About the new look

Altarpiece (detail) from Birket Church, Birket Parish, Lolland, Denmark. Ca. 1500-25. Nationalmuseet, Copenhagen.

I’ve changed a few things around here, not least of which is the header for the site. I’ve had a couple of questions about it, so a word by way of explanation. This is an altarpiece from the rich collections of Nationalmuseet (The National Museum), Copenhagen, which among many other things (like one of Tycho Brahe’s strap-on noses) contains a wonderful selection of pre-Reformation Danish religious art. This is the predella from an early sixteenth-century triptych which originally graced the altar at Birket Kirke, on the island of Lolland in Denmark.

With my recent work on the trial of Lutheran parson Søren Jensen Quist, I’m beginning to appreciate that the introduction of the Lutheran faith in Denmark in 1536 – as in much of the rest of what would become Protestant Europe – was not a peaceful transition, but rather a violent and invasive one. And not just violent in the sense that King Christian III brought it in at the point of a sword, but also – as Eamon Duffy pointed out vis-à-vis England, in The Stripping of the Altars – in the sense that the new faith rooted out and destroyed rituals and religious art that were intimately familiar and profoundly comforting to many, if not most, worshipers.

Exploding Pope!

It’s been a few days since my last post; I’ve been swamped with things that I have to write, that have kept me away from what I want to write…like this blog. I have something coming tomorrow. In the meantime, I’m responding to yet another query as to the origin of the banner illustration (above). I found it while working on my Frederik II and the Protestant Cause book, probably the book I’m proudest of. Not that it reads quite like my trade titles (hint: it’s written for academics), but I’ve never put so much research into anything I’ve ever done before, and this book took LOTS. Much of the book deals with King Frederik II’s attempts to create an international Protestant alliance to counter what he (and other Protestant sovereigns, like Elizabeth I) saw as an international Catholic conspiracy. This is a drawing of a fireworks display that was executed to celebrate the christening of the infant heir-apparent of Denmark, Frederik II’s eldest son, the later King Christian IV of Denmark, in 1577. The description of the event indicates that this was fully mechanized…and quite ingenious. A Landsknecht (soldier), carrying a burning torch, advanced from the building on the right of the drawing, crossed the bridge, and thrust the torch into the mouth of the pope (figure in the center of the square at left — the individuals on the corners were just meant to be monks, probably Jesuits). Then the head of the papal effigy caught fire and he exploded. I’m not sure what specific message it was supposed to convey…but I’m sure the notion of an exploding pope was a happy one for Lutheran Denmark at the time.

More anon.

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