Today the wife and I caught the final weekend of the Martin Luther: Art and the Reformation at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. This was a beautiful collection of pieces from the time of Luther’s Reformation, and showed how the artwork of the time was influenced by the religious upheaval that was going on at the same time.
Life in the Church was at a crossroads during this period, and many of the pieces reflected that change. As the Reformation grew, more and more aspects of Catholic stylings disappeared, giving way to new imagery. Yet there was a tension in all of this. Many of the Reformation pieces still depicted images of the saints, despite the pull away from the Roman church. People were coming to grips with a new reality, but the old one wasn’t quite given up completely.
There were wonderful pieces of art as well as clothing and original manuscripts in Luther’s handwriting. The fact that so much of this has been recovered and preserved is a testament to Lutheran scholars and historians. Being able to see the text of Luther’s handwriting also gave me some personal pause.
When I think about the conditions that Luther lived in, which were depicted in scenes from his living spaces, it astounds me that he was able to write so much. The complete Luther’s Works takes up over 50 published books, and all of these were written by hand. He had pen and paper, and little else to write with. Writing by sunlight was the best option, since candlelight is dim and hard on the eyes. His desk was made of wood, without comfortable padding or lumbar support. Yet, he still managed to continue to write to exhaustion.
When I think about the tools that we have at our disposal today, it’s even more shocking. We have the benefit of laptops and comfortable chairs. We can write in coffee shops, in offices, or on top of a mountain overlooking a lake. Our ability to type almost as fast as we can think allows us to create great pieces of work in a fraction of the time or effort of Luther. Yet, it seems as though many of us can’t even come close to matching his verbosity.
It’s humbling when you think about it. Here was a man who literally changed the world with his words, and he did it all without any of the modern benefits that we have in front of us today. To dedicate one’s life to the production of so much literature is astounding. Just his writings alone constitute an amazing feat, apart from the political and religious change they heralded.
Unfortunately, the exhibit is over after this weekend, so I can’t tell you to go see it. That is unless it travels to a city near you. For now, I’ll leave you with some photos from the exhibit of some of the more interesting pieces to me.