“Indeed I see that in your intellect
now shines the never-ending light; once seen,
that light, alone and always, kindles love;
and if a lesser thing allure your love,
it is a vestige of that light which – though
imperfectly – gleams through that lesser thing.”
Beatrice to Dante
Great Moments in Reformation History! Medieval gossips claimed that Luther’s mother was seduced by a demon disguised as a jewelry merchant, and that the demon then counseled Martin throughout his wayward journey into heresy. After a visit to Rome, so the stories go, he felt shabbily treated and asked his father how he could get his revenge. “Write a commentary on the Lord’s Prayer,” was the demon’s suggestion.
Another legend tells of where Luther got his new ideas. One night a monk visited him in his chamber and asked him about papal errors. The monk persisted for some time until Luther noticed his taloned hands and ejected him. (See print above.) The monk-demon vanished with (I am not making this up, although someone else might have) a thunderous fart that stunk up the room for days.
There’s an interesting biographical element to these stories: Luther did claim to be harried by demons for much of his life. There’s a story of him throwing an inkpot at one, and others of his scatalogical, poo-flinging battles with Satan.
Luther loved foul references (I shall “throw [the devil] into my anus, where he belongs,”) and deployed them often. Reformation historian Heiko Oberman quotes him saying to Satan,
“But if that is not enough for you, you Devil, I have also sh*t and p*ssed; wipe your mouth on that and take a hearty bite.”
Paging Dr. Freud….
Lest you think the Luther-is-the-devilspawn talk was all on the Papist side, here’s how our heretical friends saw the pope:
And here we are in 2015, with Germans still making trouble for the church.