Journal Article

‘Better Papist than Calvinist’: Art and Identity in Later Lutheran Germany

Bridget Heal

in German History

Volume 29, issue 4, pages 584-609
Published in print December 2011 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online December 2011 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI:
‘Better Papist than Calvinist’: Art and Identity in Later Lutheran Germany

Show Summary Details


This article argues that Lutheran images moved from being adiaphora, matters of indifference to salvation, to being confessional markers under the pressure of Calvinist iconoclasm. This was particularly true in Brandenburg, where Lutheran traditionalism was reinforced by Johann Sigismund’s ‘Second Reformation’ and the iconoclasm that it engendered in 1615. It was also true, however, in Albertine Saxony, where there was a cultural backlash against Christian I’s attempts to purify the Lutheran church (1586–1591). Conflicts within Protestantism, the article suggests, played an important role in embedding images in Lutheran culture and therefore contributed towards the flourishing of ecclesiastical art that occurred in Lutheran Germany during the later seventeenth century. The final section of the article asks how far Lutheran image use differed from Catholic. Concerns about idolatry never entirely disappeared from Lutheran discussions of images, and patrons and pastors sometimes came dangerously close to a return to works righteousness in their commemorations of the donation and adornment of churches. Yet during the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries the Lutheran church successfully assimilated even the theatricality and illusionism of baroque art into its devotional life.

Keywords: Lutheranism; Calvinism; art; devotion; Saxony; Brandenburg

Journal Article.  12604 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: European History

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.