Pope Alexander VI as pontiff. B. Pope Alexander VI as a devil. C. The seven-head

Pope Alexander VI as pontiff.
B. Pope Alexander VI as a devil.
C. The seven-headed papal beast.
D. The seven-headed Martin Luther.
The printing press has been credited with helping to spread the teachings of Martin Luther and thus securing the success of the Protestant Reformation. But even before Luther’s critiques were published, reformers were using the new technology to disseminate images that attacked the corruption of the Church. After Luther rose to prominence, both his supporters and detractors vied to disseminate propaganda that appealed visually to a lay audience and can be understood even by those who could not read.
The first pair of images below is really a single printed artifact dated to around 1500, an early example of a “pop-up” card. It shows Pope Alexander VI (r. 1492-1503) as a stately pontiff (image A) whose true identity is concealed by a flap, but when the flap is raised, he is revealed as a devil (image B). The Latin texts read: “Alexander VI, pontifex maximus” and “I am the pope,” respectively.
The other two examples represent both sides of the debate as it had developed by 1530, and they do so with reference to the same image: the sevenheaded beast mentioned in the Book of Revelation. Image C, a Lutheran engraving, shows the papacy as the beast with seven heads, representing seven orders of Catholic clergy. The sign on the cross (referring to the sign hung over the head of the crucified Christ) is in German, and reads: “For money, a sack full of indulgences”; the Latin words on either side say “Reign of the Devil.” By contrast, image D, a Catholic engraving produced in Germany, shows Luther as Revelation’s beast, with its seven heads labeled: “Doctor-Martin-Luther-Heretic-Hypocrite-Fanatic-Barabbas,” the last alluding to the thief who should have been executed instead of Jesus, according to the Gospels.
Image A-B
Image C-D

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