2017 is the 500th anniversary of an event that is widely regarded as having precipitated the Protestant Reformation: the posting of Martin Luther’s 95 theses on a church door in the small German town of Wittenberg on 31 October 1517. In the intervening centuries, this episode has become deeply embedded in myth and legend. Although scholars now doubt whether it occurred in precisely this form, its anniversary is serving to stimulate fresh discussion and debate about the momentous schism within Christendom that took place in its wake, and its long term repercussions and effects.
This exhibition is one of the principal fruits of ‘Remembering the Reformation’, an interdisciplinary and collaborative research project generously funded by the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council (http://rememberingthereformation.org.uk/). Bringing together historians (Alex Walsham and Ceri Law, University of Cambridge) and literary scholars (Brian Cummings and Bronwyn Wallace, University of York), it investigates how Europe’s multiple and competing Reformations were remembered, forgotten, contested, and re-invented. It explores how the memories of these movements were created and emerged in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, as well as the complex, plural, and enduring legacies such memories have left.
Prefaced by a general section on Memory, the exhibition is divided into twelve categories that reflect the four themes around which the ‘Remembering the Reformation’ project is organised: (1) Lives and Afterlives ; (2) Events and Temporalities; (3) Objects, Places, and Spaces; and (4) Ritual, Liturgy, and the Body. A joint enterprise involving Cambridge University Library, Lambeth Palace Library and York Minster Library, the exhibition displays some of the many treasures in their rich manuscript, rare book, and artefact collections, as well as items from several other repositories in Cambridge and beyond.