Hortulus animae. Lustgarten der Seelen: Mit schoenen lieblichen Figuren.
Georg Rhau; Lucas Cranach; Martin Luther; Philipp Melanchthon;
Wittemberg: Georg Rhau (Erben), 1558
The Hortulus animae. Lustgarten der Seelen: Mit schoenen lieblichen Figuren was first published in 1547/48 around the time of Georg Rhau’s death. This edition from 1558 is almost identical to the first edition. The academically trained philosopher and publisher from Wittenberg wrote and published it as a guide book in Protestant faith for his daughters (from the introduction, written by Georg Rhau: ‘[…] dieweil ich (ewer lieber Vater) fast alt und schwach bin / damit ir [his daughters] nach meinem Tod (Gott gebe seliglich) ein ewig Testament / von mir haben moeget […]), and as a frequently printed work it also took part in the general discussion about the reformation of the Church.
The name of this Protestant prayer book was taken over from a Catholic Book of Hours first published in 1498 by Wilhelm Schaffener in Strasbourg. It was meant to obliterate the late medieval Catholic version from Protestant awareness by taking over its name, and the fact that the publisher of the Hortulus also acts as an author shows how important the role of the publisher, i.e. his own beliefs and political agenda, was in the Reformation.
The prayer book contains, alongside articles about the Holy Trinity and the cult of the saints and Virgin Mary, several Protestant interpretations of the Creed and Our Father by Georg Rhau as well as by Martin Luther and the ‘Praeceptor Germaniae’, Philipp Melanchthon. The interpretations of the Creed by Rhau and Luther are divided into twelve articles which are each connected to one of the twelve apostles, although, in the 15th century, Laurentius Valla disproved the historically not accurate assumption that the Creed was originally formulated by the Disciples of Christ. Moreover, every article contains a woodcut of the respective apostle or his martyrdom.
Altogether, the Hortulus animae contains 53 (mostly re-used) woodcuts which were designed by or in the style of Lucas Cranach, some of them as early as 1510, seven years before Martin Luther published his 95 Thesis. This may explain the striking fact that, contrary to the reasoning against the cult of the saints, one could interpret the woodcuts depicting the martyrs as a certain form of Catholic cult.
St Hilda’s College, Oxford