Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Anglican (Re-)Presentation? Two Paintings of Luther at Lambeth Palace *

Academic journal article Anglican and Episcopal History

Anglican (Re-)Presentation? Two Paintings of Luther at Lambeth Palace *

Article excerpt


If one studies older surveys of the paintings at Lambeth Palace, the official residence of the archbishop of Canterbury at London, it is notable that there are references to a portrait of the German reformer Martin Luther (1483-1546) and one of a couple sometimes described as Luther and his wife, Katharina von Bora (14991552). However, neither painting appears to be at the palace any more.1 The research presented in the paper will not be able to reveal the current whereabouts of the paintings nor the exact time of their vanishing, but the case provides an interesting puzzle with a view to the self-representation of Anglicanism.

Traces of the two portraits disappear after the Second World War, so anti-German sentiment could be a reason. Perhaps a more likely motivation would be the widespread embarrassment in certain ecclesiastical circles at that time about the impact of the Reformation. The two paintings vanished when Anglo Catholicism, despite signs of decline becoming apparent, still exercised a predominant influence on the Church of England, not least through Anglo Catholic senior clergymen. Many of those had been appointed in the period of the internar years which sometimes is described as "the high noon of Anglo-Catholicism."2 The First World War had served as a catalyst for Anglo Catholic contempt towards German (especially liberal) theologians and theology and thus, Anglo Catholicism finally became the dominate influence at the universities.3 When the German Protestant theology student Georg Blum visited England in the late 1950s, he perceived the fruits of the Oxford Movement and Anglo Catholicism, with their Catholic ritual and self-understanding, to represent the default in the framework of a comprehensive church, only vaguely (mainly institutionally) connected within.4

Anglo Catholicism, following the Oxford Movement, had busied itself in previous decades to rewrite the history of the Church of England as a Catholic (Anglican) church and had cultivated the habit of criminalising the sixteenth-century's reformers for their alleged splitting of Christian unity. For example, an observer remarked in 1932:

to-day Martin Luther, the greatest protagonist of the Reformation, is viewed as a vulgar, violent and mistaken man as hostile to humanist culture as he was to social democracy. And the Reformation he achieved is regarded as the parent of a malign progeny which shattered the religious unity of Western Europe and gave rise to a multitude of "Petulant, capricious sects,

The maggots of corrupted texts."5

Anglo Catholics claimed that the English Reformation represented a Sonderweg, a unique type of Reformation, which justified their claim that the Church of England and Anglicanism was a Catholic church on the same footing with Roman Catholicism and Orthodoxy but not a church of the Reformation as others. Thus, they bent over backwards to conceal what John Donne had observed in 1624: "no man is an Hand, intire of it seife; every man is a peece of the Continent, a part of the maine."6

Anglo Catholic historiography quite successfully established the habit of downplaying the impact of the English Reformation in scholarly and ecclesiastical circles. In February 1914, the Church Times (launched in 1863 "to cater for the Catholic interest within the Church of England," as a former editor described it in 2013) reported on complaints to the Houses of the Convocation of Canterbury about what they perceived as unorthodox teachings (of a Protestant nature), such as unbelief in the virgin birth of Jesus and his resurrection, or a re-union with so-called nonEpiscopalians (Protestants such as Methodists and Lutherans).7 The Church Times also reported that the dean of Canterbury had voiced surprise in the Lower House upon a proposal for the reform of the calendar for a revised prayer book, "at the noninclusion of the names of Luther and Calvin. …

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