An imagined Reformation roundtable

This print neatly visualises some of the ways in which the drawing together of different individuals from across time and space could be a powerful statement of shared identity and purpose. This illustration of ‘The Reformation’ opens the second part of a history of the Church from the birth of Christ to ‘this present age’ published in 1682, but it is based upon prints that first appeared in England in the early seventeenth century, and which can be found in many forms. It portrays a lineage of Protestantism from the fourteenth-century reformer John Wyclif to the late sixteenth-century figure of William Perkins. These key representatives of reform are drawn from across Europe, and Luther and Calvin are seated alongside each other. These men from very different Protestant traditions are united in their opposition to the four figures at the bottom of the illustration: the pope, the devil, a monk and a cardinal, all trying and failing to extinguish the light of Reformation. In this depiction, then, the divisions and contradictions of different Reformation movements are visually smoothed over to depict a more straightforward narrative of Reformation vs. the Catholic Church, and of light against dark. It is an act of imagination, willing into being one united entity that can be entitled, as in this print, ‘The Reformation’. CL

J[ohn] S[hurley], Ecclesiastical history epitomiz’d (London: W. Thackeray, 1682), title page to part II.

CUL: VIII.31.63

Further reading

Alexandra Walsham, ‘History, Memory and the English Reformation’, Historical Journal, 55 (2012), pp. 899–938.

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