by Robert Boissard, after Lucas Cranach the Elder
2017 marks the 500th anniversary of the beginning of the Protestant Reformation, which is traditionally dated from Martin Luther’s nailing of the 95 Theses
to the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg, Saxony. The reforming movement that subsequently spread across Europe was to have profound consequences in England, triggering centuries of religious reform, conflict and suppression that have been described as England’s ‘Reformations’. This display looks at a selection of the portraits of some of the most prominent figures of the early years of reform in England, including the prints that were created to disseminate their ideas and commemorate their lives.
Religious reform took place across Europe in the sixteenth century; see some of the most prominent European figures of the Reformation in this slideshow of prints from the Gallery’s collection.
Martin Bucer (Butzer)
after Unknown artist
line engraving, possibly 17th century
Bucer was a German reformer who renounced his monastic vows after meeting Luther in 1518. He was excommunicated and forced to flee to Strasbourg and then, in 1549, exiled to England where he influenced the revision of the Book of Common Prayer under Thomas Cranmer.
by Hendrik Hondius (Hond)
line engraving, 1599
Bullinger was a Swiss reformer who succeeded Zwingli as head of the Zurich church. He was one of the key theologians of the Reformation and corresponded widely with European rulers, including Henry VIII, Edward VI, Lady Jane Grey and Elizabeth I in England.
by Hieronymus Cock
Erasmus was a Dutch humanist who called for reform and prepared new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament. He chose to remain within the Catholic Church and rejected Luther’s emphasis on salvation through faith alone.
by Hendrik Hondius (Hond), after Adrian Vanson (van Son)
line engraving, 1602
Knox was a leader of religious reform in Scotland who served Edward VI as a royal chaplain during a period of exile in England. He was critical of the Catholic practices of Mary, Queen of Scots and called for her execution after her imprisonment.
by Magdalena de Passe, by Willem de Passe
line engraving, published 1620
Tyndale was an English scholar who moved to Germany in order to complete his translation of the New Testament into English. He moved to Antwerp, but was arrested and convicted of heresy by imperial authorities; he was executed in 1535.
after Unknown artist
line engraving, circa 1600-1650
Vermigli was an Italian reformer who fled to northern Europe. He moved to England in 1547 and influenced the shape of the reformation in England under Edward VI but had to leave after the accession of the Catholic Mary I. He went on to teach in Strasbourg and Zürich.
by Unknown artist
Calvin was a French reformer who was the principal figure in the development of Calvinism, which includes the doctrine of predestination. He fled France to Basel and ultimately led the church in Geneva.
by Robert Boissard, after Albrecht Dürer
line engraving, 1585-1601
Melanchthon was a German reformer who worked with Luther and developed Lutheranism as a religious doctrine. He was buried beside Luther in Wittenberg.
by Conrad Meyer
Oecolampadius was a German reformer and Professor of theology at the University of Basel. He engaged in disputes with Erasmus, Luther, Zwingli and Bucer and eventually adopted Zwingli’s view on the Eucharist.
by Conrad Meyer, after Hans Asper
etching, mid 17th century
Zwingli was a leader of the Reformation in Switzerland whose theology was based on the Bible but ran counter to Luther’s views on certain central doctrines, such as transubstantiation. Zwinglianism was one of a number of reformed religious confessions to develop during the sixteenth century.
© National Portrait Gallery, London