CRANACH, Lucas the Elder
(b. 1472, Kronach, d. 1553, Weimar)

Passional Christi und Antichristi

Woodcut, 200 x 140 mm
British Library, London

During the Reformation, Lutheran artists in Wittenberg and Nuremberg anonymously produced dozens of broadsheets and pamphlets satirizing the pope, clergy and many Catholic beliefs. Lucas Cranach illustrated and Philip Melanchthon supplied the text for a small picture book (Passional Christi und Antichristi, Wittenberg, 1521) comparing the passion of Christ with that of the Antichrist, the pope. Using visual antithesis, thirteen pair of woodcuts clearly distinguish their respective behaviour.

In the twelfth set Christ drives the money changers out of the temple in Jerusalem. The bankers and vendors recoil as Christ kicks over a table and wields his knotted scourge. Opposite, the Antichrist sits in God's temple and displays himself as God. In exchange for money, the pope sells dispensations, indulgences and bishopric and other church offices, dissolves marriages, makes and breaks law, blesses and damns, and so forth. While his actions are listed in the inscription, Cranach's simple image immediately distinguishes the pope's interest from Christ's.

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