Earlier I posted on what, to me, is “art” that has no place anywhere near the House of God. My earlier comment on skulls on altars was something to the effect that at best it’s a distraction, at worst it’s a defilement.
Check out what I spotted near the eaves of the SW exterior wall of town church in Wittenberg. (Luther did not nail his 95 Theses on the door of this church– the 95 Theses were nailed on the door of the Castle Church is just down the street.) But this town church was there in Luther’s time and he would have certainly be aware of what you are about to see;
Obviously you are looking at a pig. But there is more to point out in this disquieting image. Also clearly visible is a Jewish rabbi looking into the rear of the pig. (I can’t make out the Latin script except the prominent word “Rabini”.) Jewish children can be seen sucking on its breasts. (You can see a pigeon built a nest behind the rabbi’s head.)
It is well-known that Luther had nothing kind to say about the Jews – he condemned them for killing Jesus. To be precise, in his early writings he sought to persuade them and win them to Christ. Later when his preaching and persuasion failed to convince Jews, his heart hardened and he wrote a 65,000 word treatise called “The Jews and their Lies” where he called them, among many other things, “a base, whoring people.” Sadly, he advocated concrete, violent action against the Jews.
Luther wrote that the Jews should be shown no mercy or kindness and afforded no protection under law. He wrote these “poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time. He referred to the synagogue as an “incorrigible whore and an evil slut” and that synagogues and Jewish schools should be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated.
His anti-Semitism was embraced and celebrated by the German Christian (Nazi) churches a few centuries later. Spend a few moments on the googles and you’ll be able to see pics of Reich church meetings where the Reformed and Lutheran nazi churches and nazi leaders are embracing Luther as a forerunner for their hatred of Jews. Here Thomas and I are at Luther’s burial spot in the Castle Church.
I read here in one of my Bonhoeffer books that right here at this spot, in 1933, Joachim Hossenfelder, the Reich Leader of the German Christians (Nazi) stood to attention and called out over Luther’s tomb… “My Reich Bishop, I greet you.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer was present for that occasion and his friend, Franz Hildebrandt, whispered to him… “I now believe in the doctrine of the real rotation of Luther’s bones in his grave.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Spoke in the Wheel, Renate Wind, page 75)
That made me chuckle but honestly, from the anti-Semitism of Luther, some of which I’ve noted above, I’m not sure he would have protested. When I saw this dark anti-Seminitic pig in Wittenberg I had the thought that the real anti-Semitic pig in Wittenberg was Luther. I found this line in some literature available at this town church;
This hateful, anti-Jewish portrayal was there long before Luther, but the pig and its affront were given life by some of Luther’s words, and by the words of others, over the centuries.
To be fair to this church, I must mention that on the sidewalk directly below this dark pig is “a new monument pushing up from the earth to make its protest and to call to remembrance all of the 6 million Jews, God’s chosen people, murdered by hatred. The new monument marks out a Cross, reminding one of the darkness and death faced by God’s Chosen One.” Here’s a pic we took of this monument pushing up from the earth…
In Wittenberg, I also spotted this curious depiction of a little boy clutching a skull. It doesn’t depict any anti-Semitism but I put it here because, to me, it belongs with the other things I’ve pointed out that seem very ill-fitting for church decor.
The Latin above it reads: HODIE MICHI CRAS TIBI which translates “it is my lot today, yours tomorrow.” The frequently returning plagues and mortality were such daily realities that much of the artwork from the fifteen and sixteenth centuries was of death, fear of disease and hell.