Browse Exhibits (4 total)



Originally exhibited December 12, 2012–May 10, 2013
Entry Hall


Manuals of Christian doctrine, catechisms are often organized in the form of questions with accompanying answers to be learned and memorized. This extremely popular and accessible genre for conveying fundamental religious teachings was utilized by both Protestant and Catholic authors beginning in the sixteenth century, and continues to be an introductory source for Christian instruction today. Included in this exhibition are works published between the sixteenth and nineteenth century with examples of texts for the youngest readers, more advanced students, and adults.

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Jean Calvin (1509–1564): A Quincentenary Exhibition


July 14–December 8, 2009
Entry Hall


The sixteenth-century theologian and reformer Jean Calvin exerted immense influence on the character and practice of Western Christianity. Born in Noyon, a small town in the Picardy region of France, Calvin was educated at the Collège de Montaigu in Paris and completed his law studies at Orléans in the early 1530s.  His Institutio Religionis Christianae (“The Institutes of the Christian Religion”), the first published systematic statement of Reformed theology, appeared in 1536 and was followed by four revised and expanded editions issued during his lifetime. Settling in Geneva, Calvin promoted the Reformation both locally, through ecclesiastical discipline and the introduction of vernacular catechisms and liturgy, and internationally by means of his numerous publications.  The influence of Calvinism was particularly strong in Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, and among the Puritans in England, Scotland, and colonial North America.

Central to Calvin’s reforms was the primacy of scripture in faith and practice, the doctrine of God’s sovereignty and benevolence in Christ, and the necessity of discipline within the Church. His theological knowledge, exegetical skills, and clear and precise writing style contributed to his success promoting the transformation of the Church and to his status, along with Luther, as the most significant author of the Protestant Reformation. He produced a large and important body of writing including the Institutio Religionis Christianae; translations of the Old and the New Testaments; commentaries, sermons, and lectures on the Bible; polemical works; and an immense body of correspondence. This exhibition commemorating the quincentennary of Calvin’s birth provides a brief introduction to the man and his work through his translation of the Bible and commentaries on the Old and New Testaments, English editions of the Institutio Religionis Christianae, and images of the author.

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Martin Luther in the Age of Print


Originally exhibited August 7– December 15, 2017
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


Commemorating the five hundredth anniversary of the announcement by Martin Luther (1483–1546) of his Ninety-five Theses against indulgences, and the beginning of the Reformation, this exhibition serves as an introduction to the reformer and his printed works. After attending university in Erfurt, Germany, Luther eventually focused on theological study, entered the Augustinian order in 1505, and was ordained two years later. In October 1512 he received his doctorate in theology and joined the theology faculty at the University of Wittenberg, a position he would retain throughout his career. The dissemination of his critique regarding indulgences began an extraordinary publishing career that reflected his multiple roles as a theologian, preacher, teacher, and translator. The various genres represented in this exhibition include polemics and treatises, sermons and commentaries, Bible translations, and catechisms.

In addition to his immense impact on Western Christianity in the early modern period, Luther also greatly influenced the world of print in sixteenth-century Europe. A remarkably prolific author, he published more than twenty-five hundred editions of his German works, not including the various editions of his German Bible. Often first appearing in Wittenberg, his books were frequently reprinted in Leipzig, Erfurt, Augsburg, Nuremberg, and Strasbourg. These established printing centers provided additional distribution of his works while Latin translations further increased his readership.

Exploring different printed contexts for Luther’s works, this exhibition includes Bibles and indulgences produced prior to Luther’s own publications as well as pre-seventeenth century Catholic responses to Luther and the early Reformation during his lifetime and after his death. This combination of Luther’s publications and those of his adversaries provides insight into the beginnings of the Protestant Reformation and the divisiveness engendered by this quest for religious reform as witnessed in the age of print.

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The Pietists


Originally exhibited August 20–December 14, 2018
The Elizabeth Perkins Prothro Galleries


“It is by no means enough to have knowledge of the Christian faith, for Christianity consists rather of practice." - Philipp Jakob Spener. Pia Desideria, 1675.

The name of the Pietists is now known all over town.
Who is a Pietist? He who studies the Word of God
And accordingly leads a holy life.
This is well done, good for every Christian.
For this amounts to nothing if after the manner of rhetoricians
And disputants one puts on airs in the pulpit
And does not live holy as one ought according to the teaching.
Piety above all must rest in the heart.

- Joachim Feller, 1689 (tr. Dale W. Brown, Understanding Pietism, 1978)

Pietism was a reform movement within seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Dutch and German Protestantism that expanded to Great Britain, North America, and around the world. The context for the development and growth of Pietism can be traced to a war of words and one of the most devastating wars in European history.

Following the deaths of Martin Luther (1483–1546) and Jean Calvin (1509–1564), the focus of Protestantism shifted from fomenting change to consolidating gains. The early reformers had championed the message of salvation by faith through grace. The next generation pursued an acrimonious quest to define this saving faith. By the early seventeenth century it seemed to some that Christianity was becoming more an intellectual exercise than a lived reality. Others wondered why the changes brought on by the Reformation had done little to improve the morality of individuals and of society.

Concurrent with these developments, the Thirty Years’ War (1618–1648) left Europe depopulated and demoralized. An era of religious disillusionment followed. Within Protestantism some who sought a more experiential and ethical approach to faith began looking back to the teachings of Christ, the early church, and later mystics for guidance. Through their preaching, teaching, and writings, they initiated a “religion of the heart” movement called Pietism.

Pietism’s spirituality was rooted in the transformative inner experience of spiritual rebirth (conversion) through which the Holy Spirit acts to foster a godly way of living (sanctification). Pietists stressed the application of faith (love of God and neighbor) more than the quest for doctrinal purity and uniformity. They valued Bible study for guidance while seeking new inspiration from the Holy Spirit. Pietists also emphasized the concept of the priesthood of believers and applied it to both women and men. They viewed evangelism and good works as tools through which God would transform the world.

This exhibition presents works from Bridwell Library Special Collections written by precursors to and leaders of the Pietist movement in The Netherlands, Germany, the United Kingdom, and the United States. These historical materials illustrate the theological and geographic diversity of the movement during its period of greatest influence, from the late seventeenth century until the early nineteenth century.

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