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Royal Collection © Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II
Assertio Septem Sacramentorum adversus Martinum Lutherum
XQG 1990 24
Martin Luther (1483- 1546) was the German monk and theologian whose ideas shaped the Protestant Reformation. One of his many pronouncements was that there were only two sacraments (the solemn rites considered to have been instituted by Christ to confer grace) rather than the traditional seven. Henry VIII's assertion of the seven sacraments ('Defence of the Seven Sacraments against Martin Luther') was published in the summer of 1521. The book provided the impetus for Pope Leo X to award Henry the title 'Fidei Defensor' (Defender of the Faith). In 1543 the title was given by Parliament in perpetuity, and thus forms part of The Queen's style today. This copy is signed by Henry and was probably one of those he sent to cardinals in Rome.
The title page has a wood-block border which is a copy of a design by Hans Holbein the Younger for the Basel printer Froben. It illustrates a children’s triumphal procession above, and the story of Mucius Scaevola before Porsenna below. During the siege of Rome by the Etruscans, the Roman Mucius mistakenly stabbed a scribe instead of murdering the enemy king. He burned his right hand to show his indifference to threats of torture from Porsenna. The assassination is shown on the right, and the hand burning on the left. The wood cutter for the original block was Hans Herman, but it is not known who made this English copy.