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Lutheranism as Heresy: Thomas Murner and Religious Polemic of the Early Sixteenth Century

Thu, March 30, 1:30 to 3:00pm, Palmer House Hilton, Floor: Third Floor, Indiana Room


Thomas Murner’s treatise Von dem Großen Lutherischen Narren, first published in Strasbourg in 1522 and copiously illustrated by accompanying woodcuts, is a remarkable work yet largely overlooked by art historical research. It is the product of an ongoing process of polemic give and take between the early Reformation and its Catholic counterpart. Murner’s work shows how a learned Franciscan theologian tried to deal with the most recent heresy of his times, Lutheranism, in terms of visual and textual strategies that at the same time aim at demonizing the religious opponent and ridiculing his followers. Its final objective is to obliterate heresy’s original sin, brought anew into this world by the Reformation, and to stop its passing on to future generations. My paper focuses on the amalgam of traditional and innovative strategies applied by Murner in depicting Lutheranism as heretical folly and especially Luther himself as the arch-heretic.


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