Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Christi und Antichristi

Two facing pages from Passional Christi und Antichristi. The woodcut on the left shows Christ driving merchants from the temple with a whip. The page on the left shows a woodcut of the Pope seated with indulgences.Propaganda played a major role in the spread of the Reformation. While the leaders of the Reformation were members of the clergy, and were used to a formal, scholarly form of communication, to reach the people they resorted to a visual, didactic method. We recently acquired this example of Protestant rage published in Wittenberg in 1521, Passional Christi und Antichristi.  Through a series of 26 woodcut illustrations, the life of Christ is juxtaposed with the life of the Pope. The text is in the vernacular German and contrasts excerpts from the Gospels with quotations from canon law. As you might expect, the Pope doesn't fare well in the images.

A pair of illustrated facing pages from the text. The woodcut on the left shows Christ ascending to Heaven, while on the right, the Pope descends to Hell.The most satirical image shows Christ driving the merchants from the Temple next to an image of the Pope counting his money from selling indulgences. But the darkest is the day of judgment: As Christ ascends, the Pope is driven into the fires of hell.

The title page is also telling: there is no author, publisher or place of publication listed. It is believed that Luther himself began selecting the texts continued by Melanchthon assisted by Schwertfeger. But no printer was going to risk church censure by claiming responsibility for such an incendiary book.
The title page for the book showing the title in a gothic type, surrounded by an ornamental woodcut border of architectural and statuary elements.

Ask for Rare Book NE 1150.5 .C7 P379 1521.

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