(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘Reformation

“No Man is wise at all Times, or is without his blind Side”*…

Lucas Cranach the Elder: Martin Luther, circa 1532; Hans Holbein the Younger: Portrait of Erasmus, 1523

Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, the leading figure of the Northern Renaissance, is widely considered the greatest of early humanists. Five hundred years ago, he faced a populist uprising led by a powerful provocateur, Martin Luther, that resulted in divisions no less explosive than those we see in America and Europe today.

Between 1500 and 1515, Erasmus produced a small library of tracts, textbooks, essays, and dialogues that together offered a blueprint for a new Europe. The old Europe had been dominated by the Roman Church. It emphasized hierarchy, authority, tradition, and the performance of rituals like confession and taking communion. But a new order was emerging, marked by spreading literacy, expanding trade, growing cities, the birth of printing, and the rise of a new middle class intent on becoming not only prosperous but learned, too.

Erasmus became the most articulate spokesman for this class…

Around the same time that the Erasmians were celebrating the dawn of a new enlightened era, a very different movement was gathering in support of Martin Luther. An Augustinian friar then in his early thirties, Luther had developed his own, unique gospel, founded on the principle of faith. Man, he thought, can win divine grace not through doing good works, as the Latin Church taught, but through belief in Christ. No matter how sincerely one confessed, no matter how many alms one gave, without faith in the Savior, he reasoned, no one can be saved. When Luther made this “discovery,” in around 1515, he felt that he had become “altogether born again and had entered paradise itself through open gates.”…

Initially, Luther admired Erasmus and his efforts to reform the Church, but over time Luther’s inflammatory language and his stress on faith instead of good works led to a painful separation. The flashpoint was the debate over whether man has free will. In dueling tracts, Erasmus suggested that he does, while Luther vehemently objected; after that, the two men considered each other mortal enemies.

Beyond that immediate matter of dispute, however, their conflict represented the clash of two contrasting world views—those of the Renaissance and the Reformation. Erasmus was an internationalist who sought to establish a borderless Christian union; Luther was a nationalist who appealed to the patriotism of the German people. Where Erasmus wrote exclusively in Latin, Luther often used the vernacular, the better to reach the common man. Erasmus wanted to educate a learned caste; Luther, to evangelize the masses. For years, they waged a battle of ideas, with each seeking to win over Europe to his side, but Erasmus’s reformist and universalist creed could not match Luther’s more emotional and nationalistic one; even some of Erasmus’s closest disciples eventually defected to Luther’s camp. Erasmus became an increasingly marginal figure, scorned by both Catholics, for being too critical of the Church, and Lutherans, for being too timid. In a turbulent and polarized age, he was the archetypal reasonable liberal…

As Mark Twain is reputed to have observed, “history doesn’t repeat itself but it often rhymes”– the Renaissance vs. the Reformation: “Luther vs. Erasmus: When Populism First Eclipsed the Liberal Elite.”

* Desiderius Erasmus, The Alchymyst, in Colloquies of Erasmus, Volume I

###

As we celebrate critical thinking, we might recall that it was on this date in 380 that the three Emperors of the Roman Empire issued the Edict of Thessalonica, ordering all subjects of the Empire to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and of Alexandria, making Nicene Christianity the state religion of the Roman Empire and effectively creating “Christendom.”   It ended a period of religious tolerance that had been formalized in 313 when the emperor Constantine I, together with his eastern counterpart Licinius, had issued the Edict of Milan, which granted religious toleration and freedom for persecuted Christians.

 source

“The imaginary is what tends to become real”*…

 

Tik-Tok of Oz, L. Frank Baum, Chicago, 1914.   Courtesy, Houghton Library, Harvard University

Maps enjoy a long tradition as a mode of literary illustration, orienting readers to worlds real and imagined. Presented in conjunction with the bicentenary of the Harvard Map Collection, this exhibition brings together over sixty landmark literary maps, from the 200-mile-wide island in Thomas More’s Utopia to the supercontinent called the Stillness in N. K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season. Visitors will traverse literary geographies from William Faulkner’s Yoknapatawpha County to Nuruddin Farah’s besieged Somalia; or perhaps escape the world’s bothers in Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood. At this intersection of literature and cartography, get your bearings and let these maps guide your way…

The map above is one of over 60 currently on display at the exhibition Landmarks: Maps as Literary Illustration, at Harvard’s Houghton Library, as part of year-long celebration of Houghton’s 75th birthday.  In addition to the examples mentioned above, the collection includes the work of authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien and the late Ursula K. Le Guin, and spans everything from love stories to fairy tales. It runs through to April 14, 2018.

See also “Charting the Geography of Classic Literature.”

* André Breton

###

As we find our way, we might send the best of all possible birthday greetings to lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, Renaissance humanist, and councillor to Henry VIII of England, Sir Thomas More; he was born on this date in 1478.  He is probably most widely known these days as the subject of Robert Bolt’s A Man For All Seasons, which dramatized More’s fate (he was beheaded) when he refused to accept his old friend Henry VIII as Supreme Head of the newly-established Church of England.  (More was acting in accordance with his opposition to Martin Luther, William Tyndale, and the Protestant Reformation…  for which he was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.  Interestingly, he is also remembered by the Church of England as a “Reformation martyr.”)

But also importantly for the purpose of this post, More was also the author of the widely-read and widely-influential Utopia— his map from which is on display at the Houghton.

Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of More

source

 

Written by LW

February 7, 2018 at 1:01 am

“Beer is made by men, wine by God”*…

 

On this day 500 years ago, an obscure Saxon monk launched a protest movement against the Catholic Church that would transform Europe. Martin Luther’s Protestant Reformation changed not just the way Europeans lived, fought, worshipped, worked and created art but also how they ate and drank. For among the things it impacted was a drink beloved throughout the world and especially in Luther’s native Germany: beer…

How the protest that Luther launched 500 years ago revamped not only how Europe worshipped but also how it drank, as he and his followers promoted hops in beer as an act of rebellion against the Catholic Church: “The Other Reformation: How Martin Luther Changed Our Beer, Too.”

* Martin Luther

###

As we tap the keg, we might recall that it was on this date in 1948 that the Ames Brothers recorded “More Beer,” released the following year as the b-side of “You, You, You Are The One” (and on the 10″ LP Hoop-De-Doo).

source

Written by LW

November 9, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The more energy you put into trying to control your ideas and what you think about, the more your ideas end up controlling you”*…

 

‘Pope-Donkey’

Martin Luther’s theological battle with Catholicism and his verbal war against the Pope pioneered an attack technique that we would recognize as trolling.  Luther’s grotesque caricatures of the Pope were certainly in keeping with the sixteenth century polemics that were vulgar, slanderous, and coarse. But importantly, Luther’s attacks were facilitated by a new technology — printing with movable type:

In 1523 [Martin] Luther and [his ally Philip] Melanchthon collaborated on an illustrated anti-Roman pamphlet based on the alleged appearance of two monstrosities. One, dubbed the ‘pope-­donkey,’ was washed up on the banks of the Tiber river in Rome, and the other, called the ‘monk-calf,’ was born only a few miles from Wittenberg. The pope-donkey was pictured in front of the papal castle at Rome. It was a standing figure with a donkey’s head, a skin of fish scales, female breasts, a hoof and claw for feet, and the end of an elephant’s trunk for its right hand. The head of a dragon protruded from its rear. Luther deemed it a sign of God’s wrath against the papacy and warned that more omens would appear. Relying on a medieval treatise on the Antichrist, Melanchthon offered a similar reading in which, for example, the head protruding from the donkey’s rear signified the decline and demise of the papacy. …

Why would Luther and Melanchthon point such ugly fingers at the papacy and monasticism? First of all, because niceness was not a virtue in their day; and second, because, by 1523, they had been the butt of similar satire from their opponents. However, they also had more profound reasons, which went to the heart of the reformation. Luther was convinced that laity were being hoodwinked by the medieval church. … For Luther the pope-donkey and the monk­-calf symbolized the futility of trusting in a religious authority that sanc­tioned the pursuit of perfection as the right way to heaven. On the contrary, claimed Luther, a less demanding and more merciful Christianity would liberate people from anxiety about reaching heaven and redirect their concern toward others in place of themselves. Beginning in 1518, an astounding number of people agreed with Luther, left behind the religion of their ancestors, and rallied to his side.

“Rome, however, did not buckle, and what ensued from 1520 to 1525 was a war of words and images on a scale never previously imagined. The war was made possible by a new, cheaper, and faster technology — printing with movable type. Luther’s facility with words, combined with the artistic skill of Lucas Cranach and his journeymen in Wittenberg, fed a burgeoning printing industry that gave Luther a distinct advantage in the competition to sway religious opinion. In those five years, around sixty Catholic writers produced more than 200 pamphlets and books against Luther and other Protestant authors. Many of these were theological essays of good quality, but they were written in Latin and thus inaccessible for most laypeople. In contrast, Luther wrote in a lively German style that explained clearly and directly the changes he wanted to make and the theological basis for them. It was not a fair fight. Protestant pamphlets outnumbered Catholic publi­cations five to one; Luther alone published twice as many as all his Catholic opponents combined…

An excerpt from Martin Luther: Visionary Reformer, by Scott H. Hendrix; via Delancey Place.

* Nassim Nicholas Taleb, Antifragile

###

As we refrain from feeding the trolls, we might that this date in 1582 was one of ten that simply didn’t happen in Italy, Spain, Portugal and Poland.  Those countries had introduced the Gregorian calendar.  While this was “October 10” in the rest of the world, those four countries, adopting Pope Gregory XIII’s innovation, skipped ten days– so that there, the date shifted from October 4 to October 15.  With the shift, the calendar was aligned with the equinoxes, and the lunar cycles used to establish the celebration of Easter.  Britain and its colonies resisted this Popish change, and used the Julian calendar for another century and a half, until September 2, 1752.

From a work published in 1582, the year of the calendar reform; days 5 to 14 October are omitted.

source

Written by LW

October 7, 2016 at 1:01 am

“The production of too many useful things results in too many useless people”*…

 

If Marx is right, then Tim Holman is doing his bit to fight back: the site pictured above in just one of the myriad one can find at Tim’s The Useless Web.

* Karl Marx

###

As we ponder, then pivot from pointlessness, we might recall that it was on this date in 1536 that William Tyndale was strangled then burned at the stake for heresy in Antwerp.  An English scholar and leading Protestant reformer, Tyndale effectively replaced Wycliffe’s Old English translation of the Bible with a vernacular version in what we now call Early Modern English (as also used, for instance, by Shakespeare). Tyndale’s translation was first English Bible to take advantage of the printing press, and first of the new English Bibles of the Reformation.  Consequently, when it first went on sale in London, authorities gathered up all the copies they could find and burned them. But after England went Protestant, it received official approval and ultimately became the basis of the King James Version.

Ironically, Tyndale incurred Henry VII’s wrath after the King’s “conversion” to Protestantism, by writing a pamphlet decrying Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon.  Tyndale moved to Europe, where he continued to advocate Protestant reform, ultimately running afoul of the Holy Roman Empire, which sentenced him to his death.

 source

 

Written by LW

October 6, 2014 at 1:01 am

“The map? I will first make it”*…

 

Greg Pass has built a formidable resume– past CTO of Twitter, current Founding Entrepreneurial Officer of the new Cornell Technology Campus being built in New York City– but it is his hobby, his blog Unurthed, that has earned him a place in your correspondent’s Pantheon…

Unurthed is a survey of diagrams, cosmograms, emblems, etchings, sketches, illustrations, yantras, paintings, engravings, photographs, figures, cutouts, seals, depictions, pictures, images, with an eye for that which cannot be diagrammed, cosmogrammed, emblemed, etched, sketched, illustrated, plucked, painted, engraved, photographed, figured out, cut out, sealed, depicted, pictured, imagined.

All of the material is scanned from my personal collection or, in a few cases, drawn by me.

And what material it is!  Consider, for example, “Cramer’s Emblems“:

Six of forty emblems from Daniel Cramer’s 1617 The Rosicrucian Emblems of Daniel Cramer, each presenting a contemplative exercise working upon the heart process of a Rosicrucian meditator. Prefaces Cramer:

“And so, Reader, you have the work of death and life,
The embossings of the Holy page, and a short epigram.
These will be able to show and teach your mind
What your state was once and what it may become today” (p16).

Emblem 34: NEITHER ON THIS SIDE, NOR ON THE OTHER

“‘…we will not turn to the right hand nor to the left.’ (Numbers 20:17)

“Not in this place, not in that;
The heart will go more safely in the middle.
He who rushes from the mean, runs to destruction” (p63).

A plethora of perspicacious pictures to ponder at Unurthed.

* Patrick White, Voss

***

As we learn to love to limn, we might recall that it was on this date– the birthdays of the eloquent Dalai Lama (1935) and the not-so-eloquent George W. Bush (1946)– in 1535 that lawyer, social philosopher, author, statesman, Renaissance humanist, and councillor to Henry VIII of England, Sir Thomas More, author of Utopia, was beheaded by Henry for refusing to accept the king as Supreme Head of the newly-established Church of England.  More was acting in accordance with his opposition to Martin Luther,  William Tyndale, and the Protestant Reformation…  for which he was canonized in 1935 by Pope Pius XI.  (He is remembered by the Church of England as a “Reformation martyr.”)

Hans Holbein the Younger’s portrait of More

source

Written by LW

July 6, 2012 at 1:01 am

%d bloggers like this: