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Contemporary art-medals reinterpret the Reformation

New art-medal line commemorates the life of Martin Luther and the Reformation.

The International Association of Reformation Coins and Medals (IARCM), a non-profit society dedicated to promoting the history and teachings of Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation internationally through numismatics, recently announced that a partnership with German medallist Victor Huster has resulted in the first in a series of art-medals commemorating the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, when Martin Luther posted his 95 Theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenberg on October 31, 1517.

“Through the artistic skill of Victor Huster, one of Europe’s most recognized contemporary medallists, we have an opportunity to draw from the strengths of 500 years of coins and medals depicting the re-discovery of the Gospel in 1517,” said the Rev. Dr. Daniel Harmelink, a Lutheran pastor, graphic artist, and president of the IARCM. “These medals not only further a deeper appreciation of our Reformation legacy but can be used to share the gifts of Luther and the Reformation with others. These ten years culminating in the 500th anniversary of the Reformation in 2017 are years when not only more tourists are visiting the sites of the Reformation in Germany, but years that many people around the world are especially interested in learning more about this larger-than-life Augustinian monk from Wittenberg who proclaimed, ‘I am captive to the Word of God.’”

The first design in the series portrays Martin Luther as a young monk. The portrait is framed by the Latin translation of Isaiah 40:8. (“The grass withers and the flower fades, but the Word of our God endures forever.”) Hidden in the Latin words is a chronogram (highlighted letters in an inscription that “spell out” a year in Roman numerals) for the year 2017 as well as the name Martin Luther.

The reverse side depicts the reformer as “the Swan of Wittenberg” breaking Rome’s system of selling indulgences for gold and silver in order to finance Saint Peter’s Basilica. The posted 95 Theses document is in the background.

“The 500th jubilee of the Reformation is a rare opportunity to present to a new generation the enduring legacy of Martin Luther through the medium of sculpted metal. I am pleased to re-interpret Luther and the events of his life in a new, fresh, and different way,” explained Huster, speaking from his art-medal studio in Baden-Baden, Germany.

Adding value to the Reformation

Each hand-crafted, high-relief medal is hand-numbered in a limited edition in two sizes (39mm and 70mm) and two medals (copper and silver). Prices begin at $62. Additional designs in this series are scheduled to be produced at regular intervals for the next six years.

“It is our hope that these interpretive designs by Victor Huster will strike a renewed interest in Luther and the Reformation, not only among life-long Lutherans, but as these medals are shared with others who know little of the Gospel re-discovered 500 years ago,” Harmelink says. “The Lutheran Church enjoys a rich legacy of promoting the best in the fine arts to communicate the truths of the Word of God and the history of the Christian Church with as many people as possible. I believe this project continues that tradition in a new and exciting way.”

The IARCM maintains a website of resources on Reformation numismatics, sponsors the writing and translation of articles, and encourages museums and collectors in North America and Europe to present the history and beliefs of the Reformation through innovative exhibits and printed resources that include numismatics.

For more details about the IARCM and this new series of Luther art-medals, visit www.iarcm-igmmr.org, or contact Harmelink at dr.harmelink@iarcm-igmmr.org or 714/642-5458.

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