In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS703 Voracious Idols andViolentHands:Iconoclasm in Reformation Zurich, Strasbourg , andBasel. By Lee PalmerWandel. (NewYork: Cambridge University Press. 1995. Pp. xii, 205. $39.95.) Do actions speak louder than words, or at least as loudly as words? Are symbols and rituals a key to understanding the Reformation? This is what Lee Wandel attempts to prove Ui this imaginative study of the ritual revolution effected by Protestants Ui three key cities.Viewing iconoclasm from below,from the perspective of the Image breakers, Wandel adds texture to an already weU-known history. By analyzing the way in which iconoclasts "spoke" through thetf destructive acts,Wandel brings us closer to understanding the poUtical and social dimensions of lay participation Ui the Reformation during the turbulent 1520's. Wandel is correct in arguing that previous studies of iconoclasm m these cities have focused attention on the ideology of the eUtes—mostly ecclesiastic—and have neglected the "meaning" that the destruction of sacred objects may have had for the laity. Wandel's judicious use of sources has enabled her to make a twofold contribution to our understanding of iconoclastic acts: (1) she has shifted the focus of the narrative to include new voices as principal characters (though this is not evenly achieved in each ofthe three chapters);(2) she has reconfigured the analytical framework of iconoclastic study, placing a greater emphasis on specific, locaUzed socio-poUtical contexts. This shift in focus is the book's greatest strength. Another strong point Ui Voracious Idols is the way Ln whichWandel attempts to come to terms with the hermeneutics of "idolatry" on both the theological and the socioeconomic levels. Wandel brings us much closer to understanding why iconoclasts assigned so radicaUy different a value on reUgious artwork, and why they could no longer see it as sacred. The key seems to be not only a change in epistemology brought about by a renewed interest Ui scriptural purity , but also a heightened awareness of the social dimensions of Christian faith and piety, and a new understanding of die meaning of Christian charity. This is sound scholarship, based on fresh archival research and wide reading m secondary scholarship. It is elegantly written, weU argued, and richly documented . Nonetheless, as Wandel herself admits, these three case studies offer only a partial answer to the question of why iconoclasts acted as they did. Why did the images have to go? Why was culture redefined so quickly and radicaUy in these and other places? Even more puzzling, why did iconoclasm succeed in some places and not in others? Throughout,Wandel's insights raise perhaps as many questions as are answered.Would it be possible to argue,for instance,that iconoclasm depended on a certain level of socio-economic development: that in order for the images to be viewed as "voracious" (as devourers of funds that could otherwise be used to aid the needy), there would first have to exist some kind of market system in which the material cost of the image could somehow be perceived as having a useful material ??f?ße? Or, would it be possible to argue that at some basic level, dtfferent localities and social groups developed thetf own sense of the sacred? Why, for instance, did the bread-bakers and 704BOOK REVIEWS smiths in Basel support the old piety whUe other guilds caUed for its aboUtion? Questions such as these await further exploration. As she did in her previous study, Always Among Us: Images of the Poor in Zwingli's Zurich (Cambridge, 1990), Lee Wandel has once anew focused on the role symbols play in the creation and transformation of culture. More spectficaUy , she has again called attention to the centrality of symbol and ritual in the unfolding of the Reformation. Sixteenth-century Protestants and CathoUcs knew that iconoclasm was not simply a byproduct of the Reformation, or a violent spasm, but its very essence. With this book, Lee Wandel has brought us one step closer to recovering this once-lost perspective. Carlos M. N. Eire University ofVirginia William Tyndale:A Biography. By David DanieU. (New Haven: Yale University Press. 1994. Pp. x, 429. $30.00.) When David DanieU's biography appeared as part of the WUUam Tyndale...


Additional Information

Print ISSN
pp. 703-704
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.