Christ versus the Pope

During the Reformation, popes frequently became victims of character attacks. A prime example is the popular pamphlet Passional Christi und Antichristi, published in 1521 by the German painter and engraver Lucas Cranach the Elder, a close friend of Martin Luther. Like Luther, Cranach was angered by the decadence and corruption that plagued the Church of his day. In his pamphlet, pictures showing the humility, selflessness und peaceful nature of Christ were contrasted with pictures showing the pride, selfishness and warmongering of the Pope. Whereas the former chased the merchants from the temple, the latter got rich by selling indulgences. Pictures like these did great damage to the Pope’s prestige and boosted the rise of Protestantism.


• David Kunzle, ‘World upside down: the iconography of a European broadsheet type’, in: Barbara A. Babcock (ed.), The Reversible World: Symbolic Inversion in Art and Society (Ithaca, NY – London 1978) 39-94
• Karin Groll, Das “Passional Christi und Antichristi” von Lucas Cranach d. Ä. (Frankfurt am Main 1990)


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