If you're seeing this message, it means we're having trouble loading external resources on our website.

If you're behind a web filter, please make sure that the domains *.kastatic.org and *.kasandbox.org are unblocked.

Main content
Current time:0:00Total duration:5:52

Video transcript

we're in the alte Pinakothek I'm using in Munich in Germany and we're looking at Albert doors monumental diptych it's actually two panels the four apostles and this is such an interesting painting because it's at this very moment that the Protestant Reformation is taking place and Durer the artist converted to Protestantism that is he converted from a Catholic from being a follower of the Pope in Rome to being a follower of Martin Luther so I'm not sure that that would be clear to just anybody looking at this painting so how do we know that Duras depicted in the foreground the two apostles who were the favorites of Martin Luther Paul and John and he's depicted behind John the Apostle who was most associated with the papacy with the Pope Peter he's the one who's holding that large gold key which is of the key to the kingdom of heaven right there we have the Reformation because the Reformation was about Luther's idea that we go back to the Bible to the original source to learn about God and how to achieve salvation not the church and its practices but the Word of God the idea that the average person would have to have heaven unlocked by the papacy was no longer relevant we all had access to the Bible exactly we could have a personal relationship with God by reading the Bible and through prayer so this is only 50 years after Hooton Berg had invented the printing press in the West and the Bible was being printed and distributed it was being translated by Luther actually into German no longer only in Latin but now in the common languages before that Bibles were in the hands of the monks and the priests and we see ruther the translation of the Bible actually in this painting at the bottom we see the words of the four apostles so let's just go through this so we know who everybody is on the Left panel in red closest to us is John and we know it's drawn because of the sense of serenity that is so associated with him we've already established that the man and back of him old or bald and holding the key is in Peter but on the right side in the foreground that's in Paul and as we might expect Paul is holding a book and he's holding a sword right he was killed by the sword and he holds a book because he's also the author of the letters in the New Testament and in back of him is st. mark who can be seen holding a scroll with st. Paul we have another apostle who is very important to loser it was Paul's words that inspired Luther Paul wrote the just shall live by faith alone that it was by faith not by good works that one gets to heaven and this was a central idea of the Protestants but I want to spend a moment looking at what the artist achieved what d'Or achieved these men are so powerful there's such a sense of monumentality and they're each so different with John there's a sense of calm as he reads Peter on the other hand is older and he seems to be the reading almost over John shoulder looking at what John has been showing him learning and I think I sense of subservience to John - well his attribute the keys almost forgotten all of their attention is on that book and in fact the Bible is open to a passage that reads in the beginning was the word and the Word was with God and the Word was God so this idea of not looking to the church but of looking to the very word of God and then on the right two very different personalities again auric who seems to be the lookout for some kind of danger on the horizon whereas Paul looks as if he has completely come to terms with the danger that he puts himself in he looks defensive he's almost a kind of anger all of these different personalities speak in different ways to this incredible moment of conflict well this was a tremendously dangerous moment Luther is rebelling against the church these are states that are breaking away from the church and wars are going to be fought and people are going to die people really had to decide which path to take to follow the church's path to salvation or follow the Protestant path to salvation and think about it the fate of one's very soul depended on this decision it was also practical considerations because Durer as an artist by giving up the Catholic faith wasn't eating up the patronage of the church as well that's right because one of the things that Luther's followers hadn't and Luther himself was concerned about was the role of the image in the church they were concerned that people were worshiping the images instead of God and so in the areas that converted to Protestantism in Europe the church doesn't Commission works of art and the church was the main patron of art in fact this was not a commission these two paintings were made by door on his own and then he gave it to the town elders and they were placed in the Town Hall in Nuremberg we have written into this painting the perilous nests of the time that Durer lived in those four passages below we have the writings of the four apostles warning a false prophets warning that human beings could easily go astray and the importance of listening to the Word of God and not to human interpreters and there is something in that compressed space that these figures occupy that focuses us on that idea of these figures transmitting the Word of God so what a moment people's religious understanding is being reinvented and Durer here is reinventing the way painting would respond you