On Monday, 25. September, at 18.15 Dr Roberta Dykema (Strayer University, USA) gives a guest ecture titled "Vicar of Christ or Antichrist? Apocalyptic Anti-Papal Imagery in Early Lutheran Propaganda" at the School of Theology and Religious Studies
Prof Dykema is adjunct faculty in Humanities and World Religions at Strayer University. She was a recipient of both the Deutsche Akademische Austausch Dienst fellowship and the Rolf und Ursula Schneider-Stiftung for the Herzog August Bibliothek in Wolfenbuettel. She has mostly recently served as a consultant for the "When Luther Went Viral" exhibit at the Arbetetsmuseum in Norrkoeping, Sweden.
"Vicar of Christ or Antichrist? Apocalyptic Anti-Papal Imagery in Early Lutheran Propaganda"
Martin Luther was convinced that due to its corruption and distortions of Christ's message, the office of the papacy - as opposed to any one particular pope - had become the biblically-prophesied Antichrist. In 1521, a 26-page pamphlet was released (with Luther's prior knowledge and approval) entitled "Passional Christi und Antichristi," with woodcuts by Lucas Cranach the Elder, that illustrated for lettered and unlettered alike the specific ways in which the papacy had become Antichrist. This paper will explore the apocalyptic imagery of Passional Christi und Antichristi and other works of early Lutheran illustrated print propaganda, examining how biblical apocalyptic imagery was adapted to the artists' purpose: to convince the laity that the papacy was indeed Antichrist, and that their very souls were in danger. In addition to Passional Christi und Antichristi, Cranach also prepared woodcuts for Luther's Septembertestament, for which initially only the Apocalypse was illustrated. Here again, Cranach wove into his visual exegesis papal imagery; for example, the beast from the bottomless pit mentioned in Revelation 11:7 appears in the Septembertestament illustrations wearing the papal triple tiara. Interestingly, however, while Passional Christi und Antichristi and the Septembertestament illustrations themselves had a long reception, the use of biblical images to condemn the papacy in the evangelical movement of the sixteenth century was itself short-lived, as visual propagandists moved on to more direct attacks on the papacy and clergy that were not biblically based. This paper will explore the trajectory of Lutheran anti-papal imagery and discuss why the use of biblical imagery in particular may have been limited almost exclusively to Cranach - who also happens to be one of the few Lutheran visual propagandists to sign his work. What factors may have influenced the turning aside from biblical imagery, and why did Cranach's images persist without there being much in the way of later works on similar themes? These are the questions this paper seeks to address.