When you see the Lutheran Reformation, one interesting fact is the apocalytic climate that felt the people at that age, near the year 1500. In this date, even more than first millenium, the people feared the end of the times, thought that the Apocalypse just come. We realise this fact because of the numerous illustrated Apocalypses at that time: the one of Albrecht Dürer (he illustrated it by his own wish) and the other one of Lucas Cranach. Just the people really thought that in 1500 went to happen the prophecy of Saint John.

Close to this idea, it was the coming of Antichrist, Fact that brought the mankind to the end of the times. Then, the legend of the Book of Daniel about the coming of the Antichrist was very widespread.

So, quickly the people started to identified the Antichrist with several people: the Turk, the anabaptist Thomas Müntzer, Martin Luther and even the Pope of the Roman Church, who was the target of the reformators. Maybe this climate of premonition of the end of the World favors the intense and virulent attack of Lutero to the Roman Church.

To identify the Pope with the Antichrist was the main theme of Reformation propaganda. This happens in books as “The Mirror of Christianity” where appears the opulent Roman Church, identifying the Pope with the Antichrist, or Melanchton’s “Pasional Christi und Antichristi”, illustrated by Lucas Cranach the Elder. Apart from these books, there were many engraved panphlets spread as a Reformation weapon of propaganda.

The Roman Church did the same, today survives some prints, but there were less intensity in the images propaganda in the Roman Church than in the side of Reformation.

An example of print attacks inbetween Roman Church and Lutherans are the two engravings I show below.

Hans Brosamer, Seven-headed Martin Luther - 1529 Engraving. Book cover of Johannes Cochelu’s "Sieben köpfe Martini Luthers" Leipzig. All rights reserved

In a few years, Catholics consolidated their critics against Reformation through the print image. “Martin Luther as Seven-headed Beast” happened at the same time that Johannes Cochlaeus was expeled from the Protestant Sacramental Altar.

Probably designed by Hans Brosamer, this engraving shows Luther as the Dragon of Apocalypse or the Antichrist described in Johannes text. The seven heads are: a doctor, a saint, an unfaithful, a priest, a fanatic, a Church supervisor and Barrabás. In it, we can see Luther reading a book, whose opinions would ve as diverse as his seven heads.

Anonymous, The seven-headed papal beast, 1530, coloured woodcut. All rights reserved.

The year after the release of “Seven-headed Martin Luther”, the Reformators stroke back with this woodcut. This image is focused to diverse Catholic Church members. The Antichist has the heads of the Pope and his lieutenants, and makes fun of the mock about the Luther satiric portraits. The Beast is sat in an Mammon altar. The text close to the image explains that the Pope’s court has impersonated the God’s altar and declares itself God. It´s identified as an idol, demanding monetary tributes as Indulgences. So, the Roman Church is condemned by its proper representations. The altar is located over a chest plenty of money with the Devil: it´s the Reign of Satan. The intention of this print is to mock about an instrument of catholic piety: devotional prints.

This is one of the first, and interesting, propaganda war.


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