Reformation Imagery: Family and Upbringing

In the old church, pictures of the ‘holy family’ were a common image on indulgences based on the widespread worship of Saint Anne, mother of the Virgin Mary. As a wife, housewife, mother and grandmother, Anne was primarily the patron saint of families. Lutherans reinterpreted the holy family as an educational and familial ideal.

Cranach’s woodcut was made in 1510 as an indulgence image. Around a decade later, Philipp Melanchthon’s verse addressing all parents was added, here translated from Latin to German. Melanchthon writes that it is important for children to attend school and learn to read. Otherwise they will not be able to read the Bible and might not be able to truly understand the gospel. The path to Christ is through schooling, the verse concludes.

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