Die Wittenbergische Nachtigall

Bayerische Staatsbibliothek


In 1523, Hans Sachs created with the "Wittenbergisch Nachtigall" (The Wittenberg Nightingale) one of the most influential literary works of the early Reformation period. For this project, Sachs considerably increased his mastersong "Das walt got" (May God will it!), which dates to the same year. The Nightingale is an allegorical, spoken poem by which Sachs wished to describe the teachings of Martin Luther and his critique of the Catholic Church in a popular way. In addition, it is provided with a foreword and with references to pertinent citations in the Bible. The Meistersinger (Mastersinger) Sachs soon had great success with the poem; back in 1523, six editions were published. This exemplar is a first edition from the holdings of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library), printed by Georg Erlinger (d. 1541) in Bamberg. On the title page, the allegorical programme of the poem is clearly set out: The nightingale in the tree stands for Luther himself. Under the tree has gathered a group of other animals, consisting of a lion, of a donkey, a wild boar, a goat and a tomcat as well as of snakes, frogs, geese and snails. Even united, they cannot do anything against the nightingale. The helpless animals symbolise together the enemies of Luther. For example, the lion stands for Pope Leo X (1513-1521) and the wild boar for the Ingolstadt theologian Johannes Eck (1486-1543). Datum: 2016


Matthias Bader

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