A Magnificent Faith: Art and Identity in Lutheran Germany

ISBN : 9780198737575

Bridget Heal
336 Pages
156 x 234 mm
Pub date
Aug 2017
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A Magnificent Faith explains how and why Lutheranism - a confession that derived its significance from the promulgation of God's Word - became a visually magnificent faith, a faith whose adherents sought to captivate Christians' hearts and minds through seeing as well as through hearing. Although Protestantism is no longer understood as an exclusively word-based religion, the paradigm of evangelical ambivalence towards images retains its power. This is the first study to offer an account of the Reformation origins and subsequent flourishing of the Lutheran baroque, of the rich visual culture that developed in parts of the Holy Roman Empire during the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. The volume opens with a discussion of the legacy of the Wittenberg Reformation. Three sections then focus on the confessional, devotional, and magnificent image, exploring turning points in Lutherans' attitudes towards religious art. Drawing on a wide variety of archival, printed, and visual sources from two of the Empire's most important Protestant territories - Saxony, the heartland of the Reformation, and Brandenburg - A Magnificent Faith shows the extent to which Lutheran culture was shaped by territorial divisions. It traces the development of a theologically-grounded aesthetic, and argues that images became prominent vehicles for the articulation of Lutheran identity not only amongst theologians but also amongst laymen and women. By examining the role of images in the Lutheran tradition as it developed over the course of two centuries, A Magnificent Faith offers a new understanding of the relationship between Protestantism and the visual arts.


1 The Reformation Legacy: Images in Luther's Wittenberg
PART I: The Confessional Image
2 Between Catholic Idolatry and Calvinist Iconoclasm: Images and Confessional Identity in the Sixteenth Century
3 The Desire for Images: Lutheran Identity in Electoral Saxony and Brandenburg
PART II: The Devotional Image
4 Image, Instruction, and Emotion: Visual Piety during the Seventeenth Century
5 Lutherans and the Suffering of Christ
6 Visual Commemoration
PART III: The Magnificent Image
7 The Visual Culture of a Lutheran Court: Dresden, 1650-1700
8 Protestant Aesthetics beyond the Court
9 Art and Identity after the 'Confessional Age'

About the author: 

Bridget Heal studied at the universities of Cambridge and London. Since 2002 she has taught at the University of St Andrews, where she is currently director of the Reformation Studies Institute. In 2010-2011 she held a visiting fellowship from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation at the Freie Universitat in Berlin. Her research focuses on the religious, social, and cultural history of early modern Germany. Her publications include The Cult of the Virgin Mary in Early Modern Germany: Protest and Catholic Piety, 1500-1648 (2007).

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