chapter  3
34 Pages

Gods, Giants, and Kings

In 1541, Martin Luther published a summary of world chronology. The Supputatio annorum mundi has two columns divided by a yearly calendar down the middle. In each column, Luther marked significant events. Such chronologies were popular fare in the Renaissance and often served polemical and propaganda agendas. As Luther constructed his chronology, sitting on his bookshelf were the Renaissance’s oddest couple: Annius of Viterbo’s Commentaria Fratri Joannis Annii Viterbiensis super opera diversorum auctorum de Antiquitatibus Loquentium [The Commentaries of Friar Johannes Annius of Viterbo on Works of Various Authors Discussing Antiquities] and Lorenzo Valla’s Declamatio de falso credita et ementita donatione Constantini [Discourse on the Forgery of the Alleged Donation of Constantine]. Both books were important resources for Luther’s Supputatio. Luther used Lorenzo Valla to help him discern true and faithful popes from nefarious usurpers. For example, for the year 1000 Luther writes, “The Millennium of Salvation is over. The Millennium of the Satan is unleashed: the Bishop of Rome is the Antichrist, likewise it is a time of the Sword.”1 Beginning with Gregory VII (Hildebrand) (102085; reigned from 1073), Luther inverted the names of popes he believed were acting as the Antichrist. For Hildebrand he writes, “Hellbrand, the mask of the devil, also called Gregory VII, is the Monster of Monsters, the very first Man of Sin and Son of Perdition.”2 These perspectives would not have been possible without the help of Valla.3 Annius of Viterbo

1 Martin Luther, WA 53: 152, col. 1; see also Supputatio annorum mundi in Opera omnia Domini Martini Lutheri (Wittenberg: Hans Luft, 1557), VII: 506r.