Conciones XXI : Qvibvs Breviler ac Ervdite Explicatvr Historia Passionis Domini ac Redemptoris Nostri Iesv Christi
The sermons in this book were written by Viktorin Strigel (1524-1569), a Protestant theologian who studied under Philip Melanchthon at Wittenberg. A contemporary of Martin Luther, Strigel, more moderate in his theology, sided with Melanchthon on the concept of synergism; which emphasized the role of the human will in the Christian doctrine of salvation. This work was printed by Johannes Schwertel in Wittenberg in 1572, the city where only 55 years earlier Martin Luther posted his “Theses on the Power of Indulgences” to the castle church door, which marked the beginning of the Protestant Reformation.
This German woodcut shows the crucified Christ on the Cross with two figures by his side. At the base of the Cross is a skull, a reference to the place of the Crucifixion, Golgotha, or "The Place of the Skull." According to the New Catholic Encyclopedia, "It is not known why the place was so called. Jerome suggested that the skulls of criminals lay about unburied; according to an early Christian tradition cited by Origen, it was believed that the skull of Adam was buried under the cross. But more probably the name is connected with the skull-like shape of the hill or rock." At the top of the cross we can see the inscription "I.N.R.E.," an acronym for "Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, " which is Latin for "Jesus of Nazareth King of Jews."
Compare the tone of this illustration to the earlier work in the Parisian Book of Hours. This work places the Crucifixion at the center of a simple scene. The faces of the spectators below are serene, even smiling. Here the hands and feet of Christ are nailed to the Cross, but the work is absent from gore, and the figure of Christ is simply bending his head to the side. The difference in these works can certainly be attributed to the audience for whom the illustration was created. The Book of Hours, a Catholic work, was produced for private devotion the suffering of Christ. The printer of this Protestant book of sermons most likely chose this woodcut for its restrained treatment of the subject.
Artwork in the public domain