I recently attended an outstanding conference at Gordon College on the upcoming celebration of the fifth centennial of the Reformation in 2017 – the half millennium.

I’m not going to summarize the Gordon event here, but a project occurred to me, or rather a challenge. Suppose you had to describe an event like that, but more or less entirely in visual imagery, rather than text. And preferably, all contemporary images. Remember Francis of Assisi’s words: preach constantly, and if necessary, use words?

You know, it would be possible. To illustrate the old religious world, I suppose I would start with something like the Nuremberg Chronicle of 1494, or the prints of Albrecht Dürer.


The Reformation itself offers a trove of images, not just paintings and prints, but cartoons of all kinds.

And oh my, civility was not a prominent feature of these depictions!




The great virtue of such a visual approach is that a gives a better sense of the ideas and passions of the time than most written works ever could. They also supply a huge amount of social history in passing.

I’ve offered a couple of suggestions for images here, but literally, the possibilities run into the thousands.

About Philip Jenkins