"Luther with the Swan"



    The Lutheran Journal, Vol. 65, #2, 1996 - Erwin Weber


Whoever travels throughout Northern Germany and Holland will be surprised to see swans used as weather vanes on church steeples and schools instead of roosters or crosses. These are Lutheran churches. Its parishioners want to tell the world that they are proud to be Lutherans. Luther often referred to himself as a swan. He continued the reform movement begun by John Hus from Czechoslovakia, a professor and later president of the University of Prague one hundred years before Luther arrived on the scene. Hus was considered a heretic by the Church of Rome and burned at the stake in 1415. It is said that Hus wrote from his prison cell, "Today you are burning a goose, (for Hus in Czech means goose); however, a hundred years from now you will hear a swan sing - you will not burn it, you will have to listen to him." After the death of Luther, the great Reformer was frequently portrayed with a swan in sculptures, paintings, woodcuts, engravings, hymnals and commemorative coins. They were assembled for an exhibit at the Lutherhalle in Wittenberg by its Director, Dr. Martin Treu in celebration of the 450th anniversary of Luther's death.

This articles describes some of the items in the exhibit and shows a few weather vanes in the form of a swan located in Northern Germany. On the cover is a painting titled "Luther with the Swan" by Friedrich List, 1698. It is located in the Lutheran Church, Strümpfelbach, Germany.