Staging Reform, Reforming the Stage: Protestantism and Popular Theater in Early Modern England

By Huston Diehl | Go to book overview

CHAPTER ONE
The Drama of Iconoclasm

But now may we see,
What gods they be,
Even puppets, maumats and elfes:
Throw them downe thryse,
They can not aryse,
Not onse, to helpe them selves.

-- William Gray, "The Fantasy of Idolatry"


Roman and Reformed Spectacles

A remarkable print by Michael Ostendorfer, made sometime between 1519 and 1521, records the intensely emotional veneration of the Schöne Maria of Regensburg, a painting of the Madonna declared in 1519 to have miraculous power (Figure 1). In Ostendorfer's print, throngs of pilgrims push through the door of the New Church of Regensburg, where the marvelous painting can be seen on the back wall. Others surround a statue of the virgin placed on a column at the front of the church, their adoration of it frenzied and passionate. A woman kneels in prayer. Some men crowd the base of the column, embracing it as they look up at the image in awe. Dazed pilgrims lift their arms to the statue in supplication. Others fall prostrate before it as if in a trance or overcome by religious rapture. Ostendorfer is not exaggerating the fervor of the pilgrims who came to Regensburg to worship the Schöne Maria in the early part of the sixteenth century. According to Michael Baxandall, who discusses the outpouring of emotion elicited by this particular image, "the pilgrims came in thousands, often whole villages together; some elected to come naked, others on their knees; visions and wonders increased . . . crowds danced howling around the statue."1 So many people wished to see the wonderful image and hoped to benefit from its miraculous power that

____________________
1
Michael Baxandall, The Limewood Sculptors of Renaissance Gemany ( 1980), p. 84.

-9-

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