. Beside Christ’s profile portrait are ten complaints. Each part of their common syntax is placed in a separate

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144. Anonymous, Anti-Clerical Picture Puzzle, c. 1620, woodcut.

145. Anthony Cortoys the Younger, Christ’s Lament for the Ungrateful World, c. 1566, woodcut.


146. Hans Burgkmair, Profile of Holy Face With ‘Lentulus’ Letter, 1511, woodcut.

column; of these parts, three are fixed (‘I am’, ‘but one’, and ‘me not’) and two are not. The variables consist of attributes (e.g., beautiful, allpowerful, eternal, true) and corresponding actions (love, fear, seek, believe). Meanwhile, in small print below, Cortoys prints the biblical kernels from which the laments are drawn, certifying that these would indeed be Christ’s complaint. Veracity is also implied by the profile image. Cortoys draws on painted and printed portraits of Christ based on the socalled ‘Lentulus Letter,’ a thirteenth-century description of Christ which, by 1400, was dated to the time of Jesus and attributed to Pontius Pilate’s predecessor in Judea.17 The broadsheet’s likeness purports to be a ‘true icon’ – warts and all – of its subject and therefore a visual summary of the attributes listed at the right (illus. 146). Adding Christ’s attributes to the response he should receive, the lament arrives at the scandalous total: ‘not’. The Passion, recollected by the two coats of arms, is repeated by ‘the ungrateful world’ that the broadsheet seeks to admonish. But why the language game? Why display Christ’s lament in tabular form? The rhythm of constant and changeable elements trains readers in

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attribute-response pairs, since scanning each lament necessitates finding and linking the correct members of the lists. And these acrobatics occasion mistakes that require rereadings that impress the pairs more forcefully on the mind. Like flash cards, the table of sentence-parts drills the reader in the terms on display by isolating them for repeated, close-order inspection. And because each practise-sentence condenses the biblical kernel printed underneath, the competence attained through the exercise facilitates reading Scripture in its original form, since one will find in it, and dutifully manipulate, the now-familiar words. To this day, manuals for taking exams in reading comprehension advise test-takers to skim the questions before tackling the text so that when they read it, they can do so rapidly, and only for the answers. Atomized into a set of optical recognitions, comprehension becomes a reflex action, as befits how such tests are graded, by machinecounted pencil dots. Leaving aside whether Stanley Kaplan or Anthony Cortoys benefits ‘understanding’, one peculiarity of the broadsheet is that, over and above the readerly operations described, it encourages other mental games as well. Given that the print comes without instructions, and that its fun lies partly in figuring out the rules, I doubt that I was the first to test whether the variables could only be paired line by line, or whether they combine diagonally in new laments, such as: ‘I am rich but one love me not.’ Distracting, too, are the dative and accusative first-person pronouns in the final column, which result from the contingencies of the German verb. Cortoys’s print fosters less an understanding of Bible passages than a grammatical manipulation of the words they contain. This was catechism’s initial aim: to mobilize – swiftly, under stressful conditions – bits of language. As a Lutheran pedagogue, Abraham Lange, observed in his Christian Children’s Lesson (1608), ‘Like a soldier in wartime, who is cast out of his troop and is killed like an enemy if he does not know the passwords, so the Christian who has not learnt his catechism is no Christian at all, but an enemy of God.’18 By the nineteenth century, in a very different discourse network, Goethe could still recall his childhood use of text kernels as passwords.19 In the classroom, well-schooled students could exchange secret messages by means of Bible quotations. Whispered or scribbled on a scrap of paper, the pious sayings would, by their sound or sense, convey secondary connotations that yielded private communiqués – about girls, the teacher, weekend plans and so forth. Goethe told this story not just to show how words, manipulated like things, pass meanings from soul to soul, but also to recollect how familiar Scripture had been to children at a time when this was no longer true. Using the Bible for language training, catechetical instruction so internalized Scripture that it became a language itself. Goethe’s picture of understanding is of one mind speaking to another through a shared, arbitrary code. Not the familiar Bible quotation itself but

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the confidential bulletins piggybacked on it, constitute the kernel of these childhood communications on which friendship is formed. One might imagine such games already played in the Reformation. Was it not Luther’s achievement to center everything on personal understanding, on our grasping in external signs an inner message just for us? Was it not the goal of church cleansing, whether radical or moderate, to transform an idolatrous religion based on outward objects and actions into a faith based on communications? And was it not the case, according to Dilthey – a theorist of a humanities based more on interpretations than on facts – that Luther’s effort to understand Scripture through Scripture, as well as Flacius’s attempt to formalize the procedure, built the very foundations on which modern hermeneutics, or the new sciences of reading, were based? Yet where one expects to find a subordination of all external codes – images, writing, ritual, etc. – to the signified, to inner sense, to the message in the heart, one instead discovers language. Materialized for display, words becomes objects of ritual action. Catechism resembles understanding by ensuring the identity of input and output: to answer correctly is publically to evidence, or at least adequately to simulate, subjective possession of what one is required to grasp. Lutherans (as I will describe below) staged this display as a bodily routine, with catechumens interchangeably shouting the questions and the answers, the words and their meaning, belief and its gloss. Such performances incarnate the profile view of understanding pictorialized in Flacius’s print. Only instead of pairing signifieds (words and pictures) as if one were perpetually the meaning of the other, catechism pairs bodies as if one were the other’s soul. Of course, language always gets in the way. The errant appropriation of the text kernel by Johann Fischart, Johann Nas, and centuries of Christian children sneaking messages to each other is inevitable, given that language’s material support, its sounds, symbols, and inscriptions, is arbitrary. But in early Lutheran culture inscriptions seem intentionally to be placed in the way of understanding. In his Briefe and true report of the new found land in Virginia, Thomas Hariot describes how the natives, on first seeing the Bible, began to worship the codex rather than the God announced in it.20 Cited to prove the idolatrous nature of New World inhabitants, the episode says more about the anxieties of Hariot’s culture. In Protestant culture, it seems, ‘the word freezes into an idol’.21 In 1537, the south German town of Dinkelsbühl – at the time an important free imperial city – redecorated its altars.22 In its parish church of St George, it erected a retable with a Last Supper painting and, underneath, the biblical text of the Institution of the Eucharist. And in the Hospital Church, around the corner, it installed a similar altarpiece which still survives. In its current state, it consists of nothing but words: three wooden panels displaying the

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147. Master Wolf (?) and anonymous carver, Altarpiece with Texts of Ten Commandments and the Lord’s Supper, 1537, wood. Spitalkirche, Dinkelsbühl.

Institution flanked by the Ten Commandments (illus. 147). The hospital’s accounts list payment ‘to Beckerle to make the altar, 2 florins; 5 day-wages work at the altar, 7 pounds; 5 day wages, 4 pounds; and further eight florins to Wolf, painter of the panel, to gild and make [it]’.23 Given how few church ornaments were commissioned in Dinkelsbühl at the time, the artist Wolf – presumably an ordinary painter-sculptor – must have been happy to get this job even if it modified his usual practices, which was to carve, paint and gild pictures and not words. The impulse for this altarpiece came, it seems, from Matthias Rösser, the hospital’s new custodian and a tireless leader of church reform in Dinkelsbühl. In 1525, as Mayor and Master of the Guild, it had been Rösser who agitated against the city’s corrupt Catholic pastor, and who, after a setback following the Peasants’ War, had worked with like-minded guildsmen and clergy to bring the city council to his side.24 In 1534, the City Council embraced the evanglical faith, and by 1537, the Georgskirche and the Hospital Church both had evangelical pastors and preachers. By then, too, monies from the cloisters went to the council; church service was largely evangelical; pastors had full authority in religious matters, and received their call from the city rather than the episcopy; and burghers seeking religious education made their way to Wittenberg. But it was from Luther himself that the idea for Dinkelsbühl’s new retables derived. In a tract of 1530, he had advised Christians to place on their altars a picture of the Last Supper along with the words, ‘The forgiving and merciful Lord instituted a remembrance of his miracle.’25 I will analyse the cause and implications of this pronouncement later. Here I would note that, although the text altarpiece in the Hospital Church is a unique example, it derives from an iconography proposed by the Reformer, and standard for

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Lutheran retables ever since. Not only Cranach’s Wittenberg ensemble, but the majority of altarpieces made in its wake, feature a Last Supper on the main panel or predella. One obvious function of this image is to visualize the link between the Communion rite and its prototype, thereby affirming the apostolic character of the church where the picture stands. Such an assertion would have had special force in Dinkelsbühl, where the altar ritual had been the flash point of religious conflict. In 1503, the council complained that of the countless private Masses performed for money, only a few were openly recited; priests, it charged, shunned the festive church processions organized by the laity, milling about idly in worldly clothes.26 In 1522 or 1523, the Catholic pastor Bastian Süßler was pressured into administering the sacrament in both kinds. Said in the vernacular on special days, these lay communions occurred intermittently until 1531–32, when they were briefly forbidden. During those months, most citizens refused the customary Easter Communion in protest. The German Mass became universal in Dinkelsbühl in 1534, except in the Hospital Church, which alternated Protestant and Catholic services for many years afterwards.27 In 1537, then, the word altarpiece was erected behind an altar at the front of the nave, in the traditional place of ‘lay altars’. It would have been there that, at first begrudgingly, ordinary people were given Communion from time to time. Showing parishioners the consecrating words for both the bread and the wine, the altarpiece certified the victory of Rösser’s cause. The words that it displayed condemned previous spectacles: instead of the chalice and instead of proper participation in the Mass (so the Lutheran verdict), the laity had been given only images, of the Virgin and the saints. Dinkelsbühl’s altarpiece crosses out what came before. In its present state, it seems veritably to trumpet its iconoclasm through the way it is framed. Flanked on either side by concave panels, the text triptych has the unmistakable shape of a predella. The cornice that spans both triptych and it side ornaments, along with the semi-circular pediment that seems too small for where it rests, heightens the impression of a predella with its image-bearing corpus removed. If, as the extensive previous literature on this ensemble insists, it is ‘an altarpiece without painting, without images’28 then its shape and anticlimactic top would serve to advertise that lack, like those defaced effigies left standing in the post-iconoclastic church (illus. 44 and 49). A few years ago, Herbert Reber, Dean of the Lutheran Ministry in Dinkelsbühl, discovered an undocumented Last Supper panel in the gallery of the Hospital Church (illus. 148). Bearing inscriptions commemorating two of its restorations – in 1579 and in 1613 – it reflects compositions from the late sixteenth century,29 and is painted in a style closer to the date of the second restoration. Reber noted that the panel’s width accorded with the text triptych and that there were bore-holes on the underside of the panel’s

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148. Anonymous, Last Supper, 1537 and 1613, oil on panel. Spitalkirche, Dinkelsbühl.

frame, suggesting it had once stood on some pedestal or support. After exhibiting the Last Supper together with the text triptych in Karlsruhe, I organized a technical analysis of the two objects.30 Evidence of bore-holes in the text triptych’s cornice matching those in the painted panel confirm that, originally, the two belonged together, and that they served as the predella and corpus of a Last Supper altarpiece similar to the one documented in Dinkelsbühl for the church of St George.31 Unfortunately, the original painting has been effaced by restoration campaigns of 1613 and later. And the date of, and reason for, its removal remains unknown. Perhaps it was felt to block the view to the choir, where a late fifteenth-century Marian altarpiece still stands (illus. 149). Removed from the high altar in the seventeenth century and later returned, that Gothic survival has itself been modified: carved angels are missing from the area around the Virgin’s head. They would have supported her crown, and were perhaps victims of an iconoclastic revision.

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149. Anonymous, Altarpiece of the Coronation of the Virgin, c. 1490, polychromed wood. Spitalkirche, Dinkelsbühl.

The palimpsest of images and image-breaking resulted partly from changing tastes: the 1613 restoration ‘updated’ a by-then outmoded painting of 1537. In Dinkelsbühl, however, any such change would have had a confessional charge, since this was one of south Germany’s ‘parity cities’, where both Lutherans and Catholics were legally recognized. Imperial law safeguarded the rights of the two ‘sacred societies’, but only up to a point: ultimately Dinkelsbühl, like the other parity cities, was wracked by war and internal conflict.32 With Reber’s discovery of the Last Supper, the story about the text panels becomes less clear cut. But this complexity is more in keeping with the Lutheran settlement on images, which transformed rather than eradicated church pictures. In any case, even in its current state, the text predella cum altarpiece is a kind of image. While a reading eye scans them from left to right and top to bottom, the carved inscriptions form a diffuse centre through their greater density in the middle panel, and through the symmetry of their triptych format. Occupying the framework of a figure in a shrine, writing offers itself as a display of shiny, recursive shapes standing forth from darkness. Because of their contributions to the printed book, the instrument of Scripture’s new dispensation, woodblock cutters and type founders could justly celebrated their craft as advancing a word-based faith. In 1537, writing was in and of itself a beautiful thing.

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On the middle panel of the altarpiece, in the interval following Christ’s words about the bread – ‘Do this in my memory’ – the carver has chiselled in relief not a period or comma but an object: a single blossom (illus. 150). Occurring off-centre on the text panel, and thus registering the contingency of patterns shaped by writing, this little flower hardly substitutes for the carved and polychromed effigies it historically replaced. But the gaze fixes on it nonetheless, arrested by its apparition as a thing. From distances where reading is impossible, the flower halts the eye as an glint. Close up, where it can read, it punctuates the Bible text, dividing the words about the bread from the words about wine. Christ’s order to ‘do this’ and ‘remember’ finds time to be performed and experienced in the pause that the blossom activates. And when, after the bread has been blessed and elevated (Luther retained this crucial gesture of late medieval liturgy),33 the wine, too, is lifted, blessed and poured, the flower will have affirmed that, in Dinkelsbühl, the chalice is also the layman’s to receive. Printers and scribes had long used decorative fillers (leaves, pilcrows, flourishes, hearts) to punctuate and organize their texts. Although as unobtrusive as those standard marks, this flower – a five-petalled rose – has symbolic potential. In the iconography of late medieval mysticism, it sometimes denoted the heart’s love of God through the five senses.34 Drawing on this symbolism, we recall, Luther incorporated a five-petalled rose into his own coat of arms, where it represented the joy, comfort and peace that come from faith (illus. 97).35 Far from being a mere thing distinct from language and empty of inner meaning, the altarpiece’s little rose would thus signal interiority itself, where meaning unfolds as feelings in the heart.

150. Master Wolf (?) and anonymous carver, detail of the central panel of the Text of the Lord’s Supper, illus. 147.

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If this is a ‘reading’, it violates the expected bandwidth of the written text. To an eye habituated to writing, letters yield their sense too effortlessly to be construed as figures, nor are the surrounding rubrics easily taken for texts. The founder of modern hermeneutics and the renewer of Luther’s faith, Friedrich Schleiermacher, banned from poetry all verses ‘that look like an axe or bottle.’36 In his view, picture poems conveyed messages through their external form; they therefore violated the primacy of inner sense that hermeneutics assumed – religiously – for language. It has become easier today to recall a condition where words are things. Modernism dramatized its rupture with the past by putting newly on display the material means of its expression. In the first decades of the twentieth century, Guillaume Apollinaire, in his Calligrammes, formed pictures out of letters to render writing less transparent to sense, while Stéphane Mallarmé derived poetry from the intervals of blank paper between letters. Painting, for its part, contested its assumed relation to nature by overlaying its illusion-bearing surface with texts. Paul Klee’s picture poems, along with Cubist and Dada collage, showed that visual representation, like language, depended on arbitrary conventions, and conversely that language, like painting, depended on material inscription.37 Where humanist art theory had equated painting with poetry by arguing that they equally portrayed the mind, modernism celebrated the Sister Arts as being both made of matter. Friedrich Kittler has studied the historical conditions of this modernist revolution.38 He has traced its techniques back to experiments of late nineteenth-century psychophysics, which regarded the mind itself as a material surface on which nonsense syllables were inscribed. And he has described the effects of such new inscriptive technologies as the typewriter, which seemed to sever writing from subjectivity and thus accorded with the exemplary modern maladies of aphasia and dyslexia. Like the Post-Structuralists to whom he is indebted, Kittler (the most influential literary theorist in Germany of the 1990s) attends to the ‘exteriority’ of expression in an effort to dismantle the myth, foundational to hermeneutics, of a silent inner voice.39 More concretely than his predecessors, though, Kittler locates this myth in history. He delimits its existence in a specific, material network of inscriptions constituted by reformed pedagogy and Romantic poetry around 1800. Kittler treats the Reformation only briefly, as a legacy of rote learning that Romantic pedagogues opposed to inner voice and feeling. Yet his history of the fabrication of hermeneutical understanding is useful for developing a more differentiated approach to Lutheran images and words. It clarifies the distinctions, as well as the continuities, between these inscriptions and the objects studied within traditional histories of art. Recent art practices have made the Reformation image more visible. Avant-garde iconoclasm continues to fill the visual field with texts. Scornful

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still of the art lover’s greedy eye, it purifies the temple by replacing images with words – slogans, manifestos, wall labels – with the result that the crossed-out product called ‘art’ must be judged on the merits of the words that displace it. The 1980s witnessed a renaissance of the text kernel. Jenny Holzer’s Truisms series, formulated in 1977–9, exploited the iconic value of words as a lesson in the opacity of information (illus. 151). Racing in digital display through the non-places of contemporary urban life (the airport, the ballpark, the strip city), her ‘mock clichés’40 evoked a condition of language wherein beliefs reveal their detachment from a thinking mind. As always, art’s easiest target of disbelief was the enchantment of art itself. In 1986, read-outs such as ‘money creates taste’ lit up baggage carousels at the Las Vegas airport – a place ordinarily left empty or used for ads or warnings (‘Stand Clear!’). This ‘art attack’41 was organized by the Nevada Institute of Contemporary Art, however, and would be photographed and later restaged in a museum (the Guggenheim in 1989). There the statement ‘money creates taste’ became yet more self-referential. It admonished that aesthetic value was merely the effect of wealth, and that art deserved to be replaced by warnings of this kind. What, in any case, can Las Vegas teach us about the already fingerwagging Reformation image? Holzer’s Truisms demonstrated the importance of placement for inscription. Turning up unexpectedly in the contested spaces of the ‘public’, they dramatized how content depends on context. ‘Money creates taste’ got its punch by appearing in Las Vegas, above the arriving property of visitors to a city that, in the view of most artists and intellectuals, destroys money and taste. Site-specificity is also a feature of the objects we study: the Reformation image must be thought together

151. Jenny Holzer, ‘Money Creates Taste’, text from Truisms, 1986, installation at Baggage Claim, McCorran International Airport, Las Vegas.

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152. Anonymous, ‘Institution of Lord’s Supper’, fragment of Catechism Altarpiece, c. 1575, oil on panel. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.

with its physical setting and with the bodies compelled to assemble there. More deeply, Holzer’s Truisms teach us something about the mysterious properties of semantic content itself. The title announces indirection. ‘Truisms’ are statements so obviously true as not to require stating. Redundant, they signal semantic stagnation; content stands at a remove from any source in the world or the mind. In Holzer, humour lightens the grim march from truth to belief to reported belief to parodied report to (tautology of a tautology) the ‘mock cliché’. The Truisms ironize the solemn redundancy of school pictures, which display what they claim would be there anyway without them. Lutherans, by contrast, exhibited writing as a beautiful emblem of the truths it conveyed. In 1586 the Danish reformer Jakob Madsen termed the alphabet a ‘treasury’ and ‘delicious hoard’ which, present from the beginning and surviving until the world’s end, contained within itself all ‘spiritual and mundane learning’ (illus. 152).42 In the same year, Peder Trellund presented to King Frederick ii of Denmark a retable incorporating nineteen plaquettes of different colors, sizes, shapes and materials (illus. 153).43 Each tablet showcases a bible verse or saying, and each is written in a distinctive method and style of script. Cursive, antiqua and micrography vie with each other in virtuoso calligraphy and carving, while the contents of all these bits of writing – the pious texts themselves – are barely readable at any distance. Where Master Wolf of Dinkelsbühl gave the iconoclastic texts some measure of aesthetic appeal, Trellund virtually obliterates the text kernels beneath the exuberance of their inscription. The heterogeneity both of writing and of the material out of which writing can be made (soapstone, copper, wood, gold, etc.) belong to a forgotten phase in the historical movement from script to print. In 1580 a retable of nothing but inscriptions would have celebrated Protestantism’s ‘new dispensation’ of the word. And

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153. Peder Trellund, Text Altarpiece from Højbjerg Church, 1586. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.

that dispensation depended on the printed book, and specifically on Luther’s German Bible which, through the unprecedented ease of reading it facilitated, and through its existence in thousands of identical copies, makes us forget – indeed renders (so to speak) immaterial – the stuff of which it is made. Carving biblical verses in stone, letter by tiny calligraphic letter, reflects a condition of writing and, through it, of communication, distinct from the modern hermeneutic settlement, where what counts is only the message, not the medium. This prior medial condition is not confined to eccentric objects like the Højbjerg retable but obtains in

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countless works of Reformation art, where texts overwhelm the images they inscribe (illus. 154). The iconic character of writing even finds expression in early editions of the German Bible itself. The practice – still current today – of printing text kernels in a special type goes back to Luther’s editor Georg Röhrer.44 In the revised German Bible of 1541, Röhrer introduced a system of setting some words in antiqua, others all in upper-case fraktur, and the rest in ordinary mixed fraktur. In an afterward, Röhrer explains that wherever Scripture (Old or New Testament) speaks of Christ, or whenever it announces the gospel’s good news, it is set in upper-case fraktur, whereas texts that threaten death, or refer to evil persons, are set in antiqua. On the opening page of the Song of Songs, for example, we find the ‘I’ in ‘I am black’ in antiqua, whilst in ‘I am like you’ it is capitalized in fraktur. Not different words, but the different graphic supports for words, give each sentence its underlying moral and christological value. It is reported that Luther rejected Röhrer’s system as ‘sheer nonsense’. Yet he ordered his translations and vernacular writings to be set in fraktur probably because he believed that it, and not antiqua (which was reserved for texts published in Latin), was the inscriptive vulgate for German readers and a font, or ‘Schriftbild,’ untainted by paganism, humanism and Rome.45 More crucially, Röhrer’s emphasis on some words over others agreed with Luther’s exegetical method and with evangelical doctrine that Scripture should be interpreted by means of Scripture alone. Printing text kernels – or a ‘canon in the canon’ – in a special type merely reified the fact that the Bible’s clarity depended on iconic

154. Lucas Cranach the Elder, Heaven and Hell Wagon of Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, 1519, woodcut.

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features of writing. For how else could a text that had been obscure for centuries display those passages that now unlock it? Already in his first Bible translation – the 1522 September Testament – Luther engineered Scripture’s legibility through the instruments of typography and layout. As Mark Edwards has observed, ‘Using forewords and introductions, marginal glosses, polemical illustrations, rearranged paragraphing, and a theologically inspired translation, Luther sought to assure that at least the printed text of Scripture interpreted itself.’46 Even before it was carved in stone or distributed like a coin, the biblical text kernel displayed writing as image. In his Visitation Book (a register of church inspections he conducted in the 1580s), Jakob Madsen records ‘a glorious new panel with the teaching of the catechism . . . no images, no decoration’, and some entries later, ‘an ornament on the altar with the words of the Supper in Danish and Latin’.47 Even though Dinkelsbühl’s altarpiece was not originally decorated only with writing, text altarpieces do exist. A fragment of a lost altarpiece from Ballerup, Denmark, and dating from Madsen’s time, exhibits the Lord’s Prayer in Latin and the vernacular (illus. 155). The purpose of this display seems as plain as its form. It seeks to give believers their proper response to the altar sacrament. But these painted words belong to other practices, as well. As Madsen indicates for a similar altarpiece, they taught catechism, where ‘Our Father’ was the standard prayer. Destroyed in 1885, the lost bits of the Ballerup retable probably featured the other four parts of catechism: the Creed, Ten Commandments and Sacraments along with their glosses. The Lord’s Prayer panel survived by being incorporated into the walls of a pigsty. Discovered in 1900, it has again found a public place in the historical rooms of the National Museum in Copenhagen. Fitting it with new labels, and framing it as an instance of a local past, the curators have resurrected its value as a school picture. Textualized information still parades as it did in Ballerup four centuries back. In the intervening centuries, though, the humble panel, like the numerous catechism altarpieces that did not survive, was tossed out as rubbish, or perhaps because it was tainted by iconoclasm. In his battle against Calvinism, King Christian iv of Denmark replaced many text altarpieces in his lands with figured ones to affirm his Lutheran moderation on images.48 In spite of this iconoclasm of iconoclasm, scores of catechism altarpieces have survived in villages throughout Denmark, Norway, and southern Sweden. Though recently inventoried by the National Museum, they remain largely unpublished – instances of cultural making at its most obsolete.49 Observed in their humble settings, however, the extant examples have the powerful effect of turning church interiors into an image of the school. In the south Swedish village of Ilstorp, near Lund, in a region ruled from Denmark until 1658, the parish church displays behind its altar

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155. Anonymous, ‘Lord’s Prayer Panel’, fragment of the Catechism Altarpiece from Ballerup Church, c. 1590, oil on panel. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.


an ensemble of Bible quotations (illus. 156).50 Through scrollwork, mouldings, figured supports and calligraphy itself, writing is framed as beautiful thing. Except for the pulpit and an old crucifix, this text altarpiece, dated 1602, is the church’s only ornament, a ‘delicious hoard’ of letters in a whitewashed choir sanctuary. Its purpose was practical, since the texts exhibited are ones that instituted and now explain the altar rite. Originally these were more than background information that parishioners might choose to read while sitting in church. This had been the Christian altarpiece’s prior pedagogical function. At the end of the Middle Ages, the laity watched, more than bodily received, the Eucharist, and with that spectatorial position

156. Anonymous, Catechism Altarpiece, 1602, polychromed wood. Parish Church, Ilstorp.

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were coordinated spectacles that embellished the invisible mystery but that had no effect upon it. For it counted for nothing whether a lay person entered or even understood the goings-on. The Mass was effective ex opere operato, ‘from the work done’, whenever and wherever a priest celebrated it. Universal priesthood, by contrast, held each person responsible for making sacrament efficacious for them. Although Luther held that the elements became Christ’s flesh and blood regardless of personnel, Communion only saved those who understood, indeed who grasped and believed, that sacrament was for them.51 With everything resting on how persons inwardly are, ministry directed itself to their pastoral care. During his 1528 visitation to Saxon parish churches, Luther found God’s word poorly taught and rarely understood, even by village pastors. To teach the local ministry what to teach, Luther sought ways of briefly setting forth what should ultimately be grasped, at the far side of an interpretive process not yet begun. His Large and Small Catechism sought to extract from Scripture, and from its illuminating kernels, a second-order norm. And in a spirit of concision that would occupy evangelical pastors for centuries, Luther would further reduce these to thumbnail sketches – some but four lines long – where catechism was itself summarized. Whereas formerly everything began with the priest, whose ordination linked him back to Christ’s first disciples, religion now started with catechism. Catechism prepared an understanding that enabled the faith that alone saved. In the Wittenberg Church Ordinance and in his German Mass (both of 1526), Luther states that, prerequisite to the Communion, ‘a crude, basic, simple, good catechism is necessary’.52 The preface to the Large Catechism recommends that no one be admitted to the altar who had not publically proven their knowledge of doctrine. And in the Schmalkaldic Articles (1537), he keeps confession for the purpose of preliminarily ‘interrogating and instructing’ on their grasp of faith.53 Pictured on the Wittenberg Altarpiece’s right wing panel, the office of the ‘keys’ was bound up with this regime (illus. 28 and 127). What began as a voluntarist and participatory ideal – the laity approaching the altar bound only by their conscience – became an obligatory regime of teaching and testing.54 Ilstorp’s parishioners would have had to know by heart the texts displayed in their church, and be able to recite them on command. The altarpiece had become a standardized test. Eventually, rights of citizenship could depended on passing literacy exams, the set text of which was Luther’s Small Catechism. In the beginning, Luther imagined religious instruction taking place in the institutions of family and church. Beyond their duties to preaching and sacrament, ministers were expected to teach catechism. In evangelical Dinkelsbühl, as in Wittenberg from 1528, Sunday service included afternoon

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sermons for ‘young people’ and catechism classes for ‘German school children’. These soon became mandatory in Lutheran territories. Parents were responsible for their children’s attendance; offenders were reported and dragged before the authorities for ‘severe censure and punishment’.55 Pastors, too, were increasingly monitored in their sermons and classes. The 1580 Church Ordinance for Saxony forbade them from ‘making a display of their theological cunning with far-fetched digressions and excursions that will only spread confusion among poor ignorant folk’.56 Luther’s Small Catechism was to be read on Sundays from every village pulpit ‘in a loud voice and distinctly’, with no added commentary.57 It had also been Luther’s early hope that ‘in the houses’ parents would instruct their children on the basics of faith.58 This was the function of all those pious sayings in domestic interiors, and of the hymns that, sung at home, let the word privately reverberate. In 1526, Luther imagined the household as a busy classroom, with the father drilling his children in catechism. He advised parents to ask their children ‘what some item means and how they understand it’, and he cautioned against irony, for just as Christ become man, so must we become children.59 Complexity (‘thinking too smart’) was to be avoided, since that way heresy lies. But when people said their catechism, they were supposed to ‘mean it’ and to ‘open up’ its words.60 Ignorance flourished, however, and Luther, together with Bugenhagen and Melanchthon, sought another institution which, supplementary to church and family, and controlled more directly by the state, could prepare people to receive God’s word. The common folk – what Melanchthon termed ‘stupid people’, ‘mad riffraff ’, ‘Mr Everybody’, ‘the vulgar folks among us’, ‘that wild crowd’ – needed instruction and discipline from above, from the secular government via state-supported, state-regulated schools. Although first imposed by Melanchthon in Saxony in 1528, the idea of universal education was Luther’s and dates to his 1524 circular, To the Councillors of All German Cities, That They Should Establish and Maintain Christian Schools.61 Long before Luther, of course, there had been all sorts of schools: for clerics, for professionals, for merchants. And, around 1500, humanists such as Erasmus and Jacob Wimpfeling had called for a state school system for the purposes of ‘civic order’.62 What was new about the evangelical school was its status as a compulsory institution. From a choice taken for children by parents, it became an obligation for families by government. School was a matter of ‘policy’ (Policey), which in sixteenth-century German sealed it to the state’s emergent instrument of force, the police.63 And while the goal of school was to teach catechism and foster faith (since ‘without the written word no one can be sanctified’), its efforts were directed obsessively toward maintaining public order.64

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Through its powers of indoctrination, discipline and surveillance, the school transformed persons into obedient subjects of the state.65 In a period of religious fragmentation, it regularized practices and beliefs through uniform routines and curricula. Phrases like ‘the same in all schools’, ‘the orderly observance of these rules’, and ‘the uniformity of all ceremonies here ordered’ echo through evangelical school ordinances like a steady refrain. Institutional consistency was itself founded on a deeper unity, whereby learning itself, as a bodily practice, occured as identical words endlessly and identically mouthed. ‘Avoid multiplicity in all ways’, writes Melanchthon in the Saxon Schulordnung about the way students should recite the set texts. ‘Uniformity is to be maintained throughout, so that the young and simple should be accustomed to hearing the same words spoken again and again’, state the Visitation Instructions for latesixteenth-century Mansfeld.66 Those words recited daily by every child in every village of an evangelical school district were generally those of Luther’s Small Catechism.67 Schooling began with learning letters by name and sound; it advanced to syllables, then to words and sentences, and from there it moved straight to catechism. Melanchthon’s primer, Elementa puerilia, passed directly from the alphabet to the Lord’s Prayer, leaving it to the teachers to fill the gaps.68 Catechism was literacy’s means and end. It was what ordinary folk read, letter by letter, in order finally to read . . . catechism. Sometimes pedagogues fretted that comprehension stalled along the way. By ceaseless repetition, the sacred texts became nothing but the letters in which they were written. In 1586, eight pastors in Ulm complained that children lost the point in drills like ‘HimHim-el-el: Himmel, Christ-Christ-us-us: Christus.’69 Yet in the preface to his Small Catechism, Luther had advised that the texts be learned by heart and recited ‘word by word’.70 Rote repetition remained the pedagogical norm, operating in the belief that ‘young people cannot grasp the doctrine unless they are habituated to it by means of verbatim repetition’.71 The idea behind school and catechism was that of impressing information on a person’s interior, on the mind, heart or soul. ‘God wants us to ponder his word diligently in our hearts’, preached Luther in 1533, ‘and so impress [einbildeten] it on ourselves that at length it will become a natural thing to us.’ Letter by letter God’s word imprints an image (a Bild) of itself within the heart, and it will be this that allows us properly to understand what the word actually says. Luther continues: Solomon says in the Song of Songs: ‘Set me as a seal upon the heart.’ God’s word must be in us like such a seal or brand mark, burned in, not touching the heart lightly, as foam on water or spittle on the tongue which we want to spit out, but pressed into the heart to remain

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there as a distinguishing sign which no one can remove from us, as if it had grown there naturally strong with roots never to be turned up again.72 Language is an indelible token, the function of which derives from its brute presence as well as its capacity to mean. This clarifies how, within Lutheran culture, word freeze into idols. Hermeneutic depth is neither located beneath some signifying surface nor is it measured by the distance between material sign and immaterial signified. It stands burned, etched, sealed or rooted in the surface itself, as a wound no deeper than the word. Inscriptions like those on the Dinkelsbühl altarpiece (texts carved in shallow relief) can instruct without being read, since on the model of school as in-formation – what in German would eventually be termed Bildung – their lettering alone would brandmark the soul. Luther, it is true, insisted that God’s word be ‘open[ed] up’, and that understanding must supplant mere memorization. To enable this, he put his catechism in question-answer form, so that the pivotal phrases stood side by side with their basic message. Yet these simple answers were mostly tautologies of the questions. They translated into different words what the phrase in question stated. More specifically, the Lutheran Catechism transformed the sentences of the Commandments, Creed, Lord’s Prayer, etc., into texts about how a person should act as a result of each sentence. Commanding more than it explained, catechism prevented readers from entering into a dialogue with it, from ‘thinking too cleverly’ about what it said. Through its question-answer format, it simulated understanding in order to avoid misunderstanding. Processing texts together with their interpretation, it displayed the hermeneutic act in profile, so to speak, in order that, among other things, it could be tested and publically policed. This double tautology – rote repetition of texts that were veiled repetitions of themselves – found concrete expression in one of the developed forms of catechetical practice. In late-sixteenth-century Württemburg, children were divided into two teams which, lined up face to face in rows, shouted antiphonally the questions and the answers.73 Enacted not by two communicating minds but by multiple, interchangeable bodies disciplined to function as one mind, understanding became, quite explicitly, a collective ritual. Partly under pressure from Pietism, Lutheran school reformers would seek ways of training and testing inward comprehension. Over the next two centuries they would insist, for example, that catechumens state their answers in their own words, thus evincing through subtle variations in script that the understanding mouthed was really theirs.74 Or they would introduce more rigorous interrogative routines, in which for every pat

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response there came some unexpected question that might somehow jog the mind into thinking for itself. But even those systems rigidified over time. Meanwhile the people, perceiving the coercive forces behind such calls for hermeneutic freedom, often chose to stick with the communication rituals they had mastered. When, in 1776, in an attempt to ‘open up’ God’s word, the authorities in Nassau-Weilberg published a new speller and reader that omitted Luther’s Catechism, the population rose up in revolt. Eight thousand troops from the Palatine were called in to protect the reforming prince, who in the end relented and brought the old primer back.75 The populace defended its catechism because it had come to identify with its routines; what seemed an empty ritual to the enlightened authorities was tradition for the natives. At their origins, these routines may have arisen from the contrary imperative that each member of the social body should individually understand God’s word. Religion, after all, consisted precisely not in customary practices but in a message freshly and inwardly grasped. Transforming the opaque, submissive ‘I believe in’ into a more transparent ‘I believe that’, catechism gave religious convictions the outward form of ‘a completely understood idea’ (in the words of Dan Sperber).76 Yet this change moves but does not remove the quotation marks around the beliefs themselves. As the Nassau-Weilberg riot demonstrates, an ‘I believe in’ implicitly encloses each ritual performance of the ‘I believe that’. And how could it have been otherwise for a culture that performed understanding in profile, with its members circulating inside, but never individually straddling, the shouting match of questions and answers. What counted was only that the whole should always be openly displayed: the belief together with its explanation, the word alongside its meaning, the communicative apparatus and the information it transmits. School shapes communications into public, bodily spectacles: as Nietzsche put it, one mouth speaking to very many ears.77 And if it insists that something else is communicated, some meaning, thought, conviction, or what you will, this will needs exist elsewhere, beyond any materialization as practice, inscription, or image. School pictures – images of and for the school – betray the stubborn attachments that still obtain in a culture cleansed of mysterious attachments.

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17 Ubiquity

The crucifix in the Wittenberg Altar has directed us to its framing apparatus: the institutions of preaching, teaching and state constituted by a particular communicative regime. Arriving at Christ may be hard to do in this picture. Suspending the iconoclastic gesture, Cranach’s crucifix does not quite belong to the disenchanted edifice where Luther and his flock stand, nor is it simply elsewhere either. It rises in a realm at once visible and invisible like itself: a social world filled with representations of collective belief. For this painting, ‘social context’ is not the hard won discovery of the historian; it is the image’s explicit locale. Yet exploring it, I have left out one important dimension. The image has its place behind an altar. The crucifix may stand on a fictive ground, and on one random slab of pavement there. Its centrality on the painted panel outweighs that errancy, however, as does its frontal view and contact with the upper framing edge. Cranach engineers the cross to move between the fictive and real worlds, perceivable as part of the scene of preaching and as one with the altar. Crucifixes were an expected adornment of an altar table. In Lutheran and Catholic churches alike, the altar usually supported a small, freestanding effigy of the crucified Christ.1 The City Church of Wittenberg conforms to this tradition even today by placing before the predella a sculpted crucifix. I suspect that originally Cranach’s cross sufficed, as does the historical crucifixion displayed in a 1545 woodcut of the Lutheran altar rite (illus. 157).2 In the following century, altar crucifixes became part of theological discourse about Communion. In 1689, Georg Chladni attributed to them a historical, a symbolic and a consecrating function, the last activated by the words of the Institution.3 Fifty years later, the poet-theologian Christoph Heinrich Zeibich distinguished such images ‘from the substance of sacrament’.4 Whereas Scripture authorizes and requires the latter, writes Zeibich, the former belong to ceremony which is ‘free’. The reason for this caution is clear. That which fabricated crucifixes only visualize sacrament makes real.


157. Anonymous, Communion, woodcut from Geistliche Lieder (Leipzig: V. Babst, 1545).

In its ritual location behind the altar, the crucifix pertains to something transmitted at this place by means of a word. Sacrament, for Luther as for St Augustine, combined a Gospel word with a thing: in baptism, water; in Communion, the bread and wine.‘The word is added to the element’, writes Augustine,‘and it becomes a sacrament tantamount to a visible word.’5 How exactly does Cranach’s cross relate to those physical elements that, through the Institution, become Christ’s flesh and blood? In 1530 Martin Bucer, vainly seeking common ground on Christ’s presence in the Mass, wrote to

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Luther that ‘the manner in which Christ is perceived to be present in the Supper’ is ‘by the mind’s eye’.6 Like Cranach’s crucifix, Bucer’s spiritualizing formulation would suggest that Christ is both there and not there in sacrament. But here all hell breaks loose. For although no one denied that Christ was present, how he was present – whether as flesh, as symbol, or as spiritual conviction – was the flash point of theological dispute. In the period when Cranach painted his panels, and for centuries afterward, theologians approached this ‘how’ through the question of ‘where’, of Christ’s locality vis-à-vis the Mass. As usual for matters of doctrine, Luther developed his views on the Eucharist in reaction to two successive challenges.7 The first came from Rome. Against the view that, in the Mass, the priest offered Christ’s body sacrificially to God, Luther maintained that the only gift was God’s, to which the priest, now a mere administrator, added nothing. Reluctantly, Luther tried to picture how the sacramental elements were changed. The Catholic doctrine of transubstantiation held that the bread and wine became Christ’s flesh and blood in their ‘substance’, but not in their ‘accidents’ (their perceptible from, or ‘species,’ as bread and wine). This occurred at the instant of their consecration.8 According to Luther, Christ’s body was already ‘consubstantially’ with or under (the prepositions were a sticking point) the unconsecrated elements. What mattered was their being received – i.e., eaten – in faith. Not a substance arising through a priestly act, the Eucharist performed its work only in those who took Communion. And this work necessitated that the participant understand and believe sacrament’s promise, articulated by the Bible’s words spoken in the ceremony. At the altar, as at the pulpit, Christ is received by faith alone. The second force shaping Luther’s ideas on the Eucharist came from the camp of the ‘Enthusiasts’. As Luther had observed in the Wartburg, iconoclasm went hand in hand with a figurative understanding of the Eucharist: both attempted to purify spirit from external signs. Initially, it was the spiritualizers who answered the ‘how’ of sacrament by querying the ‘where’. Observing that, according to the Creed, Christ had ascended to the right hand of God, they argued that this precluded his bodily presence in the Eucharist. ‘The body of Christ is not everywhere where Christ is’, wrote the modern originator of this idea, Johannes Oecolampadius, in 1525.9 Hence the ‘is’ of ‘this is my body’ could not be taken literally. ‘When you see me ascend up to heaven’, wrote Zwingli along these lines, ‘you will see that you have not eaten me literally and that I cannot be eaten literally.’10 Such reasoning, which carried into the Heidelberg Catechism (1563) that German Reformed Protestants confessed, depended on a specific idea of space.11 By this view, space was a proper res extensa wherein everything, even the resurrected Christ, occupied its own unique position. Like all ordinary

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objects, Christ’s body could be mapped in its different locations. In the incarnation it came to earth, where it remained until Jesus died. Afterwards, it ascended to a specific spot in heaven, at God’s right hand. What was left of Christ on earth were only tokens of his being elsewhere. This purification of the world into a sphere of things (or ‘nature’) coincided with a disenchantment of language (or ‘culture’). Signs became distinct from the entities to which they refer. The bread and wine thus pointed to, without mingling with, Christ’s body; Communion happened elsewhere, a union occurring in the spirit. Sacrament merely symbolized this union. Luther scorned these arguments partly because, in 1522, he had struggled against their worldly consequences. Although he granted that denying ‘real presence’ would have been a strong weapon against Rome, since the denial undermined the Church’s pretense of being institutionally empowered to give or withhold salvific benefits, he understood that the political consequences of such an attack were sectarianism, disorder and rebellion.12 Luther’s chief objection, however, was scriptural. If Christ said of the bread, ‘This is my body’, then Christ is what the bread becomes, whatever reason and experience might say. A surviving manuscript page in which Luther wrestles with the Enthusiasts makes palpable his insistence on the letter (illus. 158).13 By their brute presence as inscription, the oversized, majuscule repetition of ‘ist’ (‘is’) seeks to certify Christ’s bodily presence. Luther’s opponents remained unconvinced, however, and haltingly, he responded to their idea of place. Scripture said that ‘no one has ascended into heaven but he who descended from heaven, the Son of Man who is in heaven’ (John 3: 13); according to Luther, this meant that both in life and after the ascension, Christ’s body was simultaneously on earth and in heaven. The words ‘right hand of God’ referred not literally to a specific locality but figuratively to God’s power ‘which at one and the same time can be nowhere and yet must be everywhere’.14 Luther’s doctrine of ‘ubiquity’ had the disadvantage of making sacramental presence into a mere corollary of the general omnipresence of Christ’s human nature.15 Mocked by Catholic and Reform Protestant opponents alike, and rejected as a term even by Lutherans (Johann Brenz called it ‘a repulsive name’),16 ubiquity reached a compromise between enchantment and disenchantment. By Luther’s definition, sacrament is precisely that which ‘fastens’ (fasst) words to things, supernature to nature, spirit to matter, in order to unite its recipients in a community of the faithful. In the Small Catechism, Luther writes that Christ’s body ‘fastens’ the New Testament, the New Testament ‘fastens’ forgiveness of sins and forgiveness ‘fastens’ salvation.17 In German, fassen connotes physical and mental ‘grasping’. A broadsheet of 1562 by Heinrich Geissler with texts by Mattias Flacius Illyricus expounds the essence of evangelical theology

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158. Martin Luther, manuscript draft of Kurtz Bekentnis vom heiligen Sacrament (Wittenberg: Hans Lufft, 1544). Lutherhalle, Wittenberg.

through an orchestration of hands (illus. 159).18 At once a diagram of the Trinity, an exegesis of Communion, and a polemic about religious mediators, and visually awkward as a result, the woodcut exemplifies the subordination of the image to doctrine. Specifics aside, the game, here, of working out which hand grasps what is similar to our effort to establish where Cranach’s crucifix stands. The Wittenberg predella visualizes an argument about ubiquity. The ambiguous contacts of the cross’s base and top simultaneously affirm the presence of Christ’s body, as required by Luther and Rome, and disperse presence elsewhere. I could imagine disputes among Wittenberg theologians just after Luther’s death over whether the crossbar should touch the

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159. Heinrich Geissler, A Christian Figure, with text by Matthias Flacius, 1561, woodcut.


frame, or whether (as Cranach has it) only the word, materialized in the inri inscription, might picture that attachment. (Compare how, in Geissler’s woodcut, the God’s hand, labelled ‘verbum’, but not Christ’s, touches the ‘heavenly bread of life’.) Such a minute shift in favour of Eucharistic spiritualism, together with the clericalism of the altarpiece as a whole, with its celebration of Wittenberg’s ministry, might point to Philipp Melanchthon as final arbiter. Melanchthon’s views on sacrament were closer to Calvin’s than were Luther’s, while his ‘adiaphora’ idea allowed ritual externals to flourish, to the despair of the Gnesio-Lutherans, as we will see. I prefer to understand the picture as more a symptom than a symbol of the Lutheran point of view, if only because the doctrine of ubiquity was itself so unstable. Cranach’s is not the only ambivalent altar cross in Lutheran art. A picture dated 1561 from Turslunde, Denmark, shows the canonical scene of evangelical Communion flanked by baptism and preaching (illus. 160). Commissioned (the inscription tells us) by Turslunde’s pastor, Johann Jacobi, this ‘adorning panel’ was originally affixed to the front of an altar table; the colourful band of painted tassels underneath the inscription, along with the ornamental stripes at the panel’s sides, simulate the rich fabrics that covered late sixteenth-century Lutheran Communion tables (see illus. 134). The altar depicted in this altar frontal stands thus ornamented by a cloth. Less adorned, however, is that altar’s rear, the area behind candles and crucifix. There we observe a red base with the unmistakable format of a predella supporting nothing. It is possible that the artist left off painting a figured altarpiece because its images might have clashed with his, and particular with the crucifix that stands in front. Yet given the unusual place of Jacobi’s ‘adorning panel’ itself – below and before the mensa, rather than above and behind it – it seems likely that the pictured void had a deeper meaning, especially since there was neither a pictorial nor a doctrinal need to include the telltale base of a retable. Perhaps the frontal commemorates an actual church cleansing in Turslunde through the imageless altarpiece altarpiece it displays. As in the Wittenberg predella, the Lutheran altar crucifix projects the image of an imageless church. How it was that the nameless, provincial Danish painter knew to let the inri inscription kiss the scene’s upper framing edge exactly as it does in Cranach is hard to say, although by this time it may have become routine. More charged because unique to this panel, however, is the placement of the cross’s base. The sculptured corpus Christi rises implausibly without a pedestal from a cloth-covered mensa. To a painter who, at the edges of this scene, displays a marked interest in the material properties of cloth, and who, as the inscription advertises, was working for a self-assertive Lutheran ministry, such an impossible

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160. Anonymous, Altar Frontal with Lutheran Communion, 1561, from Turslunde Church, oil on panel. National Museum of Denmark, Copenhagen.

construction in this hotspot of confessional conflict would not have occurred without forethought. The baseless crucifix, together with the imageless base behind, were this Danish painter’s way of at once having and withholding images like his own. As in Cranach’s predella, this settlement about images fits reasonably well into a sacramental compromise as well. Pastor and deacon administer Communion dressed in elaborate liturgical garb. A contemporary woodcut by Pancratz Kempf illustrates the Gnesio-Lutherans’ repugnance at such vestments by hiding a devil and hell-flames behind the detested priestly cope or Chorrock (the cope is a movable paper flap fixed to the woodcut) (illus. 161).19 Perhaps the Danish frontal reflects ‘Philippistic’ tendencies in Turslunde, by which (again) was meant a more Catholic ritual scenography combined with a more spiritualist understanding of the Eucharist.20 Wherever we locate the painting within a confessional spectrum, however, the cross’s place remains pointedly uncertain. In the final chapter of this book, I will examine a highly eccentric answer to the question of placement. At this point, I would cite a more modest solution. Johann Brenz printed his Consoling Exhortation on the Reception of the Holy Sacraments on a single sheet, with an oblong woodcut at the top (illus. 162).21 The illustration shows the usual scene of Communion in both kinds, only the mensa here is a free-standing one set forward from another more traditionally decorated altar behind. The vista to the apse is blocked by

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an upper gallery which obscures, just above the base, what appears to be a winged retable with carved statues of saints. The one altar, the Lutheran Communion table, supersedes the other, crossing out the pictures of the former along the way. Indeed the only ornaments remaining on the table are tablecloth, a Bible and, at the centre, a wine jug, symbolizing the lay reception of the wine. Yet the gallery that conceals the old cult images displays behind its parapet a new representative display. Christ administers Communion to his disciples, with wine brought in ostentatiously from the side. Within the woodcut’s scenography, this familiar spectacle is not quite an image, since, surrounded by curtains, it is made to look like an event actually unfolding in church space itself, in a piano nobile usually reserved for high-born Christians. More like a fabricated picture, but still ambiguous, is the Last Supper scene in the 1545 woodcut of Lutheran Communion that we discussed earlier for its crucifixion altarpiece (illus. 157). In Brenz’s broadsheet, which dates from around 1560, the biblical Communion intrudes on the liturgical one as a reality that eclipses all prior figurations. That it has nonetheless become an image, and that the parishioners below, urged by Brenz’s

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161. Pancratz Kempf, The Alb of the Innocent Adiaphoris, c. 1550, woodcut with folding flap (closed state).

162. Hans Weigel, ‘Last Supper and Communion’, handcoloured woodcut from Johann Brenz, Ein tröstliche vermahnung zu der empfahung des Heiligen Sacraments nach Nürnbergischer Ordnung (Nuremberg: Hans Weigel, c. 1560).


text to follow the new Nuremberg Church Ordinance, must conform to its example, will be the challenge posed by another Last Supper scene. To the Wittenberg congregation that celebrated Communion before it, Cranach’s panel of the Last Supper must have seemed like a similar revelation. Supported by the non-place of the predella, it crossed out whatever came before.

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pa rt i i i

s ac r a m e n t

18 From Custom to Rule

Cranach’s purpose in the Last Supper panel seems entirely self-evident. Doesn’t it go without saying that one should display behind the altar ritual the image of its instituting event? At his final meal, Christ himself explained to his followers what to do and why, and in following his instructions, Christians repeated Christ’s action and gloss. Self-explanatory, Communion appears to need no alibi as a picture either, since Christians already celebrate it in the image of its biblical prototype. Yet Cranach’s panel and all the altarpieces it inspired did possess a supplementary rationale. In 1530 Martin Luther recommended the Last Supper as the proper subject for retables, and, as I noted before, cities like Dinkelsbühl did what he suggested. Luther formulated his statement in the fortress (Veste) above Coburg, where, from the safety of its walls, he monitored the crucial negotiations going on at the Diet of Augsburg.1 His statement went into print sometime around 17 October 1530 (just after he had left Coburg), as part of a pamphlet entitled The 111st Sermon Explicated. Within a few weeks, the text saw three Wittenberg imprints, plus editions in Augsburg and Nuremberg.2 Luther issued the pamphlet, and people purchased it, because it grappled with the big question of the time. In the Marburg Colloquy of 1529, and throughout discussions in Augsburg, Protestants sought consensus on how Christ was present in the Eucharist. The 111st Psalm Explicated gives Luther’s answer to the Catholics, for whom the Eucharist was a sacrifice to propitiate an angry God, and to Protestants who took the sacrament to be (in Luther’s scornful words) ‘vain bread and wine’.3 Beyond such ‘stinking customs’, Luther discerned a biblical rule. And this he extended from the altar to images that might ornament it. Literally, Luther understood Psalm 111 to be King David’s thanksgiving prayer for the passover feast. Spiritually, he took its words to refer beyond the Jewish rite to Christ who, at the Last Supper (itself as paschal dinner) ‘dismantled the old Easter festival and Easter lamb and himself became instead our Easter lamb’.4 David’s prayer remained entirely ‘applicable’ to the


Gospel because, like the whole Old Testament, it was in Luther’s view actually Christ’s. The kernel of this proleptic application was verse 4 of the Psalm, ‘He instituted a remembrance of his miracle, the forgiving and merciful God.’ These words, Luther reasoned, foreshadowed Christ’s statement at the supper table, ‘Do this in my memory’. And they said something about Christ’s nature that Catholics and radical Protestants alike denied: he is a ‘merciful God’. Whether they are worthy or unworthy of his call – so Psalm 111 insists – Christ invites all people to his table, where he always waits ‘with open hands and heart and all, so that you take and receive grace and mercy’.5 To believe him wrathful (as Catholics do) or removed (as do the radicals) is to ‘to make yourself into an idol and pray to your heart and be afraid of yourself ’. One therefore has not to ‘flee’ from him but step up to him, speaking the words that honor him ‘at that place’, the altar table: ‘The forgiving and merciful God.’ And it is here that Luther proposes the icon and inscription: Whoever here has a wish to place panels on the altar, he should let the Last Supper be painted with these two verses, ‘The forgiving and merciful Lord instituted a remembrance of his miracle.’ These should be written around [the image] in large, gold letters, so that they might stand there before the eyes so that the heart might reflect on it – indeed also the eyes, as they read, shall praise and thank God. For because the altar is thus intended that one dispenses the sacrament on it, one can put no better picture on it; other pictures of God and Christ can stand painted otherwise on different places.6 There are many remarkable elements in this, the Iudicium Lutheri 7 on retable altarpieces. The earlier reference to idols reverses the iconoclast’s claim that church pictures foster idolatry: Luther allies images with being rather than with seeming. And this statement clarifies specific features of the actual objects it inspired. Its pairing of Old Testament words with a Gospel image – an instance of how Scripture interprets Scripture – became a common device of Lutheran altarpieces and biblical cycles.8 And the pairing explains Cranach’s own treatment of the Last Supper as a Jewish paschal feast, with a roast lamb rather than a wheaten disc at its centre. The notion of ‘eyes, as they read’, praising and thanking God, also illuminates how Lutherans imagined their inscriptions to be processed, at once as texts to be deciphered and as triggers of emotive devotion.What interests me about the statement, though, is its central point. Seeming to speak for itself, it turns thinking off. Luther’s practical proposal makes eminent sense; it stands to reason that altarpieces should picture the rite they commemorate. But it is precisely Luther saying what appears ‘to go without saying’ that makes his words momentous.

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As with so many aspects of Reformation culture, the plain and unadorned are not natural conditions.9 Rhetorically fabricated, they are an achievement that must be explained. For in 1530, there was nothing selfevident either about the rule that Luther lays down or about the laying down of rules per se. Both were anomalies within the long history of the Christian altarpiece. Luther’s statement repeats, rather than explains, the Reformation image’s own redundancy. Joined together in mutual accord, the painted picture and its theological rule signal the emergence of a culture that rationally coordinates ritual with a causal gloss. Luther makes his proposal casually: ‘Whoever here has a wish to place panels on the altar.’ In the confessional debates of the time, the word ‘wish’ qualifies the statement as pertaining to the realm of Christian freedom or ‘adiaphora’. In 1530, however, not all Protestants agreed that altarpieces were free, and Luther’s acceptance of them launched a confessional dispute that lasted into the nineteenth century. After all, iconoclasm began as an assault on those images ‘on the altar’, as Karlstadt put, ‘where one handles the body of Christ’. The first things to go were the multiple altars and altarpieces of Catholic worship. They were routinely replaced by simple, wooden ‘church tables’ round which the congregation gathered for its Communion meal. ‘We have had a comfortable table made for this’, boasted Martin Bucer of the new arrangements in Strasbourg, ‘and turn ourselves directly to the people, because we talk with them, and so that the prayer be in common and they should understand every word.’10 Zwingli, too, called for ‘a simple table . . . established at the front of the nave, in the midst of the people who are seated round about’.11 Rising from the rear of the table, altarpieces caused the priest to celebrate Mass from the altar’s front, which in turn caused him to show his back to the flock.12 Reformers took this to be a sign of the clergy’s remove from those they should serve. Already in the thirteenth century, the dissenting Cathars charged the Church with ‘decorat[ing] its altars not on their back, which no one sees, but on the front and sides’.13 This concealing display, they argued, accorded with the clergy’s efforts to do good only so as to be seen doing good. Luther, similarly, sought to rotate church service around toward the congregation. In his German Mass of 1526, he called for ministers to ‘stand behind the altar and face the people as Christ undoubtably did in the Last Supper’.14 I suggested earlier that the Wittenberg predella rescues that apostolic space ‘behind’ by seeming to be transparent to the choir behind it, a space it hides through its physical presence. In the Last Supper panel above, however, Christ gives the morsel from the left and the wine-bearer serves from the right, reflecting later Lutheran practice of administering Communion from the front corners of the table (illus. 134). (Altarpieces made this practice necessary.)

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In 1536 Wolfgang Musculus, a reformed Protestant from Augsburg, arrived in Lutheran Eisenach. There he beheld a troubling sight: the altars of the Franciscan church in that town below the Wartburg were decorated ‘with candles and other such things’, and the deacon sang the Collect with ‘his face to the altar and his back turned to the congregation’.15 Within a few years of its publication, Luther’s suggestion for an altarpiece had become the rule for evangelical churches. Of the thirty altarpieces erected by Lutherans in eastern Germany between 1560 and 1600 and extant today, all display a Last Supper on their predella or main field.16 And although none exhibit the Psalmist’s text, all function to commemorate at the altar the action instituted by Christ. Yet it remains unclear why the retables returned. Perhaps having altarpieces allowed Lutherans to distinguish themselves from radical Protestants who didn’t; their display proved moderation. Perhaps the images displayed differentiated evangelical church service from Catholic ceremony, figuring the latter as the interloper and the former as authentic. When pressed, however, Lutherans struggled to explain these images. In his tract On Images and Altars (1597), Simon Gedicke, refuting iconoclasts in Anhalt, defended altarpieces on the grounds that Luther accepted them in his judgement of 1530. But on the issue of the minister appearing therefore to serve these images and not the congregation, Gedicke hedged. What counts, concluded this provost of confessionally embattled Berlin, was only that the words of the Institution be said ‘in such a loud, clear voice’ that everyone could hear.17 Like the words they replaced, Lutheran retables seemed to get in the word’s way. By 1614, Calvinists cleared and white-washed the evangelical church of the Brandenburg electors in Berlin, where Gedicke had served. Such purges reinforced the altarpiece’s valence as a confessional marker. Johann Arndt, writing in 1596, explains what people mean by performing the sacrament on a plain, wooden table:‘I believe they have no other intent than that they hold the Last Supper to be a mere sign.’ But because Christ is present in sacrament, he continued, it is also right that this place be honored, since like the rite it is a ‘remembrance of the once-and-for-all offering on the cross for our sins’.18 Along these lines, an retable in Lewin (Silesia) bears an inscription affirming sacramental presence and denouncing ‘iconoclastic furore’ in one breath.19 At the same time, Lutherans sought to differentiate their retables from the idols of Rome. In the early seventeenth century, Johann Gerhard, one of the chief proponents of ceremonial externals as befitting the dignity of church space, defended the reuse of Catholic altarpieces on Old Testament grounds. Just as Ezra retained the sacred vessels that Belshazzar had defiled, so too Christians should preserve the old adornments since their use of them is pure.20 A more cautious view had been espoused in 1553 by the

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Westphalian minister Hermann Hamelmann.21 A late convert to the Lutheran faith, Hamelmann railed against the corrupting effect of the old cult images, but he singled out one new ensemble for special praise. The retable altarpiece in Wittenberg, he admitted, purged the City Church of effigies of the Virgin and the saints. This tactic of accepting the medium but controlling its message underscores the regulatory function of Luther’s statement of 1530 and of Cranach’s ensemble itself. It also raises questions of the application of rules to visual images. Although it may seem natural for theologians to dictate iconography, Luther’s gloss on Psalm 111 is the earliest text to propose a universal subject for altarpieces. On the eve of the Reformation, virtually every altar in Western Europe was backed by a figural ensemble, yet these displays were nowhere mandated. And if they seem restricted in subject and form, this resulted from implicit mechanisms of custom and attitude. As the modern authority on the Christian altar, Joseph Braun, put it, ‘A general, compulsory rule to equip the altar with a retable does not exist, nor was there ever such a thing.’22 In 1310, it is true, the Synod of Trier issued a statement that every altar should be labeled for the saint or mystery to which it is dedicated.23 But this episcopal regulation specifies neither the label’s medium nor form. As was true for the cult image in the Latin West generally,24 the altarpiece flourished precisely in the absence of a rule dictating its character. A product of local know-how, piety and taste, retables are a paradigm of practice without a theory. This isn’t to say that individual retables, or even whole areas of altarpiece production, evince no logic as to why they exist and what they do. Yet their manifold functions – sacramental, salvific, devotional, pedagogic, political, aesthetic, etc. – were improvised ones, hence the virtuosity of the art histories they continue to inspire.25 As a transformation of a customary practice into a rule-based one, Luther’s statement about altarpieces does not stand alone. Remember that in 1530 in Augsburg, the Lutheran cities and princes, aided by a team of theologians led by Melanchthon, sought to define the beliefs and practices that united them in order that these be accepted by the Emperor (illus. 3–5, 131). Luther, removed to the Veste Coburg to prevent capture, laboured to support his cause by distinguishing usages properly belonging to church from ones born from habit or tradition. This focus on action rather than on faith did not come naturally. For although Luther launched the Reformation by attacking penitential practices (especially the sale of indulgences), the transformation of the Catholic cult commenced without his leadership, during the Wittenberg turmoil of 1521–2. The church cleansing, liturgical reforms, and abolition of clerical privilege undertaken by others compelled Luther reactively to articulate practices that accorded with his convictions.

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The Diet of Augsburg, as the determining juridical body of church and state combined, focused these endeavours. In his Exhortation to All Clergy Assembling at Augsburg, published in 1530, he set forth for his negotiators what one contemporary dubbed the ‘summa totius Lutheranismi’.26 Here was inventoried the whole of Luther’s religion as a system, as Lutheranism. The measure of its contents was Scripture: we believe and do only what God’s word instructs us to; all else is but ‘human statutes’. Belief and practice were restricted to what had been stated verbally, and this supported a religious and a political order similarly constituted by normative ‘confession.’ Confession – verbally enunciating what one believes and does – was being formulated in Augsburg partly under the influence of Luther’s Exhortation. Toward the end of his tract, Luther compiles a list of the ‘parts’ that ‘one must deal with [handeln] in the true Christian church’.27 Some of these are doctrines, of grace, the law, faith, etc. Others are actions or offices: reading Scripture, schooling children, the deacon, the preacher. Yet each is introduced by the same interrogative ‘what?’ What are grace, the law, Scripture, the school, etc.? To ‘deal with’ these means firstly to explain them. Only afterwards can they be turned into practice (Handeln). Explanation becomes religion’s initiating rite. Having enunciated what religion is, Luther attaches a list of what that excludes. The Coburg ‘catalogue of customs’, as it is sometimes called,28 contains thirty-seven numbered items, plus a further seventy-two unnumbered ones, followed by the exasperated disclaimer, ‘I’ll stop here, since who could enumerate everything in so little space? If this isn’t enough, I (or better someone else) can keep on counting.’29 Luther’s successor would have to be a diligent ethnographer, for the information at issue is inherently unstated, undefined and local – ‘the things that have been in usage and custom’.30 Luther admits limiting his fieldwork to ‘the parish churches alone’,31 perhaps meaning the Visitation he undertook in 1528 to the Saxon countryside. He assures us, though, that even more ‘monstrosities’ could be gathered from the centres, from the cloisters, pilgrimage churches and religious foundations. In its printed form, the Coburg catalogue simply names each custom, as if a reader will know what it is. But Luther knows that no one will recognize all the items, since as he indicates, they have been wrested from inarticulate enclaves of practice that even the natives, as it were, do not understand: ‘No bishop has ever dealt with such parts and therefore they have never been properly understood by you.’ Randomly sequenced, numbered with no final reckoning, and strangely named (‘swallowing palms’, ‘St John’s Drink’, etc.), the list gives the impression not of facts to be grasped but of spurious fictions or nonsense. Modern scholarship has glossed most items in the list.

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With the aid of surviving preparatory drafts by Luther, and by consulting later, largely anti-Catholic ‘ceremony’ compilations, the editorial team of Luther’s Kritische Gesamtausgabe attached no less than 113 glosses to the catalogue. Yet some remain opaque: ‘Assumption Day, honey and herbs consecrated, groschen and gulden driven through by Christ’s nails, the middle piece of gold or silver kept as talisman.’32 It is not simply that such usages disappeared before their purpose had been reported. What distinguishes these items from proper religious practice and banishes them to the realm of ‘custom and usage’ (German = Brauch and Übung; Latin = mos and usus), is that they never possessed an explicit explanation. Measured against practices that have an instrumental or theoretical rationale, such doings appear unmotivated and absurd. Modern ethnography tries to rationalize customs, either pressing informants to explain their actions to the point of their making up glosses on the spot, or by discerning, euhemeristically, the ‘real’ motivations (social, political, economic) behind the mythical veil.33 Early Protestants, by contrast, endeavoured to display the irrationality of the alibi ‘We have always done it this way’. They sought to allow the contingencies of culture to speak for themselves as emblems of superstition. This had been a strategy of those chaotic pictorial representations of ‘false religion’ discussed in chapter 3. Their crowded compositions were versions of the opaque folk term. Of course, the actors themselves would not have described their performances in this way. However certain villagers understood their practice of driving nails through groschens, they presumably had some purpose in doing what they did, even if only for the comfort in habit per se. ‘Had one just let these usages remain children’s games’, adds Luther, ‘then it would be tolerable that such things could go on being done, since no one’s conscience would be confused.’34 Customs, he admits, possess utility as play and pedagogy. (This is a perspective celebrated by Pieter Brueghel in 1559–60 in his encyclopedic treatment of religious rituals and children’s games.)35 Luther expressly defended folk habits when they were restricted to everyday life, where they supported the local communal order. ‘One should act honorably and with manners,’ admonished Luther in a sermon of 1531, and ‘eat, drink, dance in a common way, well-disciplined and according to the manners of the land’.36 This acceptance of culture’s site-specificity influenced Luther’s politics, causing him to grant individual territories unprecedented freedom in dictating their civil and church ordinance, subject only to a confessional norm. And it supported his practical argument against the iconoclasts, who were rigorous where they should have been tolerant. What was repugnant about the usages listed in the Coburg catalogue was not their irrationality but their imputed purpose for salvation.

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The model for salvific action, and the central target of Protestant disenchantment, was the Catholic altar rite. In the Mass, the priest, acting as representative of Christ, was deemed continually to repair a broken covenant with God by offering Christ’s sacrifice on man’s behalf.37 The liturgical gesture did not merely commemorate Christ’s historical gift of death. It claimed to repeat that offering in the flesh, reaching from one body (the priest’s) to the other (Christ’s) through the miracle of transubstantiation. At its origins, the Protestant cult was engineered to purge the altar of all vestiges of priestly sacrifice, all signs that an action or a thing had been transmitted from here to there. It framed a one-way movement in the opposite direction: only from God to man, and by means of word’s unlocalized transmission. The Wittenberg Altarpiece provides a detailed map of this trajectory. At the same time, however, Luther never imagined the cult – by which I mean organized, ritual worship – would altogether disappear.38 In his understanding, the Reformation was an ‘instauratio catholica’ that cleansed without eradicating church. Although priesthood was now universal, so too was the church and would remain. One did not voluntarily choose to belong to it, as did – openly – the members of the ‘sects’, hence Luther’s iron-fisted insistence on infant baptism. Reduced to the two sacraments, the cult survived, and sometimes in remarkably ‘Catholic’ forms. Lutheran ministers routinely used pre-Reformation missals, antiphonaries, and breviaries in their services (illus. 212). They continued to elevate the host, and insisted that no morsel be left uneaten and remnants be consumed only by the minister or deacon.39 Pastors treated the cloths and vessels that touched the Eucharist as ‘sacred things’. And private Masses – that most vilified of actions – survived in altered form, in Communion with one clerical communicant.40 In his eucharistic doctrine, Luther affirmed that the sacrament did not merely symbolize Christ. A ‘real sign’, it ‘grasped’ the Saviour in its signifying material ‘substantially and essentially’, as Lutherans put it, ‘not only quantitatively but qualitatively and locally’.41 Christ was present at the altar regardless of the subjective state of either celebrant or communicant, and this presence needed to be ‘administered’ by an officer specifically called to that task. It was only whether one received this Real Presence that depended on faith. And faith consisted in personally believing that the sign was real. Luther’s opponents compared his idea of sacrament to a shell game in which presence was affirmed only in the next moment to be shunted invisibly away (illus. 172). They perceived behind this trick the more instrumental conjury of maintaining a political order by investing that order in the churchliness of the churches it effectly governed. Luther, for his part, likened the aporia of church to Christ himself. Like Christ, church was visibly invisible: ‘No one

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can know or see it but alone in baptism, sacrament and word [they] must grasp and believe.’42 I have explored how Cranach’s predella rendered reversible the hidden and the manifest. It remains for us to examine the painted spectacles that this sleight-of-hand supports. Luther retained the sacraments of baptism and Communion because Christ instituted them himself. Reform Protestants kept them, too. But they understood them to be mere symbols of a promised salvation: in taking Communion, Calvin argued, one received Christ’s message and signaled one’s faith. For Luther, Communion meant literally receiving Christ’s flesh and blood; yet one could also receive him in preaching, and this weakened sacrament’s demand. ‘Christ is more concerned about the word than about the sign’, wrote Luther of the Mass.43 Communion became a point of order (Christ commanded us to do it) as well as an instrument of pedagogy. According to Luther in the German Mass, sacrament served to edify children and simple folk; according to the Augsburg Confession, it functioned ‘to awaken and strengthen faith’ even while it required faith to be received.44 To this dialectic of belief belonged a dialectic of knowledge. Before we approach the table, we must already know, through preaching and catechism, what Communion means. And what Communion means is what preaching preaches – salvation through Christ. We start and finish in the school. The Wittenberg Altarpiece functions within this circle. Placed behind the actual practices of preaching and sacrament, its images are visual answers to the catechetical ‘what?’ Aside from the obvious fact of being paintings, these answers differ from the actions that they depict in one important respect: as Cranach represents them, the practices of church seem to explain themselves. Displayed in their images, preaching and sacrament become their own interpreters. Like Scripture, they offer lessons about themselves, lessons about lessons in infinite regress.45 In Cranach’s quotidian spectacle, as in common parlance, to ‘practice’ means not only ‘to do’. It means ‘to do repeatedly’, as in a drill or exercise, in order thereby to learn to do. Specifically, Cranach renders church service self-explanatory by translating rules of practice into compositional regularities. Actor, action, object, place and purpose, in their pictorial depiction, appear synchronized both within and among the altarpiece’s several panels. The principal actors are Wittenberg’s actual ministers. In the predella, Luther, the City Church’s long-serving preacher, preaches. On the wings, Johann Bugenhagen, the local pastor at the time of the retable’s completion, absolves and bans; and Melanchthon, called Praeceptor Germaniae for his founding of the evangelical school, and famous, too, as Anabaptism’s most implacable foe,46 officiates at infant baptism. And in the Last Supper scene (the temporal shift

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from liturgy back to biblical history does not concern us yet), Christ himself, plus a wine bearer, prefigure the duties of pastor and deacon. Each of these agents execute his action with his hands, physically grasping the sacramental element: the water, the bread, the wine; and (though obliquely) the keys. Even preaching becomes manual, fingers outstretched to codex and to cross. But it is sacrament that, by definition, needs to involve things. Like the hands shown holding them, the elements themselves ‘grasp’ what they signify. In baptism, the sacramental thing ‘is not merely simple water but water grasped [gefasset] in God’s command and bound in God’s word’;47 in Communion, the elements ‘grasp’ Christ’s flesh and blood.48 And to these things Cranach accords certain other things: built instruments that serve to place action within the non-place of church. Cranach gives the font, table, confessional and pulpit special prominence in his scenes. He lets them swell to fill their spaces. He magnifies their material constitution (note the wood of Bugenhagen’s chair and the lavish frieze on the font) and dignifies them alone with ornament, just as the altar itself in the City Church will be dignified by Cranach’s paintings themselves. Lutherans, we will see in chapter 22, termed these four things (plus the organ and the prince’s loggia) the ‘parts’ (Stücke) of a church, and they brooded interminably about how best to place them. Confessionals and fonts were generally moved up close to the altar, as Cranach’s panels have it, while the pulpit, perennially competing with the Communion table as the centre of attention, was aligned with, and eventually integrated into, the altar.49 Cranach predicts this development in church design. As in the so-called pulpit-altars of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, he integrates preaching into his retable through its depiction in the predella (illus. 205). In doing so, he also coordinates the word with the sacramental actions portrayed above. Having instituted them, God’s word simultaneously carries out the sacraments and links them to what they, through actions and things, represent: the crucified Christ.50 Nothing is more indicative of Cranach’s effort to bring pictures in line with words, and to give painting itself a doctrinal syntax, than this conceit of letting an effigy of preaching literally support effigies of the sacraments. As ‘visible words’ (Augustine), the sacrament grasps its element by a physical action in sync with a verbal enunciation. ‘We baptize with the word’, writes Luther, emphasizing the attachment that eclipses the element (‘simple water’).51 And more generally, a ‘to constitute a sacrament there must be above all things else a word of divine promise, by which faith may be exercised’.52 Through its position in the retable’s physical architecture, the predella indicates that Gospel preaching is primary in this church, and that God’s word circulates in the upper scenes as well. More unusually, it endows the Christian altarpiece with a quasi-verbal grammar, attaching the corpus to its base by means of a visual

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equivalent of the preposition ‘with’, as in Luther’s ‘we baptize with the word’. And beyond this, the predella indicates another, more fundamental change for which it is a gloss and a memorial. In Wittenberg, through Luther’s agency, religion itself acquired an explicit grammar for actions, words and things. Certainly there are areas in his panels where Cranach admits the contingency of the world. In the predella, we recall, the unstructured Wittenberger ‘heap’ signals that congregations do not form some special elect but are simply the denizens of a given place – their parish – gathered for church service. Clumped together as another of the Stücke, but introducing a certain disorder, the pictured congregation mixes identity and anonymity: identity in the specific faces and costumes, and in the snapshot of its accidental heaping, which positions persons in the helter-skelter of a crowd; anonymity in the faceless mass just behind, indicating the ‘everyone’ of a universal church. These heaps, of course, are not altogether randomly arranged. The foreground women seen from behind in the baptism scene balance the divided congregation facing us from the back of Bugenhagen’s confessional. And these views (from the rear and the front, respectively) combine perfectly in the round table at the centre. In the Communion rite as practiced in Wittenberg in 1545, the laity circled the altar clockwise, passing from the bread at the front left, around the back of the altar to the wine at the front right.53 Some of the retable’s most memorable details occur in Cranach’s depictions of the crowd. In the baptism panel, the symmetrical cone of a woman seen from the rear (according to local lore, she’s Cranach’s wife)54 defamiliarizes the proceedings not only by being hard to read as a body, but also by focusing superfluous attention on her lavish cape of fur, velvet and brocade. Such apparently unmotivated displays occur throughout these otherwise austere panels. Take, for example, the adornment on Luther’s pulpit. A fantastical beast with fangs and claws pounces from the vegetation of which it is a part. Reminiscent of decorative designs found elsewhere in Cranach’s oeuvre, this grotesque motif may resemble carvings originally present on the Wittenberg Altarpiece’s frame (illus. 163). And the beast belongs to the tradition, revived during the Renaissance, of hiding faces in apparently random configurations; in 1519, Cranach made woodcuts of Saints Barbara and Catherine with clouds of this description (illus. 164).55 At the vortex of pulpit’s decor, wreathed by the diminishing floral tail of the beast, a tiny male visage looks out at us sorrowfully, while below, from the depths of the decorated corbel, a child’s face casts a glance with the beast to the congregation. In the foreground the little boy dressed in red – probably Luther’s son (and Cranach’s godson), Hans, looks in its direction, rather than toward the crucifix, or so it seems, measured by the other gazes.56

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163. Lucas Cranach the Elder, ‘Luther Preaching to the Wittenberg Congregation’, a detail from the predella of the Wittenberg Altarpiece, oil on panel. Stadtkirche, Wittenberg.

Recollecting St Bernard’s injunction against drolleries as distractions from devotion, the playful detail qualifies the sobriety of the whole, suggesting where the painter’s proclivities lie or what engages the minds of curious children. While such a display need not have a purpose beyond visual delight, it does dislodge some of the rigid grammatical structures that elsewhere obtain. Cranach sprinkles the crowds with portrait likenesses immediately identifiable to their original audience (illus. 127). With this, he drew his local public into the pictures by appealing also to their social curiosity. For Luther,

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164. Lucas Cranach the Elder, St Barbara, 1519, woodcut.

a church without persons was a ‘godless idea’.57 Whereas in Catholicism the church was a sacred place even when it stood empty of visitors, its objects and rites being effective ex opere operato, in Protestantism everything that religion does, through the actions that alone make church, is accomplished for individual persons. ‘In confession, in Communion, and in baptism’, wrote Luther,‘the word is directed specifically to us.’58 Church focuses on the singular believer, inviting him or her to receive Christ’s gift personally, via

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faith. Pre-Reformation altarpieces had functioned within a ritual that required no participants. They offered the laity something to see in the absence of something to do. In their evangelical form, by contrast, retables served to guide the lay viewer’s necessary integration in the rite. Such a task does not foster a deeply subjective sort of art, nor one that integrates the viewer illusionistically into the painted spectacle. The image invites us not to enter it, but to approach the table that it explains. Cranach’s altarpiece pivots the altar one hundred and eighty degrees toward the beholder, then withdraws into the hubbub in which individuals, as visibly part of a congregation, already stand. Cranach’s altarpiece, in other words, maps for Wittenberg’s parishioners their entrance to the altar rite. The sacraments, it shows, are based in God’s word in preaching, as shown in the predella. They are sequenced according to a plan outlined by the triptych. Baptism cleanses original sin, exorcizes the Devil and introduces us – already at infancy, the churchman Luther insists – into the congregation. Confession was for Luther an indispensable pious activity and a gift, but not properly a sacrament since Christ established it by his deed and not his word. Able to be performed by a Christian to any other Christian, it was our daily baptism, through which we enter Communion comforted.59 In Wittenberg in the year 1547, oral confession ‘into the ear’ of a minister was made a prerequisite of Communion. This prevented active sinners (e.g., open adulterers) from the table, yet sinfulness remained the state in which all Christians of necessity communicated.60 ‘No’, concludes Luther about people’s always-imperfect state in Communion,‘I come only in the hopes that I will become wholly pure.’61 Confession individualizes without isolating, for in it ‘the word of the priest applies to the particular person’.62 At the right of Cranach’s panel, a brutish man is refused the key; unabsolved, and with bound hands, he has been banished from the table. In fact, Wittenberg practised a form of the ban that excluded certain sinners from Communion and barred them from serving as sponsors at baptism. In 1538, Wittenberg’s irascible bailiff, Hans von Metsch, was thus punished for threatening authorities of city, church and university.63 With the exception of this dangerous-looking gentleman, everything in Cranach’s altarpiece tends inward. The baptized infant faces right, in Christ’s direction; the absolved sinner pushes up against the left framing edge, adjacent to the wine bearer; and the wine bearer and Christ function like hinges which swing the preliminary rites of baptism and confession, with their purpose of admitting and re-admitting believers to the congregation, round to their climax in Communion. But where does the action go from there? To the City Church’s altar table, to be sure. Meanwhile, however, Cranach also advertises an end beyond even those means, an ultimate to which all speech and action point.

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On the rear of the altarpiece, in the centre panel gazing outward toward the viewer, Christ sits above his tomb, victorious over death and the Devil (illus. 129). The cherub-filled clouds that surround him, together with God’s right hand emerging from the vapour, locate him in heaven. Below, on a rear predella defaced by centuries of graffiti, the saved rise from the earth while the damned writhe in Hell’s flames. In Luther’s view, preaching and sacrament have these destinies as their promise. And not only they but all of Scripture refers to salvation through the crucified and resurrected Christ. ‘So, when we eat Christ’s flesh physically and spiritually’, writes Luther, ‘the food is so powerful that it transforms us into itself and out of fleshly, sinful, mortal men, makes spiritual, holy, living men. This we are already, although in a hidden manner in faith and hope; the fact is not yet manifest, but we shall experience it on the Last Day.’64 The verso of the altarpiece visualizes this referential efficacy through the scenes at its sides: Abraham and Isaac, and Moses and the brazen serpent. Both venerable Old Testament ‘types’ of Christ’s crucifixion, these histories fit their place at the altar, prophesying what liturgy commemorates. Protestants used typology to claim that their break from the Church was part of the cosmic plan, just as the first Christians used the Jewish texts to argue that theirs was not a new faith but the revealed truth of a prior religion.65 Luther found the brazen serpent especially useful because it was the Old Testament type proclaimed by Christ himself. At John 3:14, Christ interprets the story from Numbers to be a prophecy of his death on the cross.66 This action therefore served as a scriptural norm for all christocentric readings of Scripture: if Christ himself used an Old Testament passage to refer to himself, then so too could his followers. Understanding the brazen serpent to be Christ’s personal emblem of salvation through faith, Luther made it a visual trademark of his confession: Christ ‘is our serpent, through whom we have been helped, just as he is indicated by the brazen serpent’.67 Abraham and Isaac, for its part, was the most established Old Testament type of the Eucharist, having been the convenantal founding of Jewish sacrifice. Additionally, Luther took the Jewish patriarch to be the exemplar of religious conviction. The story of Abraham’s consent to sacrifice his son modeled faith as an unquestioning, personal response to the word of a hidden God.68 The sheer antiquity of the symbolism served a function as well. By retaining this core iconography and the Jewish inheritance that the iconography appropriated, Luther could assert that his doctrine of sola fides was ancient, prophesied and true. Also, like the serpent, Abraham and Isaac authenticate what Luther believed was already valid for Scripture itself: it ‘everywhere deals only with Christ’.69 Front and back, Cranach’s retable pictures this tautology. It gathers together preaching, sacrament, and the

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whole of Scripture to express the one thing, Christ, who will also be present before it in the Mass. ‘Reference’ inadequately describes what these painted panels do, and how they are mutually connected to each other and to the events and acts they depict. This is partly because they seek not merely to report particular actions, or even to explain them. With their report they aim to transmit an imperative to act likewise. As I will show in chapter 21, this is comparable to Lutheran confessional texts, which perform what they state and command what they instruct. Thus in the Small Catechism, in his most influential declaration of doctrine, Luther paraphrases the article on Christ from the Apostles’ Creed by adding to its statement about Christ’s person a new predicate about his work:‘I believe that Jesus Christ, true God . . . is my Lord, who has redeemed me . . . in order that I may be his [my italics].’70 Christ is what he is in order to do what he does.71 By definition he requires a redundancy of act and word, order and information. Picturing the mutuality of word and sacrament, and defining church by depicting its routines, the Wittenberg panels also exhibit the commandment to ‘do this’ which lurks in the soberest report of what is done. This redundancy is reiterated by the original ensemble’s only surviving inscription. The commission of Christ to his Apostles appears to be painted on the rear central panel, as if on the front surface of Christ’s tomb: To me is given all power in heaven and on earth. Therefore go forth and teach all peoples, and baptize them in the name of the father and the son and the holy spirit, and teach them to obey all that I have commanded. And behold I am with you ever and until the world’s end. Matthew 28. Positioned below the portrait of Christ Victor, the inscription labels the image by defining who it depicts and by stating what it is he commands. Addressing the picture’s viewers, it authorizes them to become successors of Christ. It commands them to teach, baptize and discipline ‘all peoples’, and thus to constitute themselves as a universal church. In his Epitaph of Superintendent Hieronymus Mencel (1562), the Dresden painter Heinrich Göding depicts the Reformer himself repeating that gesture (illus. 165). In the foreground, Luther performs his last ordination in St Andrew’s church in Eisleben, while in the landscape glimpsed through windows, the Apostles are shown departing to preach the gospel to the world (the so-called divisio Apostolorum). For members of Eisleben’s clergy, including Superintendent Mencel, the picture advertises their apostolic status via both Christ and Luther. Göding places Luther before an altar featuring a Crucifixion retable, thus relating his death

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165. Heinrich Göding the Elder, Epitaph for Hieronymus Mencel, 1569, oil on panel. Sterbehaus Martin Luthers, Eisleben.

(which occurring in Eisleben, his birthplace, just three days after the event depicted) to that of Christ, which sent the Apostles to their missions.72 But who was the implied audience of the words of the commission in Wittenberg? Visible only from a single bay between the east wall and the altar, the rear panels could not address the congregation seated in the nave. Yet neither was this narrow passage the domain of the clergy, as it had been before 1522. Luther granted the ministry no special place. He advocated keeping the choir as a seemly setting for Communion. Sometimes he gave it symbolic value, terming it a ‘holy of holies’where believers in Christ gather.73 But this did not make it holy in itself. Sanctification occurred only through a gathering of believers, which could happen anywhere.

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In Wittenberg’s City Church, the choir displayed faith as a collective routine. The setting for communal rites and for a painted ensemble that catalogued those rites, it may also have originally housed wooden confessionals where the office of the keys could be seen administered (illus. 85). (Although the present stalls on the east wall are seventeenth-century, the altarpiece’s right front panel suggests they replaced earlier ensembles erected there, as well.)74 The gospel verses faced the contrite as they awaited absolution, and could also be observed during Communion, as participants circled around the altarpiece; they offered appropriate reading for those instructed ‘to obey’. More generally, though, Matthew’s text, like the panels it inscribes, defines its audience by what they do. Lutherans took Christ’s last statement not as a special commission to the clergy, but as a universal guide to faith. Being Christian, the statement seemed to say, meant preaching the word and administering the sacraments. It also meant establishing schools for Christian education. In his Braunschweig School Ordinance of 1528, Bugenhagen himself read Matthew 28:19 as demanding compulsory schools, which returns us to the circle of faith and pedagogy.75 At first glance, then, the text seems to address a universal priesthood gathered round the altar. As a government ordinance, however, it places that collectivity under new, invisible authorities of the state, to whom is given all power at least on earth. This matter of audience draws us into a great controversy over the definition of church. Christ addressed his commission to the Apostles and their successors. While early Christians understood ‘apostles’ to mean anyone sent by Christ to proclaim his message, and especially the news about his resurrection,76 the Roman Church took a narrower view. It argued that its officers alone were apostolic, and that only priests could administer the sacraments and interpret God’s word. Even before the Reformation, this view came under attack, and nowhere more decisively than over the altar sacrament. Where in Scripture, Christ commanded that both bread and wine be given to the faithful at Communion, the Church, according to a practice that even the general councils of Constance and Basel admitted was not apostolic, reserved the wine for its priests. Arguing that tradition, not Scripture, had authority in such matters, defenders of apostolic obedience understood Matthew 28:19–20 to be Christ’s guarantee to be with his Church. In 1423 Jean Gerson argued that because Christ stated so in parting, the Church possessed ‘a not unequal authority’ to the gospel text itself.77 The Wittenberg Altarpiece repudiates this view of church. Displaying at its centre the Apostles receiving Communion in both kinds, it surrounds them with their legitimate successors, Wittenberg’s ministers and laity, who prove their apostolicity through the sacraments and sermons that are their shared commission. This argument unfolds in the altarpiece through the

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formal likeness between the Apostles around the table and the congregation around font, confessional and cross. And it expands outward beyond the altarpiece’s frame through the tautology of painted space and real space, which reclaims church as the framework of a rule-based practice. One of the main features of the altarpiece, of course, is that of all the scenes, only that of Communion is represented in the Bible. The regular succession of this supreme event – the pictures argue – takes place in the here and now of the altar’s everyday use. Thus just as the congregation repeats and succeeds an apostolic past, so too the altarpiece repeats and succeeds itself by the principle, popular among later Pietists, that ‘the most beautiful picture in a church’ is a believing Christian, and that the ‘most beautiful altar’ is the believing heart.78 In the period when the altarpiece was made, the verse on the rear,‘Behold I am with you’, was central to the debate over Christ’s presence.As I indicated in chapter 17, Oecolampadius and Reformed Protestants took Christ’s promise to refer only to his spirit, since ‘the body of Christ is not everywhere where Christ is’.79 Against this Luther insisted that Christ could be nowhere and everywhere at once. The front predella, we observed, visualized this ‘ubiquity’ by positing a simultaneous here-and-elsewhere behind the altar, where the crucified Christ could rise. On the altarpiece’s rear, materially backing the main Last Supper panel, Cranach shows where Christ also is, resurrected and seated at God’s right hand. Shown giving Christ ‘all power in heaven and on earth’, that right hand is identical in gesture, proportion and modelling to Luther’s pointing hand in the front predella, as if to affirm indeed that Christ is everywhere at once: at God’s right, in God’s word, in the bread and wine. Was there ever a greater insistence that an altarpiece point to Christ? Founded on Luther’s explanation of what a retable should be, Cranach’s ensemble, in turn, explains the altar and all that surrounds it. This it does not simply by adding a visual gloss to practice. By reflecting the activities taking place before it, and by giving them a legible grammar like itself, it absorbs everyday church routines into a great diagram. The crucial element of this endeavour to make every instance into a rule is Cranach’s painting of Christ at the supper table with his disciples, to which we now turn.

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19 Behind the Mass

That the Last Supper is the correct subject for all retables is only self evident for a culture that Luther helps to invent and that we, to some degree, still belong to. Before the Reformation, and through centuries of altarpiece production, this was a rare motif. Of the several hundred extant, latemedieval retables from Saxony, only two feature a Last Supper on their main field.1 The subject appeared most commonly in refectories (e.g., Leonardo’s fresco in Milan) and in Passion cycles, where it featured either as the first of the episodes leading to Christ’s death (Dürer’s Large Passion) or as one of several intermediary events between the Entry into Jerusalem and the Passion’s canonical beginning, the Agony in the Garden (Dürer’s Small Passion). When artists compressed the cycle to fewer scenes, as they usually had to in making retables, they typically omitted the Last Supper. Or they displaced it to the predella, where it furnished a link – analogous to the one Luther proposed – to the mensa before it. Sometimes instead of showing a proper supper scene, predellas lined up en buste likenesses of Christ and the Apostles, so that their bodies seem to rise from the actual mensa, as if seated at it.2 The Antwerp master Joos van Cleve elaborated the relation between Apostles’ portraits and the sacrament in a Lamentation altarpiece commissioned around 1530 by Nicolo and Bianchinetta Bellogia for a chapel in Santa Maria della Pace in Genoa (illus. 166).3 In the predella, Christ opens his hands around a plate in which bits of bread float about in a pale, red liquid, like wine thinned with water. The platter rhymes with the basin shown in the Lamentation painting above where, over Adam’s bones, a sponge sits in bloody water. At the far left of the predella, the artist, a habitual selfportraitist, has depicted himself as the wine-bearer, anticipating Cranach’s conceit. Programmatically, Joos van Cleve’s altarpiece connects the Last Supper both to Eucharist performed before it and to Christ’s body in the Passion recollected in the picture above. But it is also an isolated production, and even in it, the Lamentation dominates the ensemble’s statement. Few


166. Joos van Cleve, ‘Last Supper’, predella from the Lamentation Altarpiece, c. 1530, oil on panel. Musée du Louvre, Paris.

Netherlandish or German altarpieces feature the Last Supper as their principal theme. Indeed except for two very minor examples,4 Cranach’s is the first high altar – or altare maius – north of the Alps with this subject on its central field. To measure the novelty of Cranach’s design, it is useful to examine what might seem to be its predecessors. Last Supper retables made before the Reformation adorned side altars or private chapels dedicated to specific Eucharistic mysteries. One of the earliest and most famous Northern paintings of the theme is Dieric Bouts’s triptych in the church of St Pierre in Louvain (illus. 167).5 Begun in 1464, Bouts’s panels stood in an apsidal of the Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament, whose major purpose was to fund and organize Louvain’s Corpus Christi celebrations. A key feature of late-medieval piety, the FêteDieu was founded on miracles.6 Between 1208 in and 1228 in Liège, the saintly Juliana of Cornillon received visions calling for a special feast day to honour the Eucharist. Inspired by Juliana, and having himself beheld a wondrous, bleeding host brought to him from Bolsena, Pope Urban iv established an annual Corpus Christi feast for the whole Church in 1264. Yet while local miracles supported the festival, its underlying impulse was the broad-based veneration of the Eucharist that dominated pious life in the late Middle Ages. Out of the ancient Christian custom of retaining a bit of consecrated bread for use between church services (e.g., as viaticum for the dying), there arose elaborate devotions to the reserved host. For example, to articulate the idea that, despite the interval of time, each Eucharist was one with every other, the bread was dipped into the chalice of the next Mass as a divine leaven. A custom (originally German) of ‘exposing’ the host during the Mass further extracted the holy bread from Communion, treating it as a sacred object on its own. Continuously lit by special lamps, stored and exhibited in elaborate structures on or beside the altar (in 1450, Louvain’s Corpus Christi confraternity erected in St Pierre ’s a stone monstrance thirty-six feet high),7 and, during the Mass, elevated so that everyone could behold it and receive its ‘saving look’, the holy bread was worshipped far more than it was consumed. Seeing the host at the moment of consecration so overshadowed consuming it that ocular Communion (manducatio per

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visum) was deemed by some churchmen to be as effective as gustation proper. Indeed one could enact one’s reverence by not receiving Communion, or by doing so only rarely (since 1215, lay people were required to receive communion once a year). Corpus Christi formalized the extraction of the bread from the daily meal. By Dieric Bouts’s time, the feasted formed a climax of the liturgical calendar, equalled only by Christmas, Easter and Pentecost. The chief focus

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167. Dieric Bouts, ‘Last Supper’, central panel from the Last Supper Altarpiece, 1464–7, oil on panel. Collegiale SaintPierre, Louvain.

168. Tilman Riemenschneider, Altarpiece of the Holy Blood, 1499–1505, limewood. St Jakobskirche, Rothenburg ob der Tauber.


of public piety in Louvain (with its close ties to Liège), it was also the principal feast of the church of St Pierre. Commissioned on the second centennial of the founding of Corpus Christi, Bouts’s triptych was made to augment both the annual festival and daily Eucharistic devotion. Following the confraternity’s brief, the painter flanks the Last Supper with four Old Testament prefigurations – ‘scenes’, as the surviving contract terms them, ‘from the history of the Holy Sacrament’.8 But he turns the Supper itself from a historical to a fully liturgical event, with Christ dressed in ecclesiastical garb and the paschal lamb displaced to the Passover scene on the wings. At the geometrical mid-point of the central panel, and aligned with both the interior setting and the picture’s single-point perspective (rare in Northern painting in 1464), Christ’s right hand blesses a small wheaten disc held in his left, while his gaze looks outward at the beholder. Coordinating that disk and the frontal portrait likeness of Christ (a version of vera icon) with the beholder’s eye, the triptych would also have been aligned with the host reserved and elevated at the altar, so that it (the reserved host) would appear continually blessed by Bouts’s Christ and shared between his gaze and ours. Although it assembles Communion’s biblical prototypes, Bouts’s retable relates to a complex of local, post-biblical mysteries and usages that Luther dismissed as custom.9 Indeed in a draft of the Coburg customs-catalogue, the Reformer expressly condemns the ‘Corpus Christi procession, with its huge monstrances, banners, candles, etc.’, along with all ‘abuses of the holy blood . . . honoured as it were the blood Christ shed on Mount Calvary’.10 This criticism would have applied to the best-known German Last Supper retable, Tilman Riemenschneider’s monochrome altarpiece in Rothenburg (illus. 168).11 Installed in stages between 1502 and 1505 in the Holy Blood chapel of the Jakobskirche, this ensemble has often been said to foreshadow evangelical sensibilities. Set in a glazed church interior that replicates the fenestration of the west tribune where the retable originally stood, the carved supper scene seals the present to the biblical past, just as Cranach’s panel does. Through the figure of Judas, who appears centre-stage under his own baldachin, and whose striding stance likens him to the altarpiece’s pilgrimviewers, Riemenschneider seems – again like Cranach – to focus the picture on a question of individual conscience: Do I arrive worthily at Christ’s table, or, sinning, do I perpetuate his Passion? (The latter is suggested by the triptych’s flanking scenes.) And in leaving his work unpainted, Riemenschneider appears to abstract his images from what they represent, as if anticipating by twenty years the Lutheran compromise on images.12 Such a reading overlooks one crucial feature of the altarpiece, however. Part of the machinery of an old, if minor, local cult, the Holy Blood Altarpiece functioned less as a backing for Communion than as a giant display case for

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unique, miracle-working relics of Christ. In the extant, cross-shaped reliquary built into the ensemble’s virtuosic upper tracery, we glimpse that original focus. The monochrome finish may resemble Protestant plain style, as Michael Baxandall contended, but the holy blood would have shimmered like a tiny epiphany: three reddish droplets on a white corporal covered and magnified by a crystal capsule, framed in gilded copper, encircled by other relics, and set forth by the altarpiece’s carved and polished wood. Since the thirteenth century, Rothenburg’s church of St James housed these drops of Christ’s blood that miraculously came about during a celebration of Mass.13 These were not, as some scholars have assumed, relics of Christ’s historical body, since this, according to creed, had been wholly resurrected three days after his death, leaving behind as relics only things that had touched him – the nails, thorns, lance, cross, etc. of his Passion. Rothenburg treasured something altogether different: a remnant of Christ’s sacramental body made present in the altar rite. In ordinary practice, this presence was real but invisible under the ‘species’ of the bread and wine. At certain rare moments, though, usually when that presence was violated or doubted, the imperceptible substance became wondrously manifest, as when consecrated hosts bled, or transmogrified into Christ’s ruined corpse, or refused impious ingestion, or caused beasts to bow before them and bees to build about them altars and temples of honey and wax.14 In the popular legends that elaborated them, such Eucharistic miracles affirmed the mystery transpiring daily at each altar. But they were also distinct from that quotidian miracle by their anomalous occurrence and by a material residue that, having indicated the substance under the species, was preserved rather than consumed. Rothenburg’s droplets, like the more renowned relics in Wilsnack and Augsburg, were not transubstantiated wine, but wine visibly become blood. Though deriving from some past liturgical performance, they now possessed power quite independent of the Mass, working new miracles through their physical presence in the chapel. And if, by being built into an altarpiece, they affirmed the efficacy of sacrament, the point of contact for the pilgrim was not the Communion rite but the spectacle combining the consecrated host with the Eucharistic relic. This had been the purpose of the altarpiece’s original predella, which had a monstrance built into it (the present crucifix is a distinctly Protestant modification based on the sort of altar cross that Cranach’s predella references).15 Riemenschneider’s ensemble thus extracts from the Communion rite the Eucharist element and its miraculous instance in order to turn both into objects of sustained, ocular devotion. And whilst potentially a pilgrim could take Communion in Rothenburg, the bread was most likely consumed by the administering clergy, who also alone could drink the wine, the miracle of which the blood-relic itself confirmed. Sandwiched between the bread

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monstrance in its predella and the wine-reliquary above, Riemenschneider’s Last Supper links the present tense of sacrament not only, or primarily, to its biblical prototype, but to an interceding third term: the droplets of relatively recent vintage that drew pilgrims from their parish churchs (and from the sacrament adequately celebrated there) to this chapel. No wonder Last Supper retables were anomalies before the Reformation. Their motivating instance was not everyday church service, as Luther wished, but some post-biblical miracle and its special celebration.As such, they could never – nor would they even want to – claim to be the iconographic standard for all altars. If anything, they exemplify how pre-Reformation altarpieces were generally engineered to celebrate the particular rather than the universal. Altars were themselves both specific and general. In their liturgical use, they served a rite that was always equally efficacious. But in their dedication to a special personage or mystery, they focused that ubiquitous efficacy on local objects, stories and practices. Following from the early Christian practice of performing anniversary masses over the graves of martyrs, a tradition arose of consecrating altars by entombing within them, in a box called a ‘sepulchre’, relics of a saint to whom they would then be dedicated.16 As we’ve seen, altarpieces functioned originally to label that dedication. In Northern Europe, their winged format – rather like a box – probably derived from earlier reliquaries which, on feast days, and in conjunction with the relics contained in the altar sepulchre, were placed upon the mensa.17 A panel from the shop of Rogier van der Weyden illustrates this arrangement (illus. 169).18 The picture’s main event is the exhumation, in 825, of St Hubert’s remains from the church of St Peter in Liège. Two acolytes lift the deceased bishop’s unspoiled corpse from its tomb before the high altar, which itself (as usual) is dedicated to the church’s titulus. A statue of St Peter appears in a winged tabernacle atop a Crucifixion altarpiece; the oxblood red frame and ornamental gilding date this painted retable to the period just before 1400.19 On the mensa before that altarpiece, between the painted crucifixion and the disinterred body, has been placed, as backdrop to the undertaking, a golden chest containing more relics of Hubert, who stands carved on the central compartment holding his hunting horn and crozier, with the visionary stag at his right and a large dog at his left. Projecting fifteenth-century customs onto a ninth-century event, this Rogierian panel (datable to around 1438) visualizes the late medieval altar’s attachments over and above its linkage to the Communion meal. Through the tomb before it and the reliquary on it, the altar gathers the body of a locally honoured personage, St Hubert, Bishop of Maastricht and Liège. In the sepulchre inside it, and through pictures displayed behind and around it (note the stone Apostle statues above the capitals and the stained-glass portraits in the background), the altar connects to a universal martyr, St

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169. Rogier van der Weyden (workshop), Exhumation of St Hubert, 1438, oil on panel. National Gallery, London.

Peter, whom Hubert himself had honoured by founding, in Liège in 714, the church in his honour. And in the priestly sacrifice performed at it (omitted from the picture, but referenced by the painted Passion scene), it connects to the body of Christ. Retables embellished precisely those attachments – here not only the retable depicted in the painting, but perhaps also the one to which Rogier’s panel itself belonged, since it probably adorned a chapel of St Hubert within the church of St Gudule in Brussels. It therefore stands to reason that the Last Supper was so rarely their principal subject. Only when the local relic was of Christ’s sacramental body, as in Rothenburg, was this

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170. Hans Baldung Grien, ‘Crucifix between the Fall and the Eucharist’, woodcut illustration from Ulrich Pinder, Der beschlossenen Gart des Rosenkranz Mariae (Nuremberg: Ulrich Pinder, 1505).

the appropriate label. Then it referred to the unique presence augmenting the daily Eucharist rather than to the daily rite itself. Protestants abhorred such localism. The engraved True Image of the Papist Church allowed the plethora of altars to evidence false religion, just as Luther’s Coburg catalogue condemned the customs it contained (illus. 11). Redescribed, the local presences that the Church took to be beneficial to sacrament became proof of the paganism to which Rome has returned, while ‘stripping the altars’ regained its scriptural purpose of defending monotheism. From the Church’s perspective, to equate its saints with other gods was crudely to overlook centuries of doctrinal caution. Catholics and Protestants alike believed that but one deity was present at the altar; their conflict was over how that presence should be understood. Altarpieces served partly to parse the canonical but impenetrable claim,‘this is my body’. Central to the understanding within which pre-Reformation retables functioned was an emphasis on the sacrificial aspect of the Eucharist over its aspect as communal meal. The gospel itself interpreted the Last Supper as an oblation. Recovering the sacrificial core of the Jewish pessach feast, Christ made the meal prefigure his gift of death: ‘my body that is given for you . . . my blood that is shed for you.’ On the one hand, this sacrifice occurred only once in history. Christ’s crucifixion (so it was claimed) fulfilled and overturned the Jewish oblation. On the other hand, the command ‘do this in my memory’ required that the unique event be forever repeated. In the sixth

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century, Gregory the Great took ‘do this’ to mean ‘offer this’, with the result that the liturgy became a dramatic re-enactment of Christ’s death on Calvary. Five centuries later, Anselm of Canterbury gave the practice clear legal definition.20 He argued that Christ’s death, as well as its ritual reiteration, appeased, through payment of the infinite sum, God’s anger over our first trespass and continuing offence. Analogous to restoring diplomatic relations between parties still in a state of war, this atonement repaired the covenant between ourselves and God, as well as between us and other persons through the communalism of the Communion rite that followed it. A woodcut made in Dürer’s shop (probably by Hans Baldung Grien) for Ulrich Pinder’s devotional manual, The Enclosed Garden of the Rose-Garland of Mary (1505), visualizes this idea for a lay public (illus. 170).21 Intervening between the sacrament and the Fall, the crucified Christ stands for the sacrifice offered in Mass. The priest wears a second crucifix embroidered on his vestments, likening his offering, indeed his very body and gestures, to Christ’s. As Henri de Lubac noted, the altar ritual distributes two moments (past and present) in three bodies: the historical person, Jesus, who died in the crucifixion; Christ’s sacramental body consumed in the Eucharist; and the body of the Church – as Augustine put it – ‘consumed by Christ’, to whom sacrificial rights have been transferred.22 In the woodcut, these are linked to a fourth body – Adam’s – exposed as body at the far left. Shown in profile, with his head exactly aligned with the priest’s, and casually concealing his groin (toward which Eve’s nevertheless points, and which the serpent’s tail subtly brings into view), Adam mortified all bodies until Christ’s death redeemed us. Traversing the serpent, Eve, Christ and the priest with his gaze, Adam is the memorable player in this print, and one reason why it has been consistently given to Hans Baldung Grien, Dürer’s most talented apprentice and a master scenographer of the Fall of Man. Observe the altarpiece within this diagram. Standing perpendicular to Christ’s corpse, and with its principal subject withheld from view, the retable hardly ‘explains’ the ritual to which it belongs. It belongs rather to the expiating mechanism itself which Baldung’s woodcut explains. More precisely, it pertains to that third term in the sacrament’s distribution of past and present, the Church body. For though we cannot see who is represented above the little icon of the Virgin and child, a represented hand points toward Christ in an echo of the priest’s gesture. Before the Reformation, the vast majority of German retables had as their main subject the Virgin or the saints. Present in relics and in effigies, these were thought to intercede on someone’s behalf, ensuring that the priestly offering would be received in their name. Images on altarpieces were meant not as exegesis but as presence, effecting salvation by amassing powerful benefactors so that God, in spite of our continuing sin, might accept our sacrifice.

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171. Hans Baldung Grien, ‘Third Commandment’, woodcut illustration to Markus von Lindau, Die zehe gebot in disem büch erclert vnd uszgelegt (Strasbourg: Johann Knoblouch, 1516).

This brief account does not do justice to the complexity of the preReformation Mass. Besides ironing out centuries of heterogeneous doctrines and practices, I’ve left aside the Latin liturgy’s own efforts to explain and embellish the rite by superimposing new rituals upon it. Since Carolingian times, the Mass received increasingly complex readings that made each word and gesture stand for – and, in its performance, mimetically represent – one or more episodes of the Passion. For example, the subdeacons standing around the priest were taken to signify the mourning women under the cross, and by choreographed movements and expressions, they made that symbolic tenor manifest.23 Every element of liturgy, even ones that had always referred expressly to Christ’s Passion, received new and multiple valences until the text was lost in a forest of subtexts. Take, for example, the elevation of the host, which to the laity was the sacrament’s true climax, announced by special sacring bells and conferring by being beheld.24 Before 1520, when an artist sought to sum up church service in a single scene, he usually depicted this ritual, and not the Communion rite that followed. Baldung, for example, used it to picture the Third Commandment in a woodcut of 1516, orchestrating the glances of all who kneel behind the priest toward the little wheaten disc (illus. 171).25 A German commentary on the Mass written around 1480 gives the elevation two meanings. ‘Rememoratively’ it refers to Christ raised on the cross; ‘tropologically’ it stands for the pious beholding of Christ’s Passion. The Last Supper itself appears only spor-

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172. Anonymous ‘Satire on the Evangelical Eucharist’, woodcut title-page from Georg Scherer, Eigentliche Abcontrafehung einer newen, vnerhörten Monstrantzen (Ingolstadt: David Sartorius, 1588).

adically within this extensive commentary, as one of several senses given to a sacramental gesture. Thus the priest’s breaking of bread means Jesus at the Last Supper. But it also means the episode at Emmaus, as well as – and more crucially – the ‘division’ of the Passion ‘into words, works, beatings and wounds’.26 In advance of the altarpiece’s figurative decor, the altar ritual itself engendered figures through its own mimetically motivated enactment. But how legible was that performance meant to be? Did the priest elevate the

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host so that onlookers received the messages outlined above? Probably not. He did so because ‘it was custom’, and because it was believed to be efficacious, speeding to heaven those for whom his actions were performed. In a specific sense, the priest’s action benefited his patrons, who funded private masses for their spiritual cause; in a general sense, he benefited the assembled laity, since the atonement his sacrifices achieved embraced them, as well. In all of this, understanding was but an ornament to action.Whatever thoughts the laity entertained affected the ex opere operato of sacrament only marginally, as a means of turning gestures that were in and of themselves powerful into evocative images that stimulated (the German commentary’s word is reytzen)27 their beholder to enter imaginatively Christ’s Passion. Neither modelling nor affecting what the priest performs, understanding motivated at most the use of the efficacious gesture by viewers marginal to it. The positioning of lay people as spectators rather than actors, and the tactics of consumption, or ‘making do’,28 that arose from that condition, resulted largely from changes in the Canon of the Mass. By the year 1000, this kernel of the Eucharistic ritual, which embedded Christ’s ‘This is my body’ in an esoteric, non-biblical, Latin prayer, came to be whispered softly by the priest.29 Encouraged by the custom of private masses performed by specially endowed clerics before restricted altars of a church, and enhanced by the orientation (partly the result of altarpieces) of the priest with his back to the laity, this silence elevated the text by withholding it. In the terminology of the German commentary of c. 1480, the laity occupied a place, at once ideological and empirical,‘behind the Mass’ (hinter der Messe).30 Translation of the Canon into the vernacular was expressly forbidden. ‘It is unseemly that the laity should be concerned with these things’, states the commentary.31 Theologians fretted that ordinary folk would use the words in magic and witchcraft, singing them, say, over their crops and livestock to make them flourish.32 When Luther published his German Mass and restored the chalice to the laity, Catholics railed against this commerce in controlled substances. The title page of a 1587 pamphlet by the Jesuit polemicist Georg Scherer depicts a Lutheran preacher administering Communion in his dining room ‘like a conjurer’ (illus. 172); in a copy now in Nuremberg, an enthusiastic reader has added condemnations of his or her own, X-ing out the bread and labelling the man-shaped wine jug a ‘fool’. Given the prior secrecy surrounding the words of the Institution, it is unclear whether people even saw a connection between Last Supper and Eucharist. In a sermon on Luther’s life published in 1566, Johann Mathesius reports that in his own childhood he heard nothing about such things: ‘I know for certain that, before I came to Wittenberg, I never in my lifetime learned of the forgiveness and comfort that one gets by consuming

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173. Rogier van der Weyden, ‘The Sacrament of the Eucharist’, central panel of the Altarpiece of the Seven Sacraments, 1453–5, oil on panel. Koniklijk Museum voor Schone Kunsten, Antwerp.

the body and blood of Christ in faith; neither in church or in school was a word heard recollecting this.’33 Before the Reformation, lay people probably knew the Last Supper to be but one early episode in the Passion story, while the Eucharist they would have regarded as re-enacting the story’s climax, the crucifixion. Rogier van der Weyden’s Altarpiece of the Seven Sacraments makes this understanding powerfully concrete (illus. 173).34 Produced in the early 1440s for Jean Chevrot, Bishop of Tournai, either for Tournai Cathedral or (more likely) for a chapel founded by Chevrot in the church of his native Poligny, this triptych squeezes six sacraments into its smaller, fixed wings, which it articulates as views of a church’s chapel-lined aisles. The central panel – coincident with nave and choir – is reserved for the Eucharist alone. The

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Mass appears at its pre-Reformation climax, with the priest raising the host at the moment of consecration. What that action effects stands projected forward, into the church and toward us, in the essential event: the crucifixion, complete with mourners in the temporalizing poses of their grief. In a gesture flattering to his clerical patron, Rogier affirms the Church’s power to represent. Christ expires on a cross standing inside the cathedral. The right tip of the crossbar passes just behind the vaulting, announcing that, although the crucifix seems to face us directly, outside of the contingencies of its placement in the picture, it also stands within painting’s fictive space. And as Dirk de Vos has observed, this fiction embraces the viewer through Rogier’s unusual treatment of the trompe-l’æil frames.35 Foreshortened along with the views they surround, these golden inner frames locate us off-centre from them but thereby inside the painting’s perspectival view. The picture asks us to accept reality on its terms. It announces that Christ is present at the altar where it physically stands, just as he is present in the church represented in the picture. Rogier’s is an unusual altarpiece not only by depicting ordinary church services, but also because of how programmatically it elucidates the rite it backs. And even though this doctrinal pedantry resembles the design of Cranach’s Wittenberg panels, the lesson imparted is completely different. For Rogier, the elevation of the Host encapsulates the Eucharistic rite; and that rite, in turn, represents Christ’s Passion. Neither Communion nor the biblical Last Supper comes into the picture. Indeed, although the priest says Mass on the nave side of the rood screen, at the altar (typically termed the

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174. Anonymous, St Clara Altarpiece, 1370–1400, oil on panels and polychromed wood (opened state). Cathedral, Cologne.

altar of the Holy Cross) specifically serving lay devotion, communicants are nowhere to be seen. In the experience of everyone besides the priest, the Mass is the spectacle of the host through which Rogier invites us to glimpse Christ’s sacrifice. Moreover, whilst the painting sets forth what sacrament re-presents, the altarpiece that it internally depicts – that elaborate artifact visible behind the elevated host – does not. The carved Apostles in the corpus flank the priest more as allies than as explanations. And the Virgin and Child in the tabernacle above seem to conduct the sacrificial offering lifted up to them. The so-called Klarenaltar from the Convent of St Clare is similar to the ensemble Rogier portrays, with its Gothic tracery and rows of saints (illus. 174).36 At the centre of its lower register, a tabernacle for the reserved host is covered by a little panel with a scene of the elevation. This image of the Eucharist, along with the other effigies and relics that the retable gathers behind the rite (note the bust reliquaries along the base), do not interpret the mystery. They belong to it, as part of a local fund of numinous presences augmenting the sacred act. Pre-Reformation retables perform more than they model. And even when they diagram what priestly action does, their model of the Eucharist is of sacrifice, not supper. This is the emphasis of the late medieval altarpiece’s principal meta-subject, as it were, the Mass of St Gregory. In one version of the story, a doubting woman laughed during the saint’s recital of the Canon, and suddenly Christ appeared on the altar displaying his wounds.37 Disbelief provoked miraculous verification. This once, the body invisibly present under the elements became sensibly manifest for the Roman liturgy’s founder. Gregory was said to have preserved this manifestation by fashioning a picture made of it to use in his devotions. Identified with an early Byzantine icon kept in Santa Croce in Rome, this portrait performed new miracles; heavily indulgenced, it was endlessly reproduced in paintings, prints and manuscripts. During the Reformation, satirists targeted it for special defacements (illus. 40 and 54).38 Narrative images of the Gregory legend, which circulated along with copies of the devotional icon, improvise a medley of representations. First, there is the sacramental act.Amid an assembly of clerical representatives and, behind them, of the laity they represent, the pope offers Christ’s body in sacrifice; this ritual occurs by way of an object – the wheaten disc – that often pictures, in the form of a cross stamped on it, what is represented by it. Second, there is the miracle of Christ’s appearance in the Mass. Here the presence revealed is not Christ at the supper table, but his sacrifice on the cross. Christ appears as Man of Sorrows; actively displaying his dead body in the tomb, he is quintessentially ahistorical, a pascha perpetuum. Third, this ostension is presented within an elaborately framed tableau, as if the Man of Sorrows were a sculpture or painting in an altarpiece backing the table where

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175. Albrecht Dürer, Mass of St Gregory, 1511, woodcut.

Gregory says Mass. The image of Christ represents both the miracle and Gregory’s miracle-working icon of that miracle. The cruel instruments and perpetrators often gathered about Christ form a counter-tableau to the sacred objects and pious personnel present at the Mass. Disembodied and abbreviated as Christ’s ‘arms’, they also serve to heighten the image-character of the Christ image, since they belong not to the miracle but to picture-based devotional routines. Among these, and constituting another element in the medley of representations, is the sudarium. St Veronica’s sweatcloth enjoys a

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176. Master of Holy Kinship, Mass of St Gregory, c. 1500, oil on panel. Royal Museum of Fine Arts, Brussels.

special status here not only because it is a miraculous icon like Gregory’s, but because, being a part of most late medieval altars’ ritual inventory (often as decoration on the pax), it negotiates between the visionary and the real. In his woodcut of the Mass of St Gregory (1511), Dürer shows a deacon gazing over the Eucharistic wafer (stamped with a minute crucifixion) to a panel with the sudarium (illus. 175).39 This liturgical alignment of Eucharist and icon reiterates the miraculous encounter occurring just beyond, re-enforcing the idea that St Gregory’s vision was like a retable altarpiece come alive.

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What happens in the enclave between the image and the priest? A Mass of St Gregory by the Master of the Holy Kinship diagrams the mystery that unfolds there. This anonymous Cologne painter (active circa 1480–1515) did at least four versions of this subject, but none is quite as theologically meticulous as the one now hanging in the Musées Royaux des Beaux-Arts in Brussels (illus. 176).40 The miracle’s structure stands fully exposed. At the instant of its consecration, while the foreground deacon rings the sacring bell and an assistant behind holds up the pyx like a mirror, the host (a white disc stamped with a crucifix and hardly visible against the white tablecloth) gives way to an imposing vision of Christ, who, surrounded by the coat of arms of his Passion, fills the chalice with blood from his side-wound. Meanwhile, a rivulet climbs over the chalice’s lip, and runs across the length of the mensa, under Christ’s left foot and Longinus’s spear, to touch down in purgatory, where, presumably, it will release a soul from flames (note also the tiny talismanic coat of arms painted in just below purgatory). Christ’s body, offered by the priest – in this case, perhaps, on behalf of someone indicated by their heraldic insignia – effects immediate release. Channelling blood from divine to sinful sufferer, the altar is shown to bridge body to body across a metaphysical divide. And in this scenography, the place behind the altar from where salvation visibly springs is structured like a pictorial tableau, indeed like an altarpiece such as the Kinship Master himself is painting. The Cologne anonymous thus celebrates what Cranach in his predella avoided: attachment of image to reality, of work to world, of fiction to fact. Even though this image-packed altarpiece panel was painted to be seen, the magic it displays is independent of the eye, transmitting substances from place to place. While medieval theologians understood sight itself as a material ray emanating from the object, ocular Communion was still a tactic of the periphery.41 In the Cologne picture, the Kinship master exhibits this margin as margin. Behind the altar, and concealed by clerics and curtains, lay people strain to behold the great event. Rogier’s Exhumation evidences a similar scenic apparatus. Their access barred by a wooden grille between the choir and ambulatory, their vision blocked by altar, altarpiece and clergy, the common folk (marked as such by their indecorous grins) cannot behold the uncorrupted flesh that the painter places front and centre. Note that the four brass columns round the altar and the rods attached to them probably supported curtains, suggesting that in reality the place before the altar was yet more inaccessible. Even as the Church orchestrated an image-based piety, and advertised seeing as an efficacious commerce with the sacred, it also restricted sight, exiling lay folk from what they yearned to behold.Altarpieces amplified this play of access and restriction, their open, closed and concealed states coinciding with festivals, workdays and Lent. A 1493 manual for the sexton of Nuremberg’s St Lorenzkirche, which details for each calendar day

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177. Master of St Giles, Mass of St Giles, c. 1480–90, oil on panel. National Gallery, London.

what altars should be prepared and how, recuperates beholding as an occasional event:‘Item St Andreas Day one prepares the Holy Cross altar and opens up the Apostles’ altar above, but not the predella, and one rings the evening bell. . . ’.42 Uninterrupted viewing – the direct, sovereign gaze of aesthetic contemplation – was an elusive quarry. That is why Dürer, who on his travels paid to see retables specially opened for his viewing pleasure,43 once complained to a patron that work on such ensembles was wasted effort. ‘Whoever heard of making such a thing for an altar?’ writes this artist in response to a request to give an altarpiece commission ‘the greatest possible’ care;‘Who would even see it?’44

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Period depictions of church service show eyes engaged in reading, or blank in prayer, or fixed on the elevated or reserved host, but rarely focused on the retable. An altarpiece panel by the Master of St Giles (a painter probably trained in the Netherlands and active in Paris around 1500) documents the marginality of altarpieces within the rite they served (illus. 177).45 Picturing a miracle said to have occurred in 719, when, at a Mass celebrated by St Giles, King Charles Martel (kneeling left) was forgiven for his unconfessed sins by angelic intervention (upper left), this panel reproduces the high altar of St-Denis in its fifteenth-century form. The artist inventories the artefacts gathered in that place: at the right, ritually dormant at the moment, the thirteenth-century stone monument to Dagobert i; high above the altar, a precious cross attributed to St Eloy, the seventh-century bishop of Noyon; and supporting this, and backing the altar of the miraculous Mass, a ninth-century gem-studded retable – originally an altar frontal, or antipendium, that was lifted onto the altar – with the enthroned Christ at its centre. And with these objects are gathered a repertoire of gazes. Shown reciting the Canon, Giles has withdrawn readerly focus from his open missal to whisper words he knows by heart, while the deacon behind stares blankly, too, or perhaps focuses on one of the embroidered crosses in the crossshaped orphrey which, as usual, maps the priest’s body to Christ’s (and here also to the cross above the altar). But it is the king whose gaze is privileged in this scene. With arms open in prayer and rapture, he beholds the elevated host framed by Giles’s fingers. The miracle itself – the angel with a note authenticating absolution – may contribute to Charles’s amazement, but the wafer that occupies his vision should be wondrous enough. Meanwhile, blocked as usual from the proceedings by the retable and by a green curtain similar to the one featured in the Kinship Master’s panel, stand the people ‘behind the Mass’. Able to glance surreptitiously from the ritual’s periphery, they struggle to get a look at its centre: that white disk in which there is nothing to behold. This is the Christian altarpiece’s great paradox. At the climax of the ritual for which it is made, it ought not be beheld. In the Mass of St Giles, even the golden retable becomes a spectator of the Eucharist, too. Christ, shown in the relief, gazes outwards to the bread that represents him. This decentring of vision, achieved here both by ritual attention to the invisible, and by the painting’s own virtuoso oblique view, is not unique to altarpieces. It merely magnifies a property of ocular experience itself. Investigations using eye-tracker equipment have shown that an eye kept immobile, or shown an image that moves perfectly in sync with it, sees nothing.46 Blank at the point of attention, vision occurs in the mind’s delayed processing of what the eye has already left behind. Art historians themselves display a curious blindness both to the physiology of the restless gaze, and to the distractions they know attend the actual experience of their objects. Paul

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Veyne has argued for recovering the ‘touristic gaze’ which, experiencing artworks in sight-seeing’s heightened state of transit, corresponds better to the historical and psychological realities of spectatorship than does the tunnel vision of formal and iconographic analysis.47 In an art museum, how much time is spent looking at pictures compared, say, to looking for the exit signs? Even where each painting is crafted and framed to be appreciated on its own, as the exclusive focus of a fascinated gaze, images remain the wallpaper of experience. As grandiloquent backdrops to fleeting and metaphysically concealed displays, altarpieces are therefore historically unremarkable. Yet whereas the modern artwork proposes itself as a centre even if experience will inevitably displace it, figured retables were expressly made for the margins. They served as vehicles of transit – from image to prototype, from this world to the next, from one image to another. In their improvised use, they became experiential centres, and their forms will evolve to suit and amplify this improvisation. Just as the museum-goer draws a wandering line through rigid spaces and structured tableaux, so too lay observers of the Mass, excluded from sacred production, made do at the periphery, seizing their opportunity and embellishing it with artisan-like inventiveness until the margin was satisfying on its own. Withdrawn from direct consumption, the sacred reappeared through a bricolage of stolen glimpses and imaginative simulations.48 In The Stripping of the Altars, Eamon Duffy has brilliantly inverted the old Protestant stereotype that the late medieval laity was exiled from religion. What lay people did with the Mass, the elaborate personal and corporate representions produced at liturgy’s edge, was according to their standards no less effective or central than the priestly actions themselves.49 Just because the clergy monopolized the roles of producer and consumer of sacrament, offering and receiving Christ themselves, this did not prevent the laity from poaching at the borders. Their tactic was to venerate the spectacle itself. The Host’s elevation and display served this well, as did all surrounding ostentations that extended vision and satisfied the eye. Whereas in the fourteenth century, altarpieces tended to feature effigies deemed to have effects on the rite itself, in the fifteenth century, through pictorial technologies pioneered for individual lay devotion (for example, books of hours and private devotional icons), retables exhibited tableaux that simulated a visual apprehension of the divine.50 Enrolled as spectators but given little to see, the laity (artists of their own devotional acts) utilized and funded the ornamented backs turned toward them.And through the pictures there displayed – of the Virgin’s joys and sorrows, of the minutiae of Christ’s birth, suffering, and death, and of the particulars of their locally venerated saints – they could commune visually with the sacred personages dear to them. Marginal to the ritual for which it was made, the altarpiece thus made do with the conditions behind the Mass.

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20 The Tables Turned

Reformers sought to rotate the altar round to the laity and offer every person a place at it. Enacted at the levels of liturgy, architecture and decor, this turn was Protestantism’s signal reform. While the call for an evangelical preacher often launched confessional change, it was the German Mass that gave the Reformation its ritual expression, hence the centrality of that rite in depictions of ‘true religion’ (illus. 139–40). This turn involved more than merely inviting lay persons to communicate each Sunday. Action itself changed its demand. Not only gestures, but also thought and understanding were now required. For although Luther affirmed Real Presence, Christ’s flesh and blood had a salvific effect only through the inner act of faith. Would it therefore not have been more in keeping with this rotation if the backs of Lutheran altars had remained free, so that ministers could ‘stand behind [them] and face the people’, as Luther himself wrote in the German Mass,1 and as Reformed Protestants continued to insist? At its dedication in 1544, the palatine chapel of Hartenfels Castle in Torgau – the first purposebuilt evangelical church – featured a free-standing mensa made partly of stone salvaged from an altar stripped in Torgau’s City Church (illus. 178). But within a few years a winged Last Supper altarpiece, probably by Cranach’s workshop, was attached to its back.2 Although they limited access to the table, Lutheran retables pictured a new, revolutionary frontality. We observed this in the altarpiece in Dinkelsbühl, with or without its original Last Supper panel (illus. 147).3 The extant text panels enshrine the words of Communion’s biblical institution as paraphrased in Luther’s German Mass. These are the words that, for centuries, had been said silently in Latin at the altar, and that the clergy dared not translate into the vernacular for fear of their misuse.4 Now facing the congregation, so that they can read it for themselves, the text focuses Communion on the lay person, defining his or her activity as one of reading, understanding and belief. Instead of having Mass whispered unintelligibly ‘for’ (or rather,‘before’)5 them by their representatives to God, the laity – this


178. Modern replica of Stephan Hermsdorf and Simon Schröter, Torgau Altar (original 1544, sandstone). Schloss Hartenfels, Torgau.

altarpiece festively announces – are their own priests. Or as Luther put it, ‘All Christians are of a priestly estate.’6 Writing hails the individual as a comprehending mind. Formerly a spectator, now a reader, the ordinary person enters the central but formerly tabooed connection between word and gesture on which had been founded the Church’s power to represent. As the Master of St Giles pictures it, the priest intones the effective sentence from a book that – materially and in terms of his competence – he alone possesses (illus. 177). Published on an altarpiece, and built into a culture that, through the catechism and school, endeavours to make subjects into readers, that sentence now locates everyone before the Mass. In Dinkelsbühl in 1537, the citizenry suddenly stood within what Habermas has termed the ‘publicity of representation’.7 Representation and the public sphere had both been the Church’s monopoly. In his essay Roman Catholicism and Political Form, the reactionary legal theorist Carl Schmitt, seeking to expose contradictions of democratic government, studied the Church’s power to represent. Bound substantially to Christ’s incarnation, Schmitt argued, the Church – according to its strictest claims – ‘personally represents Christ himself ’. From the viewpoint of its ‘external form’, and bracketing the miraculous powers it may or may not possess, the Church would seem to stand for nothing but ‘the idea of representation’ itself. But this is the perspective of a culture that, while possessing juridical accountancy through parliaments and corporations, has forgotten what a ‘representative’ properly is. ‘Only a person can represent in the highest sense of the term’,8 writes Schmitt. By

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contrast, Roman Catholicism had found a viable middle ground between irrational devotion to a charismatic prophet or priest, and recognition of the purely formal function of an office. Schmitt attributed to Protestantism the replacement of this realistic politics by a fiction of personal responsibility and impersonal representation. Displaced to the abstract principle of ‘the people’, representation became empty: ‘a plurality of copies’ substituted for ‘a unique existence’, as Walter Benjamin wrote from quite the opposite politics.9 Luther insisted that between the individual reader and the Gospel text there should be interposed ministers. The laity came to the altar to find that the power to represent had moved elsewhere. Although seeming to occupy a public sphere, the laity still consumed rather than enunciated representations, with the difference that the representatives – the officers of the word – were now consumers, too, since everyone shared the same textbook. The Wittenberg Altarpiece parses the church body within this new arrangement. Visualizing (as did its pre-Reformation predecessor) the third term between the historical body and the sacramental body of Christ, it also pictures the emergent public sphere. Cranach depicts church in the image of the crowd. The crowd are the Wittenbergers ‘congregated’ around the crucifix, confessional and font. They are modelled on the twelve around Christ’s table. Contemporary Lutheran polemical prints would have invited the viewer to compare these crowds to the ones in earlier church pictures. In both the Exhumation of St Hubert and the Mass of St Giles, lay people throng the edges of the miracle; their jostling heads create a visual et cetera to the useless wonder they embody (illus. 169 and 177). In the woodcut he devised of true and false religion, Flacius displayed what he termed the ‘difference’ in terms of these distinctive crowds (illus. 140). On this model, the Catholic church service eclipses the laity, overwhelming them by another, more privileged crowd – what Luther, in On the Councils and the Church, termed the pope’s ‘scandalous, damned heap’.10 Against the view that church equals Church, that it consists of the clerical institution and its physical edifice (‘the stone house that one calls church’),11 but also against the sectarian conviction that church includes only the spiritually elect, Luther defined ecclesia as ‘the congregation or people who run to the market-place in crowds’, referring to the secular ‘assembly’ mentioned in Acts 19:39. As the church, these crowds are everywhere the same. Whereas ‘the painters paint it’ as ‘the Apostles, disciples, and mother of God, as on Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit hovering above’, the church is in fact ‘the holy Christian people’ of every era ‘until the world’s end’. The Apostles were but Christians ‘at one time, at the church’s beginning’. They are now ‘long dead’, whereas Christians and their church ‘will be on earth forever’.12 What, though, distinguishes the evangelical congregation from the laity ‘behind the

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Mass’? Having repudiated the institution of sacramentally distinct representatives, how did Lutherans represent the forms of representation that now obtained? In the ‘stone house’ of the City Church, and within painted panels that duplicate that stone, Cranach sets the Apostles beside their present successors, the local congregation and the ministers who serve it. And he confirms that this contingent ‘heap’ and all that it does is church by itemizing, panel by panel, its tell-tale marks. According to Luther, there exist seven ‘external’ and ‘public’ signs that allow ‘poor, erring people’ (i.e., the crowd) to ‘recognize where such a Christian, holy people is in the world’.13 These signs are: preaching, baptism, Communion, confession, ministers, prayer and the cross. Displaying almost nothing but these marks, Cranach verifies, through the admittedly supplementary ‘external sign’ of his own image, that the Wittenberg congregation of 1547 was church, at least in that ‘one time’. Church is signaled too by the shape and place of the crowds. As we have seen, the laity literally ‘crowds’ the telling symbols in its midst, the cross, font and confessional. And these portrayals themselves, deposited on the wings and predella, crowd (as it were) the central symbol of Communion, gathering together at the altar the apostolic with the living church. ‘One can tell God’s folk, or a Christian holy people’, wrote Luther, ‘from the holy sacrament of the altar insofar as it is given, believed, and received according to Christ’s institution.’14 In Cranach’s ensemble, it is only in the sacrament of Communion that action splits into a historical and a liturgical instance. Whereas the other panels of the altarpiece simply double liturgical action, confronting future congregations with the quasi-apostolic one of Luther’s time, the Last Supper allows the undepicted but implicitly occurring liturgical enactment of sacrament to face, in the central panel, a depiction of the biblical rule that practice properly obeys. Made possible by the painting, the juxtaposition of live performance and biblical model brings into focus the invisible copula that unites the two. Unlike the late gothic retable, with its imaginative and thaumaturgical transmissions from this world to the next, Cranach’s pictures withdraw from the mystery occurring before them. They may assure their viewer, intellectually, that the action he or she performs is apostolic, and that Christ is present to them regardless of the administrative personnel. But they stop short of visualizing what that presence inwardly achieves, in the secret enclosure of the heart. Before opening that black box, however, let us observe what Cranach does represent: the past, present and future gathered in one place. The future stands depicted literally on the back of the past, in the rear central panel’s painting of the resurrected Christ. As the biblical inscription there indicates, this is the ‘world’s end’, and until that final moment, church and Christ shall be ‘with you ever’. This temporal ‘meanwhile’ transpires at

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opposite 179. Christoph ii Walther, Penig Altarpiece, 1564, painted sandstone, c. 4 m high. Stadtkirche ‘Unser Lieben Frauen auf dem Berge’, Penig.

180. Detail of the Penig Altarpiece (illus. 179): Christ administering the sacrament to contemporary parishioners.

the altar’s front, in an intertwining of the depicted biblical past and the enacted liturgical present. That the times represented are but two, and that no place exists for intervening events or other personages, typifies Protestantism’s confessionally-charged understanding of history. The Roman Church based its authority on an unbroken, personal succession from Christ, through the Apostles, martyrs and saints, to its present officers, the bishops and priests. It therefore decorated its cult spaces chiefly with effigies drawn from this meaningful, effective, but non-biblical past. Protestants, by contrast, celebrate only two histories. One is contained in the gospels; the other transpires in the present, and is styled as an immediate decision (made at the levels of individual and territory) for or against the Reformation.15 This dualistic model of time finds an early and systematic expression in the so-called Magdeburg Centuries, a comprehensive history of the Church – the first of its kind since Eusebius – written under the direction of Matthias Flacius Illyricus. Flacius, that Gnesio-Lutheran whose contribution to modern hermeneutics we discussed earlier, treated everything occurring between the gospel and the present as a diabolical deception through which he was the first to penetrate. In the process, Flacius became the ur-historicist, submitting to a relentless critical gaze the contingent story of how his world came to be, in order thereby to change it.

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Lutheran altarpieces ingeniously suture the present to the biblical past. A few examples will suffice. In the Weimar Altarpiece, Cranach collapses Old and New Testaments, together with a most recent past, to create an atemporal tableau of Christ’s present presence (illus. 135). At the base of Christoph ii Walther’s sculpted Crucifixion Altarpiece of 1564 in the City Church of Penig, Christ steps from the central Last Supper (where he is also represented) to administer Communion to the retable’s donors at both sides; behind him, simplified and sharply-foreshortened versions of Walther’s own retable help swing the action round the corner, as do the intervening inscriptions displaying the words said by the Lutheran minister during the distribution of the bread and wine (illus. 179–80).16 In an altarpiece made in 1555 to celebrate the Peace of Augsburg and to adorn the altar of Regensburg’s erstwhile pilgrimage church of the Beautiful Maria, Michael Ostendorfer – who in 1519 had fashioned a woodcut of that notorious Marian cult (illus. 65) – adds to the familiar pairing of biblical and liturgical Communion its Old Testament types (illus. 181). And in a Last Supper retable in Mühlberg, as we’ll see, Heinrich Göding the Elder sets between the history and liturgy a weird figure of infinite regress that repeats and displaces every here-and-now that might be experienced before it (illus. 132, 134 and 210).17 All these altarpieces (and there are many more like them) purge any sign of a ‘Middle Ages’ intervening between their present and the gospel past. It is only their triptych format that, originating in the reliquary, links them to the cult of the saints, and through it, to an entire Gothic heritage. It is telling that of the Wittenberg Altarpiece’s front panels, the Last Supper is the least iconographically remarkable and the most resistant to commentary.

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181. Michael Ostendorfer, Altarpiece, 1554–5, oil on panel (open state). Historisches Museum, Regensburg.

182. Johann Brabender, Choir-screen, 1546. Sankt-AnthoniusKapelle, Hildesheim Cathedral.

Content to convey what it obviously stands for, it refrains bureaucratically from exceeding its brief. With the notable exception of Luther, whose cameo links the tableau to the presentism of the wings and predella, its figures seem somehow arid, distanced and inert, as if Cranach had embalmed the inherited iconography for dispassionate perusal. The Apostles – each a differentiated specimen of character and affect, but all reacting to the question in the air (who is it who will betray their leader?) – form a gallery of ordinary believers, of the range of Christians ‘at one time’. My favourite is the vacant, grey-haired fellow two seats counterclockwise from Luther, who gums his bread in silence, oblivious to the passions of his neighbour to the right. These are not sacred presences magically operative in the here and now. As examples of the common man, they affirm the possibility of their succession through their ordinariness, since surely there will always be, in every community, men rather like these. Not that Cranach conceals the difference of this apostolic past. Through the roast lamb, he recollects that this supper was the Jewish pessach feast; and through the secular setting,

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which opens to a landscape view, he indicates that church did not begin with, and still is not identical to, that stone edifice building where Communion now is celebrated. This setting is replete with symbols that link bible history to the present tense of Lutheran church service. First there is the bare and leafy tree seen through the opening at the left. Aligned with the charged exchanges of Christ with Judas and the Apostle John (the one his betrayer, the other his most beloved follower), it evokes the familiar line from Psalm 1 comparing the believer to ‘a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruits in season, and whose leaf does not wither’. Next there is the central column which is also a well-known emblem of faith. It appears in isolation in Johann Brabender’s monumental choir screen in Hildesheim, built in 1546 during the city’s phased conversion to Lutheranism (illus. 182).18 Isolated under a central arch behind the altar, and surmounted by a relief scene of the Brazen Serpent, Brabender’s monumental column supports a tiny crucifixion – a sort of inversion of Cranach’s scheme, where the predella’s cross supports the scene with the central, supporting column. A column also dominates the setting of Cranach the Younger’s so-called Last Supper in Dessau; thrust forward from the centre of the room, it conjoins with Christ’s body present to the Protestant reformers (illus. 130). Finally, there is the great castle on the rock observed through the right window of the supper scene. Doubtless it recollects the metaphor of God as a ‘mighty fortress’ of Psalm 46, which was also the quintessential Lutheran hymn, composed by the Reformer himself and serving until today as his veritable anthem. Tree, column and castle, together with the panoramic landscape view, draw biblical history into the present not only by invoking a contemporary lifeworld (the nature and culture of sixteenth-century Saxony), but also by mingling with the stuff of contemporary hymn and prayer. The passage between work and world runs deeper than this, however. As Cranach depicts it, the Last Supper is both a model of and the model for receiving Christ in Communion.19 Unlike Dieric Bouts, for example, and somewhat at odds with Luther’s insistence that the altar rite be enacted visibly ‘according to Christ’s institution’, Cranach isolates not the breaking and blessing the bread, but a different moment: the feeding of Judas Iscariot. Showing the impious reception of the bread, Cranach’s panel, and with it his altarpiece as a whole, focuses less on action than on response. There is nothing new in itself about concentrating the Last Supper on Judas. By the time Leonardo completed his famous fresco in 1498, it had become the standard iconography for Italian Last Suppers; Riemenschneider’s focus was the same in 1504 (illus. 168).20 Yet Judas meant something specific to Lutherans at 1547, and the way Cranach pairs the

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arch-betrayer with Luther addressed some of the deepest concerns of the day. In his sermons and writings, Luther invokes Judas to clarify both sides of the altar rite, both its administration and its reception. Fed the morsel by Christ himself, Judas proved the doctrine of real presence. Rejecting the view of Karlstadt, Zwingli and others that the bread and wine only signified Christ, and that his presence, being but spiritual, was available only to believers through faith, Luther insisted that breaking bread – as he put it, ‘a bodily, external thing’ – communicated ‘the body of Christ’.21 For despite his exclusion from ‘spiritual communion’, Judas ate Christ corporeally. But this arch-traitor received only Christ’s body, whereas the faithful took part in his suffering as well.‘He who would suffer with Christ’, writes Luther in Against the Heavenly Prophets, ‘or partake of Christ’s suffering, must be pious, spiritual and faithful. A sinning, carnal person does not do it. But the unworthy also partake of Christ’s body, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians, “He who eats the bread unworthily, he eats damnation to himself.”’22 This was the very backbone of Lutheran Eucharistic doctrine. Introducing the Large Catechism’s exposition of the Lord’s Supper, it found its most aggressive statement in the Schmalkald Articles (written in response chiefly to Bucer), which rule that Christ’s flesh and blood are ‘given and taken not only by the pious but also by bad Christians’.23 Cranach’s Judas is a typical collection of anti-semitic stereotypes. Believing that it had been the Jews who betrayed and murdered their god, Christians had long taken Christ’s traitorous, greedy, remorseless and despairing Apostle to be representative of that people, to the point that, already by the time of St Augustine, ‘Judas’ was synonymous with ‘Jew’. ‘Judas’, wrote Pope Gelasius i in 495, ‘inherited his name from the whole Jewish people.’24 In the Middle Ages, this ancient hostility was refuelled by the Christian tactic of displacing to the Jews, who were forbidden most trades, the vilified business of money-lending, and then of persecuting them for their alleged avarice. Cranach dresses Judas in yellow, the colour that Jews – in Christian Europe, since the thirteenth century, and in Islam since about the eighth – were forced to wear to symbolize their infamy.25 More precisely, Judas wears a couleur changeant robe that shimmers from yellow to orange. This, together with his slashed collar and peacock-feathered purse, adds associations of deceit, vanity and ostentation. Judas’s garb rhymes with the fancy dress of the ex-communicant on the right panel, although it is also akin to the outfit of the wine bearer, proving that colour symbolism depends on context. As Goethe put it in his Theory of Colours, ‘By a slight and scarcely perceptible change, the beautiful impression of fire and gold is transformed into one not undeserving the epithet foul; and the colour of honour and joy reversed to that of ignominy

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and aversion. To this impression the yellow hats of bankrupts and the yellow circles on the mantles of Jews may have owed their origins.’26 Cranach reveals the antagonists through their distinctly ‘ugly’ physiognomies. In contrast to the noble features of Christ and the evangelist John, Judas’s face – ruddy and framed by red hair and red beard, all ancient stigmas – is markedly grotesque, with its sloping brow and porcine nose. (The excommunicant’s features are similarly abject.) I sense some taint also in Judas’s prominently displayed bare foot, which jars with this scene filled with expressive hands. The subtle coordination of Judas’s brutish profile with the roasted lamb’s (this becomes more obvious in the Dessau Last Supper (illus. 130) further marks and mocks the villain. Judas looks the unworthy recipient of the bread. Yet recipient he is: with his middle finger, Christ shoves the morsel between his betrayer’s eager lips. Whereas some artists visualize Judas’s damnation by depicting a fly or devil entering him with the bread, Cranach signals the consequences only obliquely, through the scorched lamb, through the knife parallel to Christ’s finger and aimed at Judas’s brow, and by the contrast Judas makes with Luther who, taking the chalice, embodies salvation through faith. In Luther’s view, Judas not only received Christ’s body truly, though unworthily. As Apostle, he also had the potential to administer that body in the very sacrament that damned him. ‘Judas is one of the twelve’, observes the Reformer in his Table Talks; he is ‘as necessary as any three Apostles’ put together, since he ‘solves countless arguments’ that hold that ministers must ‘have the holy spirit’ in order to do their job. What Judas ‘did within his office was properly done, but where he was a thief, there he sinned. Therefore one must separate his person from the office, for Christ did not order him to steal but to execute his office.’27 In a period of religious turmoil, when offices changed hands frequently and abruptly, and officers were inimical to at least some of their constituency, Luther sought to assure Christians that persons were of no consequence where divine presence was concerned, and that sacrament was not compromised even when administered by sinning, unbelieving or idolatrous priests. This was his point in insisting, in 1539, that Communion is an ‘external sign’ for church when it is adminstered ‘according to Christ’s institution’. For as he goes on to explain, once that requirement is fulfilled, one should not fret about who one’s minister is, ‘for sacrament is not of him who gives it, but of him who receives it’.28 Luther’s otherwise intensely anti-clerical On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (1520) reaches the same verdict: ‘It remains nevertheless always the same sacrament and testament, which works his work in the believer (i.e., salvation) and works the alien work (i.e., damnation) in the unbeliever.’29 Both as recipient and as minister, Judas validates the reality of Christ at the altar. In Cranach’s altarpiece,

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therefore, and in an analogy to the predella’s crucifix, he validates the absolute power of word and sacrament to represent Christ. Even in the very heart of darkness, Judas unwittingly served God, since by betraying him to his murderers he also enabled Christ’s gift of death. Judas’s ‘will’, writes Luther famously in De servo arbitrio, ‘was God’s work, which, like everything else, he brought to pass through his omnipotence’.30 Cranach balances this abyss of human impotence and sin against a counter-example. Martin Luther, too, is similarly both communicant and minister, and he too receives the cup at the very moment of Judas’s morsel. Yet whereas in Judas God effects something ‘alien’, in Luther, as representative believer, he ‘works his work’. By what right, though, does this or any person of the most recent past sit at the table of Christ? Luther appears doubly disguised. He appears both as one of the original twelve whose fellowship he posthumously enjoys, and as Junker Jörg, the identity he took in 1521 to hide from Catholic foes. Biography legitimates iconography here. His captivity in the Wartburg had been the Reformer’s own personal Passion, figured as such by himself, by his followers, and by hagiographers thereafter.31 Certainly the wine Cranach shows him receiving evokes the chalice that he returned to the lay people from its ‘Babylonian capitivity’. But it also represents the cup of the Passion from which he, in accepting his own captivity in the Wartburg, willingly drank. I suspect that the ‘mighty fortress’ in the landscape pictures the Wartburg, too, and that something specific about his condition there is reflected in the cup. That we even recognize the Reformer at the Last Supper (i.e., that the one disguise is unmasked by the other) is due to Lucas Cranach who, in 1522, made a widely disseminated portrait of Luther as Junker Jörg (illus. 32). The artist made this likeness in December 1521, when Luther entered Wittenberg in utmost secrecy. One of the Reformer’s most trusted friends (as opposed to his many betrayers, whom Luther branded as Judases),32 Cranach was also the first to receive news of Luther’s capture and concealment. In a letter dated 24 April 1521, the Reformer confided to the painter, ‘I shall submit to being “imprisoned” and hidden away, though as yet I do not know where.’33 It was also during that period that Wittenberg fell into turmoil. On the altarpiece that filled the iconoclasts’ void, then, Cranach portrays Luther exactly as he looked when he got word of their scandalous furore. The predella, in turn, recalls his return to Wittenberg and the sermons he gave reinstating church pictures like Cranach’s. I would suggest that in both panels Cranach celebrates his mutual relation to Luther. An old tradition has it that the cupbearer is a self-portrait of Cranach the Younger, who executed the altarpiece with his aged father. The younger Lucas certainly portrayed himself in this guise in the closely related Dessau Last Supper (illus. 130).34 The Wittenberg predella might have prepared

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viewers for this conceit. As I argued in chapter 14, Cranach the Elder stands portrayed at the front of the congregation, with his seeing eye aligned and paired with Luther’s pointing finger, suggesting that painting and preaching are complementary. In the Last Supper, Cranach the Younger (or is it perhaps a youthful Cranach the Elder, c. 1522, in the image of his son?) becomes the mediating link between world and work. With his back passing out of the picture toward the contemporary scene of confession, he connects the present to a recent past, while Luther connects to apostolic history. As an argument about painting, the cupbearer affirms the artist’s role in a religion of the word, perhaps recalling that images can serve to make words ‘visible’, just as sacrament does. As an argument about persons, the conceit of Cranach as Luther’s servant testifies to the personal relation between Wittenberg’s two most famous men, perhaps as it was solidified in the Wartburg. Influential both in the city and at court, the painter may have been one of Luther’s most effective protectors.35 But what exactly does Cranach mean by seating and serving the Reformer at Christ’s table? Is it that, through Luther’s agency, Communion now reaches from biblical history to a present made visible by painting? That reach would be achieved without him, however, since Judas proved precisely Christ’s presence regardless of personnel. Luther’s exemplarity pertains less to administration than to belief. It asks of the viewer, ‘How do you receive the body that is given you regardless of your or your minister’s faith?’ Cranach visualizes this revolutionary focus on getting rather than giving partly through the shape of the table. Since the fourteenth century, round tables had been an archaizing feature of Last Supper scenes, signalling an authentically historical Communion feast.36 In Cranach, roundness also figures the Apostles, and through them the contemporary congregation, as a community of equals, since at such a table no one sits better than the next.As we have seen, reference to an undifferentiated ‘heap’ is given in the predella and wings, where people mass around the cross, font and confessional as they would the altar itself. Note, too, the formal resemblance between the table and the font, with the platter echoing the water basin and the vertical surface of the stone bench rhyming with the font’s grey ornamental band. Having entered the community of baptism (so the thinking goes), and having properly confessed, individuals approach the table communally, too. In the palatine church in Schmalkaldic, a stone mensa actually contains a font – an arrangement, by the way, first tried out by Zwinglian churches (having stripped the altars, they sometimes used their covered fonts as provisional Communion tables).37 Cranach extends this democratization to the seating plan itself. He places Christ off to the side, rather than at the picture’s centre, as is traditional in Last Suppers. Along with the Judas Communion, this concentrates the

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action not on office and administration, here enacted by Christ and the cup-bearer, but on the collectivity of response. It also allows the biblical Last Supper to resemble its liturgical reenactment, since in Wittenberg, as in most Lutheran regions, ministers distributed the bread and wine from the sides of the altar (illus. 134 and 211). Thus it would seem that Cranach’s picture effectively turns the tables on the late medieval altarpiece. It does everything it can to place the entire laity before, rather than behind, the Mass. If beyond its representation of and for the community this Last Supper has a singular focus, it is St John resting his head on Christ’s chest. Interposed between Judas and the Saviour, the Evangelist models the reception of Christ’s gift of death. According to Luther, not only Christ’s body, but also his forgiveness, was given to us in the sacrament. All that remained, and all that was required of us, was that we believe this to be true. For both the body and forgiveness arrive in the form of a verbal promise that cannot be verified by reason or experience but must simply be taken on faith. In John, that simple but momentous step has been made, enabling him alone to shut his eyes. The painting and with it the image wars that gave it space stands resolved in this blindness. Directly above the elder Cranach as portrayed on the predella, and across from Cranach’s cup-bearing son, John shows that what painting shows is ultimately invisible. In a tract of 1596 on Eucharistic doctrine, Caspar Peucer reports that Melanchthon often recounted an argument he had witnessed between Dürer and his patrician friend, Willibald Pirckheimer. Infuriated by the painter’s radical views on the Last Supper, Pirckheimer (a defender of the Church) exclaimed, ‘No, that cannot be painted!’ – to which Dürer replied, ‘But that of which you speak lets itself neither be spoken nor even thought.’38 Lauding Dürer’s awareness, Melanchthon contrasted him to a Catholic theologian who ‘painted transubstantiation with chalk on a panel’. The story, of course, may be apocryphal. Although he was Melanchthon’s sonin-law, household manager, personal physician and the long-time editor of his letters and writings, Peucer was also imprisoned from 1574 until 1586 for his spiritualist (or, as his enemies would have it, ‘crypto-Calvinist’) understanding of Communion. Yet the point of the anecdote applies to Lutheran altarpieces generally: what concerns them intentionally escapes them. Cranach’s altarpiece assures us that Christ’s body, as well as his forgiveness, is given to us, and that, in hearing his word preached, we partake of his suffering on the cross. But whether or not we believe this will remain hidden in the black box of our response. Meanwhile, though, the painting interposes between the past and the present another past, one virtually contemporary with the painting’s original exhibition but not quite. In the portrait of Wittenberg’s recently

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deceased preacher, and of the parishioners and ministers who have survived him, Cranach inserts a visible church – or ‘church body’ – between Christ’s different presences in history and in sacrament. Luther’s first biographer Johannes Mathesius understood the Reformer as the singular event of postbiblical history.39 Cyriakus Spangenberg, too, termed him ‘our last Apostle’ and ‘the greatest and highest prophet that the world ever had since the time of the Apostles’.40 And Flacius Illyricus, railing against religious compromise, lamented that through Luther ‘our era’ resembled ‘the apostolic era’, but that after his death ‘we have, as it were, stepped into the second century of the gospel’, when heresies began to form.41 Even if he seems to portray church as only that which is the case, even if he therefore withholds from his portrayal its ultimate end, Cranach elevates one historical practitioner and his flock to the status of model believers.

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21 Ministry

Portraiture is Cranach’s chief resource. Through the jarring intervention of the familiar face, he makes redundancy urgent, as if, in Wittenberg in 1547, routine itself had its wondrous beginning. And how much more charismatic must those faces have seemed back then, with Melanchthon and Bugenhagen still officiating in the City Church, and many other likenesses attached still to known, living persons. Older parishioners beholding their effigies above the altar rite must have recalled their awe at having first stepped up in person to that table, amidst the turmoil that gave the panels space. To a degree, the retable normalizes the iconoclasts’ break and entry into the clerical domain. Portrayed within a fictive choir on panels that physically span the actual choir, and shown performing what true religion requires, the laity no longer are represented by the church but themselves are church. Pictorial representation thus publicizes the new condition of social representation where persons stand for themselves. From the moment of their display, however, those faces also reverse the iconoclastic gesture, and not only (or primarily) by being pictures, but by introducing into unmediated religion this one particular set of persons whose exemplarity alone endures. For while the image-breakers made room for Wittenberg’s first evangelical congregation publically to confess its faith, that space, at once architectural and ideological, remains occupied to this day. What sort of emissaries do Cranach’s altar panels portray, those faces still uncannily out of place? In a letter of 1542 to Nikolaus von Amsdorf, Luther addressed the matter of representation: The church has to appear in the world. But it can only appear in a disguise, in a person, in a concealment, in an encasement, and in any old garb, so that one can hear, see, and touch it, otherwise it could never be found. But such disguises are a husband – someone who stands in public or in domestic life – John, Peter, Luther, Amsdorf,


whereas none of these really represents [darstellt] church, which is neither man nor woman, Jew or Greek, but alone Christ.1 The recipient of this counsel was personally concerned with how or whether an individual could represent the church. In 1541 following the death of the bishop of Naumburg, the Elector of Saxony (Johann Friedrich) pushed through, against the will of the cathedral chapter, an evangelical successor in the person of Amsdorf, up until then church superintendent of Magdeburg.2 To Amsdorf would fall spiritual duties (consisting now of preaching, ordination, visitations, installing pastors and convening synods) as well as certain secular rights and obligations attached to the diocese. Wittenberg’s theologians had persuaded Johann Friedrich to keep a bishop in Naumburg, rather than absorbing the office into princely administration, as had been the elector’s first design. They had nominated Prince Georg iii of Anhalt, Cathedral Dean of Magdeburg, for the office, but Johann Friedrich preferred the less-powerful Amsdorf, since in his view bishops were nothing more than glorified superintendents. On 20 January 1542, before the elector, his councillors, and the cathedral’s entire clergy, Amsdorf was made Bishop of Naumburg by three superintendents from neighbouring provinces. Variously termed a consecration, ordination or installation, this rite consciously followed the Roman Church’s ritual of episcopal ordination, since Lutheranism, imagining itself as a reformist movement within a universal church, sought to retain the ancient episcopal structure.3 (In Cranach’s predella, Luther wears a red-collared shirt, evocative of a cardinal’s robe, hinting perhaps at his status as supreme bishop of the true church.)4 Once instated, however, Amsdorf found his office diminished and ambiguous, and it was this ministerial crisis that Luther’s letter addressed. In the Reformer’s view, individuals can represent groups, as a husband stands for his household. And in public life (politicus), ministers both apostolic (John, Peter) and present (Luther, Amsdorf) stand for their congregation. But in the case of the church, no one but Christ represents (darstellt) another, in the sense of acting on their behalf, of making them present by proxy.5 Against Rome, which based its authority precisely on its power to represent Christ personally through its officers – the bishops and priests – Luther discerns church only in the personal, hidden, and inner encounter of the believer with Christ. Accorded the status of priests, but representing only themselves, individuals confront god individually, in their ‘own person’, and in a concealment that neither persons nor institutions can dispel. This had been the message of the first words of Luther’s Invocavit sermons delivered to a rebellious Wittenberg in 1522: ‘The summons of death comes to us all, and no one can die for another . . . I will not be with you then, nor you with me.’6

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If faith and salvation are private, and if the public emissaries who claim to represent us are cloaks and concealments, what purpose is served by Cranach’s group portrait? Is it that the church ‘has to appear in the world . . . otherwise it could not be found’, and therefore that the altarpiece gathers clues of the church that are also not-church, with the negation represented variously by the unlocalized crucifix, by Cranach’s crude painting, and by scenes that redundantly display what happens anyway? To bring this question into greater focus, I turn now to another painting where the social work of portraiture stands more openly exposed. In a panel derived from the Wittenberg Altarpiece, portraiture is implicated in two other representational modes: divine representation in sacrament and personal representation in ministry and rule. Again, the story is one of disenchantment, but not quite of the kind rehearsed thus far, where minds are purified from facts. Disenchantment occurs also in a parallel process which distills, on the one hand, individual subjects extricated from the pluralizing ties of blood, territory and profession, and, on the other hand, (‘subjugating’ those subjects) the modern state as a collective constituted and perpetuated by the social desire of its members.7 Reformation portraiture represents persons in order to demand what persons ought to do. By reduplicating what is done by means of a picture of what ought to be accomplished – which is to say, by personifying the general rule underlying the specific practice – portraiture gives orders and establishes order, positioning bodies in a social space. Cranach the Younger completed his Memorial to Joachim of Anhalt in 1565, four year after the prince’s death (illus. 130).8 Joachim appears in the left foreground in the typical kneeling pose of Lutheran epitaph portraits. Like its more powerful neighbours, the two Saxonies, Anhalt was a divided principality, with one line of the ruling house resident in Köthen and the other, in Dessau, northwest of Wittenberg.9 Its split government and small size, which forced it to depend on alliances with stronger states for survival, made Anhalt a flashpoint of confessional struggle throughout the sixteenth century. Under Prince Wolfgang (portrayed in the Memorial’s background, far left), the Köthen portion embraced Protestantism early, partly due to family ties to the ruling house of Electoral Saxony. A signatory of the Augsburg Confession, Wolfgang secularized Church properties in his realm, establishing evangelical schools and hospitals with the proceeds. The Dessau portion had closer links to Ducal Saxony which, under Duke Georg, remained staunchly Catholic. It was only after the death in 1530 of Duke Georg’s cousin Margaret, who had ruled Anhalt-Dessau since her husband’s passing in 1516, that the region edged towards the evangelical camp. Margaret was succeeded by her sons, Johann, Georg and Joachim. Born in 1504, 1507 and 1509, respectively, these princes governed the territory jointly,

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183. Detail of signet ring, illus. 130.

with Georg (as I will describe) also holding episcopal offices. Schooled by the Wittenberg-trained tutor Georg Helt, and personally counselled by Luther, Joachim and Georg became part of the Reformer’s inner circle, bringing with them their more conservative elder brother Johann. In 1532 through Luther’s efforts, Dessau received its first evangelical court preacher, and in 1532 the Lord’s Supper was celebrated in evangelical fashion for the first time. Indeed, from 1530 no territory aside from his own Electoral Saxony received more attention from Luther than did Anhalt-Dessau. In the Memorial’s foreground, opposite Prince Joachim, Cranach the Younger has portrayed himself as cup-bearer. We can be sure that this is the painter, since his signet ring bears the winged dragon of the Cranach coatof-arms (illus. 183). Doubling as the picture’s signature, this ring touches the wine glass that the artist passes to the table, over a thick parapet that sets off the supper scene like a picture within the picture. (As in the Weimar Altarpiece, Christ’s blood – here in its sacramental form – touches both the artist and his signature: illus. 87 and 135). Holding the wine as if both to serve it and to toast the picture he has painted, Cranach gazes toward the centre of the interior tableau, where Christ himself gives the morsel to Judas. The German word for ‘pour’ is schenken, which also means ‘to give’, hence Luther’s translation of Nehemiah 1:11, ‘For I was the king’s cupbearer [Schenke].’ Cranach as Schenke, one could conclude, presents Christ both in the wine and through his labour and art. This echoes old notions of donation: one gives something so that God reciprocates, according to a rationale detested by Protestants. Yet passing the glass directly to Christ’s table, Cranach celebrates the evangelical immediacy: after centuries of its ‘Babylonian captivity’ by the Church,10 the Eucharistic cup was offered to

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the laity in Communion. Note how the wine-filled glass metamorphoses, as it were, into the gold chalice before Christ. In the space in between, above the pointed finger of the glass’s recipient and below Melanchthon’s praying hands, stands a silver cup oddly filled and splattered with a brown sauce. Presumably intended for the roast lamb, it evokes the ‘blood’ portion of the paschal feast, so that the present of liturgy – embodied by Cranach – links not only to the Gospel past, Christ’s Last Supper, but also to that past’s own earlier ‘type’: the burnt sacrificial offering of Jewish ritual. In the picture, this immediacy of a religion without intervening hierarchies climaxes in the scene at the table where the principal reformers of Dessau’s evangelical faith sit at supper, and in conversation, with Christ. True, these men, all deceased by 1565, constituted the top of a new hierarchy not only for having defined and supervised religious immediacy, but also through their personal renown, which was made possible by portrait likenesses such as appear here. The faces of Luther, Melanchthon and Bugenhagen, familiar from the Wittenberg Altarpiece, seem cut and pasted into the scene.11 And to the picture’s first audience, the others would have been recognizable, as well. At the left, Caspar Cruciger, a student of Georg Helt and one of Melanchthon’s most trusted allies, converses with the theologian and tireless church administrator Justus Jonas, who gestures toward his heart. Beyond Bugenhagen and Luther, and touching Christ’s body with his hands, sits Prince Georg, Joachim’s brother. After Melanchthon, who, isolated by the background door, punctuates the group, sit men specifically loyal to him: Johann Forster, Johann Pfeiffinger, Georg Major, Bartholomeus Bernhardi.12 The bearded man taking the glass from Cranach remains unidentified. In an excursus on images, Hans-Georg Gadamer censured paintings in which an artist’s model (the person who posed for the picture) is recognizable as a specific individual. When it is fashioned for aesthetic experience, art seeks to shape a self-enclosed world adequate to the autonomous, experiencing subject, and the appearance of ‘untransformed material’, as when the model looks like a portrait, disrupts that experiential bracketing or epoche¯ (in Edmund Husserl’s word): ‘The model is a disappearing schema’ that should vanish into the totality of the represented world.13 Although Cranach would have found such aesthetic strictures strange, his portraits were doubtless intended to show rather than hide the copula between different worlds. At one level, the disjunctive character of the Reformers’ faces is a by-product of artistic procedure: these likenesses were indeed lifted from elsewhere, having been copied from a repertoire of standardized effigies executed mainly by the Cranachs, whose distinctive linear style (as noted earlier) served the purpose of mechanical transfer (illus. 119).14 Tokens of a currency of painted and printed Reformers’

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portraits that published the evangelical faith, these faces were engineered to look familiar, and therefore to jar with the Dessau panel’s sacred scene. At another level, the faces look out of place because of their blank expressions. Inserted into the narrative, and attached to bodies making gestures of speech, prayer, conviction and feeling, these likenesses announce in their vacant features that Christ is with them at the table not in the manner of a visionary epiphany, but differently: as a mystery that cannot really be pictured but occurs inwardly, through the word proclaimed and received. This is even true for the man closest to Christ, Prince Georg, called ‘the God-Blessed’, who seems almost to touch Christ’s shoulder blindly, as if groping for a deus absconditus he believes to be there.15 Of course, real but invisible presence is what Christ instituted at the moment to which Reformers seem to revert, or which they perfectly re-present. In a never past past, Christ took bread, blessed and broke it, and said, in the sentence which, simultaneously deixis, fiat and command, has haunted all Christian notions of representation: ‘Take, eat: this is my body.’ Lutherans believed, and waged war defending this belief, that Christ’s words were efficacious, and that bread and wine taken at Communion truly were Christ’s flesh and blood. As in the Wittenberg Altarpiece, Judas’s morsel – here indicated by Luther himself – affirms this doctrine by indicating that the bread is Christ regardless of its recipient’s faith.16 And again, the arch-betrayer’s features, dress and money bag, as well as the likeness between his profile and the slaughtered lamb’s, associates him with the Jews, signalling that Communion makes outcasts as well as communities. Historians have pinned names to this grotesque physiognomy within the panel’s portrait gallery. Gerhard Pfeiffer identified the face of Friedrich Staphylus, a Protestant who reverted to Catholicism and argued the Church’s case at the colloquy at Worms (1557).17 Called ‘Jude Iscarioth’ by the chief architect of Lutheran unity, Jakob Andreae, Staphylus was blamed for divulging Protestant ‘secrets, especially the divisions they have among themselves’.18 Cranach thus would have inserted into the scene of confessional ‘concord’ (as in the 1557 Formula of Concord and the definitive Book of Concord that Andreae co-drafted in 1580) a representative arch-enemy, posing him as an unworthy communicant opposite Melanchthon, the conciliator. An older tradition, however, recognizes in Judas the leader of the Gnesio-Lutherans, Matthias Flacius Illyricus, who attacked Melanchthon’s compromises as being un-Lutheran and cryptoCatholic.19 Not mentioned by Pfeiffer, this identification accords better with Judas’s face in the picture, which resembles Staphylus only in the dark beard but looks more like known portraits of Flacius; Tobias Stimmer’s 1577 woodcut emphasizes the sitter’s hooked nose, forked beard and bony facial structure (illus. 184).20 Although Pfeiffer’s hypothesis cannot be ruled out, and its idea of a contrast between Protestant unity and a Catholic enemy

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184. Tobias Stimmer, Matthias Flacius Illyricus, 1577, woodcut.

within fits the historical period, I lean toward the older identification, since it draws on tensions specific to Anhalt, between the Philippists (those loyal to Melanchthon and supportive of his religious compromises during the Leipzig Interim) and the Gnesio-Lutherans. I will add new support to the old identification. Cranach made the Memorial for the Castle Church of St Mary in Dessau. Completed in 1554, after nearly fifty years of construction, this brick ‘hall

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church’, with nave and aisles of equal height, served both the parish and the court. Joachim’s successor, Prince Joachim Ernst, who commissioned Cranach’s panel, constructed a long, vaulted passageway from the first floor of the northeast wing of the castle, through various outbuildings, to a room in the upper storey of the Castle Church’s south transept – presumably the original piano nobile.21 No records exist of the original placement of Cranach’s panel itself, however. And as for archaeological evidence, the church saw several doctrinally motivated refurbishments between 1565 and 1945, when Allied bombers levelled the building.22 The picture itself survived the war in Gernrode, after which it was brought to the parish church of Mildensee-Dessau, near Schloss Mosigkau; since 1992, it has been hanging in the south gallery of the rebuilt Church of St John in Dessau, a few blocks from St Mary’s ruins, now turned into a museum. Most scholars term the painting an altarpiece.23 Although in my view incorrect, the appellation is plausible given how frequently Last Suppers ornament Lutheran retables, and given the custom, widespread by the late the sixteenth-century, of backing Lutheran altars with epitaphs of deceased individuals according to the old idea that the Communion table was also a sepulchre of Christ. Cranach the Younger’s Crucifixion Altarpiece of 1571 in the palace church of Augustusburg, with its group portrait of Elector Augustus and his family, is but one of scores of such ensembles (illus. 102). More importantly, however, the picture descends from Cranach’s altarpiece in Wittenberg, and much that makes the latter serve as an

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left 185. Hans Kreutter, Study for Memorial for Joachim of Anhalt, 1564, pen and ink drawing. Staatliche Museum, Schwerin (Kupferstichkabinett). right 186. Lucas Cranach the Younger, Study for Memorial for Joachim of Anhalt, 1564, pen and ink drawing. Staatliche Museum, Schwerin (Kupferstichkabinett).

altarpiece reappears in the Dessau picture as well. A project sketch makes the relation even clearer (illus. 185).24 Dated 1564 and bearing the initials of Cranach’s pupil and assistant, Hans Kreutter, the sheet places Christ at the right, distributing the morsel to a Judas almost lifted from the Wittenberg picture (note how Judas’s left foot punctuates the space between the two stone benches). A second sheet attributed to Cranach himself brings Christ nearer the centre (illus. 186). Shifting Judas caused the artist greater difficulty. The pen outline keeps him at the far left, stretching dramatically to eat the morsel, while a second contour executed in wash moves him closer to Christ, to the spot he occupies in the painting. Both sketches indicate portrait likenesses which are shifted about to suit Christ’s new position. In the finished Memorial, Cranach condenses and displaces elements of his father’s ensemble of 1547. He locates the table fully within secular space, in a richly ornamented Renaissance room such as existed in the princely residence next door, and he surrounds this not with an urban citizenry, as in Wittenberg, but with members of the ruling house. Indeed the depicted interior agrees broadly in scale, shape, window placement and internal columniation with the festive dining hall – or Rittersaal – known from plans.25 Hanging in a space physically and institutionally attached to the Dessau castle, Cranach’s panel projects the court into the church and merges the ceremonial meals of both. Also, by placing portraits of the Anhalt princes at the front and rear of the scene (the standing figures clustered in the far left corner are, left to right, Wolfgang, Johann ii, Joachim Ernst and Bernhard), the picture announces that what takes place between them happens on their territory, and therefore occurs under their sword or ‘regiment’, as Luther called it in his much-contested doctrine of the ‘two kingdoms’.26 Within this jurisdiction of armed, secular rule, between the high parapet and the massive, and patently symbolic column, the Reformers gather as Christ’s Apostles. It is easy to discern the thought behind the conceit: restorers of apostolic purity through their adherence to God’s word, the Reformers are the Apostles’ legitimate heirs. The idea motivated Cranach’s cameo of Luther in Wittenberg (illus. 127), and it inspired numerous later works. The painted predella of a carved Crucifixion altarpiece in Rheinsberg, dated 1575, shows a Last Supper where the Apostles, all portraits of the principal Reformers, have haloes (illus. 187).27 Along these lines, Göding’s Epitaph of Hieronymus Mencel likens Luther’s ministry (and death) with Christ’s, while equating Eisleben’s pastors with the Apostles (illus. 165).28 The Roman Church had based its authority on the unbroken succession from Christ through his Apostles to the bishops.29 Each link of this chain was a flesh and blood individual and a juridical person: Christ’s representative to the people. Luther abolished this idea of representation. Declaring that ‘all Christians

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187. Anonymous, Crucifixion Altarpiece, 1576, polychromed wood. Stadtkirche St Laurentius, Rheinsberg.

are of a priestly estate’,30 he located apostolicity not in consecrated individuals but in the faith that is individually confessed. By what right, then, do the Reformers and their princely protectors stand portrayed before the Dessau citizenry, who also used the church? What role could pictorial or juridical representation play in a religion without representatives, where everything of importance was unmediated, inner, private? Luther never adequately resolved such questions for his confession. On the one hand, he affirmed that the call to the office of ministry could come

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188. I. I. Kleinschmitt after I. I. Lieffkoop, ‘Portrait of the Pious Beata Sturm’, title-page engraving from Georg Konrad Rieger, Die Würtembergische Tabea, 3rd edn (Stuttgart: Metzler and Eckhardt, 1737).

from above, as is did for St Paul. On the other hand, for the sake of order (‘otherwise, there might be a shameful confusion’),31 and against sectarian ‘enthusiasts’ who gathered a small group by themselves, he held that the call usually comes from the community, either directly, or through their church, or, if need be, through a territorial ruler. Of course, people tended to attribute the calling to the person called. Portraits of ministers, which filled the walls of evangelical churches, encouraged this by displaying faces that seemed to look pious. Believers meditated on the spectacle of an exemplary believer’s inner conviction, with the twist that belief was invisible.32 A titlepage engraving of 1737 showing the famously devout Beata Sturm (illus. 188), dubbed the Tabea of Württemberg, bears this admonition: Before the portrait of pious Sturm That little fills our eyes, One should not stand for very long: The real work inside lies.33 Critics nevertheless dwelled on the portrait’s histrionics – the handwringing, beatific smile, upturned eyes – which made its subject an emblem

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of moronic hypocrisy.34 ‘To cough piously, to sigh piously, to try to speak, walk and look piously’, wrote the Stuttgart schoolmaster Immanuel Kolb,‘all this makes us devout folk seem ridiculous to the world.’35 If before the Reformation priests represented the laity to Christ at the altar, they were not ordinarily also represented on the altarpieces they faced. By a strange logic of development, Lutherans replaced the saints’ icons with effigies of themselves. In Theodor Fontane’s first masterpiece, Schach von Wuthenow (1883), a cavalry officer recalls the dilemma that such idealized effigies posed within the quotidian space of a church: My earliest memories are of sitting in our village church and of my old father beside me joining in the singing of every verse from the hymnbook. And to the left of the altar, there was our Martin Luther in a full-length portrait on the wall, the Bible cradled in his arm, his right hand placed on top, a picture throbbing with life, and looking across at me. I must say that on many a Sunday those sedate, manly features would preach more effectively and movingly to me than that old Kluckhohn of ours who, true enough, had the same high cheekbones and the same white bands as the Reformer, but nothing else.36 I discussed earlier how, as early as 1522, Catholics termed such portraits idols. In the later sixteenth century, the Lutheran impulse visually to publish exemplary piety engendered the so-called epitaph altarpiece. Displaying behind the altar the likeness, arms and mottos of eminent local individuals – most usually rulers – these ensembles seem consciously to evoke and revise late medieval spectacles of pious donation. Whereas donor portraits express the idea that prayer and masses said on behalf of the dead can shorten their stay in purgatory, evangelical epitaph portraits address only the living, offering them in the person of the deceased a representative confession of faith. And in the case of rulers’ epitaphs, this confession constitutes the legally binding norm for the living, the faith they themselves must also confess. In a sense more dramatically than Catholics, Lutherans lived in the shadows of their predecessors. Just before 1600, the fifteenth-century choir stalls of Braunschweig’s Church of the Holy Brethren were outfitted with a cycle of forty-six full-length portraits (illus. 189). Starting with the Apostles, and also including the martyrs, confessors and fathers of the medieval church, the series culminates in pictures of the Reformers, with Braunschweig’s first evangelical ministers shown in the final stalls. Taking their place in these representative seats, as visible successors to the men celebrated behind them, future churchmen would know that the canon of exempla was complete. Like the apostolic age, the Reformation itself was history.37

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189. Anonymous, Choir-stalls with portraits of reformers, c. 1590, oil on panels. Brüdernkirche, Braunschweig, photo pre-1945.

In Lutheran portraiture,the line between exemplification and hagiography is often blurry. In panels attributed to the Weimar painter Veit Thim and his circle, three likenesses of Luther – all copied from well-known Cranach originals – stand in the sacral format of the triptych, such as one sees in earlier altarpieces featuring episodes of a saint’s life (illus. 190).38 The chronicle below, however, written in doggerel and outlining Luther’s life in memorable dates and events, suggest a function less in the church than in a school. The muchdamaged panels on the outer wings display portrait medallions, probably of Melanchthon and Bugenhagen.39 Dated 1572, the triptych was produced in the midst of the dispute between Philippists and Gnesio-Lutherans over who preserved Luther’s legacy. Displayed in the City Church of Ernestine Weimar, in the sacristy beside Cranach’s great altarpiece there, Thim’s panels reflect a general tendency during this period to sanctify the person of Luther as supreme authority and example in all matters of faith, politics and dogma.40

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Pictures like this document the routinization of charisma. Although the Reformation was launched by exceptional individuals, for the continuance of community, and in the interests of an administrative staff, charisma was rationalized into everyday authority. Thus the Reformers were elevated to examples precisely when their example no longer held. Their portraits, advertising singularity, were weapons in a war of bureaucratic succession, in which legitimacy was based on conformity. Under the pressures of Catholic reconquests after the Peace of Augsburg (1555), and threatened internally first by factionalism within Lutheranism and then by resurgent German Calvinism, evangelical communities endeavoured to define – and were themselves defined by – the specificity of their faith, which they professed, published, regulated and propagated through a set canon of what are termed ‘confessional texts’.41 The core of this canon was the Augsburg Confession plus Luther’s two catechisms. Fixed in 1580, in the so-called Book of Concord assembled to celebrate fifty years of the Augsburg Confession, this canon was binding for the Lutheran church, constituting the norm for understanding the scriptural norm: the Bible was still ‘its own interpreter’, but determining which bits of it were key and how required a secondary authority. Understood to originate in, and address, a specific context, this canon was –

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190. Veit Thim, Luther Triptych, 1572, oil on panels (open state). Stadtkirche, Weimar.

and still is – nonetheless ‘binding’, and since it nowhere states its sell-by date, its historical contingency remains purely theoretical. For example, ordinands of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Bavaria still pledge ‘to preach purely and clearly the Gospel as given in the Holy Scripture and witnessed to by the confession of our Evangelical Lutheran church’.42 Since the confession teaches how to preach gospel, and in crucial cases also what the gospel says (e.g.,‘that we have a gracious God, not by our own merits but by the merit of Christ, when we believe this’), it becomes notoriously difficult to separate it from the gospel. In other words, the act of confession was authorized to profess what individuals ought individually to believe, and to do so for a confession whose central conviction was that salvation came sola fides, that is, by way of belief occurring in the individual (‘when we believe this’). Although they celebrated and dictated inner, subjective conviction, Lutheran confessional texts were made and performed as quintessentially collective enunciations: as speech acts whose performance defined the collective. I observed this earlier in evangelical pedagogy, which represented belief ‘in profile’ (in Dan Sperber’s words) through rote recitation of the Small Catechism. As an antidote to triumphalist accounts of the Reformation – such as Leopold Ranke’s – that equate Protestantism with the development of the German nation, and that, focusing on the early sixteenth century, ignore the coequal developments of later Lutheran, Calvinist and Catholic reformations, historians have coined the word ‘confessionalization’ to describe this enlargement of the very idea of confession: out of the term for a personal act of professing faith, confession became, as early as 1530, the name for the organization of confessors – a distinct church, if you will.43 Enunciated for all people in a community, and demanding their adherence to its doctrines and religious and moral styles, confessional texts were a chief medium by which persons became subjects of a government, and by which communities became subordinate to administrative centres. As Gerhard Oestreich and others have demonstrated, confessionalization (Lutheran, Catholic and Calvinist), through its regulating instruments of ordinance, surveillance and discipline, was crucial to the rise of the modern absolutist state.44 For it was finally the state, in the person of the ruler, who confessed and whose subjects were obliged to follow that confession, according to the principle established at the Peace of Augsburg: ‘whose the rule, his the religion’ (cuius regio, eius religio).45 Cranach’s altarpieces in Wittenberg and Weimar, the Dessau Memorial, Veit Thim’s Luther triptych, and indeed most of the material I have discussed are visual equivalents of confessional texts. By this I mean not only that they picture the beliefs and practices set forth by the confessions, or that they were utilized in the confessional contexts of preaching, catechism and

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the school. These images reiterate the subjectifying mechanisms of confession. On the one hand, they indicate, by means of portrait likenesses, that faith is a decision, an inner conviction individually confessed by empirical persons in their historical and biographical specificity. On the other hand, these likenesses, like the confessions their prototypes once made, organize the surrounding spectacle of obedience to a collective. And like confessional texts, such images straddle the fault line within Lutheranism – and indeed within the modern constitution – between the individual and the social. Nowhere was this spirit of confession more evident than in Anhalt, where, for half a century, rival camps vied with one another for acceptance by the ruling princes. Georg of Anhalt, who ruled his lands jointly with Joachim, played a key role. In 1548, collaboratively with Melanchthon, he drafted the Leipzig Interim through which Albertine Saxony sought compromise with the Catholics.46 Although claiming to concede only on external matters – i.e., on ‘adiaphora’ – the Interim spurred armed revolt by the Gnesio-Lutherans, who, emerging precisely at this point, professed a return to Luther’s original intentions. Gnesio-Lutherans challenged Georg’s ‘Philippist’ camp over what and who should decide the proper representation and succession of Luther’s ministry. Certainly Cranach’s Dessau panel portrays quite specific heirs, for besides Luther and Justus Jonas, nearly all the Reformers pictured were Philippists and drafters of the Interim. And while Cranach seats Georg between Christ and Luther, he places Melanchthon on Christ’s other side, and sets before him the whole drama of glass and chalice, emphasizing thereby the apostolicity of Philippist theology. What legitimates all these men, however, is their appearance under the aegis of the princes. For as Georg himself maintained, the secular ruler, as principal member of the church, ultimately decided church ‘regiment’ and succession.47 It is not surprising that Georg held these views since he was the only princely cleric in Europe to retain his church office when it was converted into an evangelical ministry. With the titles of Prince of Anhalt, Count of Ascania, Lord of Zerbst and Bernburg, Cathedral Dean of Magdeburg and Meissen, and Senior of the Foundation Church of Merseburg, Georg personified the union of sacred and secular authority. His spiritual office was itself one of the signal experiments in Protestant church organization. While Luther affirmed that the church has ministers, the only post he properly defined was that of the pastor. Termed episcopi, and ordained in rites modelled after the Roman Church’s consecration of bishops, pastors were required to preach the word and administer the sacrament to their congregation. Yet Luther also held that there should be an office that, encompassing the congregations, could ensure the uniformity of

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preaching and indicate the universality of church. In Wittenberg in the late 1520s, this function fell to the church ‘visitors’ who, selected by the secular government, examined the practices in the outlying parishes. On the model of these provisional inspectors, Luther devised the permanent supervisory office of ‘superintendent’, named thus to distinguish its occupants from the Roman Church’s ‘bishops’, who often thwarted his reforms. Episcopacies sometimes fell vacant, and on a few of these occasions (as with Amsdorf in Naumburg) Luther tried to install an evangelical minister. The most ambitious of these attempts was the Reformer’s ordination, on 2 August, 1545, of Georg of Anhalt as ‘bishop coadjutor’ at the new, evangelical diocese of Merseburg.48 The modifying ‘coadjutor’, used interchangibly with ‘vicarius’ and ‘administrator’, signalled Georg’s status as a sort of ‘vicebishop’ answering to the administration that installed him. Entrusted only with spiritual matters, rather than with the secular duties that also traditionally fell to bishops, Georg was also subordinate to Merseburg’s ruler, Prince August of Saxony, to whom – by virtue of his birth and status – the office of bishop would rightfully have passed. Sharing an episcopal office with a neighbouring prince, and preaching often in the territories he himself ruled, Georg was the embodiment of the dictum ‘whose the rule, his the religion’. In Cranach’s painting, Georg’s faith is the centre, and his rule, the periphery, of the religion of the state. A bishop-prince, he sits closest to Christ, wearing the red garb suggestive of high ecclesiastical office, and striking somewhat the pose of Christ’s favourite Apostle, John the Evangelist. Occurring just above Judas’s Communion, this embrace is the picture’s other focus, with Georg looking almost as if he tries to hold Christ back from administering the traitor’s morsel. Meanwhile, around the table, the ministers sit in concord with each other and with their predecessors, the Apostles. Together they constitute a ‘territorial church’ which the secular rulers, posed as servants but bearing arms, nourish and defend. In territories under their domain, Lutheran princes were entitled to demand Mass and to wear swords during services. Commanding pastors as they would their servants, they treated churches as if they were their palatine chapels, packing them with their tombs, epitaphs, coats of arms and flags, and with confessional pictures like Cranach’s. True, Catholics may have ranked them as traitors to Christ, yet as the Memorial pictures them, the princes and ministers show themselves united against factionalists within their territory, personified by the figure Judas. In Germany in 1565, the conditions of religious peace were of paramount concern.49 The Reformation had unfolded as a succession of conflicts between those who sought to cleanse church of what they took to be its corruptions, and those who regarded the purifiers as the last in a long line of

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heretics. Each regarded the other as an absolute foe, yet neither was capable of final victory, and so Protestants and Catholics carried their wars into the arena of secular law. Under the juridical umbrella of a ‘right of resistance’ to a heretical pope, the signatories of the Augsburg Confession legalized their faith simply by having the emperor accept the document from them. Even though Charles v, siding with the Catholic majority, rejected everything the Confession said, and even though he insisted on the duty of obedience, the return of church property and territorial peace, the Protestants won a sort of victory. They had filed their petition, and were legally able to forestall an ultimate verdict on their cause (since a dispute as to who could properly reach a verdict was built into their petition). Thus they achieved a condition of effective tolerance between mutually exclusive and increasingly intolerant entities. Once legal procedure – backed by military might – turned ideological into territorial divisions, the law itself was interpreted locally, according to each region’s confession. The ancient tension between the empire and the estates was converted into a division between confessions. After 1530, the Schmalkaldic League sought to realize the Protestants’ right of resistance; its defeat at Mühlberg led to the Augsburg Interim (1548), a sort of compulsory confession for the Protestants, forcing them to renounce most of their reforms. The Interim was perhaps the last great expression of the idea of sacred empire, and thus the swan song of the medieval settlement of church and state. However, the fact that the Interim made any compromises, and that it reached these outside the Church’s jurisdiction, marked the fatal break with that idea. For its part, the papacy regarded it as an illegal assumption of its supreme religious prerogative. Compromise enabled the formulators of the Protestant counter-interim – i.e., the ‘Leipzig Interim’drafted by Melanchthon and Prince Georg – to avoid utter defeat on the legality that since certain things remained unsettled, final settlement had to wait.When the warring factions reconvened in Augsburg in 1555, the peace achieved was secular and temporary or ‘interimistic’: secular, because the confessions remained at war, each entitled to call for the other’s annihilation; and ‘interimistic’, because neither party would have accepted the secularization of law upon which the peace was based, and both awaited their church’s universal victory. Yet mutual enmity also made the delay perpetual, shaping a new settlement between religion and law. On the one hand, in relations among territories, religious peace secularized law and autonomized politics, which now operated in a sphere from which church affairs were absolutely, if temporarily, subtracted.50 One of the most potent expressions of this was the freedom granted to Christians to choose one or another confession. In practice limited to the choice between leaving a territory or confessing the local faith, this liberty nonetheless contradicted both canon law, which

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deemed dissent heretical, and Protestant doctrine, which held that there is no Christian freedom in matters of faith. Another expression of the secularization of law was the principle, present since the Speyer Protestation (1529), and articulated most clearly in the Peace of Westphalia (1648), that every confession speaks its confession itself itio in partes.51 The confessions thus achieved legal parity despite what they confessed, which in both cases remained not local but absolute. On the other hand, within each territory, law became more confessionalized, since citizenship itself was based on faith. This posed special problems for Protestants. The Peace of Augsburg gave legal parity only to two groups: Catholics and adherents of the Augsburg Confession. Calvinists who disputed central doctrines of the text of 1530, as well as Lutherans construing the Confession differently than did their rulers, were unprotected by the conditions of peace, and risked prosecution as heretics. And since, as I noted earlier, the confessions actively sought each other’s extinction, the spectacle of discord among Lutherans delighted Catholics, who could deem such conflict to be proof of heresy. Cranach’s tableau of theological concord, and of faith confessed under the aegis of secular rule, fits perfectly the historical circumstances for which it was made. The Lord’s Supper itself had long articulated peace within Christian communities. Reconciling God and man, it also restored amity among men, hence the pax that concludes the Catholic Mass.Yet the ritual of forgiving one’s enemies caused Communion to be a public site of enmity, in which antagonists (people in legal disputes, say, or at odds with their wives, husbands, pastor, etc.) refused on principle to communicate, sometimes for decades.52 In villages of Lutheran Württemberg, the imperative to communicate was pursued with exceptional vigour. A sign of social amity and a test of obedience to the state, the altar ritual became, in a quite un-Lutheran fashion, a prerequisite to salvation, as when the region’s superintendent warned a non-communicating peasant that ‘if he did not forgive [his enemy], he would not receive God’s mercy’.53 Luther himself replaced charity with faith as the precondition for receiving Christ in the sacrament, and he removed the pax from his German Mass:‘Away with those prophets who say to Christ’s people “peace, peace”, where there is no peace’, states the ninety-second thesis of Luther’s ninety-five. There were bound to be enmities within a congregation, just as there would always be disputes among theologians. In the juridical context of the Augsburg Peace, however, differences had to be styled as colloquies of ‘brotherly consensus’.54 Denoting a formal conversation about contested theological issues, a ‘colloquy’ was the Protestants’ preferred format of debate; in contrast to the ‘disputations’ that Catholics endorsed. Disputations force the dissenting party to find its position before a referee,

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191. Anonymous, title-page woodcut from Johann Aurifaber, ed., Colloqvia Oder Tischreden Doctor Martini Lutheri . . . (Frankfurt: Schmid, 1567).

and concede unconditionally if repudiated, whereas colloquies require of all parties statement, confutation and conciliation. (Disputations also end in decisions whereas colloquies need not.) It was as colloquies that Luther conducted his influential dinner conversations. Aurifaber’s Colloquia, or Table Talks of Dr Martin Luther of 1568 displays on its title page a supper scene of the Reformers (six of whom appear in the Dessau Memorial) and their princely attendants (illus. 191).55

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192. Alexander and Samuel Weissenhorn, Anatomia M. Lutheri, c. 1567, woodcut.

In the same year, or a bit earlier, this vision of concord became the target of Catholic satire. Published in Ingolstadt on the Catholic press of Alexander and Samuel Weissenhorn, the Anatomia Lutheri travesties the iconography of the Reformer’s Last Supper (illus. 192). 56 Eleven Protestant reformers, named in the verse commentary by Johann Nasus published below, feast on the naked body of Luther. Both crude and concise, this influential woodcut – which saw several editions – attacks Protestant claims to apostolicity. Displayed and dissected like the corpse of an executed criminal, the Reformer’s cadaver replaces the body of Christ in the Communion meal (in a sense rendering Eucharist hypermundane, in accordance with radical Protestant theology): the image suggests both the Protestant desecration of the altar rite and the degree to which Luther’s disciples have come to deify the founding desecrator. Yet what happens after his death is an abject spectacle of discord, or ‘Lutheranism’, as Nasus’s poem puts it, ‘full of divisions, torn thoroughly apart . . . conflicted, disunited, evil, upside-down’. And indeed the assembled cannibals are the chief antagonists of internal Protestant debate, which of course centred around the understanding of the Lord’s supper: the Reformed Protestants Calvin, Zwingli and Pierre Vivet; the compromisers Melanchthon, Eber, Aurifaber, etc.; and the

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193. Anonymous title-page woodcut from Pamphilus Gengenbach, Diss ist ein iemerlich clag uber die Todtenfresser (Basel, 1522).

Gnesio-Lutherans, Cyriacus Spangenberg and Flacius Illyricus, the latter ‘tasting’ the cadaver’s ass. It was the figure of Flacius that caught my eye as, working on the Dessau Memorial, I came upon this important woodcut. For whether the Weissenhorns had seen the Dessau panel or not, the ass-licking GnesioLutheran shares the position and physiognomy of Cranach’s Judas, reinforcing the traditional identification of the betrayer with Flacius. Similar, too, are the placement of Melanchthon, the layout of the table, the division of the composition into three horizontal registers, the central column, the position of the barrel or water-cooler, the receding stone floor, the Renaissance decor, and (of course) the conceit of the Reformer’s Last Supper itself. Perhaps between the Dessau panel and the Ingolstadt print there existed an intermediary model, a woodcut, perhaps, encapsulating Cranach’s Wittenberg and Dessau schemes. And in the background, too, stands a tradition of Protestant defacement that makes monks and clerics

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into cannibals due to their exploitation of the dead for gain; the title-page of Pamphilus Gengenbach’s play, Devourers of the Dead (1522), shows twelve figures feeding on an anonymous cadaver (illus. 193).57 However Nasus and Weissenhorn came upon their model, though, the intent of their parody is clear: the division among Lutherans repudiates their claim both to churchliness and to protection under the Augsburg Peace. And it was the case that Cranach’s idyll of consensus belied conditions in Anhalt. Following Joachim’s death, his successors sought an end to the conflicts among theologians, enlisting their superintendent, Wolfgang Amling, to set religious standards for Anhalt.58 Several confessions later, the region embraced Calvinism, especially in matters of liturgy and catechism. In 1596 most images were removed from church space, plain tables replaced the altars, ordinary bread was distributed instead of unleavened wafers, and music was banished from services.59 (It was in response to image-breaking in Anhalt that orthodox Lutherans, such as Johann Arndt and Simon Gedicke, formulated an iconophilic theology discussed above.)60 Meanwhile, Georg’s legacy came under dispute. In 1582, Georg’s nephew and heir Prince Joachim Ernst, who probably had commissioned and paid for the Dessau panel, ordered an edition of the first of his uncle’s four sermons on the Last Supper.61 Amling objected, arguing that the deceased prince’s views on the Eucharist no longer represented the Anhalt consensus, and that certain parts of it could be – and indeed had been – used by Andreas Osiander and his followers to defend their heretical views. To publish the sermon now, Amling warned, in the midst of Anhalt’s divisive debate over whether to accept the Book of Concord, would be to grant Georg’s text the status of a special, territorial confession. In the end, Joachim Ernst persevered. Georg’s sermon was republished in Zerbst in 1582; and by the 1590s it had become an alternative to a general confession for Anhalt, exactly as Amling had feared. Reading Georg’s 1550 sermon in its first edition of 1555 (with a preface by Melanchthon and funeral orations by Georg Major and others), it is hard today to pinpoint what exactly troubled Amling.62 In the later sixteenth century, when experts in ‘controversy’ supplanted professors of theology, the slightest deviance in diction or syntax was cause for dispute. In familiar terms, Georg defends the lay chalice, universal priesthood and real presence at the Mass. Several features do link the sermon to Joachim Ernst’s other commemoration of Georg. Like the Dessau panel, Georg’s sermon defines the evangelical faith through a confession of the altar sacrament. It insists, quite centrally, that in the sacrament, Christ is given both to ‘the worthy and the unworthy’, though the latter ‘eats and drinks his damnation’, as did ‘Judas, the Jews and the pagans who martyred him’.63 And both the sermon and the picture endeavour to picture concord for a church split over the meaning of the altar

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sacrament – Georg writes of the ‘gruesome divisions and sects’ that now attend the sacramental ‘sign’. The sermon also opens with a reference to Luther’s sermon of 1530 on Psalm 111, the very text that had recommended Last Supper pictures as appropriate altarpieces. One phrase stands out in Georg’s sermon as uncannily pertinent to the Dessau panel, however. Asserting that the ministry is merely an office but that the sacrament must be distinguished from ‘magic and old women’s conjury’,64 Georg explains that the Eucharist consists of the elements of bread and wine, the words that turn them into Christ, and one more thing: the ‘Befehlswort’ or ‘order word’ that says, ‘do this’.65 ‘But it happens that the word and the elements, bread and wine, become sacrament because, namely, the Evangelists and Paul say, “And he said”; the speaking does it.’66 Georg’s order word is what linguists call a performative: a statement that accomplishes an act simply by being said.67 From the perspective of the social function of language, order-words are not merely explicit commands but occur implicitly every time one says ‘this is’. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari termed this relation between statements and acts ‘redundancy’.68 In their view, any simple statement that something is the case comes with a built-in assertion that the statement is something we ought to know. Not just a message conveyed from person to person, representation transmits

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194. View of the choir of the Georgenkirche, Eisenach, c. 1560, with the Reformation Memorial in profile on left.

order-words enunciated by collective assemblies through judicial acts. This peculiar, paranoid model of representation works well for Reformation portraits. Displaying individuals but demanding conformity, stating what is the case in order to demand that this be the case, their true subjects are not the persons portrayed in them but the bodies ordered before them, in the collective assemblage of church. Before its removal during the Second World War, Cranach’s panel hung on the east wall of the choir, beneath a princes’ loggia built – or more probably rebuilt – in 1779.69 In my view, it hung there from the start, serving both to picture sacrament and, through its proximity to princely space, to visualize sacrament’s link to the state. The Church of St George in Eisenach documents such an arrangement. On the north wall of the choir, just beside the pulpit and directly opposite a two-storey prince’s loggia, stands the most ostentatious confessional monument of seventeenth-century Germany (illus. 4 and 194). Prince Johann Ernst commissioned the ensemble in 1617 to celebrate the centenary of the Ninety-Five Theses of Luther; Eisenach, where the Prince had established his residence in 1596, had a commemorative status of its own through its famous association with Luther’s ‘captivity’ in the nearby Wartburg. The ensemble itself pairs the two, pivotal images of Lutheran self-definition. To the left, in a composition I examined at the opening of this study, Charles v receives the Augsburg Confession from the princes and cities in 1530; to the right, in a scene borrowed from a Cranach shop woodcut of around 1551, Luther and Jan Hus administer Communion in both kinds to the Saxon princes (illus. 211).70 Altar and throne, church and state, thus together face the prince as, seated, he oversees that church which is his regiment. In Lutheran territories, where attendance of religious services was mandatory, and where individuals were seated according to station and monitored for conduct, the church pictured the social order to the ruler’s gaze. This lost tableau constitutes not merely the Dessau panel’s original ‘context.’ It is the picture’s text itself, the ‘order word’ that makes persons into governed subjects.

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22 Church Building

When a community confessed the Lutheran faith, it normally held its services in the same buildings as before.1 In most places, churches were, after all, the only large public interiors available. Yet existing Catholic buildings did not always fit the purpose of evangelical worship: witness the articulated difference between lay and priestly space; the subdivision of lay space into a patchwork of public and private zones through family and corporate chapels; the channelling of motion into processions around a series of epicentres radiating from the choir and altar; and the structuring of the whole around other itinerant bodies that might intercede for the living – the corpses of the mighty dead in crypts beneath the church, or the relics housed in the altars dedicated to them. As an early theorist of Protestant church design concluded, different ‘external church services’ require distinct building types.2 Most fundamentally, the rejection of a specific priesthood obviated the separation of choir from nave, promoting instead an architecture of the whole community. ‘That we come together in the congregation’, preached Luther in Torgau in 1544,‘is due neither to my words nor my acts but occurs through all your wills and because of the whole church.’3 The abolition of private or votive Masses – what Protestants called ‘corner Masses’ – absorbed the segregated edges into a single, public space where, ideally, all activities coincided. ‘We do not allow our pastors to speak Christ’s ordinance for himself, as his person’, states Luther against ‘corner’ Masses,‘rather, he is all our mouths and we all speak it with him with all our heart, and with upright faith, to the lamb of God.’4 More practically, the evangelical focus on preaching as the centre of church service demanded open spaces where the whole community could comfortably hear and see the preacher. In his Table Talks, Luther complained that the cathedrals of Rome, Cologne and Ulm, with their forests of pillars and cavernous, echoing interiors, were ‘inappropriate’ and ‘inconvenient for preaching’. He preferred middle-size churches with low ceilings for their better acoustics and unobstructed views.5 In pre-


Reformation Germany, a taste for churches suitable for preaching had already promoted the development of ‘hall churches’ (such as those in Schneeberg, Freiberg, Annaberg, Pirna and Dessau) with naves of equal height to their aisles, and with raised galleries for extra auditors.6 Yet Lutherans made do with the buildings they chanced to have, and not only for economy’s sake. At one level, by using the old cult spaces, and by variously saving and eradicating obsolete structures, Protestants managed confessional difference. Just as the Wittenberg Altarpiece affirms tradition through its triptych format and biblical centerpiece, so too the surrounding church preserves its original structure (which the triptych indeed amplifies), as if to say that that space was always ready for the Reformation. As I observed at the start of this book, such selective and potentially ‘dissembling’ forms of appropriation resembled the tactics of the early Church, whereby local deities and their dwelling places were loosely transformed into Christian saints and their shrines, and pagan temples were converted into churches, as prescribed by Pope Gregory.7 Syncretism is generally suited to new productions of space, since in that dimension nothing ever quite disappears, and ‘what comes earlier continues to underpin what follows’.8 Lutherans continued to name their churches after their titular saints, but they redescribed these as models, rather than as means, of grace.9 They preserved the structure of nave and choir, but used it to articulate, respectively, word and sacrament. The 1528 Church Ordinance of Braunschweig, like Wittenberg’s of 1533, placed preaching in the nave and ‘communicants in the choir’.10 Cleared, sometimes, of isolating walls and rood screens, and fitted with confessionals, the former enclaves of the clergy were thus fashioned into a public stage setting for lay religion, with the representative choir stalls now seating communicants rather than the priests, and with the proceedings beheld (so Luther expressly hoped) by the rest of the congregation seated in the nave. Lutherans also maintained the processional structure of their churches even as they abolished the culture of sacred parade and pilgrimage. When they set about building pews, they usually placed them in the side aisles first, to preserve the central aisle. Then they erected galleries that left the nave free; and only in the last resort did they fill the middle aisle, and with it the old processional avenue.11 At another level, however, by using the old cult spaces Lutherans dramatized their lack of interest in place. For them, Christian worship was indifferent to locality. What mattered was only that preaching be heard and sacrament administered. As Luther stated in a sermon of 1524 on Genesis 24, ‘where God speaks, there dwells he. Where the word resounds, there God is, there is his house; and when he stops speaking, then his house is also no longer there. Were he to be heard on a roof or under a roof, and even on the Elbe bridge, it would be certain that there he dwells.’12 And again, ‘And even

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if [God’s words] were preached beneath a green lime tree, or a willow, then that same place would be called God’s home and place, for God’s word rules even there.’13 The view that ‘God’s word makes a place holy’ appears in the Reformer’s earliest writings. His commentary of 1515–16 on Romans declares that ‘every place is holy’ where modesty and charity prevail.14 Luther built here on an ancient idea, prevalent among the early Christians and resurrected by monastic reformers of the high Middle Ages, that churches are but functional edifices that can just as well be done without. ‘Church buildings are unnecessary’, wrote Peter the Venerable, the abbot of Cluny, summing up the message of early twelfth-century preachers of penitence ‘One can tear them down, for Christ can be called in a tavern or a church, in a market or a temple, before an altar or a sty.’15 Yet in locating salvation in the interiority of personal faith, Luther introduced a new, global separation of religion from place. I noted this divide in later Lutheran images of Catholic ritual, where empirical tableaux of church rituals marked the disenchanting of the world (illus. 11). If, in 1503, Erasmus had condemned such ‘visible ceremonies’ as evidence of ‘ignorant credulity’16 and equated them with idolatry, by 1600, through a series of disenchanting visualizations pioneered by Cranach, ordinary religion itself began to appear strange and contingent. Viewed from outside, that is, as an objective inventory of actions and instruments,

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195. Bernard Picart, ‘La communion des reformes’, engraving from Les Cérémonies religieuses . . . (Amsterdam, 1723).

196. Bernard Picart, ‘Assemblées nocturnes des Adamites’, engraving from Les Cérémonies religieuses . . . (Amsterdam, 1723).

sacred practice lost its aura of necessity and seemed a more mundane product of person, place and time. In Bernard Picart’s engravings of The Ceremonies of All the Peoples of the World (1723), the artist’s own confession (Calvinism) looks prima facie no truer than any other faith (illus. 195).17 Even the imaginary ‘Adamites’ he shows pursuing their carnal revels devoutly, with eyes cast upward (illus. 196). Picart completes a trajectory from Cranach’s altarpiece, via Brueghel’s painted customs-catalogues, to a pluralist, ethnographic or ‘comparative’ study of religion.18 Though internalized, religion takes outward forms. Picart’s engravings can catalogue all faiths by displaying them as figures of a crowd. In the various scenes of eating, washing, marching, disrobing, speaking, listening and understanding, a legible constellation of bodies reveals the practice of religion to be, ineluctably, a physical performance. Texts may attach to such images an author’s judgements on which is idolatrous and which is true. But the images themselves argue the case for contingency. In 1544, Luther addressed this matter of the placement of bodies in a sermon dedicating the Castle Church of Torgau, the earliest purpose-built evangelical edifice (illus. 197).19 With one minor exception (a tiny church in Joachimstal – Jachymóv – in Bohemia, completed in 1534 after a plan by Johann Mathesius), all earlier Lutheran churches had been modifications of

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197. Schlosskirche, Schloss Hartenfels, Torgau, interior view with altar.

buildings finished or underway before the Reformation.20 Conceived in 1532 under Prince John the Constant, and begun in earnest in 1533 by his successor, John Frederick, the modernization of Hartenfels Castle in Torgau, and with it the erection of a church to replace the medieval Martinskapelle, afforded the Saxon court architect Nickel Gromann the opportunity to create a novel and ambitious structure serving the religious and the representational needs of the Ernestine electors.21 Under Frederick the Wise and John, Schloss Hartenfels had played a secondary role to their Wittenberg residence, although even then it figured prominently in Reformation

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history. In 1520, the city of Torgau embraced the evangelical faith; in 1526, the Protestant Estates met in Schloss Hartenfels to form their first political alliance, called the ‘Torgau League’; and in 1530, again in the castle, Luther, Melanchthon and Jonas drafted the Torgau Articles on which the Augsburg Confession itself was based. But it was not until the reign of John Frederick that Torgau and its expanded castle replaced Wittenberg as the political centre of Protestantism, which it remained until the Mühlberg defeat. In his dedication, Luther refers to the Castle Church as a ‘house’. The title of the published sermon also speaks of ‘a new house built for the office of preaching God’s word’.22 From the castle’s courtyard, the Schlosskirche looks no different than the rest of the princely residence, save for the angels carved into the window frames and the sandstone portal modestly decorated with Christ’s arms. Inside, too, the edifice is remarkable for its decorative reserve. Admittedly, aggressive renovations have heightened this austerity. In his sermon, Luther mentions two paintings near the pulpit.An inventory of 1563 records eight framed panels in the church, and an engraved illustration from the 1676 Torgau Catechism shows the space veritably festooned with images.23 But in its ground plan, the church was and remains willfully plain: a two-storeyed rectangular hall. The west corner, to the left of the altar, is in fact cut off by the castle keep. But the architects concealed this one irregularity behind the arcades. Together these repetitive arches make the interior read like an exterior courtyard façade.24 Occupying half of the castle’s northeast wing, and facing northwest (rather than east, as was the traditional, sacralizing orientation), the church is without internal divisions, nor does it culminate in the usual prismatic or rounded altar end. Space seems structured by function alone. Set apart from the rectangle and from the repeating arcades, however, two parts stand forth: the pulpit and the altar, the respective requisites of the church’s chief activities. In discussing Lutheran retables, I noted earlier that initially, in 1544, the Torgau altar was a free-standing sandstone mensa or ‘plain table’ such as Calvinists would later use (illus. 178).25 The present altar (a modern copy) reflects that initial condition. Resting on angel statuettes carved by Stephan Hermsdorf and Simon Schröter, and raised above the ground by two stone steps, the table received an altarpiece – probably by Cranach’s shop – at some unknown later date.26 But originally the altar stood bare, and behind it was visible the single, short, fluted pillar of the church’s far wall. The only column in the whole church, this peculiar support bears the weight of the west gallery’s two half-arches and points upward toward the church’s prominent organ, the original of which was brought to Torgau from the secularized Lichtenberg Monastery. Isolated from the arcade, this isolated column gathers the entire edifice to the altar, rather like an altarpiece. Designed in a quasi-ancient Tuscan order, perhaps to indicate apostolicity, it

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is also a built version of those central pillars in Cranach’s scenes of Christ’s Last Supper (illus. 127 and 130). Like an antique stele, it possesses a commemorative force appropriate to the memorial meal performed before it. Torgau’s pulpit, in turn, is attached to the middle pier of the church’s north wall. And it was from this second, yet more accented center that Luther, on 5 October 1544, performed his first and only church dedication. With the opening words of his sermon, Luther announced that there would be no traditional rite of consecration as required by canon law. In Northern Europe on the eve of the Reformation, church consecrations (in German, Kirchweih) were an elaborate festive event. Parishes often reserved eight or more days in their calendars for celebrating annually their particular kermis.27 Numerous early sixteenth-century woodcuts satirized the excess and riot that marked this most popular of popular holidays.28 In Torgau, instead of anything like a Kirchweih, there would only be a sermon, this austere sermon itself that Luther presently delivered. It would suffice to ‘bless and consecrate this new house’ to Christ: This devolves not only upon me; you, too, should take hold of the aspergillum and the censer, in order that the purpose of this new house may be such that nothing else may ever happen in it except that our dear Lord himself may speak to us through his holy word and we respond to him through prayer and praise.29 Of all buildings previously erected for Christian worship, only the Schlosskirche had never been, and never would be, ritually consecrated. Against ‘the papists’ churches, with their bishop’s chrism and censing’, it alone was made holy only by preaching and collective prayer. Purity of place depended precisely on there being no localized sanctity, as if sacralizing desecrated the place. The sandstone reliefs on the pulpit from which Luther delivered his sermon expound a thematics of purity (illus. 198–9). On the right, facing the church’s entrance and the piano nobile, the sculptor Simon Schröter has pictured the gospel paradigm of church cleansing: Christ driving the money changers from the temple. This would have appealed to the audience toward which it was turned: the prince in his loggia, who was entrusted with keeping this building pure.30 On the left, facing the altar, the scene of the woman taken in adultery exemplifies what true purity now entails: neither priestly prerogative nor obedience to the law (displayed with Moses in the background), but forgiveness of sins by Christ. Or to put this another way, outward defilement, which in a sacerdotal religion would bar a person from the temple sanctuary, is annulled by inner faith and grace. Lastly, on its central field, Schröter’s pulpit displays the model episode of preaching.

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198. Simon Schröter, Pulpit, 1544, polychromed sandstone. Schlosskapelle, Schloss Hartenfels, Torgau.

199. Another view of the Schröter pulpit.


Seated in the same temple ‘forecourt’ as featured in the two flanking scenes, the twelve-year-old Christ (by Jewish law inadmissable to the sanctuary itself because of his youth and therefore, like the adulteress, ritually excluded) reinterprets the Old Testament according to the New. Only the gospel word purifies. Only it expels and redeems, saving and transforming the world as we find it, on the moral threshold of the atrium. Luther enacts this interiorized model of purity in his sermon by launching immediately into the daily lection. On the seventeenth Sunday after Trinity, this happened to be Luke 14:1–11.‘We shall begin by hearing and expounding God’s word’, the Reformer explains,‘and then, in order that this may be done fruitfully . . . call upon him together and say the Lord’s Prayer.’31 In the beginning was the word, and on that score the morning of 5 October 1544 was the same as any other day, since church service always ‘consecrates’ and ‘sanctifies’ the place in which it occurs, ‘as we . . . are consecrating this house.’32 All later paeans to the Castle Church celebrate its founding through Luther’s purely verbal dedication. Thus Caspar Cruciger, in verses recited in later Lutheran church dedications, concludes: No chrism or holy water did he use, No flags or candles or incense; The divine word and his prayer Together with the faithful did this.33 The Castle Church’s large bronze inscriptive tablet, cast in 1545 by Wolff and Oswald Hilger, conveys a similar message. Revising traditional dedication panels that honor the donors and patron saints, it commemorates the Schlosskirche as a sort of tabula rasa of church building due to its uniquely ordinary dedication: ‘Totally new is now, for the first time, a wholly pure piety. In preaching the truth, Luther, through that sermon in this church, made people embrace the new foundation of Christ’s teaching.’34 What did the gospel words on 5 October 1544 happen to say? As Luther explicated it, Luke 14, which recounts Christ’s healing of a dropsical man on the sabbath (when healing was forbidden by Jewish law), deals with the proper time and place of religious service. It therefore suited a church dedication. Yet the message that Luther initially draws moves in another direction. Whereas ‘for the Jewish faith’ the sabbath is ‘fixed’ for a special time, place and people, We are all priests . . . so that all of us should proclaim God’s word and works at every time and in every place, and persons from all ranks, races and stations may be specially called to the ministry, if they have the grace and the understanding of the Scriptures to teach others.35

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Regardless of the special circumstances, and despite Luther’s own repeated reference to the Schlosskirche as more beautiful than Solomon’s temple,36 God’s word requires no special occasion or edifice to do its work. If preaching and prayer ‘cannot be done under roof or in the church’, states Luther yet again, ‘then let it be done out of doors or wherever there is room’.37 And ‘if occasion should arise that people did not want to or could not assemble, one could just as well preach outside by a fountain or somewhere else’.38 And yet, out of this account of the indifference of church to place, Luther derives another, quite opposite conclusion. Although in theory ubiquitous, in practice church needs to take place. Because God likes order, Luther continues, certain buildings ought to be constructed for his service, which should be held regularly so that everyone from a specific locality – ‘a whole congregation of Christians’ – might congregate for preaching and prayer in one locality:‘this house built and appointed according to this freedom for all those who live here in this castle and court, or any others who want to go in’.39 It was essential to Luther’s theological point of view, and to the textual, pictorial, architectural representations that reflected his perspective, that although the true church, like Christ, was invisible, it also existed concretely in the world. We have analysed the dialectic of concealment and visibility in Lutheran church pictures, which at once extended and repudiated the iconoclasm that gave them space. It remains now to observe this dialectic in the built space of the church. In his canonical Apology of the Augsburg Confession, Melanchthon noted that the church was not some imaginary utopia, like ‘Plato’s city’. Rather, it arose whenever real communities congregated for preaching and sacrament.40 Already in 1521, in his defence against Johannes Eck and Thomas Murner, Luther himself wrote: ‘Because I called the Christian church a spiritual gathering, you mocked my opinion, as if I wanted to build a church like Plato’s city, which would be a nowhere [nindert].’41 On the contrary, church was neither pure spirit nor pure matter but a hybrid, a corpus mixtum, where both modalities obtained. ‘Without place and body there is no church’, concludes Luther in his diatribe against Ambrosius Caterinus.42 The Torgau dedication was above all concerned with the placement of bodies. God’s preference for order, Luther reasoned, requires communities to gather together in one place and time. Such an assembly therefore demands the corporal location of its members in the form of seating. Before the Reformation, church seating had been representative. What chairs there were served officers of church and state. The clergy occupied their baldachined, throne-like places within the choir not as spectators but as spectacle; they formed part of the efficacious ritual itself. To be seated in chairs was to enjoy the status of sedentes, which meant bodily to foreshadow

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a divine condition where Christ sits at God’s right hand, where the Apostles sit in judgement over the tribes of Israel, and where the community of saints sits eternally in heaven. The laity, by a contrast that was explicit already in the sixth century, were the ‘standing ones’ (stantes).43 They might bring folding chairs, as they are shown doing in early Lutheran prints of ‘true religion’. And in some preaching churches of late fifteenth-century Germany, they huddled in wooden booths ‘like bees in a hive’(as Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini observed),44 with wall heights determined by the occupant’s rank. Yet such structures were rare compared to the ubiquitous fixed pews and galleries of Lutheran church space. For with the ascendancy of the sermon as the crucial component of religious service, and with the concomitant demand that, each Sunday, when preaching and Mass were regularly staged, all members of the congregation should be present in the church, a need arose to seat the community as an orderly whole. With existing churches, this could be easily achieved by removing the internal divisions and unnecessary side altars that had filled and fragmented Catholic church space, and by establishing seating instead. Galleries could also be added for more seating, and the only requirement was that preaching could be heard and the preacher seen. The result was a specific architectural form: a great hall in which, extending forward from outer walls they obscure, layers of seating shaped an amorphous spatial core. In this space, everything – the seats, lighting, aisles, and entries – was ideally focused on one centre. Theorists of a later age would seek historical precedents for this building type. They contrasted it to the cathedral, with its elaborated walls and windows, its supreme verticality, and its kinetic charge, as a structure experienced in and as motion. To keep a crowd seated, immobile and focused, to make everyone listen rather than behold: this had been a job of ancient theatres, and, historically, evangelical church design developed in parallel with the rebirth of theatre architecture in Germany.45 Seating spatialized the social order. Recognizing this at Torgau, Luther expounded placement through Christ’s story of the wedding feast, where guests did not freely choose the place of honour but took the lowest seat unless asked by the host to do otherwise. In the pericope’s final verse, this parable yields a prophecy of social inversion: ‘For he who raises himself shall be brought low, and he who lowers himself shall be raised’ (Luke 14: 11). As in his exposition of church’s place and time, Luther radicalizes Christian indifference to the world only then to accede to the world exactly as he finds it. On the one hand, to elevate ourselves in the belief that a better place means more to God is a supreme vanity, shared by the Jews, the Turks and the Church in Rome. The kingdom of heaven reverses the earthly kingdoms, therefore placement counts for nothing. On the other hand, this

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final, true and antithetical order did not license people to change the given arrangements. Christ told the parable because he ‘saw’ that the Pharisees ‘chose the places of honour’, i.e., that, by taking the best seats, they tried to shape the social order according to their desire. ‘Here it all rests upon the word “chose”’, states Luther at the start of the pivotal exegesis: People have to be seated both above and below. For, as I’ve said, one cannot make and clear for each person in the congregation a special place, locality, time, temple or chapel. Likewise, we cannot all be princes, counts, preachers, nobles, burghers, men, women, masters and servants; rather, there must be many different stations, and each one has enough to do in his own station. So all of us neither should nor can sit above and below at the same time, and there must be the difference [Unterschied] – ordained by God – that he who is of the higher station should sit higher than the others, and it should not be that a count sits above the prince, or servant above his master . . .46 In a place indifferent to place, in a church, that is, which can happen anywhere and which gathers its members in a ‘heap’, seating crystallizes the differences on which social order depends. It will not be the true arrangement, this contingent stratification of persons according to their worldly estate. At the end of time, Christ will institute an altogether different order. Presently inescapable, however, that stratification must stand, and struggling against it is vanity. At the same time as he spiritualized the church, basing it on the word to which all members were equally subordinate, Luther also affirmed an outward, hierarchical system for dispensing and regulating the word. And this he placed in the hands of the state. In his benchmark analysis of this paradox, Ernst Troeltsch wrote: ‘Thus the aim that was realized in Catholicism through a directly divine church order, Lutheranism, in its purely spiritualized form, stripped of every kind of hierarchical or sacerdotal organ, realized through the government and the civil administration, to which, however, precisely for that reason, there accrued a certain semi-divinity.’47 This was the double bind in which Torgau’s Schlosskirche placed its users through its fundamental character as an architecture of seating. ‘How do these two rhyme’, asks Luther in his dedication, ‘to sit above is not right and yet is also right?’48 The Reformer’s audience would have recognized the question, seated, as they were, either above or below, depending on their social status. Far from shaping its congregation into a broadly egalitarian heap, as Cranach’s pictures of ‘true religion’ somewhat do, this first evangelical church enshrined instead the rigid stratification of its members.

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200. View toward the ‘piano nobile’ of the Schlosskapelle, Torgau.

We do not know Torgau’s first seating plan. We can assume that it placed the elector, Johann Friedrich, in the piano nobile, on the first gallery opposite the altar, and gathered his court around him on that floor (illus. 200). The upper gallery served other nobles and their retinues, while on the unornamented ground floor (the architectural decor begins with the gallery arcades) sat – or probably stood – the castle’s servants and anyone else who, as Luther puts it in his sermon, ‘might otherwise want to come inside’.49 And in between, in a pulpit elevated above the common folk but a few steps lower than the nobles, the Castle Church placed the preacher himself, at a height appropriate to his social station, above the common folk but below the prince.50 No longer the image of heaven, church architecture framed a complete and living tableau of ranked society. Completeness itself was demanded by the state. In Lutheran regions, church attendance

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was mandatory. Johann Georg i of Brandenburg drafted laws forbidding people from entering or exiting during Sunday service. Soon after the Torgau dedication, the Lutheran pastors and princes and pastors faced a new dilemma. Addressing a ‘common complaint’, the 1580 Church Ordinance for Electoral Saxony reported that ‘now and then seats are built in churches that prevent people from being able to see the preacher in the pulpit, or at the altar, when the holy sacrament is distributed; likewise, such seats are also erected in the public aisles, so that, because of these, people cannot easily come and go’.51 A similar problem arose in the churches in Lauenburg, where (again according to the region’s Church Ordinance) seats were built of such height that people sitting behind them could neither see nor hear the services.52 In his seminal study of this material, Reinhold Wex has analysed how, in seeming contradiction to its ideal of universal priesthood, the Lutheran confession sanctioned, manipulated and profited from a meticulously stratified ritual space.53 Assuming total occupancy of their places of worship, and cleansing them of the old metaphysical divisions of pure and impure, sacred and profane, and priestly and lay, evangelical congregations set about improvising new symbolic boundaries. Included fully as auditors and communicants, families as well as individuals now vied with one another for the best seats, or they built chairs as public monuments to themselves. Issued by August of Saxony, the 1580 Ordinance did not forbid such constructions, but placed them under the control of local pastors who, in turn, were installed by the prince. Without the knowledge and consent of the authorities (in German, Obrigkeit), no new seat could be erected. From the sixteenth century through to the eighteenth, scores of local ‘church seating ordinances’ attest to the tension between, on the one hand, private individuals seeking to represent themselves in the public space of a church, and, on the other hand, the church shaping such publications into emblems of itself. The issue hinged on ownership. Who ultimately possessed a place within the church? If seats could be reserved for particular individuals, who could then mark them with their name and emblems, were these designated occupants also allowed to transfer their right to others either at death, by willing it to their heirs, or else by selling or leasing it for profit? According to the Saxon Ordinance, a church seat was the general property of the church and not its lifelong occupant.54 Summing up this opinion, Benedict Carpzov – the ‘legal oracle of his day’ – ruled in 1652:‘The owner of church seats is not free to sell or transfer them to others.’55 Upon death, the seat returned to the church, which was then allowed to sell it to a new occupant. Having repudiated pious donation as belonging to a false religion of works, the Lutheran confession discovered in church seating a new, lucrative, and, by virtue of the non-transferability rule, continuous resource. People’s desire

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to distinguish themselves in this world by sitting above or before their neighbour funded a church which preached that such distinctions were of no account. Meanwhile, by recycling seats, the church also assumed that the hierarchy it newly enshrined also reflected power differentials existing at that moment. More able to pay the new fee, those currently dominant would be better represented than the fading notables of the past who, unable to will their privilege, could now only hope for representation in heaven. Even at the level of a symbolics of secular rank, Lutheranism was a deeply presentist religion. The important exception to the principle of the seat as the supreme property (Ober-Eigenthum) of the church were the princes’ loggia (the Fürst- or Herrschaftsstühle). These alone were owned unequivocally by their occupant and his heirs. But then, the whole system of authority in whose hands seating was placed derived from the prince. As Wex observed, through seating church space became ‘the drill hall of “policey’’’,56 where policey encompasses both the rules and their enforcement, both ‘policy’ and ‘police’ (illus. 201).57 Before the Reformation, the Church had founded its status on a dualism of the pure and the impure.58 Its buildings gave this difference spatial form, mapping degrees of purity with the priest at the hierarchy’s top. The priest alone had the power to sacrifice and to atone, at the altar, for the sin that everywhere abounded; he alone could re-present Christ’s death in flesh and blood, through which humanity was saved. A place of cleansing, the altar itself was pure. And this status, like that of the Church that served there, rested on an articulated difference from impure space. Rituals of consecration and ablution, together with an architecture of inviolable divisions (all ornamented in a quintessentially hierarchical Gothic style), radicalized that difference as absolute. True, permeating this system there had always been another one, equally hierarchical but differently constituted. The old partition of society into three orders or estates (priests, princes and people) complemented the pure-impure duality. In his ideological analysis of Indian caste, Louis Dumont observed: ‘In theory, power is ultimately subordinate to priesthood, whereas in fact, priesthood submits to power.’59 The cathedral in Naumburg, with its facing choirs – the east one reserved for the bishops, the west, for the ruling imperial house – monumentalized this double structure.Yet as Dumont also demonstrated, systems of power rest upon different differences than do status systems. Founded not metaphysically but on the bedrock of legitimate force, and in turn founding a hierarchy of degrees of force, status is a juridical system settled and sustained by arms. Proclaiming all persons to be priests, Luther eliminated the sacerdotal system. Purity, in his view, resided not in special persons but in faith occurring invisibly in any member of a congregation. Luther’s doctrine of

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opposite 201. Matthäus Merian, Consecration of the Dreieinigkeitskirche in Regensburg, 1631, engraving.


the hidden God further radicalized the demand that God be set apart from everything else. His was a purity so absolute that it needed to remain hidden. The other difference remained, however. Extracted from its subordination to a specific priesthood, power took up residence in the prior zones of sacerdotal purity. In their simultaneous indifference to and insistence on placement of their congregations, evangelical edifices turned sacred geography into a map of legitimate force. Luther dedicated the Schlosskirche as a binding diagram of the estates. Its spectacle of stratified bodies realized the Unterschied or differentiation of secular rule. It is telling that Veit Thim, in his Weimar Luther Triptych, portrayed the Reformer in the guise of the three traditional orders: as cleric, in his habit as Augustinian monk; as knight, in his role as Junker Jörg; and at the centre, in preacher’s garb, as an ordinary person raised through office and achievement alone (illus. 190). The minister of the word, in other words, is all men and all men are potentially the word’s ministers. From the perspective of salvation, rank means nothing, since Christ calls on everyone individually to believe in him. From the perspective of administration, however, rank still obtains. Thim places likenesses of this one extraordinary office-holder within a physical material structure devised for representing saints: the triptych altarpiece. The story of the Reformation image goes like this. First there was the hammerblow: an angry, anxious desecration of a tabooed centre deemed idolatrous, desecrated and impure. But when, after the dust had settled, the congregation filed in, entering the ruined frameworks randomly, and installing itself – a contingent ‘heap’ – in the empty stalls, shrines and chapels, the demand for order once again was made. Under the aegis of the princes and magistrates, who issued the church ordinances, people were placed in designated seats to crystallize the structure of the social whole. Like the crucifix around which they gathered (that picture of the invisible God), these bodies were choreographed to portray another sacred but invisible thing: the true church. Yet the hammer remained always ready at hand, causing curious self-denials. As with images, so too with reality, the observable order was deemed to be not the true one. The ‘heap’ was not, nor should it aspire to be, the holy apostolic church, where the low are raised and the high are toppled. By portraying the congregation in its everyday routines, the Wittenberg Altarpiece inertly visualized again the tableau vivant of the still-invisible church – a curiously circular enterprise. What did Cranach’s model itself stand for, though, the image formed of living bodies? In his Last Supper in Dessau, Cranach answered the great question of the age: ubi ecclesia (illus. 130). Edged by princes and centered on the one historical personage who combined the calling both of pastor and of prince, Christ breaks bread not in a sacerdotal space but in a juridical domain: the place of this prince whose faith determines the religion of his territory. George’s

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church office was more legal than divine. As Bishop Coadjutor of Merseburg, I noted above, he had some of the administrative functions of the episcopy, but none of its sacral prerogatives. Yet power was certainly his, the force legitimately both to rule and to minister within his realm. Cranach’s panel hung in the Castle Church of the ruling Anhalt princes. In the sixteenth century, evangelical church architecture generally achieved its most distinctive forms in such princely spaces. In Schloss Hartenfels, in the chapel of Ottheinrich (Elector of the Palatinate) in Neuburg, in the Moritzbau in Dresden, and in the palatine chapels at Stuttgart, Stettin, Augustusburg, Freudenstein, and Schmalkald, Lutheran rulers built models of the power system underlying the territorial church.60 In these spaces, subjects practised their prince’s religion within a map of his dominion. Indeed, placed in a differential structure of rule, the subjects’ bodies were the map, so that whatever might be said of persons might also be said of the church building that contained them: ‘division, stratification, hierarchization of spatial parts and zones which are nonetheless ordered into a unity, into a centralized space; separation of a whole system of private spaces that simultaneously remain optically and acoustically within open space – one can see out of them and into them but one cannot immediately “possess” them’.61 To be sure, beyond the boundaries of this system there remained differences of another kind, those between hostile confessions. The juridical system did not erase the distinctions between pure and impure but only recast them as its boundaries. Granted by religious peace to be equally legitimate systems of power, the territorial churches of the confessional era bordered on states whose religions they sometimes deemed to be heretical and radically illegitimate. Legal parity arrested the pursuance of religious war but not its reason. Yet settled by severing rule from its sacerdotal foundations, the principle cuius regio, eius religio placed the church literally within the space of governance, and therefore within the order of social differences, an order that Luther, in Torgau, at the center of princely rule, at once belittled and celebrated. Negotiated among states confessing each other’s annihilation, peace turned the absolute space of sacred and accursed locations into an abstract space of relative positions.62 More powerfully than did the perspectivism of Cranach’s Wittenberg predella, which described the church as everywhere and nowhere, the ordinances of church seating inscribed the ruins of sacred locality within an empty, impersonal grid. The purpose of religion, according to Emile Durkheim, is ‘to express and explain, not that which is exceptional and abnormal in things, but, on the contrary, that which is constant and regular’.63 Although its beliefs and rituals seem to concern a spiritual order, under scrutiny religion in fact serves to place individuals within their natural and social worlds, and to

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cause them to accept those worlds to be the true ones. What sets the Reformation image apart is not that it yields effortlessly to sociology; functional analysis can process all expressions with equal ease. The Reformation image distinguishes itself by already being a sociology of religion. Pressured by iconoclasm into renouncing sacred agency, and refusing to visualize the object of belief, the image now soberly pictures what religion looks like in the world: a performance of certain words and actions by the collectivity bound by them. This image can decorate the built spaces where such routines unfold, asserting by iconography and by sheer force of repetition that what might seem contingent or man-made is divinely instituted. But it can do this because architecture will have already shaped those routines into tableaux vivants of true religion. Lutheran church building replicated the existing place of congregations within the real social and material world. Like the pictures decorating them, churches located persons redundantly where they were, and this for a religion where church could be everywhere but remained invisible. Its precociously functionalist architecture had as its most perennial task to situate the several fundamental ‘parts’ (Stücke) of church service. The principal ones were font, altar and pulpit, since they served the activities of sacrament and preaching. For Luther, these had symbolic value, ‘since they testify that we are baptized and Christian, and that we also remember and honour the dear font and live in such a way that we can happily behold it, so that he [Christ] does not have to give testimony against us’.64 The physical instruments displayed the difference between the church and a sect. The Wittenberg Altarpiece catalogued the activities and the apparatus of religion (illus. 28). Confessional benches or compartments, where ministers could listen and absolve, were also part of this inventory. So, too, were the organ (intoning the ‘unspeakable word’),65 the prince’s loggia (Fürstenstuhl), and all the other seats that diagrammed the congregation: separate sections for women and men; designated seats for craftsmen, labourers, schoolchildren, communicants, mourners and visitors; punitive ones for prostitutes and unmarried mothers.66 While none of these parts was a sacred thing (res sacra) in the manner of the Catholic altar, they did give the theoretically open space of church an inviolable structure. In the seventeenth century, Pietists accused the font, pulpit and altar of being new ‘church idols’.67 The honour the Lutheran orthodoxy paid them, it was argued, evidenced by their ornamentation, contradicted the interiority of living faith. Through a familiar dialectic of iconoclasm, the anti-fetishes became fetishes once more. The cleansed church had to place its activities. That some arrangements were bad (e.g., cathedral architecture) did not at first mean that only one was good. But in improvising solutions, Lutherans began to pursue a built ideal: one

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wanted to hear the sermon and take Communion from the same seats in the same orientation. This was impossible within most of the inherited arrangements. With the altar in the choir and the pulpit at one side of the nave, church-goers seated between these parts had to strain to see the preacher. In Torgau, moreover, which retains this plan, everyone in the galleries behind the preacher had no view at all of the pulpit. Over the next two centuries, church building became a game of alignment. The locations of preaching and sacrament had to be coordinated so that the whole congregation, itself divided into estates, could observe all activities all of the time. One of the easiest shifts was to move the font from the church’s entrance to the choir, so that the whole congregation could observe it and the smaller ‘baptism congregations’ gathered there.68 Sacred centres thus gave way to centres of attention. If the late medieval Mass was a highly visual affair, experienced by the laity as a dazzling spectacle, and articulated as such by retable altarpieces, the Lutheran service, despite its emphasis on the word, controlled sight yet more rigorously. In an early text on evangelical architecture, Joseph Furttenbach asserted that ‘each and every listener’ should ‘see and look the preacher in the face’.69 For Furttenbach, writing in 1649, faciality had to be reciprocal. The congregation should face the preacher and the preacher should face his parishioners to monitor their focus on the word. The disciplinary demand that, as Furttenbach puts it, churchgoers listen ‘cautiously and silently to the word’ was achieved by placing the secular ruler where he could see, and be seen by, his subjects in Fazia.70 This panoptical ideal was hard to achieve for a religion divided among several activities. One could neither quite preach from the altar nor take Communion at the pulpit, nor could the pastor’s and the prince’s glances fuse as one (except in the case of Georg ii, who in Dessau was both). The system collapsed around the body. While all eyes could focus on one point, all action could not. Practice remained entangled in the world. There understanding itself began to feel corporeal, an inwardness practised in stubborn peripheries. Piety, fear, lust, boredom, envy and curiosity registered on listeners’ faces. The preacher had to observe this one person at a time. It took a crypto-Calvinist mathematician to conclude that the ideal Lutheran church could not be built. Leonhard Christoph Sturm worked at the start of the boom-time of Protestant architecture in Germany, when, in the long recovery after the Thirty Years’ War, churches everywhere were newly erected or aggressively renovated, and the activity of church building itself achieved for Lutherans some of the symbolism it had for Catholics.71 Beginning his career as a professor of mathematics at Wolfenbüttel and Frankfurt on the Oder, Sturm absorbed a rationalist theory of Christian

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architecture through Nikolaus Goldmann (d. 1665), whose manuscript Complete Instruction on Civic Architecture Sturm edited and published in 1696.72 Called in 1710 to the court of Prince Frederick William of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Sturm designed the interior of the Schelfkirche as his first major architectural commission. The City and Court Church of Schwerin had been left unfinished by Sturm’s predecessor, Jakob Reutz. In Reutz’s cruciform edifice Sturm confronted, as he put it, ‘the most inconvenient of all figures’, since it placed the pulpit and Fürstenstuhl on one diagonal and the altar and galleries on another.73 In a treatise of 1712, Sturm published a plan of this arrangement along with one showing how he had adapted it (illus. 202 and 203). Concerned to fulfil the ‘chief requisite’, namely ‘that everyone can see all the functions [functiones] of church service, but especially the preacher in the pulpit’, Sturm placed the pulpit before the altar in one arm of the church, fashioned the prince’s loggia out of the opposite arm, and divided the congregation between the remaining arms. Meantime, while reflecting on the inherent ‘irregularity’ of Reutz’s design, Sturm proposed seven different plans that would have been better and cheaper than the cruciform.

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left 202. Leonhard Christoph Sturm, ‘Original Plan of the Schelfkirche’ in Architectonisches Bedencken von protestantischer kleinen Kirchen – Figur und Einrichtung (Hamburg, 1712). right 203. Sturm’s ‘The Schelfkirche Remodelled’ in Architectonisches Bedencken . . .

left 204. Sturm’s ‘Triangular Plan’ in Architectonisches Bedencken . . . right 205. Sturm’s ‘Winkelhacken Plan’ in Architectonisches Bedencken . . .

Sturm expressed church building as the set of geometrical ‘figures’ that fulfilled its aims: the circle, triangle, square, octagonal and L-shaped Winkelhacken. On this repertoire of possible plans, Sturm superimposed another set of variables, the Stücke. Each resultant figure had its pros and cons. The circle saved money, giving the most space for the least wall. The equilateral triangle offered an effective solution since it concentrated pulpit and altar in one angle, but no one would build such a church ‘because of the sharp corners’ (illus. 204). Sturm himself prefered the Winkelhacken because it located the pulpit and altar in the right angle and situated the prince on the opposite inner corner (illus. 205). Unfortunately, it divided the congregation in two, so in the end, Sturm recommended the rectangle, but with the Stücke shifted ninety degrees from their arrangement in the basilica design, with the pulpit and altar at the centre of the long side, facing the prince, and the congregation at opposite ends. In their compromises, this and the L-shape reveal Sturm’s priorities: fusion of pulpit with altar, maximized seating and elevation of the Fürstenstuhl to the church service’s second key focus. Although they split the congregation, these figures place prince and preacher in the closest workable proximity.

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Sturm cleans the slate of prior structures, of the relics of sacred space that the Reformation left behind. These were the first things I observed in the Wittenberg Altarpiece, how, in its placement, symmetry and triptych format, it retraced a geography of localized presence that iconoclasm had all but erased. In 1718, in a treatise expanding his earlier manifesto, Sturm remarked on the persistence of these obsolete patterns within a religion that does not need them: I was once supposed to give counsel on a certain church in the countryside where they wanted to build new seating, pulpit, and altar. I was to advise on how it might be arranged such that more people could get in, since the congregation had grown considerably. So I showed how one could add more than a hundred seats if one placed altar and pulpit on one of the long walls of the nave, and how everything else would become quite regular as a result.74 The expert’s proposal solves the problem and even looks pleasing, as if regularity were rationality’s aesthetic reward. But the natives balk at the plan: ‘I cannot describe how scornful the noble patrons and the local pastor were about it; but I also learned through the case how deeply this silly prejudice dwells in the hearts of many.’ For the iconoclast, indignation signals superstition, i.e., the imposition of fictions ‘over and above’ facts. Sturm agitated for religious as well as architectural reform. In 1714, he published a tract on Eucharistic doctrine that alienated many of his princely supporters and scandalized Lutheran theologians everywhere. His Mathematical Proof of the Holy Supper announced that ‘(i) the words of the Institution have never been correctly translated, and (ii) what is believed by Lutherans is not as inconsequential as they make it out to be, but is harmful and dangerous.’75 Essentially an argument against Christ’s presence in the bread and wine, the text is unusual for its faith in deductive reasoning, which Sturm likens to that of Euclid. This proof, Sturm’s subtitle boasts, rests ‘on foundations that he [Sturm] did not take from Reformed writings, of which he read nothing pertaining to this matter, but that were established newly, so that it will be impossible to raise any objections’. Mathematics solves the enigma of God as it did the problem of church. By deducing Christ’s absence at the altar, Sturm also clears space for architectural functionalism. With the deity elsewhere, all figures are possible, since none is necessary for salvation. Church building manifests its contingency in the drawbacks of its every solution. Whether it is the division of the audience, the skewing of places for preacher and prince, or some hitch within the figure itself (e.g., sharp corners), something keeps each edifice from wholly fulfilling its function. Like the true church itself – Luther’s invisible communio sanctorum – the

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perfect church edifice is a metaphysical ideal. The interminable, because insoluble, problem of placement, of arranging bodies and instruments within an interior, creates a space of disenchantment. There, in the guise of a rationality of means, church parades its mundane function of locating persons in a social whole. Lutheran edifices thus already display what modern sociology would unveil about religion. This can be observed in a building based on the Torgau design, the chapel in Schloss Wilhelmsburg in Schmalkald.76 Like Wittenberg and Torgau, Schmalkald in Thuringia was a pivotal Reformation locality.77 There, in 1531, the Protestant princes and cities formed their alliance against Charles v. When the Schmalkaldic League met again in the town in 1537, Luther delivered the confessional text called the ‘Schmalkaldic Articles’. With the League’s military defeat in 1547, Schmalkald – cursed by Catholics as a ‘place of evil heresy’78 – escaped annihilation only through the pleas of George Ernest, the last ruling count of Henneburg. The town’s fortunes improved in 1585, when Landgrave Wilhelm iv of Hesse-Kassel (now sole ruler of Schmalkald) began to build his summer residence there on the foundations of the medieval fortress. Designed by the court cabinetmaker Christoph Müller and his son Hans, the quadrangular Schloss Wilhelmsburg stood complete in 1590. According to its dedicatory inscription, the chapel in the castle’s southwest corner was already in use by 1588. With its simple rectangular plan and storeyed galleries organized in continuous arcades, it invokes the Schlosskirche in Torgau (illus. 206). And as in Torgau, the tribunes ranging around three sides resemble courtyard façades, internalizing the secular architecture that contains them. A polychrome stucco decor covers the entire surface of the vault and façades. Designed by the court sculptor Wilhelm Vernukken, and executed by Hans Becker, this masterpiece of Northern Mannerist ornament makes the chapel into a three-dimensional frame for the congregation. Originally, the parapets in the tribune openings featured paintings of biblical subjects (these were removed in 1608, during Schmalkald’s Calvinist phase). But even with these images, Vernukken’s strapwork would chiefly have had a parergal force, offsetting the building’s users as a living tableau of church. Of greater impact for future church design, however, is the chapel’s arrangement of the Stücke. Where in Torgau the pulpit stood in its traditional spot on one side of the nave, here it has been raised behind the altar, slightly above the lower gallery. The single pilaster below, reminiscent of Torgau’s isolated column and Cranach’s symbolic pillars, forms the visual connection between preaching and sacrament. The altar itself recollects Torgau’s original plain table but with a strange twist. A round basin has been set into the top, allowing the table to serve at baptism. Also supporting a

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Bible and a crucifix, the combined altar-font also gathers God’s word, its ineluctable reference, and, by way of the pilaster and pulpit, its oral proclamation. The special gallery above the pulpit houses the richly decorated organ.79 Along with the visible word (sacrament) and spoken word (preaching), the unspeakable word (music) belongs to one mech-

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206. Schlosskapelle, Wilhelmsburg, Schmalkald, view of the interior.

anism. Note how the organist’s seat, projecting over the pulpit, and supported by heavy rounded brackets, becomes an acoustic sounding board, serving to channel the preacher’s voice into the chapel. Like the organ’s 252 wooden pipes, the Stücke are tuned perfectly to one another. And these include the confessionals on the ground floor, at the altar end of each flanking aisle. Rule-bound in its subject, structure and style, the Wittenberg Altarpiece was a fitting instrument of rule-bound religion. Placing baptism, Communion, and confession in the corpus and preaching in the predella, Cranach diagrammed sacrament’s basis in the word. However, where the altarpiece coordinated pictures of practice, the Schmalkald chapel coordinates practice as picture. The preacher himself appears behind and above the altar, in the place reserved for icons (illus. 207). How did the architects of Schloss Wilhelmsburg arrive at this new arrangement? The Huguenot ‘temple’ in Lyon, built in 1560, placed the pulpit at its centre, behind a free-standing altar table (illus. 142). It has been suggested that Landgrave Wilhelm had Calvinist sympathies, and wished to reconcile Lutheran and Reform Protestantism.80 Yet the uniting of altar and pulpit

207. The pulpit in the Schlosskapelle, Wilhelmsburg, Schmalkald.

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208. Anonymous, Pulpit-altar, 1678–80, polychromed wood, Pfarrkirche, Hötensleben.

into a single structure had an important afterlife in orthodox Lutheranism. In the eighteenth century, the combined altar and pulpit became a standard feature of evangelical church service.81 Standing within what were often highly ornate structures, the body of the preacher, that living image of the word, became the visual climax of church architecture (illus. 208). This hybrid instrument received a name only in the nineteenth century. By then, however, the so-called ‘pulpit-altar’ (Kanzelaltar) had fallen out of favour. Scorned as an ‘error and misuse’82 that trivialized the cult, and ridiculed as misplaced rationalism in architecture, it survived in the twentieth century at best as a symbol of the inherent diversity of church building. How, though, are we to understand this pairing of altar and pulpit in its nascence, before it was fused into a single apparatus? In Schmalkald, the preacher enframed in his pulpit confronted a congregation displayed in the galleries and pews. Positioned so that they can look each other in the face, and both structured as tableaux by Vernukken’s unifying decor, minister and flock become mutual spectacles of the practice of religion. I observed how this activity of the word turns into imagery in Lutheran church pictures. Confronting the Wittenberg parishioners with an image of themselves,

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Cranach’s altarpiece metabolized iconoclasm by reducing figuration almost to zero. Redundant, the Reformation image returned representation to the lay beholder, making him or her the centre of a religion without representatives. In the seventeenth century, Pietists radicalized this reversal by declaring ‘the most beautiful image in a church’ to be the believing Christian (illus. 209).83 While meant to replace empty idols with real persons, however, this also makes persons into pictures (illus. 189). Observed from outside, as a disciplined bodily routine, religion becomes a sign of social order, as indeed it was in catechism’s corporealized rituals of understanding.84 In Schmalkald, as in all of Sturm’s Cartesian designs, the beholder of that sign was the ruler. Wilhelm’s chapel places him in the upper gallery opposite the pulpit. Contiguous with his richly stuccoed audience hall (the so-called ‘White Room’), the Fürstenstuhl both allowed the Landgrave to oversee his subjects and displayed him whose faith they, by law, practised and confessed. The sight and oversight of the ruler completed those of the preacher, hence the alignment of their Stücke as the perennial puzzle of evangelical church design. On the one hand is the routine of understanding – what Nietzsche called ‘a speaking mouth and very many ears’; on the other hand, as he goes on to say, ‘standing at a modest distance behind both groups, with a certain tense supervisory mien, is the state, there in order from time to time to recollect that it is the purpose, goal, and model of this odd speaking and listening procedure’.85 In this light, church building maps the space of modern subjectivity. To individuals in this system, understanding should feel like his or her inner grasp of truth. From outside, as a coordinated routine, understanding signals subjugation to a social order: the mind and body both policed by the state. It would be wrong to imagine the one viewpoint without the other, or to fancy that, arriving at the prince, one oneself has ‘understood’ the system. The subject as object of legitimate force fluctuates continuously with the subject as personal domain. This gives the Reformation image its specular structure, as mirror of the society that beholds it. I shall end therefore with a Lutheran altarpiece that puts its own redundancy explicitly on display. This mise-en-abyme of Reformation art occurs, uncannily, in Mühlberg, in that town on the Elbe River where, in 1547, Lutheranism suffered its most terrible defeat. There, soon after his death on 26 December 1566, certain ‘good friends’of the church steward Ernest Valentin Fuchs commissioned an altarpiece for their parish church in his memory (illus. 132).86 Renovated in 1565, the church was a remnant of the Güldenstern Convent, a Cistercian nunnery dissolved in 1539 by Duke Henry of Saxony. Legend has it that the nuns, in protest, burned the complex down rather than have it fall into

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Protestant hands. At any rate, the convent lay in ruins until 1565. To fashion an altarpiece for the rebuilt church, Fuchs’s friends – probably his heirs – chose Heinrich Göding the Elder, city painter of nearby Dresden and court painter to Mühlberg’s ruler, Prince August of Saxony.87 Born in 1531 in Braunschweig, Göding was one of the leading German painters of his day. Probably trained by Cranach the Elder in Wittenberg, he may have been in that city in 1547 when, on the day of the Mühlberg loss, Cranach’s retable was dedicated. By 1559 he was employed by the Danish court, where he also met his future patron, August. Over his long career as painter to the Electors of Saxony, Göding produced a vast body of works – portraits, altarpieces, genre pictures, animal allegories and historical and biblical cycles – of which precious little survives. In 1570–72 he collaborated with Cranach the Younger on the vast decorative programme of Schloss Augustusburg; Göding’s contributions there have all disappeared except for a few rabbits painted on the Hunting Room’s walls. The Mühlberg retable is signed and dated twice: the foreground bench in the Last Supper panel bears Göding’s monogram and the year 1568, and a small inscription on the rear of the altarpiece reads: ‘Made by Heinrich Göding of Braunschweig, Painter to the City of Dresden, October 21, 1569.’ The ensemble’s structure is old-fashioned for this date. A triptych with movable wings, it recollects pre-Reformation altarpieces, as well as Cranach’s earliest Lutheran retable in Schneeberg, with its explicit thematics

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209. Attributed to Lorenz Strauch, Sermon in the Hall of the Reformed Community of Stein near Nuremberg, c. 1620, engraving.

of old and new. Somewhat updated by Renaissance scrollwork, this archaic format enables Göding to place his present within artistic and biblical history. With its wings shut, the altarpiece displays three Old Testament subjects – left to right, the Creation of Adam, the Expulsion from Eden, and Jonah and the Whale – followed by the Ascension (illus. 210). With wings open, it features the Last Supper flanked by Christ’s nativity and resurrection (illus. 132). Focused, as usual, on Judas’s Communion, the supper takes place in a splendid room decorated with a frieze of Old Testament paintings. These pictures return the gospel scene to the typology featured on the retable’s outer wings; it is as if Christ’s supper unfolded in a room celebrating the whole of history till then. On the other hand, painted in a resolutely contemporary style, so that one might even glean from their manner what Göding’s own lost biblical cycles might have looked like, these paintings in the painting project the supper scene forward to the year 1568. On the rear of the altarpiece, the Last Judgment (painted swiftly in black) gathers all events to their ultimate end. And supporting this inventory of salvation history is a predella focused on the present, or rather, on a present that has just recently passed away, and that Göding, through his art, eternally repeats. The predella consists of a small, oblong panel set slightly back from two flanking half-length portraits of Fuchs and his wife (illus. 134). These likenesses turn inward to the little panel, as if directing their and our devotion to it. And there, the artist has depicted the altar rite celebrated by Mühlberg’s ministers and their congregation. To the left, dressed in a black pastor’s robe, Johann Liebe, deceased already in 1559, gives the bread to Fuch’s wife (we recognize her from her half-length portrait), and to the right, in the rich liturgical garb of ‘Interimist’ Lutheranism, Mühlberg’s minister in 1568, Paul Taucher, gives the chalice to Fuchs. Thus at the base of the altarpiece that doubles as his epitaph, the deceased appears as if participating still in a contemporary church service. The curious row of hats peeking from below the predella’s lower framing edge heighten the picture’s snapshot effect. It invites us to imagine that we ourselves behold the Communion rite in full swing, and over the heads of an assembled congregation as it marches to the altar table behind which Göding’s painting is itself displayed. The predella’s iconography is familiar enough. We have seen it in numerous polemical prints of the 1540s and 1550s, including the widely circulated one by Jacob Lucius showing Luther and Hus administering Communion in both kinds to the Saxon princes (illus. 211). After Göding, it would become standard for pictures commemorating the Augsburg Confession, where it visualized the altar rite in its evangelical form (illus. 4). In Prince Johann Ernst’s memorial in Eisenach, it appears twice: once on its

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left and opposite 210. Heinrich Göding the Elder, Mühlberg Altarpiece, 1568, oil on panels (closed state). Marienkirche, Mühlberg.

own, in the right painted panel, and again as a background detail in the panel featuring Charles v’s reception of the Confession. Göding’s pairing of this composition with a Last Supper also has ample precedents. The woodcut illustrating Johann Brenz’s explication of sacrament shows a liturgical Communion in both kinds below its biblical precedent (illus. 162). Remember, too, that the gallery where Christ sits with his disciples covers a pre-Reformation altarpiece glimpsed behind the Communion scene. Göding effects a similar concealment, but not with an element in his picture (i.e., a gallery), but with the framing structure of the altarpiece itself. More crucially than these precedents, however, it is the Wittenberg Altarpiece that is at play in Göding’s pairing of present and past (illus. 28). With its combination of Old Testament, gospel and liturgical scenes all resolved by the Last Judgment on the rear, and with its function also as epitaph (to Luther), Cranach’s ensemble gave Göding his model of a presentist altarpiece couched in the traditional format of a triptych. But Cranach chose not to add to his baptism and confession panels a portrait of

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a contemporary Communion rite, since that activity would have occurred in real space before the altar. Built into an altarpiece, Göding’s predella displays the liturgical re-enactment of the Last Supper, therefore doubling each ritual performance transpiring before it. As if to make this redundancy his theme, Göding introduces a feature that, to my knowledge, is unique in the history of Christian art. Behind and above the altar table as it appears within the painted scene, just behind two candles and an open Bible, the artist has portrayed the base of an altarpiece on which is painted, in miniature, Göding’s own predella itself. In other words, the altarpiece glimpsed in the background is the one we behold; the motif of paintings in a painting that Göding, in his Last Supper, developed for typology, functions here to double up the image itself. And by the logic of infinite regress, in that predella in the predella there appears in the same spot the same predella again, which has in it another identical predella, and another in that, until at about the power of four painting reaches the limits of its resolution (illus. 212).

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211. Jakob Lucius, Luther and Hus Distributing Communion to the Saxon Princes, c. 1550, woodcut.

Göding locates this vanishing point at the exact centre of the predella’s upper edge, along a line of material contact between an image of liturgy (the predella’s subject) and an image of liturgy’s biblical institution (the Last Supper above). By cutting off the Communion scene precisely at the place where it – or rather, its depiction on the predella itself – physically ceases, by refusing to let the New Testament painting peep below its frame, the artist seals liturgy hermetically into its eternally recurring world. The cut ceaselessly repeated between the mundane present and the biblical past is further elaborated along the Last Supper’s lower edge. In a little oval set off by an elaborate volumetric scrollwork, the painter has portrayed the Gathering of Manna, a traditional Old Testament prefiguration of the Eucharist. A basket of miraculous bread braces the oval’s base (illus. 213). Göding is not original in overcharging the passage between a predella’s centre and the pictures above. In Catholic practice, the reserved host was

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212. Detail of illus. 134.

displayed in a monstrance stationed just around that point. Numerous altarpieces had a Eucharistic tabernacle built into them, either in their lower storey (covered by a door or metal grill), or in their predella (illus. 174).88 To embellish this coordination of image and sacrament, paintings and sculpture in the altarpiece’s corpus often feature motifs of emanation or overflow, in which the sacred that is pictorially represented seems to seep downward and outward into the sacred that is ritually presented in the Mass. We observed this conceit in several retables of the Mass of St Gregory (illus. 176). Such pictures diagram the lien that humanity has on God because his objectification – as Christ, as Eucharist, as image – is in their hands. The most monumental example of this motif, and of the turning point it represents between divine and human agency, is surely Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s great polyptych in Ghent (illus. 214).89 In the ensemble’s open state, at the middle of its lower framing edge, water from a fountain of life (itself a confluence aligned with a heavenly altar, the lamb of God, the dove of the Holy Spirit, and, in the upper register, the Godhead), streams forth as if out of the Van Eycks’ picture into our world along a little gully. This humble feature itself is shaped from mud, as was Adam, who appears in the upper panels wearing his mortal, suntanned flesh as an attribute. In the gully, however, there are also jewels, indications of paradise and of the promise thereof that the water holds. Painting itself is largely of mundane substances, but through skill and ingenuity, the van Eycks have transformed it into precious gems and, beyond these, into perfect icons of God himself – within

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213. Detail of illus 132, cartouche with the ‘Gathering of Manna’, 1568, oil on panel.

the painting as portrait likeness, and before it, as real, localized flesh, as Christ’s body in the bread and wine. Perhaps Lotte Brand Philip was correct in suggesting that, below the gully, the retable originally featured a predella with a Eucharistic tabernacle built into it.90 An Eyckian Fountain of Life, known in two copies, displays Hosts (rather than jewels) washed downstream from God.91 Göding’s picture yearns in just the opposite direction: not toward a real presence materially before it, but toward an infinity endlessly repeated and deferred. There may be doctrinal grounds for this shift. Luther, I noted, held Christ to be ‘ubiquitous’, both everywhere and specifically in the bread and wine. Infinite regress might have been this artist’s way of visualizing a ‘here’ that is simultaneously also elsewhere. Göding did not have to wrestle with this doctrinal enigma on his own in order to reach his eccentric solution. Perhaps Mühlberg’s pastors, Johann Liebe and Paul Taucher, preached such an understanding, or perhaps equivocation in this matter of placement had become, by 1568, a Lutheran painter’s special expertise, just as metaphysical flatness became the skill of blue-chip artists circa 1950. However it is glossed, though, the black hole at the predella’s upper centre is just one of a number of event horizons in Reformation art, including the one supposedly imagined by Willibald Pirckheimer in his debate with Dürer over whether a Protestant understanding of the Eucharist could ever be visualized.92 Probably an apprentice in Cranach’s shop, Göding might have helped in the production of the model case: the crucifix of the Wittenberg predella. Not only the disappearing blood at its base, but also the intricate fiction of its

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214. Jan and Hubert van Eyck, Ghent Altarpiece, 1432, oil on panels (centre panels of open state). Cathedral of St Bavo, Ghent.

contact with the upper framing edge, place that paradigmatic Lutheran image on the edge of an analogous ontological abyss. Göding’s predella has another peculiarity besides its vanishing point, however. Communion takes place in an outdoor setting. We recognize this only bit by bit, since we are first preoccupied by our recognition of the church interior where the predella itself is shown to stand. Grass grows between the pavement slabs and trees rise behind the altarpiece. It is a choir

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transformed into a churchyard. One can make out epitaphs and gravestones on the background walls. One at the far right displays what seems to be a crucifix carved in relief; it recalls actual tomb slabs in Mühlberg’s parish church, including that of Paul Taucher himself, deceased 1571 (illus. 215). Göding transposes Communion (commemoration of Christ’s sacrificial death) to a place of the dead. This fits perfectly the altarpiece’s function as epitaph. Those recently deceased (Fuchs, his wife, Liebe, and perhaps others portrayed among the communicants), together with the living (Taucher), take Communion continually even in death. From this perspective, infinite regress is the promise of return from bodily death. Christ’s Last Supper, itself a proleptic funeral meal, and celebrated by early Christians at the graves of martyrs, acquires its ancient valence as a feast of the dead. The trees that, implausibly, grow around the altarpiece in the altarpiece are birches. Already in the Middle Ages, and in evangelical practice from the sixteenth century on, birches were set up at the altar during the long festival of Pentecost.93 So many of these trees were felled for this purpose that, in eighteenth-century Saxony, Hannover and Gotha, the custom was forbidden due to the wood shortages it caused.94 Along with Christmas and Easter, Pentecost was one of the three chief church festivals. Commemorating the event when, after his resurrection, Christ spoke through his Apostles, anticipating how he would speak through them and their successors thereafter, it was the great feast of the foundation and renewal of the church. Beyond their old symbolism of renewal (e.g., as the stuff of maypoles), birches were specifically linked to Pentecost through a verse from the traditional Introitus of its liturgy, Psalm 118:27: ‘The Lord is God, and he has made his light shine upon us. With boughs in hand, join in the festal procession up to the horns of the altar.’95 Luther’s translation specifies the boughs as ‘Maien’ (birches), which should adorn the altar up to its ‘Hörner’ (horns) – a reference to the shape of the Jewish altar of the burnt offering: ‘Make a horn at each of the four corners, so that the horns and the altar are one piece, and overlay the altar with bronze’ (Exodus 27:2). In his predella, Göding shows these birches passing just behind the corners of his own altarpiece, at the point where the curved supports of the wings form a sort of horn. He even magnifies these horns beyond their real-life dimensions and renders them in a bronze colour, in contrast to the actual altarpiece’s grey framework. In addition to all else that its tautology implies, the predella shows itself within the dream of its use at Pentecost. But what about the outdoor setting? By constituting the choir as a churchyard, Göding recovers the underlying message of the church’s feast of renewal. The Eucharist was a gift of death and of resurrection. Christ was buried and rose again, and so too will all who believe in him. This promise, visualized in countless Lutheran epitaphs and tomb slabs, is what the Lord’s

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215. Anonymous, Epitaph for Paul Taucher, c. 1571, sandstone. Guldenstern Cloister, Mühlberg.

Supper ritually renews. In Mühlberg, the deceased thus rightly return eternally to this renewal, since Christ does, too. Linked to Pentecost by way of the birches, the church, combining choir and graveyard, also stands perpetually renovated if always the same, its deceased and living members dwelling in it together in the promise of eternal life.‘I will make breath enter you and you will come to life’ prophesied Ezekiel for Israel, the ‘Totenfeld’. Cranach’s Dessau Memorial for Joachim of Anhalt, completed just three years before Göding’s altarpiece, gathers the departed Reformers to the table of Christ (illus. 130). Yet unlike that epitaph, the Mühlberg predella is empty of all indications of divinity. By placing his image en abyme, Göding maps a recursive space cleansed of special places and presences, and repeating

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endlessly, even in death, the mere conditions of this mundane world. The Christian altarpiece originated from an impulse to display the invisible substance of the things placed in its framework. Lutheran retables sought instead to purify the sacred both from things and from the space of absolute emplacement, as reified by church as institution and physical edifice. Since the Reformation image is only the mirror of practice, it disappears the moment it pictures itself. Like an exitless transit-lounge of religious desire, Göding’s predella transposes us to an elsewhere that is already, and only, the here and now. Looking into that space, and forced by geometric proof to abandon the hope of an arrival, I am nevertheless returned to something that is haunted still. Even in this graveyard religion, the sacred image never goes away. As it did throughout its history, it can only promise that in some better new world it will disappear.

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In a fragmentary draft of a letter written in old age, Caspar David Friedrich describes a painting he is working on of a Lutheran minister in the ruins of a medieval church. Two metres high, this would have been the largest canvas Friedrich ever produced. It was to show the interior of a crumbling church. And indeed I’ve based it on the beautiful, still-standing cathedral in Meissen. From the piled rubble that fills the inner space rise powerful piers with slender columns which still support some of the vaulting high up. The time of the splendour of the temples and their servants is past, and from the ruined whole another era (and a different demand for clarity and truth) has arisen. High, thin evergreen firs have grown up from the rubble. On the decaying saints’ effigies, destroyed altars, and broken fonts there stands – with the Bible in his left hand and his right hand laid upon his heart, and leaning on the remnants of an episcopal monument – an evangelical minister, his eyes directed toward the blue sky, thoughtfully beholding little light, bright clouds.1 This would have been Friedrich’s most ambitious work both because of its scale and because, alone among this artist’s paintings, it would have hinged on a human subject – the minister – reflecting in his pose and facial expression a complex response to the scene. The ‘thoughtful’ (sinnend) way he looks towards the sky would have had to convey somehow the ‘thought’ or ‘sense’ (Sinn)2 of the scene, which would also be the picture’s own sense. Friedrich was a poor figure painter, however. Congenitally incapable of drawing bodies in motion or evidencing emotion, he had turned from history painting (the prestigious genre) to landscape, including persons only as staffage, and depicting them from behind, stiff and stationary, with their backs to the viewer, evocative by what they hide about themselves. The huge canvas that Friedrich describes would have required skills he did not


possess; it therefore remained, I’m sure, an imaginary masterpiece: an impossible project outlined in an unfinished letter that Friedrich inserted into a manuscript left unfinished at his death in 1840. But then, the painting he envisions is itself all about fragments. It is, among other things, an allegory of how art arises from the ruins of religion. Fragmentation results partly from the simple passage of time:‘the time of the splendour of the temples . . . is past’. Yet the archaizing ‘temples’(as opposed to ‘Church’ or ‘churches’), along with the pagan colouring of temple ‘servants’, indicate that the ruin was also catastrophic and just. A Protestant minister stands on the sort of debris that Protestant iconoclasm left behind. The effigies lie ‘decayed’ (morsch) beneath his feet, like rotten idols, while the edifice encompassing them has become an open sepulchre to the sky. Friedrich tells a familiar story about the post-iconoclastic condition, one we rehearsed in chapter 2. As in the aesthetics of the painter’s Lutheran contemporary, Hegel, the end of religion is an ineluctable historical development – indeed it stands for the march of history with a capital ‘h’. But religion’s decline is also a great human achievement, progress toward a different and clearer way to yearn for clarity: compare the ‘light, bright cloud’ to the toppled altar. Certainly the minister and the artist betray a nostalgia for that vanquished cultural ‘whole’ discernible in the ruins, otherwise they would not stand in the rubble, delighting in fragments that survive. Note that the image of fir trees replicating stone piers evokes the primal scene of Gothic revival in Germany, Goethe’s experience of the ‘German vaults’of Strasbourg cathedral, with its ‘thousands of branches and millions of twigs’.3 But the viewer in the painting – and on that model the viewer of the painting – also looks elsewhere, away from the built church to something immaterial. Friedrich once designed an open air ‘shore chapel’ for the unearthly, windswept island of Rügen in the Baltic Sea.4 Although never realized, the plan links the artist’s landscape paintings (themselves views of sublime nature) to the old Protestant dilemma of church building. In the vistas he chose to paint, Friedrich pursued the nomadic ‘anywhere’ of Lutheran religion. The paradoxical hiddenness of Christ and his church, that ‘visible invisibility’ that captured the theological imagination for centuries, is captured in the minister’s gaze to something in the world that will take him beyond it. Although I doubt he could have successfully portrayed a figure so freighted with significance, Friedrich, throughout his career, painted nothing but the structure and content of such a gaze. In Friedrich, landscape itself becomes a ruined choir out of which the viewer is led to peer. Whether explicitly, when he locates the picture’s viewpoint at the centre of a crumbling Gothic choir, or implicitly, when bushes, trees and hills alone, in the way they are observed, possess the ruined symmetry of a toppled cathedral, Friedrich asks us to glimpse nature through the ghostly matrix of church.

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216. Caspar David Friedrich, The Choir of the Ruined Cloister at Oybin, 1810, pencil and watercolour. Hamburger Kunsthalle.

An epochal iconoclash, the gesture simultaneously breaks the image and preserves it; Friedrich at once undoes the prior structures to engender a purer blank (no one in the history of art had ever painted such empty pictures as he) and affirms those structures by redescribing them as natural. Note how, in a watercolour of the ruined monastery of Oybin (near Zittau), the trefoil lancet windows, in their elongated, anthropomorphic shapes, look like saints’ effigies (illus. 216).5 Negatively constituted, both as the shape of the openings and as empty views through them, these ‘potential images’6 are nonetheless empirically observed. Not only the date inscribed on the sheet, but also the way the ruins are painted, bespeaks their being done from life. Friedrich’s penchant for ruins derives from their simultaneously erratic and ordered structure. When meticulously captured, dilapidation vouches for the truth of the image, for such ragged, random profiles – even where, in those windows, they accidentally resemble human forms – can only occur ‘out there’ in the contingent world, beyond the generalizing look of things mentally concocted and calligraphically inscribed. The global asymmetry of the symmetrical choir announces that the order of the picture itself, with its absolute centre at the empty place where an altar once stood, was discovered in the world by the artist–viewer struggling to find a spot among the ruins where they might look symmetrical again.

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Friedrich’s famous Cross in the Mountains makes a similar assertion (illus. 1). Unveiling the crucifix as a physical artefact – a carved cross observed on a mountain summit – it locates transcendence within the lived experience of the painter. The holy effigy is only the occasion for a sublime experience such as could be found in the sunset itself. In the late eighteenth century, pious Lutherans criticized, but also took pleasure in, Catholic wayside crosses and calvaries, observing in them both superstition and authentic ‘folk’piety.7 Like the crucifix in Cranach’s predella, then, Friedrich’s summit cross frames itself at once as the inner content of experience and as an external image that one particular community makes of Christ. As in his watercolour of the Oybin ruin, so too in his unpaintable masterpiece Friedrich locates us in the graveyard of religion. Cranach and Göding had foreshadowed that location, decorating the predella (or ‘sarcophagus’) of their altarpieces with an emptiness of cosmic dimensions. Yet in Friedrich, the minister neither administers nor preaches, but instead gazes silently at the clouds. After centuries of using images to teach, and of subordinating them to the word, Lutheran culture engendered a picture that surpasses all speech. Friedrich fully expected that his Cross in the Mountains would generate an infinitude of subjective responses, none definitive but all authentic because each is expressive of a viewer’s absolute individuality.8 The redundancy of expression that haunted catechism and school is resolved in a new (but still school-based) speech about the meaning of art. Proving publically that one has personally and inwardly understood a work of art, and therefore that one is, in some fundamental sense, a person, involves saying something different about it than what was said by others or, more simply, to behold it ‘thoughtfully’ in silence. After struggling to say something more than the word turned image in the picture, we are greeted by the image that cannot be preached.

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BS = Evangelische Kirche in Deutschland, Die Bekenntnisschriften der evangelisch-lutherischen Kirche, 4th edn. (Göttingen, 1959) EKO = Emil Sehling, ed., Die evangelischen Kirchenordungen des xvi. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1902–13, and Tübingen, 1955–) ENP = Max J. Friedländer, Early Netherlandish Painting, trans. Heinz Norden (Leyden, 1962–1976) FR = Max J. Friedländer and, Jacob Rosenberg, The Paintings of Lucas Cranach, revd edn (Ithaca, 1978) G = Max Geisberg, The German Single-Leaf Woodcut: 1500–1550, ed. Walter L. Strauss (New York, 1974) LW = Luther’s Works, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St Louis, 1955-1977) MS = Bryan D. Mangrum and Guiseppe Scavizzi, A Reformation Debate: Karlstadt, Emser, and Eck on Sacred Images (Toronto, 1991) LW = Luther’s Works, ed. Helmut T. Lehmann and Jaroslav Pelikan (Philadelphia, 1959) PL = Patrologiae cursus completus, series latina, ed. Jacques Paul Migne (Paris 1841–61) S = Walter L. Strauss, The German Single Single-Leaf Woodcut: 1500–1600 (New York, 1975) Schr = Wilhelm Ludwig Schreiber, Handbuch der Holz-und Metalschnitte des XV. Jahrhunderts (Leipzig, 1926–30) Stange = Alfred Stange, Kritische Verzeichnis der deutschen Tafelbilder vor Dürer, ed. Norbert Lieb (Munich, 1970) WA = Martin Luther, Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe (Weimar, 1883–) WABr = Martin Luther, Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe. Abteilung Briefe (Weimar, 1883–) WADB = Martin Luther, Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe. Abteil Deutsche Bibel (Weimar, 1883 –) WATR = Martin Luther, Werke. Kritische Gesammtausgabe. Abteilung Tischreden (Weimar, 1883–)

preface 1 Joseph Leo Koerner, Caspar David Friedrich and the Subject of Landscape (London, 1990). 2 Friedrich Schleiermacher, On Religion, trans. Richard Crouter (Cambridge, 1988), p. 60. 3 Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, trans. Talcott Parsons (London, 1985), p. 105. 4 Joseph Leo Koerner, ‘Icon as Iconoclash’, in Iconoclash: Beyond the Image Wars in Science, Religion, and Art, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, 2002), pp. 164–213. 5 Ramon Sarró, ‘The Iconoclastic Meal: Destroying Objects and Eating Secrets among the Baga of Guinea’, in Iconoclash, ed. Latour and Weibel, pp. 227–30. 6 Sarró, p. 228. 7 Anne-Marie Lecoq, ‘Cadre et rebord’, Revue de l’Art, xxvi (1974), pp. 15–20. 8 Joseph Leo Koerner, The Moment of Self-Portraiture in German Renaissance Art (Chicago, 1993), pp. 80–126. 9 The chapter ‘Homo interpres in bivio: Cranach and Luther’, published in Koerner,The Moment of SelfPortraiture (pp. 363–410) was first delivered as a lecture in 1983. 10 Anders Hendricksson, ‘History’, Wilson Quarterly (Spring 1983). 11 Niklas Luhmann, ‘How Can the Mind Participate in Communication?’, in Materialities of Communication, ed. Hans Ulrich Gumbrecht and K. Ludwig Pfeiffer, trans. William Whorbrey (Stanford, ca, 1994), p. 371.

chapter 1: ideas about the thing, not the thing itself 1 The canvas now hangs in the choir of Schweinfurt’s Church of St John; see Angelika Marsch, Bilder zur



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11 12 13 14

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17 18 19 20 21


Augsburger Konfession und ihren Jubiläen (Weißenhorn, 1980); also Nuremberg, Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Aus der Frühzeit der evangelischen Kirche, exh. cat. (Munich, 1959); Martin Scharfe, Evangelische Andachtsbilder (Stuttgart, 1968), pp. 284–9. Joseph Braun, Das christliche Altar in seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklung (Munich, 1924), ii, pp. 277–83; for early instances of altarpieces, see Christian Beutler, Die Entstehung des Altaraufsatzes (Munich, 1978); for a survey and bibliography, see Alexander Nagel, ‘Altarpiece’, The Dictionary of Art, ed. Jane Turner (New York, 1996), i, pp. 707–13. Romans 3: 28 is cited and discussed twice in Article 4 of the Confession; BS, pp. 174 and 178. Bernhard Lohse, ed., Der Durchbruch der reformatorischen Erkenntnis bei Luther (Darmstadt, 1968). WA, liv, pp. 185–6. WA, xxx/1, pp. 636, 637, 640, 643. Johann Mathesius, Historien von Dr Martin Luthers Leben (Nördlingen, 1854), p. 97. Friedrich Mildenberger, Theology of the Lutheran Confessions, trans. Erwin L. Lueker, ed. Robert C. Schultz (Philadelphia, 1986). BS, p. 61. Marsch, Bilder; also Georg Arndt, ‘Das Reformationsjubelfest in vergangenen Jahrhunderten’(Berlin, 1917); Reinhard Lieske, Protestantische Frömmigkeit im Spiegel der kirchlichen Kunst des Herzogtums Württemberg (Munich, 1973), pp. 119–27; Ruth Kastner, Geistlicher Rauffhandel (Frankfurt, 1982); Harry Oelke, Die Konfessionsbildung des 16. Jahrhundert im Spiegel illustrierter Flugblätter (Berlin, 1992); and Freya Strecker, Augsburger Altäre zwischen Reformation (1537) und 1635 (Münster, 1998). On the authority of Cranach’s image, see Scharfe, Evangelische Andachtsbilder, p. 286. Ernst Walter Zeeden, Die Entstehung der Konfessionen (Munich, 1965), p. 9. Joachim Stephan, a jurist in Greifswald, coined the phrase; see Martin Heckel, Staat und Kirche (Munich, 1968), p. 80. On medieval background of the ‘dualistic’ state, in which prince and estates competed for political authority, see Hajo Holborn, A History of Modern Germany: The Reformation (Princeton, nj, 1959), pp. 22–7. Cited and translated by Carl C. Christensen, Princes and Propaganda: Electoral Saxon Art of the Reformation (Kirksville, mo, 1992), p. 134. For the Mögeldorf canvas, now hanging in the west choir of the Church of Nicolaus and Ulrich, see Marsch, Bilder, p. 47–8. The Bad Windsheim version (illus. 8) is signed on the page of a pictured hymnal: ‘I believe therefore I speak. AH 1601.’ A payment from the city council from that year lists the work as a ‘cloth on which the various estates are painted who originally confessed the evangelical teachings’ (Marsch, Bilder, p. 47). Cited in Marsch, Bilder, pp. 48–9. Manuale Jubileum Evangelicum (Nuremberg, 1617); cited in Marsch, Bilder, p. 61. Cited in Marsch, Bilder, p. 61. Karl–Heinz zur Mühlen, ‘Die Register der Weimarer Lutherausgabe (Abteilung Schriften)’, Luther, l (1979), pp. 138–44. The first collection of Luther’s writings dates from 1518, a year after he had become a European celebrity (Theologicae lucubrationes, Basel, 1518); proposals for a Gesamtausgabe were made in the 1530s, initially to the objections of Luther himself; see Josef Benzing, Lutherbibliographie. Verzeichnis der gedruckten Schriften Martin Luthers bis zu dessen Tod (Baden-Baden, 1966); Kurt Aland, Hilfsbuch zum Lutherstudium, 3rd revd edn. (Witten, 1970). Erwin Panofsky, Meaning in the Visual Arts (Garden City, ny, 1955), pp. 26–54; on the historical emergence of Bildung, see Hans-Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, 3rd revd ed. (Tübingen, 1972), p. 7.

chapter 2: a tragedy for art? 1 For the literature up until 1985, see Peter W. Parshall and Linda B. Parshall, Art and the Reformation: An Annotated Bibliography (Boston, ma, 1986), with an excellent introductory essay. The best single-volume survey of the subject is Sergiusz Michalski, The Reformation in the Visual Arts (Cambridge, 1993); Carl C. Christensen’s Art and the Reformation in Germany (Athens, oh, 1972) provides a useful overview of the visual material. 2 The classic formulation of this ‘death of art’ is Wilhelm Pinder, Deutsche Kunst der Dürerzeit, 2nd edn (Cologne, 1953), p. 395. 3 For an overview of the huge literature on Protestant iconoclasm, see Norbert Schnitzler, Ikonoklasmus–Bildersturm (Munich, 1996), pp. 9–25; a useful English survey is Carlos M. N. Eire, War Against the Idols (Cambridge, 1986). 4 Luther launched his attack on images as instruments of ‘works-righteousness’ in the tract of 1520, ‘On Good Works’ (WA, vi, p. 211).

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5 WA, xxviii, p. 554. 6 On which, see Kurt Bauch, ‘Imago’, in Beiträge zu Philosophie und Wissenschaft. Wilhelm Szilasi zum 70. Geburtstag (Munich, 1960), pp. 9–28. 7 Gottfried Benn, Briefe an F. W. Oelze 1932–1945 (Wiesbaden, 1977), p. 88; cited in Michalski, Reformation, p. 1. 8 Alexander Rüstow, ‘Lutherana Tragoedia Artis’, Schweizer Monatshefte, xxxix (1959), pp. 891–906. The idea that Protestant iconoclasm negatively impacted the subsequent history of European art has been current in the literature since Julius von Vegh, Die Bilderstürmer (Strasbourg, 1915); also Hans Rott, ‘Kirchen- und Bildersturm bei Einführung der Reformation in der Pfalz’, Neues Archiv für die Geschichte der Stadt Heidelberg und der rheinischen Pfalz, vi (1905), pp. 229–54; and Louis Réau, Histoire du Vandalisme (Paris, 1959), p. 10. On iconoclasm as a positive artistic gesture synonymous with modernity, see Theodor W. Adorno, Ästhetische Theorie, ed. Gretel Adorno and Rolf Tiedemann (Frankfurt, 1970), p. 159; Norbert Bolz, Eine kurze Geschichte des Scheins (Munich, 1991), pp. 25–6; and Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art (London, 1997), pp. 255–86. 9 Novalis, Die Christenheit oder Europa, in Schriften, ed. Jakob Minor (Jena, 1923), p. 36–7. 10 Franz Tieck, Franz Sternbalds Wanderungen, in Schriften (Berlin, 1843), xvi, p. 334; cited in Heinrich Bornkamm, Luther im Spiegel der deutschen Geistesgeschichte, 2nd edn (Göttingen, 1970), p. 38. 11 August Wilhelm Schlegel, Vorlesungen über schöne Literatur und Kunst gehalten zu Berlin 1802–1803 (Stuttgart, 1884), p. 78–80. 12 Georg Dehio, ‘Die Krisis der deutschen Kunst im xvi. Jahrhundert’, in Kunsthistorische Aufsätze (Munich and Berlin, 1914), p. 153. 13 Alfred Woltmann, Die deutsche Kunst und die Reformation (Berlin, 1867), pp. 35–6. 14 For celebrations of this view, see Paul Lehfeld, Luthers Verhältnis zu Kunst und Künstler (Berlin, 1892); and Ulrich Gertz, Die Bedeutung der Malerei für die Evangeliumsverkündigung in der evangelischen Kirche des xvi. Jahrhunderts (Berlin, 1936). 15 Hubert Schade, Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst (Berlin and Leipzig, 1932), i, p. 295. 16 Dieter Koepplin, ‘Reformatorische Kunst aus der zweiten Hälfte des Jahrhunderts’, in Die lutherische Konfessionalisierung, ed. Hans-Christoph Rublack (Gütersloh, 1992), p. 512. 17 Traugott Koch, ‘Grundsätzliche Überlegungen zur Ikonographie evangelischer Kirchenmalerei in der Zeit der lutherischen Orthodoxie’, in Die Bilder in den lutherischen Kirchen, ed. Peter Poscharsky (Munich, 1998), p. 10. 18 A history of Cranach’s reception remains to be written. See Susan Heiland’s brief ‘Cranach im Urteil der Kunstgeschichte’, in Lucas Cranach der Ältere. Der Künstler und seine Zeit, ed. Berlin, Deutsche Akademie der Künste (Berlin, 1953), pp. 140–54. 19 Max J. Friedländer, Landscape, Portrait, Still-Life, trans. R. F. C. Hull (New York, 1963), p. 182; on Cranach’s work before his arrival Wittenberg, see Friedländer’s pioneering ‘Die frühesten Werke Cranachs’, Jahrbuch der Königlich-Preussischen Kunstsammlungen, xxii (1902), pp. 228–34. 20 Wilhelm Worringer, Lukas Cranach (Munich, 1908), p. 118; similar judgments are expressed in Ernst Heidrich, Lucas Cranach (Frankfurt, 1911), p. 19; Kurt Glaser, Lukas Cranach (Leipzig, 1923), pp. 58–160; and FR, p. 10. 21 In his Easter Sermon for 1533, Luther praises ‘grobe eusserliche bilde’ (WA, xxxvii, p. 64); on ‘crudeness’ as a virtue, see Chapter 14 below. 22 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, 4th edn. (Tübingen, 1975), pp. 250–69. 23 This work, including the 1795–6 text posthumously titled ‘Die Positivität der christlichen Religion’, was first gathered by Hermann Nohl in Hegels theologische Jugendschriften (Tübingen, 1907); see G.W.F. Hegel, Werke, ed. Eva Moldenhauer and Karl Markus Michel (Frankfurt, 1986), i, pp. 104–89 24 Gerhard Ebeling, ‘Luther and the Beginning of the Modern Age’, in Luther and the Dawn of the Modern Era, ed. Heiko Oberman, (Leiden, 1974). pp. 11–39.; also Emanuel Hirsch, Lutherstudien (Gütersloh, 1954), ii, pp. 121–68. 25 Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Aesthetics, trans. T. M. Knox (Oxford, 1975), i, p. 20. 26 Hegel, Aesthetics, i, p. 11. 27 Suzanne Sulzberger, La réhabilitation des primitifs flamands 1802–1867, 2 vols (Brussels, 1961), i, pp. 45–79. 28 Luc Ferry, Homo Aestheticus, trans. Robert de Loaiza (Chicago, 1993), pp. 137 and 143. 29 Ebeling, ‘Luther’, p. 15. 30 Hegel, Aesthetics, i, p. 103. 31 This taunt was voiced already in 1520 by an iconoclast, Uly Anders, in Zurich; see p. 87 below. 32 Hegel, Aesthetics, i, p. 10. 33 Hans Belting, Likeness and Presence, trans. Edmund Jephcott (Chicago, 1994). 34 Hans Belting, The End of Art History, trans. Christopher Wood (Chicago, 1983). 35 Hegel, Aesthetics, i, p. 11. 36 The phrase is David Wellbery’s, in ‘The Exteriority of Writing’, Stanford Literary Review, ix (1992), p. 11.

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37 The first quotation is from a speech Hegel delivered in 1809 at the new humanistic secondary school where he was principal (Gustav Thaulow, Hegels Ansichten über Erziehung und Unterricht, Kiel, 1853, iii, p. 191); the second occurs in the Aesthetics (ii, p. 964); both are cited and discussed in Friedrich Kittler, Discourse Networks 1800 / 1900, trans. Michael Metteer and Chris Cullens (Stanford, ca, 1990), pp. 71 and 384 n6. 38 David Wellbery, ‘Foreword’, in Kittler, Discourse, p. x. 39 Wilhelm Dilthey, ‘The Rise of Hermeneutics’, trans. Fredric R. Jameson and Rudolf A. Makkreel in Selected Works, ed. Rudolf A. Makkreel and Frithjof Rudi (Princeton, nj, 1996), iv, pp. 242–5. 40 Luther first stated the principle of scripture as sui ipsius interpres in 1519 in the Leipzig debate (WA, vii, p. 97); it first entered confessional debates in Zwingli’s Zurich in 1523. 41 Gadamer, Wahrheit und Methode, pp. 162–5. 42 Hegel, Aesthetics, i, p. 422.

chapter 3: territorial battles 1 Desiderius Erasmus, Encomium morie (Basel, 1515), fol. Mv. Hans Holbein’s marginal drawings appear on a copy of this edition now in the Kupferstichkabinett, Öffentliche Kunstsammlung Basel, Inv. 1662.166; see Christian Müller, Die Zeichnungen von Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren und Ambrosius Holbein (Basel, 1996), p. 58, no. 43. 2 Letter of 1526 from Basel to Thomas More, cited in Gert von der Osten, Deutsche und niederländische Kunst der Reformationszeit (Cologne, 1973), p. 521. 3 Wilhelm Pinder, Vom Wesen und Werden deutscher Formen, 4, Holbein der Jüngere und das Ende der altdeutsche Kunst (Cologne, 1951). 4 Georg Stuhlfauth, ‘Künstlerstimmen und Künstlernot aus der Reformationsbewegung’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte, lx (1937), pp. 509–12; also Max Geisberg, ‘Heinrich Satrapitanus and Heinrich Vogtherr’, Buch und Schrift, i (1927), pp. 96–100. 5 Heinrich Vogtherr the Elder, Ein frembds und wunderbars Künstbüchlein (Strasbourg, 1545), fol. Aiir. 6 Emil Egli, Aktensammlung zur Geschichte der Züricher Reformation in den Jahren 1519–1533 (Zurich, 1879), doc. 543; cited Lee Palmer Wandel, Voracious Idols and Violent Hands (Cambridge, 1995), p. 95. 7 Hans Rott, Quellen und Forschungen zur südwestdeutschen und schweizerischen Kunstgeschichte, 3, Quellen (Stuttgart, 1936), ii, pp. 131–2; cited Carl C. Christensen’s Art and the Reformation in Germany (Athens, oh, 1972), p. 166. 8 Rott, Quellen, iii, Quellen, i, p. 305 n1. The guild’s petition of 1525 reports that ‘through the word of God, the regard for images has markedly declined’ (p. 304). 9 La Petite chronique de la Cathédral, published in Fragments des Anciennes Chroniques d’Alsace, ed. L. Dacheux (Strasbourg, 1887), i, p. 20; cited in Wandel, Voracious, p. 145. 10 G, i, no. 203; Werner Hofmann, ed., Luther und die Folgen für die Kunst, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Hamburg (Munich, 1983), no. 3, with bibliography. 11 LW, li, p. 84. 12 WA, ii, p. 206; cited Christine Göttler, “Jede Messe erlöst eine Seele aus dem Fegefeuer” – Der privilegierte Altar und die Anfänge des barocken Fegefeuerbildes in Bologna’, in Zurich, Schweizerisches Landesmuseums, Himmel, Hölle, Fegefeuer, exh. cat. by Peter Jezler (Zurich, 1994), p. 149. 13 Georges Bataille, The Accursed Share, trans. Robert Hurley (New York, 1991), pp. 129–32. 14 Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Von abtuhung der Bylder Vnd das keyn Betdler unther den Christen seyn soll (Wittenberg, 1522). 15 Lee Palmer Wandel, Always Among Us: Images of the Poor in Zwingli’s Zurich (Cambridge, 1990). 16 WA, iv, p.189; cited in Ernst Rietschel, Das Problem der unsichtbar-sichtbaren Kirche bei Luther (Leipzig, 1932), p. 30. 17 WA, vii, p. 710. 18 WA, li, p. 11. 19 St Ambrose, Commentary on St Luke, cited in Walter Ong, Orality and Literacy (London, 1982), p. 119. 20 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion: 1536 Edition, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, revd edn (Grand Rapids, mi, 1986), p. 9. 21 Sebald Bühelers Strassburger Chronik, published in Fragments des Anciennes Chroniques d’Alsace, ed. Dacheux, i, p. 78; cited in Stuhlfauth, ‘Künstlerstimmen’, p. 508. 22 Karel van Mander, Lives of the Illustrious Netherlandish and German Painters, ed. and trans. Hessel Miedema (Doornspijk, 1994), p. 74. Mander notes that, due to how the iconoclast applied his paint, Hugo’s work could be cleaned and ‘remains undamaged’. Here, as with so many church interiors where Gothic wall painting survived under whitewash, defacement preserved the image from subsequent harm. 23 Reinhard Lieske, Protestantische Frömmigkeit im Spiegel der kirchlichen Kunst des Herzogtums Württemberg (Munich, 1973), pp. 71–4; Martin Scharfe, Evangelische Andachtsbilder (Stuttgart, 1968), p. 321.

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24 WA, xviii, p. 83. 25 See Hermann Oertel ‘Die protestantische Bilderzyklen im niedersächsischen Raum und ihre Vorbilder’, Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte, xvii (1978), pp. 102–32; ‘Die protestantische Abendmahlsbild im niederdeutschen Raum und seiner Vorbilder’, Niederdeutsche Beiträge zur Kunstgeschichte, xiii (1974), pp. 223–70; and ‘Die Vorbilder für die biblischen und emblematischen Malereien in der protestantischen Kirche’, in Geschichte des protestantischen Kirchenbaues, ed. Klaus Raschzok and Reiner Sörries (Erlangen, 1994), pp. 259–66. Also Peter Poscharsky, ‘Das lutherische Bildprogramm’, in Die Bilder in den lutherischen Kirchen, ed. Peter Poscharsky (Munich, 1998), p. 28. 26 Richard W. Gassen, Die Leien Bibel des Straßburger Druckers Wendelin Rihel (Memmingen, 1983), pp. 36ff. 27 Hans Preuss, Martin Luther der Künstler (Gütersloh, 1931), pp. 20–21. 28 Christoph Walter, Bericht vom Vnterscheid der Deudschen Biblien vnd andern Büchern des Ehrnwirdigen und seligen Herrn Doct. Martini Lutheri Bücher (Wittenberg, 1563); excerpted in WADB, vi: lxxxvii. 29 Paris, Bibliothèque Nationale, Collection Hennin, T. viii, no. 727 and 728; discussed in Hofmann, Luther und die Folgen, p. 355, nos 223 and 224. 30 Adolf von Harnack, Dogmengeschichte (Freiburg and Leipzig, 1893), p. 362. 31 Luther’s rejection of the seven sacraments and his reduction of them to two occurs in his 1520 On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church (WA, vi, p. 501). 32 The Reformer knew the term visibile verbum from St Augustine’s Tractatus in Iohannis Evangelium 80. 3 (see WA, xxx/1, p. 223); K. H. zur Mühlen,‘Zur Rezeption der Augustinischen Sakramentsformel ‘Accedit verbum ad elementum et fit sacramentum’, Zeitschrift für Theologie und Kirche, lxx (1973), pp. 50–76. 33 WA, xlv, p. 522; John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia, 1960), p. 113–14. On Calvinism and the visual arts, see most recently Paul Corby Finney, ed., Seeing Beyond the Word (Grand Rapids, mi, 1999). 34 Luther, Against Hanswurst (1541), in WA, li, p. 507; cited in Rietschl, Das Problem, pp. 31ff. 35 Sergiusz Michalski, ‘“Widzialne słowa” sztuki protestanckiej’, in Slowo i Obraz, ed. Agnieszka Morawinska (Warsaw, 1982), pp. 171–208; I am indebted toWoyzeck Kotas for translating the article for me. See Michalski’s later summary, ‘Inscriptions in Protestant Paintings and in Protestant Churches’, Ars Ecclesiastica (Helsinki, 1996), pp. 34–47. 36 Augsburg Confession, 5. 1; BS, p. 61. 37 Rudolf Otto, The Idea of the Holy, trans. John W. Harvey (Oxford, 1950), p. 24–30. 38 BS, p. 21. 39 See the concluding section of Erasmus’s 1503 Enchiridion (trans. Raymond Himelick, Gloucester, 1970, pp. 144ff), which was entered into the Catholic Index expurgatorius (Antwerp, 1571); written in 1538, the Schmalkaldic Articles sum up Luther’s mature theological view (BS, p. 462). On ritual as custom, see Chapter 18 below. 40 Cited and discussed in Jonathan Z. Smith, To Take Place (Chicago, 1987), p. 102. 41 Germanisches National Museum, Kupferstichkabinett, Inv. Nr. hb 56, 1–3 /1336. 42 Michael Camille, The Gothic Idol (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 1–6 43 Martin Bugenhagen, Der ehrbaren Stadt Hamburg christliche Ordnung 1529, ed. Hans Wenn (Hamburg, 1976), pp. 5–7. 44 In an analysis of Hendrick van Steenwijck the Elder’s Interior View of Antwerp Cathedral (c. 1580), Thomas Hensel argues that in the way altarpieces are fictively reintroduced into Antwerp’s posticonoclastic cathedral, the painter repeats the destructive gesture that cleared the church. From the viewpoint where they are observed, the piers, as it were,‘happen’ to conceal the retables behind them points where the offensive images lie (‘Bilderstürmende Bilder. Hendrick van Steenwijcks des Älteren “Cathedral von Antwerpen”’, Im Blickfeld. Jahrbuch der Hamburger Kunsthalle, iii, 1998, pp. 33–56). The pendant engravings may derive from Steenwijck’s circle.

chapter 4: appropriations 1 See p. 42 above. 2 S, iii, p. no. 991, no. 4; Dieter Koepplin, Spätrenaissance am Oberrhein. Tobias Stimmer 1539–1584, exh. cat., Kunstmuseum, Basel (Basel, 1984), pp. 263–5, with bibliography. 3 Meyer Shapiro, ‘On the Aesthetic Attitude in Romanesque Art’, Romanesque Art (New York, 1977), pp. 1–25, and ‘Marginal Images and Drôlerie’, Late Antique, Early Christian and Medieval Art (New York, 1979), pp. 196–8; Jurgis Baltrusaitis, Le Moyen Age fantastique (Paris, 1955); and Michael Camille, Image on the Edge (London, 1992). 4 Wera von Blankenburg, Heilige und dämonische Tiere (Cologne, 1975), p. 268–72; on the analogy between animal types and human beings in medieval culture, see Hans-Robert Jauss, Untersuchung zur mittelalterlichen Tierdichtung (Tübingen, 1959), Chapter 4. 5 Bernard of Clairvaux, Letter to William of St Thierry, translated in G. G. Coulton, A Medieval Garner (London, 1910), pp. 70–72.

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6 Christoph Walter, Bericht vom Vnterscheid der Deudschen Biblien vnd andern Büchern des Ehrnwirdigen und seligen Herrn Doct. Martini Lutheri Bücher (Wittenberg, 1563), fols Bii-Biii. 7 Heinrich Bornekamm, ‘Die Bedeutung der Bekenntnisschriften im Luthertum’, Das Jahrhundert der Reformation (Frankfurt, 1983), pp. 286–93. 8 Of course, Fischart here projects his own satirical strategies onto the past, since he specialized in the use of animal fables to mock the contemporary clergy; see Joannes Boltes, ‘Bilderboden des 16. und 17. Jahrhundert’, Zeitschrift des Vereins für Volkerkunde, xvii (1907), pp. 425–41. 9 Matthias Flacius Illyricus, Catalogus Testium veritatis, qui ante nostraum aetatem reclama verunt Papae (Basel, 1556), cited in Peter Meinhold, Geschichte der kirchlichen Historiographie (Freiburg and Munich, 1967), i, p. 268. 10 S, i, p. 183, no 2; probably a reprint of a sheet originally issued by Alexander and Samuel Weissenhorn. 11 Philippe-André Grandidier, Essais historiques et topographiques sur l’église cathédral de Strasbourg (Strasbourg, 1782), p. 268; cited in Bern, Bildersturm, p. 386. 12 S, iii, pp. 1001–2, nos 13 and 14. 13 On distinction between the Pauline and the Lutheran concepts of the law, see Gerhard Ebeling, ‘Reflections on the Doctrine of the Law’, in Word and Image, trans. James W. Leitch (London, 1960), pp. 247–81. 14 On the symbolism of the ruined Jewish temple, see Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting (Cambridge, 1953), i, pp. 134–40. 15 Oseas Schadaeus, Summa Argentoratensium templum (Strasbourg, 1617), p. 58. 16 Schadaeus, Summa, p. 5 and 37. 17 G. Mensching, ‘Synkretismus’, in Die Religion in Geschichte und Gegenwart, 3rd revd edn, ed. Kurt Galling et al. (Tübingen, 1962), vi, pp. 563–5. 18 Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica Gentis Anglorum, 1. 30; cited and discussed in Richard Fletcher, The Conversion of Europe (London, 1997), p. 253. 19 EKO, v, p. 513b. 20 Martin Luther, Ratschlag von der kirchen (Wittenberg, 1538); WA, l, p. 288; see Hartmann Grisar and Franz Heege, Luthers Kampfbilder (Freiburg, 1921–3), iii, pp. 57ff; Robert W. Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk, 2nd expanded edn (Oxford, 1994), pp. 77–9; Christine Göttler,‘Ikonoklasmus als Kirchenreinigung’, Georg-Bloch-Jahrbuch des Kunstgeschichtlichen Seminars der Universität Zürich, vi (1997), pp. 61–87. 21 Sven Göransson, ‘Schweden und Deutschland während der synkretistischer Streitigkeiten’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, xlii (1951), pp. 220–42. 22 John William Burgon, ed, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham (London, 1839), ii, pp. 148–9. 23 Cited in Ron Po-Chia Hsia, Social Discipline in the Reformation (London, 1989), pp. 36–7. 24 Carl C. Christensen, ‘Iconoclasm and the Preservation of Ecclesiastical Art in Reformation Nuernberg’, Archiv für Reformationsgeschichte, lxi (1970), pp. 205–20; Gottfried Seebaß, ‘Mittelalterliche Kunstwerke in evangelisch gewordenen Kirchen Nürnbergs’, in Die bewahrende Kraft des Lutherthums, ed. Johann Michael Fritz (Regensburg, 1997), p. 45. 25 Karl Ulrich, Das ehemalige Karmelitenkloster zu Nürnberg (Nuremberg, 1930), pp. 19, 25–7; Seebass, ‘Mittelalterliche’, p. 45. 26 Rainer Kahsnitz, Veit Stoss in Nürnberg, exh. cat., Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg (Munich, 1988), p. 203. 27 Walter Fries, ‘Kirche und Kloster zu St Katharina in Nürnberg’, Mitteilungen des Vereins für Geschichte der Stadt Nürnberg, lxvi (1979), p. 17. 28 Sergiusz Michalski, ‘Das Phänomen Bilderstürm’, Bilder und Bildersturm im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. Robert Scribner (Wiesbaden, 1990), pp. 110, citing Ernst Fabian, ‘Der erste Versuch, in Zwickau ein Museum zu errichten’, Mitteilungen des Altertumsverein für Zwickau und Ungebung, xi (1914), pp. 1–13. 29 Ulrich Oelschläger, ‘Der Sendbrief Franz von Sickingens an seinen Verwandten Dieter von Handschuchsheim’, Blättern für pfälzische Kirchengeschichte und Religiöse Volkskunde, xxxvii–xxxviii (1970–71), pp. 710–24; the letter was written in 1521 and published in 1522. 30 Oelschläger, ‘Der Sendbrief ’, p. 723. 31 John Foxe, Ecclesiasticall History (London, 1570), ii, p. 312. See Roy C. Strong, ‘Edward vi and the Pope’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, xxiii (1980), p. 312. 32 Foxe’s source for this scene is Thomas Cranmer’s 1548 Catechism, itself based on Hans Holbein’s titlepage for the Coverdale Bible (Cologne, 1535); see Margaret Aston, The King’s Bedpost (Cambridge, 1993), p. 155–61. 33 Ronald Gobiet, Der Brief zwischen Philipp Hainhofer und Herzog August d. J. (Munich, 1984), no. 64; cited in Andreas Tacke, Der katholische Cranach (Mainz, 1992), p. 223. 34 John Böttiger, Philipp Hainhofer und der Kunstschrank Gustav Adolfs in Upsala (Stockholm, 1910); HansOlof Boström, ‘Philipp Hainhofer and Gustavus Adolphus’s Kunstschrank in Uppsala’, in The Origins of Museums, ed. Oliver Impey and Arthur MacGregor (Oxford 1985), pp. 90–101.

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35 36 37 38 39 40

41 42 43 44 45


47 48 49 50 51 52


54 55 56 57

58 59 60

Unterlindenmuseum, Colmar, Inv. 4; Stange, ii, p. 32, no. 61. The retable originally stood behind the high altar of St Martin’s Cathedral in Colmar; Stange, ii, p. 32. Hegel, Aesthetics, i, p. 103. Hermann Lübbe, Säkularisierung (Munich, 1965), pp. 23–5. Lübbe, Säkularisierung, pp. 28–9; Hans Blumenberg, Legitimacy of the Modern Age, trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 19–20. Paul Graff, Geschichte der Auflösung der alten gottesdienstlichen Formen in der evangelischen Kirche Deutschlands, 2nd edn, (Göttingen, 1937), i, p. 100; Ernst Walter Zeeden, Katholische Überlieferungen in den lutherischen Kirchordnungen des 16. Jahrhundert (Münster, 1959), p. 31. Gräflich Schwarzenburgische Kirchordnung, EKO I/2, p. 136ab; cited in Günther Wartenberg, ‘Bilder in den Kirchen der Wittenberger Reformation’, in Die bewahrende Kraft, ed. Fritz, p. 20–21. Hans Carl von Haebler, Das Bild in der evangelischen Kirche (Berlin, 1957), p. 37. Jutta Barbara Desel, ‘Vom Leiden Christi ader von dem schmerzlichen Mitleyden Marie’ (Alfter, 1993), pp. 93–6. WA, vii, p. 569; Walter Tappolet, ed. Das Marienlob der Reformation (Tübingen, 1962), pp. 145–52. The attribution of the drawing (Berlin Kupferstichkabinett, KdZ 505) to the younger Cranach is Jacob Rosenberg’s, in Die Zeichnungen Lucas Cranachs d. Ä (Berlin, 1960), no. a 22; the Shrine Madonna reproduced here dates from c. 1380 (Germanisches Nationalmuseum, Nuremberg, inv. no. Pl 2397). G, ii, p. 505, no. 539; see Christiane D. Andersson, ‘Religiöse Bilder Cranachs im Dienste der Reformation’, in Humanismus und Reformation als kulturelle Kräfte in der deutschen Geschichte, ed. Lewis W. Spitz, et al. (Berlin, 1981), pp. 49, Gottfried Seebass, ‘Die Himmelsleiter des heiligen Bonaventura von Lukas Cranach d. Ä.’, Sitzungsberichte der Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaftern. Philosophischhistorische Klasse (1985), fasc. 4 (Heidelberg, 1985), pp. 9–10. G, ii, p. 527, no. 591; Andersson, ‘Religiöse Bilder’, pp. 45–9. G, ii, pp. 577–8, nos 610 and 611. WA, xvii/1, p. 438; Seebass, ‘Himmelsleiter’, p. 50. Seebass, ‘Himmelsleiter’, pp. 50–59. Reinhard Lieske, Protestantische Frömmigkeit im Spiegel der kirchlichen Kunst des Herzogtums Württemberg (Munich, 1973), p. 9. Bridget Heal, ‘Images of the Virgin Mary and Marian Devotion in Protestant Nuremberg’, in Religion and Superstition in Reformation Europe, ed. William Naphy and Helen Parish (Manchester, 2002); and idem, ‘A Woman Like Any Other? Images of the Virgin Mary and Marian Devotion in Nuremberg, Augsburg and Cologne c. 1500–1600’, PhD Dissertation, Courtauld Institute, London, 2001. Andreas Veringer, Ein Christliche Predig von der newerbawten Kirchen zur Frewdenstatt 2nd ed. (Stuttgart, 1609), p. 17v; cited in Jan Harasimowicz, ‘“Scriptura sui ipsius interpres”, Protestantische Bild-Wort-Sprache des 16. und 17. Jahrhunderts’, Text und Bild, Bild und Text, ed. Wolfgang Harms (Stuttgart, 1990), p. 264. Armin Zweite, Schlosskapelle Celle (Munich, 1983); Jeffrey Chipps Smith, German Sculpture of the Later Renaissance c. 1520–1580 (Princeton, 1994), p. 104 Johann Michael Fritz, ‘Die bewahrende Kraft des Lutherthums’, in Die bewahrende Kraft, ed. Fritz, p. 17; Ingo Sandner, Spätgotische Tafelmalerei in Sachsen (Dresden and Basel, 1993), pp. 32–4. EKO, v, pp. 224, 220. The Epitaph for Gerke Pawel and His Wife from c. 1554 in Braunschweig features relief portraits of Luther and Melanchthon in the place of saintly intercessors (see Stadtkirchenverband Braunschweig, Die Reformation in der Stadt Braunschweig, Braunschweig, 1978, p. 45; and Friedrich Berndt and Peter Poscharsky, ‘Der Kirchenbau seit der Reformation’, in Vier Jahrhunderte lutherische Landeskirche in Braunschweig, ed. Landeskirchenamt Wolfenbüttel, Wolfenbüttel, 1968, p. 123). WABr, ix, p. 357, no. 3591. James Gardener, ed., Letters and Papers, Foreign and Domestic, of the Reign of Henry viii (London, 1892), xiii/1, no. 935; cited in Bridget Heal, ‘A Woman’, p. 186. Martin Heckel, Deutschland im konfessionellen Zeitalter (Göttingen, 1983), pp. 37, 44 and 50. As a tactic used officially by Lutheran theologians against their counterparts in Catholic territories, dissimulation is wholly distinct from ‘Nicodemism’, i.e., the pattern of self-protective dissembling behaviour on the part of Protestants living within a Catholic region (see Carlo Ginzburg, Il Nicodemismo,Turin, 1970).

chapter 5: a reformation altarpiece 1 On the Wittenberg Altarpiece, see especially, Oskar Thulin, Cranach-Altäre der Reformation (Berlin, 1955), pp. 9–32; also idem, ‘Reformatorische und frühprotestantische Abendmaldarstellungen’, Kunst und Kirche, xvi/1 (1939), pp. 30–34; Otto Stroh, ‘Der Wittenberger Altar’, Concordia Theological Monthly, xvii (1946), pp. 280–96; Bernhard Kummer, ‘Reformatorische Motive in der Kunst Cranach, seines Sohnes und seiner Schule’, PhD Dissertation, Friedrich Schiller Universität, Jena, 1958, pp. 94–9; Heinrich

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2 3 4 5 6 7 8


10 11




15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

Zimmermann, ‘Der Kartonnier des Croy-Teppichs’, Jahrbuch der Berliner Museen (1959), p. 159; Hermann Oertel, ‘Das frühprotestantische Abendmahlsbild in Wittenberg und Dresden’, Kirche und Kunst, l (1972), pp. 39–42; and Albrecht Steinwachs and Jürgen M. Pietsch, Der Reformationsaltar von Lucas Cranach d. Ä in der Stadtkirche St Marien (Spröda, 1998). Fritz Bellmann, et al., Die Denkmale der Lutherstadt Wittenberg (Weimar, 1979), pp. 158–60; Ingrid Schultze, Die Stadtkirche zu Wittenberg (Berlin, 1966). Henri Lefebvre, Production of Space, trans. Donald Nicholson-Smith (Oxford, 1991), pp. 229–91. Bellmann, et al., Denkmale, p. 152. Hans-Joachim Kunst, ‘Reformation and Hall-Church’, Martin Luther: 450th Anniversary of the Reformation (Bad Godesberg, 1967), pp. 135–45. Joseph Braun, Das christliche Altar in seiner geschichtlichen Entwicklung (Munich, 1924), i, pp. 525–661. André Grabar, Martyrium. Recherches sur le culte des réliques et l’art chrétien antique (Paris, 1946); Peter Brown, The Cult of the Saints (Chicago, 1981). Heinrich Nissen, Orientation (Berlin, 1906–10); Joseph Sauer, Symbolik des Kirchengebäudes und seiner Ausstattung in der Auffassung des Mittelalters, 2nd edn (Freiburg, 1924), pp. 87, 393, and Edmund Weigand, ‘Die Ostung in der frühchristlichen Architektur’, in Festschrift für Sebastian Merkle (Düsseldorf, 1922). David Woodward, ‘Medieval Mappaemundi’, in J. B. Harley and David Woodward, The History of Cartography (Chicago 1987), i, pp. 286–370; Marcia Kupfer, ‘Medieval World Maps: Embedded Images, Interpretive Frames’, Word and Image, x (1994), pp. 271–83. Braun, Das christliche Altar, i, p. 107. Most recently, Jacqueline E. Jung, ‘Beyond the Barrier: The Unifying Role of the Choir Screen in Gothic Churches’, Art Bulletin, lxxxii (2000), p. 627. For a brief overview of the ritual transformations underlying this architectural change, see Theodor Klauser, A Short History of the Western Liturgy, 2nd edn, trans. John Halliburton (Oxford, 1979), pp. 135–40. The classic descriptions of late-medieval religion as ritualistic, visual and socially fragmenting are Jacques Toussaert, Le sentiment religieux en Flandre à la fin du Môyen-age (Paris, 1963), and Etienne Delaruelle et al., L’Eglise au temps du Grand Schisme et de la crise conciliaire (1378–1449) (Paris, 1964). Edouard E. Dumoutet, Le désir de voir l’hostie (Paris, 1926); Peter Browe, ‘Die Elevation in der Messe’, Jahrbuch für Liturgiewissenschaft, ix (1929), pp. 20–66; idem, Die Verehrung der Eucharistie im Mittelalter (Munich, 1933); Miri Rubin, Corpus Christi (Cambridge, 1992), pp. 63–82. Anton L. Mayer,‘Der heilbringende Schau in Sitte und Kult’, Heilige Überlieferung, ed. Odo Casel (Münster, 1938), pp. 234–62; for an overview of medieval theories of intromission, see David C. Lindberg, Theories of Vision from Al-Kindi to Kepler (Chicago, 1976). Recently, these models of vision have become the subject of a lively debate about the historicity of visuality and personhood; see Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity (New York, 1993), pp. 52–8; Alfred Gell, Art and Agency (Oxford, 1998), pp. 104–21 (Taussig and Gell depend on Yrjö Hirn’s classic The Origin of Art, London, 1900, pp. 293–4). See also the essays collected in Robert Nelson, ed., Visuality Before and Beyond the Renaissance (Cambridge, 2000). Robert W. Scribner, ‘Das Visuelle in der Volksfrömmigkeit’, in Bilder und Bildersturm im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. Scribner (Wiesbaden, 1990), pp. 9–20. On the implications of these on models of personhood, see Gell, Art and Agency. R. H. Robbins, ‘Popular Prayer in Middle English Verse’, Modern Philology, xxxvi (1939), p. 344; cited in Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven, 1992), p. 102. Klaus Lankheit, Das Triptychon als Pathosformel (Heidelberg, 1959), pp. 12–19 and passim. FR, no. 18. On this detail, see pp. 308–9 below. WA, l, pp. 632ff. Martin Brecht, ‘Luther’s Reformation’, in Handbook of European History, ed. Thomas A. Brady, Jr, et al. (Leiden, 1995), ii, p. 140. Wittenberg, Lutherhalle, Martin Luther 1483 bis 1546, exh. cat. ed. Volkmar Joestel, et al., 2nd edn revd and expanded (Berlin, 1993), p. 148. Hermann Werdemann, Luthers Wittenberger Gemeinde wiederhergestellt aus seinen Predigten (Gütersloh, 1929), pp. 23–7. Franz Kugler, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte (Stuttgart, 1842), p. 764. Thulin, Cranach-Altäre, p. 32. Dan Sperber, Rethinking Symbolism, trans. Alice L. Morton (Cambridge, 1975), p. 33. Thulin, Cranach-Altäre, p. 163 n9, citing Ernst Zitzlaff, Die Begräbnisstätten Wittenbergs (Wittenberg, 1860), p. 114. G, iii, p. 850, no. 899; see also Heinrich Röttinger, Beiträge zur Gesichte des sächsischen Holzschnittes (Strasbourg, 1921), no. 14; some scholars attribute this print to Cranach’s shop.

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28 Brecht, ‘Luther’s Reformation’, pp. 142–3. 29 The best overview of Cranach’s shop is Werner Schade, Cranach: A Family of Master Painters, trans. Helen Sebba (New York, 1980), with bibliography to 1974; other bibliographies: Campbell Dodgson, Lucas Cranach: Critical Bibliography (Paris, 1900); Lucas Cranach der Ältere. Der Künstler und seine Zeit, ed. Berlin, Deutsche Akademie der Künste (Berlin, 1953), pp. 178–201; Claus Grimm, et al., Lucas Cranach. Ein Maler-Unternehmer aus Franken, exh. cat., Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte, Augsburg (Munich, 1994), pp. 387–99. New descriptions of Cranach’s shop practices are offered by Eisenach, Ingo Sandner, ed., Unsichtbare Meisterzeichnungen auf dem Malgrund exh. cat. Wartburg, Eisenach (Regensburg, 1998). 30 Relevant documents in Heinz Lüdecke, Lucas Cranach der Ältere im Spiegel seiner Zeit (Berlin, 1953), pp. 59–64; and Berlin, Lucas Cranach, pp. 156–78. 31 Christian Schuchardt, Lukas Cranach (Leipzig, 1851), i, p. 20. 32 Luther, WABr, ii, p. 305; Berlin, Lucas Cranach, p. 167; Lüdecke, Lucas Cranach, p. 68. 33 Reported in a 1522 pamphlet by Ambrosius Wilken, and published in Lüdecke, Lucas Cranach, pp. 69–70; on Cranach’s portrait, see Ernst Ullmann, ‘Die Luther-Bildnisse Lukas Cranachs, Lucas Cranach, d. Ä’, Martin Luther, Leben, Werk, Wirkung, ed. G. Vogler, et al. (Berlin, 1982), pp. 45–52. 34 Berthold Hinz, Lucas Cranach d. Ä (Reinbek, 1993), p. 71. 35 WATr, iv, pp. 505–7, no. 4787. 36 FR, no. 69; Elfriede Starke, ‘Luthers Beziehung zu Kunst und Künstlern’, in Leben und Werk Martin Luthers von 1526 bis 1546, ed. Helmar Junghans (Göttingen, 1983), p. 537. 37 Thulin, Cranach-Altäre, p. 8; also Martin Warnke, Cranachs Luther (Frankfurt, 1984),pp.24–5. 38 Balthasar Mentzius, Syntagma Epitaphiorum quae in metropoli Witeberga erecta conspiciuntur (Magdeburg, 1604), ii, p. 7; Mentzius was already known to Johann Gottfried Schadow, Wittenbergs Denkmäler der Bildnerei, Baukunst und Malerei (Wittenberg, 1825), p. 105. 39 Leopold von Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte im Zeitalter der Reformation, ed. Paul Joachimsen, (Meersburg and Leipzig, 1933), vi, p. 249. 40 Ranke, Deutsche Geschichte, vi, p. 249. 41 See p. 68 above. 42 Christian Schoettgen, Historie der Chur-Sächsischen Stifts-Stadt Wurtzen (Leipzig, 1717), p. 261; also recounted in Christian Juncker, Das goldene und silverne Ehren-Gedächtniss des Theuren Gotteslehrers D. Martini Lutheri (Frankfurt and Leipzig, 1706), p. 260. 43 BS, p. 61. 44 See chap. 22. 45 Simplicius Commentary, trans. S. Sambursky, On Aristotle’s Categories (1982), 37n; see Edward S. Casey, The Fate of Place (Berkeley, ca, 1997), p. 4.

chapter 6: actions 1 Norbert Schnitzler offers a good summary of image-breaking in Wittenberg, in Ikonoklasmus-Bildersturm (Munich, 1996), pp. 237–53. 2 Newe ordnung der Stat Wittenberg. M.D.xxii.jar, EKO, i, p. 697, no. 160. 3 Cited in Hermann Barge, Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt (Leipzig, 1905), i, p. 398. 4 The document, along with most of the sources, are collected in Nikolaus Müller, Die Wittenberger Bewegung 1521 und 1522, 2nd edn, (Leipzig, 1911); here p. 195, no. 93. 5 Müller, Wittenberger Bewegung, p. 195, no. 93.1. 6 Müller, Wittenberger Bewegung, p. 192, no. 92. 7 Stefan Oehmig, ‘Die Wittenberger Bewegung 1512–22 und Ihre folgen’, in 700 Jahre Wittenberg (Weimar, 1995), pp. 115 and 127; and Cécile Dupeux, et al., Bildsturm–Wahnsinn oder Gottes Wille, exh. cat. Historisches Museum, Bern (Zurich, 2000), p. 74. 8 Nineteen specific altars are recorded for the City Church before Reformation, but these represent only a fraction of the original number (Fritz Bellmann, et al. Die Denkmale der Lutherstadt Wittenberg (Weimar, 1979), p. 272); none of the retables survive, and with the exception of the bronze baptismal font from 1457, the few pre-1500 works currently in the church were either moved there from the exterior, or were purchased in this century. 9 MS, p. 9; Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Von abtuhung der Bylde und das keyn Betdler unther den Christen seyn sollen (Wittenberg, 1522); the standard modern German edition is Hans Leitzmann’s (Bonn, 1911); the part of the text dealing with iconoclasm has been translated and edited by Bryan D. Mangrum and Giuseppe Scavizzi (=MS). 10 See the texts collected in Walter Tappolet, ed., Das Marienlob der Reformation (Tübingen, 1962). 11 WA, xv, p. 337; cited and discussed in Ulrich Bubenheimer’s legal reading of the Wittenberg iconoclasm, ‘Scandalum et ius divinum. Theologische und rechtstheologische Probleme der ersten reformatiorischen Innovationen in Wittenberg 1521/22’, Zeitschrift der Savigny-Stiftung für Rechtsgeschichte, xc

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(1973), p. 269 12 Müller, Wittenberger Bewegung, p. 191, no. 92. 13 Referring to figurative interpretations of the eucharistic, the pejorative ‘foreign expositions’ is Karlstadt’s, and dates from November 1521, i.e., before he himself embraced them (Von beyden gestalten der heylige Messze, Wittenberg 1521, p. d 2v; cited Bubenheimer, ‘Scandalum’, p. 278 n56). 14 Müller, Wittenberger Bewegung, no. 68. 15 See Schneider, Ikonoklasmus, pp. 238–39. 16 Letter of Johann Pfau to Hermann Mühlpfort, Mayor of Zwickau, from around 15 January 1522; E. Fabian, ‘Zwei gleichzeitige Berichte von Zwickauern über dei Wittenberger Unruhen 1521 und 1522’, Mitteilungen des Altertumsvereins für Zwickau und Umgegend, xi (1914), p. 266 n6. 17 Sergiusz Michalski, The Reformation in the Visual Arts (Cambridge, 1993), p. 10. 18 Bellmann, Denkmale, p. 153. 19 Schindler, Ikonoklasmus, pp. 146 and 163; Karlheinz Blaschke, Sachsen im Zeitalter der Reformation (Gütersloh, 1970), p. 85. 20 Schindler, pp. 131–44. 21 Lee Palmer Wandel has reconstructed the case on the basis of documents in the city archive of Zurich, in Voracious Idols and Violent Hands (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 53–5. 22 Richard Trexler, ‘Florentine Religious Experience: the Sacred Image’, in Church and Community 1200–1600 (Rome, 1987), p. 59; Patrick Geary, ‘Humiliation of Saints’, in Saints and Their Cults, ed. Stephen Wilson (Cambridge, 1983), p. 125. 23 For a succinct historical overview, see Dario Gamboni, The Destruction of Art (London, 1997), pp. 13–50; also Alain Besançon, The Forbidden Image: An Intellectual History of Iconoclasm, trans. Marie Todd (Chicago, 2001). 24 Cited and discussed in Robert W. Scribner, ‘Volkskultur und Volksreligion’, in Zwingli und Europa, ed. Peter Blickle, et al. (Zurich, 1985), p. 157. 25 Hermann Barge, ‘Neue Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Wittenberger Unruhen von 1521/22’, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, xx (1901), p. 122; Gustav Kawerau, Luthers Rückkehr von der Warburg nach Wittenberg (Halle, 1902), p. 25 26 MS, p. 20 and 19. 27 Barge, Andreas Bodenstein, i, pp. 358–62; Karl Müller, Luther und Karlstadt (Tübingen, 1907), pp. 45–7. 28 Barge, i, p. 361 n109. 29 The formulation appears in a text written in the hand of Nikolaus von Amsdorf, with comments by Melanchthon; Müller, Wittenberger Bewegung, p. 196, no. 93. 30 Barge, Andreas Bodenstein, i, p. 359 31 The events are described in Barge, i, pp. 362–5; also Theodor Kolde, Martin Luther (Gotha, 1893), ii, pp. 33–7; and Kawerau, Luthers Rückkehr von der Warburg nach Wittenberg, pp. 25–7. Key documents – chiefly a report by the Bishop of Meissen, Georg von Rothschicz – are collected in Johann Karl Seidemann, Erläuterungen zu Reformationsgeschichte durch bisher unbekannten Urkunden (Dresden, 1844), pp. 35–42. 32 According to an anonymous eyewitness from Wittenberg; see Theodor Kolde, ‘Gleichzeitige Berichte über die Wittenberger Unruhen im Jahre 1521 und 1522’, Zeitschrift für Kirchengeschichte, v (1882), p. 329. 33 The term appears in several documents: see Seidemann, Erläuterungen, p. 38; Kolde, ‘Gleichzeitige Berichte’, p. 328. 34 Martin Brecht, ‘Luther’s Reformation’, in Handbook of European History 1400–1600, ed. Thomas A Brady, et al. (Leiden, 1995), ii, p. 135. 35 See Donald R. Kelley, The Beginning of Ideology (Cambridge, 1981). 36 See Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston ma, and Cambridge, 1984–7), ii, p. 77. 37 Michalski, Reformation, pp. 184–5. 38 WA, x/1, pp. 26–31; LW, li, pp. 82–6. 39 Martin Bucer, Deutsche Schriften, ed. Robert Stupperich, Gütersloh, 1975, i, p. 271); see, though, Bucer’s reversal in ‘Das einigerlei Bild bei den Gotgläubigen’, Deutsche Schriften, iv, pp. 172–3.

chapter 7: beliefs 1 MS, p. 19. 2 Andreas Bodenstein von Karlstadt, Von abtuhung der Bylde und das keyn Betdler unther den Christen seyn sollen, ed. Hans Leitzmann (Bonn, 1911), p. 5. 3 MS, p. 24. 4 MS, pp. 20–21, with minor emendations. 5 Peter Berger, The Social Reality of Religion (Harmondsworth, 1967), p. 107. 6 MS, p. 23.

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7 MS, p. 30. 8 See Franz Bächtiger, ‘Zur Revision der Berner Christoffel’, Jahrbuch des Bernischen Historischen Museums in Bern, 59–60 (1980), pp. 115–278; on Holbein’s marginal drawing (Kupferstichkabinett Basel, Inv. 1662.166, fol. K), see Christian Müller, Die Zeichnungen von Hans Holbein dem Jüngeren und Ambrosius Holbein (Basel, 1996), p. 57, no. 35. 9 MS, p. 23. 10 MS, p. 23. 11 Alfred Gell, Art and Agency (Oxford, 1998), p. 123. 12 Hieronymus Emser, Das man der heyligenbilder yn den kirchen nit abthon noch unehren soll (Dresden, 1522); MS, pp. 46–7. 13 MS, p. 46. 14 Johannes Eck, De non tollendis Christi et sanctorum imaginibus (Ingolstadt, 1522); MS, p. 111. 15 The list derives from Bonaventure’s commentary on Peter of Lombard’s Sentences (Liber iii, Sententiarum: Dist. ix, Art. 1, Quaestio ii; Opera theologica selecta, ed. Leonardo M. Bello, Florence, 1941, p. 191), and has a long history in the catechetical literature of the fifteenth century; see Jean Wirth, ‘La critique scolastique de la théorie thomiste de l’image’, in Crises de l’image religieuse, ed. Olivier Christin and Dario Gamboni (Paris, 2000), pp. 93–109. 16 Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope (Cambridge, 1999), p. 270. 17 MS, p. 61. 18 E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Nuer Religion (Oxford, 1956), p. 131. 19 Dan Sperber, On Anthropological Knowledge (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 35–63. 20 Sperber, Anthropological Knowledge, p. 55. 21 Georges Didi-Huberman, Fra Angelico, trans. Jane Marie Todd (Chicago, 1990), p. 45–59 and passim. 22 MS, pp. 43 and 62; for similar arguments, see Christopher S. Wood, ‘In Defense of Images’, Sixteenth Century Journal, xix (1988), p. 31. 23 WA x/1, p. 31; John Calvin, too, accepted that the pagans were not ‘so stupid that they did not understand God to be something other than stock and stone’, but argued that, by erroneously utilizing images for knowledge of the divine, they engendered an ultimately ‘deluded’ and genuine idolatry (Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia, 1960, i, p. 110–11). 24 WA, xxiv, p. 553. 25 MS, p. 24. 26 MS, p. 35. 27 Michel Foucault, ‘Technologies of Self ’, in Technologies of Self, ed. Luther H. Martin, et al. (Amherst, 1988), pp. 16–59. 28 MS, p. 23. 29 MS, p. 35. 30 MS, p. 82. 31 Stadtmuseum, Münster, Inv. GE-1081-2; Hans Galen, ed., Die Wiedertäufer in Münster, exh. cat., Stadtmuseum, Münster (Münster, 1982), no. 78. 32 MS, p. 36. 33 Ernest B. Gilman, Iconoclasm and the Poetry of the English Reformation (Chicago, 1986), pp. 33–4. 34 Basel, Universitätsbibliothek fp ix 5, no. 3.

chapter 8: fictions 1 On instances of iconoclasm in Zurich, see Hans-Dietrich Altendorf and Peter Jezler, eds, Bilderstreit. Kulturwandel in Zwinglis Reformation (Zurich, 1984), pp. 149–59; on Meyger specifically, see Lee Palmer Wandel, Voracious Idols and Violent Hands (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 63–6. 2 Theodor Hampe, ed., Nürnberger Ratsverlässe über Kunst und Künstler im Zeitalter der Spätgotik und der Renaissance (Vienna, 1904), no. 2664. 3 City Archives, Hildesheim Best. 132; cited Norbert Schnitzler, Ikonoklasmus – Bildersturm (Munich, 1996), p. 169. 4 E.g., in Isnay in 1534; see Sergiusz Michalski, ‘Das Phänomen Bildersturm’, in Bilder und Bildersturm im Spätmittelalter und in der frühen Neuzeit, ed. Robert W. Scribner (Wiesbaden, 1990), p. 81. 5 Natalie Zemon Davis, Society and Culture in Early Modern France (Stanford, ca, 1975), p. 157. 6 This range is usefully surveyed in Michalski, ‘Das Phänomen Bildersturm’, pp. 97–104; see also Olivier Christin’s analysis of iconoclastic degradations as a ‘practical theology’, in Une révolution symbolique (Paris, 1991), pp. 139–74. 7 Brigitte Miles, ed., Wettstein. Die Schweiz und Europa 1648, exh. cat., Historisches Museum, Basel (Basel, 1998), pp. 156–9; Cécile Dupeux, et al., Bildsturm – Wahnsinn oder Gottes Wille, exh. cat., Historisches

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Museum, Bern (Zurich, 2000), p. 359, no. 183. 8 Franz-Josef Sladeczek, ‘“Da ligend die altär und götzen im tempel”. Zwingli und der Bildersturm in Bern’, in Berns grosse Zeit, ed. Ellen J. Beer, et al. (Bern, 1999), pp. 597–8; on these statues, discovered in 1986 and now in the Historical Museum of Bern, see Urs Zumbrunn and Daniel Gutscher, Bern, die Skulpturen der Münsterplattform (Bern, 1994); Bildersturm, also Dupeaux, ed., pp. 318–24. 9 C. H. Evelyn White, ‘The Journal of William Dowsing, Parliamentary Visitor’, Proceedings of the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and Natural History, vi (1888), p. 248; cited in Margaret Aston, England’s Iconoclasts (Oxford, 1988), i, p. 77. 10 White, ‘Journal’, p. 244; Aston, England’s Iconoclasts, i, p. 79. 11 G, iii, p. 1092, no. 1146; Werner Hofmann, ed., Luther und die Folgen für die Kunst, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Hamburg (Munich, 1983), p. 126, no. 1. 12 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia, 1960, i, p. 104 (1. 11. 4). 13 Max Geisberg, Die Stadt Münster, v, p. 256; vi, p. 280; discussed in Martin Warnke, ‘Durchbrochene Geschichte? Die Bilderstürme der Wiedertäufer in Münster 1534–1535’, in Bildersturm, ed. Martin Warnke (Frankfurt, 1977), p. 93. 14 Warnke, Bildersturm, pp. 65–98. 15 As occurred in 1621 in Nîmes; see Michalski, ‘Das Phänomen Bildersturm’, p. 97. 16 Hermann Heimpel, Der Mensch in seiner Gegenwart, 2nd edn (Göttingen, 1957), p. 134. 17 David Freedberg, The Power of Images (Chicago, 1989), pp. 378–428; Freedberg began his pioneering work on iconoclasm in his dissertation, ‘Iconoclasm and Painting in the Netherlands, 1566–1609’, Oxford University, 1972. 18 James Frazer began his famous study of magic with examples of this kind (The Golden Bough, 3rd edn, London, 1912, i/1, pp. 52–214). See also Michael Taussig, Mimesis and Alterity (New York, 1993), pp. 47–8; Alfred Gell, Art and Agency (Oxford, 1998), pp. 99–104. 19 Richard Bellm, Wolgemuts Skizzenbuch in Berliner Kupferstichkabinett (Baden-Baden and Strasbourg, 1959). 20 Stephan Fridolin, Der Schrein od’ schatzbehalter der waren reichtümer des Hails vnd der ewige[n] seligkeit (Nuremberg, 1491). 21 Dupeux, Bildersturm, p. 343. 22 Schatzbehalter (Nuremberg, 1493), z3; Cynthia Anne Hall, ‘Treasury Book of the Passion: Word and Image in the Schatzbehalter’, PhD Dissertation, Harvard University, 2002. 23 On this dialectic, see Michael Taussig, Defacement (Stanford, ca 1999). 24 British Museum, Department of Prints and Drawings, inv. 1933.11.1..3; see Edward Hodnett, Marcus Gheerhaerts the Elder (Utrecht, 1971), pp. 26–7. 25 Psalm 115: 4–8; Psalm 135: 15–18; Margaret Aston, The King’s Bedpost (Cambridge, 1993), p. 170. 26 Michalski, ‘Das Phänomen Bildersturm’, p. 103. 27 John William Burgon, The Life and Times of Sir Thomas Gresham (London, 1839), ii, p. 145; discussed in Christine Göttler, ‘Ikonoklasmus als Kirchenreinigung’, Georges-Bloch-Jahrbuch des Kunstgeschichtlichen Seminars der Universität Zürich, iv (1997), pp. 61–87. 28 See the reversal of Heimpel’s dictum in Guy P. Marchal, ‘Bildersturm im Mittelalter’, Historisches Jahrbuch, cxiii (1993), p. 281. 29 Freedberg, Power of Images, p. 24. 30 Dan Sperber, On Anthropological Knowledge (Cambridge, 1982), pp. 54–60. 31 Robert W. Scribner, For the Sake of Simple Folk, 2nd expanded edn (Oxford, 1994), pp. 14–36; Werner Hofmann, Köpfe der Lutherzeit, exh. cat., Kunsthalle, Hamburg (Munich, 1983); Martin Warnke, Cranachs Luther (Frankfurt, 1984). 32 Warnke, Cranachs Luther, p. 66–8. 33 Johannes Cochlaeus, Sieben Köpfe Martini Luthers (Leipzig, 1529). 34 G, iv, p. 1530, no. 1575. 35 Johann Bämler, Chronica von allen Kaysern unn Künigen (Augsburg, 1476), fol. 140v; Scribner, For the Sake, pp. 101–4. 36 See pp. 355–8 below. 37 Niklas Luhmann, Social Systems, trans. John Bednarz, Jr. (Stanford, 1995), p. 389. 38 Scribner, For the Sake, p. 248. 39 A facsimile and critical edition was prepared by D. G. Kawerau, Passional Christi und Antichristi (Berlin, 1885); reprinted and revd WA, ix, pp. 677–715. 40 Gerald Fleming,‘On the Origin of the Passional Christi and Antichristi’, Gutenberg-Jahrbuch (1973), p. 351. 41 Luther began his polemic against Catharinus before March 1521, but published it three years later on the press of Lucas Cranach and Christian Düring as Offinbarung des Endchrists aus dem Propheten Daniel wydder Catharinum (Wittenberg, 1524); see Johannes Jahn, Lucas Cranach als Graphiker (Leipzig, 1955),

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p. 555. 42 Martin Hengel, Crucifixion, trans. J. Bowden (London, 1977), pp. 7–10; Mitchell B. Merback, The Thief, the Cross and the Wheel (London, 1999), pp. 201–4. 43 Hengel, p. 52. 44 Erich Auerbach, Literary Language and Its Public in Late Latin Antiquity and in the Middle Ages, trans. Ralph Mannheim (New York, 1965), pp. 25–81; on the implications of Auerbach’s thesis, see Hans Robert Jauss, ‘Die klassische und die christliche Rechtfertigung des hässlichen in mittelalterlicher Literatur’, in Die nicht mehr schöne Künste, ed. Jauss (Munich, 1968), pp. 143–68; for an alternative account of a Christian aesthetics of the ugly, see Frederick P. Pickering, ‘Das gotische Christusbild’, Euphorion, xlvii (1953), pp. 16–37. 45 Georges Didi-Huberman, Devant l’image (Paris, 1990), pp. 245–9; Didi-Huberman follows Robert Javelet, Image et ressemblance au xiie siècle de saint Anselm à Alain de Lille (Paris, 1967); and Alfred E. Taylor, ‘Regio dissimilitudinis’, Archives d’historie doctrinale et littéraire du Moyen Ages, ix (1934), pp. 305ff. 46 Nicephorus, Antirrhetic 2, 365c, trans. Anna Cancogne, in Fragments for a History of the Human Body, ed. Michel Feher (New York, 1989), i, p. 157; see Marie-José Mondzain, Image, icôn, économie (Paris, 1996), pp. 95–150; also idem, ‘The Holy Shroud: How Invisible Hands Weave the Indecidable’, in Iconoclash, ed. Latour and Weibel, pp. 326. 47 Eva Kuryluk, Veronica and Her Cloth (Oxford, 1991), pp. 114–38 and passim; see also Herbert L. Kessler, ed., The Holy Face and the Paradox of Representation (Bologna, 1998). 48 On Christ’s near-suffocation with spittle, see James Marrow, Passion Iconography in Northern European Art of the Late Middle Ages and Early Renaissance (Kortrijk, 1979), pp. 132–3. 49 Cited in Jeffrey Hamburger, The Visual and the Visionary (New York, 1998), p. 350. 50 This phenomenon was drawn to my attention twenty years ago by James Marrow. 51 Cited and discussed in Suzanne Sulzberger, La réhabilitation des primitifs flamands 1802–1867, 2 vols (Brussels, 1961), i, p. 61. 52 Didi-Huberman, Devant l’image, pp. 229–47. 53 Hamburger, The Visual, p. 359. 54 See pp. 144–5 below. 55 G, iii, p. 923, no. 967. 56 Albrecht Dürer, Schriftlicher Nachlaß, ed. Hans Rupprich (Berlin, 1956–69), i, p. 210. 57 Heinrich Bullinger, Reformationschronik, copy of Heinrich Thomann, Zentralbibliothek, Zurich, MS b 316; see Peter Jezler, ‘Tempelreinigung oder Barbarei? Eine Geschichte vom Bild des Bilderstürmers’, in Bilderstreit, ed. Altendorf and Jezler, pp. 78–9. 58 Dupeux, ed., Bildersturm, pp. 314–15, no. 152. 59 Basler Chroniken, i (1874), p. 447, cited in Dieter Koepplin, ‘“Komet her zu mir alle”. Das tröstliche Bild des Gekreuzigten nach dem Verständnis Luthers’, in Martin Luther und die Reformation in Deutschland, ed. Kurt Löcher (Güterloh, 1983), p. 155. 60 See Schnitzler, Ikonoklasmus, pp. 17 and 214; Michalski, ‘Phänomen Bilderstürm’, pp. 97ff. 61 Wolfgang Harms, ed., Illustrierte Flugblätter aus den Jahrhunderten der Reformation und der Glaubenskämpfe, exh. cat., Kunstsammlung der Veste Coburg (Coberg, 1983), no. 29; Hoffmann, ed. Luther und die Folgen, p. 152, no. 26. 62 Eyn Warhafftig erschröcklich Histori von der Bewrischen vffrur (c. 1525–7), Dupeux, ed., Bildersturm, pp. 306–7, no. 147. 63 Cited in Schnitzler, Ikonoklasmus, pp. 214–15; my understanding of the relation between iconoclasm and represented violence in Passion plays derives from Rainer Warning’s pioneering study of 1974, now in English as The Ambivalences of Medieval Religious Drama, trans. Steven Rendall (Stanford, ca, 2001). 64 Schnitzler, Ikonoklasmus, p. 214. 65 Johannes Taubert, ‘Mittelalterliche Kruzifixe mit schwenkbare Armen’, Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins für Kunstwissenschaft, 23 (1969), pp. 79–121; and most recently, Johannes Tripps, Das handelnde Bildwerk in der Gotik (Berlin, 1998), pp. 115–58. 66 Raphael Straus, Urkunden und Aktenstücke zur Geschichte der Juden in Regensburg 1453–1738 (Münster, 1960), pp. 29ff; see R. Po-Chia Hsia, The Myth of Ritual Murder: Jews and Magic in Reformation Germany (New Haven, 1988), pp. 66–8. 67 Pamphilus Gengenbach, Daz ist ein erschrockenliche history von fünff schnöden juden (Basel, 1517); see Schneider, Ikonoklasmus, p. 123. On rare cases of the sanctioned destruction of Christian images by Jews, see Michele Luzzati, ‘Jews, the Local Church, the “Prince” and the People’, in Microhistory and the Lost Peoples of Europe, ed. Edward Muir and Guido Ruggiero, trans. Eren Branch (Baltimore, ma, 1991), pp. 101–18. 68 Michalski, ‘Das Phänomen Bilderstürm’, p. 95; the term is Natalie Zemon Davies’s, see ‘The Rites of Violence’, Past and Present, lix (1973), pp. 51–91.

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69 Gell, Art and Agency, p. 129; on Buffeting scenes in the Mystery cycles, see John Speirs, Medieval English Poetry (London, 1957), p. 353. 70 The preacher was denouncing contemporary iconoclasm in Anhalt; see Abraham Taurer, Hochnotwendigster Bericht (Magdeburg, 1597), p. niiii. 71 Johannes Pauli, Schimpf und Ernst, ed. Hermann Österley (Stuttgart, 1866), p. 416; cited and discussed in Valentine Groebner’s extraordinary essay, ‘“Abbild” und “Marter”. Das Bild des Gekreuzigten und die städtische Strafgewalt’, Kulturelle Reformation, ed. Bernhard Jussen and Craig Koslofsky (Göttingen, 1999), p. 227. 72 Most notably Robert W. Scribner,‘Reformation, Carnival and the World Turned Upside Down’, Städtische Gesellschaft und Reformation, ed. Ingrid Batori (Stuttgart 1980), pp. 238–40. 73 Mikhail Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Caryl Emerson and Michael Holquist (Austin, tx, 1981), p. 284. 74 Wandel, Voracious Idols, pp. 174–82. 75 Wandel, Voracious Idols, p. 11. 76 See Jean Duvignard’s comments on non-structured action in festival in Le don du rien (Paris, 1977), pp. 11–23.

chapter 9: communications 1 Sancti Gregorii Magni Epistolarum, Lib. ix, Epist. 13; PL, lxxvii, col. 1128; trans. Caecilia Davis-Weyer, Early Medieval Art 300–1150 (Toronto, 1986), p. 48. On the place of the statement in Gregory’s broader theology, see Celia M. Chazelle, ‘Pictures, Books, and the Illiterate’, Word and Image, vi (1990), pp. 138–53; on the influence of his statement, see Jean-Claude Schmitt, ‘Ecriture et image: Les avatars médiévaux de modèle grégorien’, in Théories et pratiques de l’écriture au Moyen Age, ed. Emmanuèle Baumgartner (Paris, 1988), pp. 119–53. 2 Jean Gerson, Oeuvres complètes, ed. Palémon Glorieux (Paris, 1966), vii, p. 143; see Rudolf Schenda, ‘Bilder vom Lesen–Lesen von Bildern’, Internationales Archiv für Sozialgeschichte der deutschen Literatur, xii (1987), p. 87; also Johannes Kollwitz, ‘Bild und Bildertheologie im Mittelalter’, Das Gottesbild im Abendland, ed. Kollwitz (Witten and Berlin, 1957), pp. 109–38. 3 MS, pp. 24–5. 4 Bruno Latour, Pandora’s Hope (Cambridge, 1999), pp. 426–34. 5 John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battles, Philadelphia, 1960 ii, p. 1279 (4. 14. 4). 6 M. C. O’Connor, The Art of Dying Well (New York, 1942), pp. 61–112; Alberto Tenenti, La vie et la mort à travers l’art du xve siècle (Paris, 1952), pp. 48ff. 7 Summa Theologiae iii, q. 35, art. 1–4. 8 MS, p. 26. 9 William Maskell, ed., Monumenta Ritualia Ecclesiae Anglicanae (London, 1846–7), iii, p. 357–8; cited in Eamon Duffy, The Stripping of the Altars (New Haven, 1992), p. 315. 10 Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love, trans. Clifton Wolters (Harmondsworth, 1966), p. 63; the original text in A Book of Showings to the Anchoress Julian of Norwich, ed. Edmund College and James Walsh (Toronto, 1978). 11 Julian, Revelations, p. 65. 12 Julian, Revelations pp. 71–2. 13 Jeffrey Hamburger disputes the claim, made by D. N. Baker (Julian of Norwich’s Showings, Princeton, 1994, p. 52), that the raindrops metaphor is ‘based on daily life’. He argues instead that, through the use of the rare Latin word stillicidium, they evidence ‘the subtlety of her scriptural imagination (The Visual and the Visionary, New York, 1998), p. 565 n109. 14 Julian, Revelations, p. 30. 15 The term entbilden also appears in Johannes Tauler and Heinrich Seuse; Wolfgang Wackernagel, ‘Subimaginale Versenkung. Meister Eckharts Ethik der Bild-ergründenden Bildung’, in Was ist ein Bild?, ed. Gottfried Boehm (Munich, 1995), pp. 184–207. 16 Most influentially Lucien Lévy-Bruhl, La mentalité primitive (Paris, 1922) and L’âme primitive (Paris, 1927); also, Ernst Cassirer, Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, ii: Mythical Thought, trans. Ralph Manheim (New Haven, 1955). 17 Jürgen Habermas, Theory of Communicative Action, trans. Thomas McCarthy (Boston and Cambridge, 1984–7), i, pp. 45–6; see especially Claude Lévi-Strauss, The Savage Mind (Chicago, 1966), pp. 16–22 and 217–44; and Structural Anthropology, trans. Claire Jacobson and Brooke Grundfest Schoepf (New York, 1963), pp. 206–31. 18 See Hans Blumenberg, The Legitimacy of the Modern Age, trans. Robert M. Wallace (Cambridge, 1983), esp. pp. 53–74 and 325–61. 19 See, for example, the careful distinctions drawn by Geert Grote, the founder of the devotio moderna,

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20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27


29 30 31 32



35 36 37

38 39 40

41 42


between different types of visions (De quattuor generibus meditabilium, in John van Engen, ed. and trans., Devotio moderna, Mahway, 1988, pp. 99–104); on the analysis of diabolical apparitions, see most recently Armando Maggi, Satan’s Rhetoric (Chicago, 2001). For a version of this in Bosch, see Joseph Leo Koerner, ‘Hieronymus Bosch’s World Picture’, Picturing Science / Producing Art, ed. Peter Galison and Carolyn Jones (New York and London, 1998), pp. 297–323. Walter L. Strauss, The Complete Drawings of Albrecht Dürer (New York, 1974), ii, p. 524, no. 1500/11. Moriz Thausig, Dürer, 2nd edn (Leipzig, 1884), ii, p. 235. On the link between this drawing and Dürer’s calligraphic art, see Friedrich Teja Bach, Struktur und Erscheinung. Untersuchtungen zu Dürers graphischer Kunst (Berlin, 1996), pp. 225–8. Bruno Latour, ‘What is Iconoclash? Or is There a World Beyond the Image?’, in Iconoclash, ed. Bruno Latour and Peter Weibel (Cambridge, 2002), p. 32. Albrecht Dürer, Schriftlicher Nachlaß, ed. Hans Rupprich (Berlin, 1956–69), ii, p. 107. WA, xxviii, p. 554; Luther’s position here agrees with Hugo of St Victor’s statement, Idolum nihil est (PL, clxxv, col. 527). Schnütgen Museum, Inv. 340; Kaspar Elm, et al., ed., Die Zisterzienser, exh. cat., Landschaftsverband Rheinland, Aachen (Cologne and Bonn, 1980), p. 571; Frank O. Büttner, Imitatio pietatis (Berlin, 1983), p.150; and Georges Didi-Huberman, Devant l’image (Paris, 1990), p. 243; also Jeffrey Hamburger, Nuns as Artists (Berkeley, ca, 1997), pp. 1–2. Influenced by the teachings of St Bernard, devotion to the five wounds entered the Christian liturgy in the fourteenth century; see Louis Gougaud, Dévotion et pratiques ascétiques du moyen âge (Paris, 1925), pp. 80ff; on the iconography, see Gertrud Schiller, Iconography of Christian Art, trans. Janet Seligman (Greenwich, ct, 1972), ii, pp. 184–97. As Robert Suckale pointed out, in the fifteenth century every crucifix could be regarded as a ‘five-wound image’ (Robert Suckale, ‘Arma Christi. Überlegungen zur Zeichenhaftigkeit mittelalterlicher Andachtsbilder’, Städel Jahrbuch, vi, 1977, pp. 177–208; also Rudolf Berliner, ‘Arma Christi’, Münchner Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, Series 3, vi, 1955, pp. 35ff). As Alfred Gell wrote of similar moments in Hindu art, ‘it is here in this traffic to and fro, that the mystery of animation is solved’ (Art and Agency, Oxford, 1998, p. 148). Schr, 1789a; I refer to the impression in the Kupferstichkabinett in Berlin, inv. 122–1. Didi-Huberman, Devant l’image, p. 242. Schr, 1796; Graphische Sammlung Albertina, Vienna, inv. 130/192; see Thomas Lentes, ‘Nur der geöffnete Körper schafft Heil’, in Glaube, Hoffnung, Liebe, Tod, ed. Christoph Geissmar-Brandi and Eleonora Louis, exh. cat., Albertina and Kunsthalle Vienna (Klagenfurt, 1996), pp. 152–5. Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, inv. no. 179; see, most recently, Rainer Budde and Roland Krischel, eds, Genie ohne Namen. Der Meister des Bartholomäus-Altars, exh. cat., Wallraf-Richartz-Museum, Cologne (Cologne, 2001), no. 82, with bibliography. Cécile Dupeux, et al., Bildsturm–Wahnsinn oder Gottes Wille, exh. cat., Historisches Museum, Bern (Zurich, 2000), pp. 254–5, no. 106; also Kathrin Utz Tremp, ‘Welche Sprache spricht die Jungfrau Maria?’, Schweizerische Zeitschrift für Geschichte, xxxviii (1988), pp. 221–49; and Charlotte GutscherSchmitt and Kathrin Utz Tremp, Berns grosse Zeit, ed. Ellen J. Beer, et al. (Bern, 1999), p. 501. Thomas Murner, Von den fier ketzeren Prediger ordens der observantz zü Bern (Strasbourg, 1509). Hubertus Schwartz, Geschichte der Reformation in Soest (Soest, 1932); cited in Schnitzler, Ikonoklasmus, p. 171. Theophrast of Hohenheim, Liber de imaginibus idolatriae, in Sämtliche Werke, ed. Kurt Goldammer (Stuttgart, 1986), ii/3, p. 365. On automata in the Middle Ages, see Michael Camille, The Gothic Idol (Cambridge, 1989), pp. 247–58. On the political background to Frank Baum’s story, see Hugh Rockoff, ‘The Wizard of Oz as a Monetary Allegory’, Journal of Political Economy, xcviii (August 1990), pp. 793–860. Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern, trans. Catherine Porter (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 13–14. Prado, Madrid, Inv. 2825; ENP, ii, p. 60, no. 3; Bartholomaeus Fazio, writing in Naples in 1456, praised Rogier for portraying his subjects ‘with such sorrow and tears that you can hardly tell them from reality’ (De viris illustribus; cited in Erwin Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting, Cambridge, 1958, i, p.2 n7). One century later, Francisco de Hollanda, in the voice of Michelangelo, famously criticized the tearjerking quality of Rogier (Four Dialogues on Painting, trans. A. F. G. Bell, Oxford, 1928, p. 15). On weeping images in the late Middle Ages, see Johannes Tripps, Das handelnde Bildwerk in der Gotik (Berlin, 1998), pp. 159–73. MS, p. 25. One Gheeraerts etching illustrates Esbatement Moral, des Animaux (Antwerp, 1578), no. 22, sig. Gia; see Margaret Aston, The King’s Bedpost (Cambridge, 1993), pp. 171. On the relation between iconoclasm and modern critiques of a money economy, see Jean-Joseph Goux, Symbolic Economies, trans. Jennifer Curtiss Gage (Ithaca, ny, 1990), pp. 112ff. MS, p. 27.

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44 45 46 47

Duffy, Stripping of the Altars, p. 91. Cited and discussed in Habermas, Theory, ii, p. 87. MS, p. 26. Habermas, Theory, ii, pp. 77–112.

chapter 10: the arrested gesture 1 Martin Brecht, Martin Luther, trans. James L. Schaaf (Minneapolis, 1985–93), ii, pp. 57–65. 2 Brecht, Martin Luther, ii, pp. 28–9; Gustav Kawerau, Luthers Rückkehr von der Warburg nach Wittenberg (Halle, 1902), p. 13. 3 WABr ii, pp. 448–9, no. 454. 4 WABr ii, p. 405, no. 441. 5 Ingetraut Ludolphy, Friedrich der Weise, Kurfürst von Sachsen 1463–1525 (Göttingen, 1984), p. 450. 6 See the reports collected in the Corpus Reformatorum, ed. C. G. Bretschneider and H. E. Bindseil (Halle, 1834–60), i, pp. 459–642. 7 Newe o