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Cranach, BS2139_1522a_plateNewJerusalem-001.jpg

Lucas Cranach the Elder's 'The New Jerusalem'

Unlike Albrecht Dürer’s very ambiguous version of the New Jerusalem, in which it is unclear whether the woodcut is depicting the Millennium or the New Jerusalem, Lucas Cranach's version is a fairly standard Reformation view of the scene from Revelation. The image was produced some as part of Cranach's Apocalypse series for Martin Luther’s New Testament of 1522 and, while it is fairly faithful to the text of Revelation 21:10—which tells us that John is taken by an angel to look down on the newly descended city—Cranach has clearly visualised the city in the style of a contemporary German city, much more than the New Jerusalem as described in Revelation or the historical city of Jerusalem of Cranach's own time. Thus there are angels appearing at three of the twelve gates, as described by Revelation 21:12, but otherwise the architecture is very much in the sixteenth century German style, with none of the gold and jewels or extreme dimensions stipulated by the text of Revelation 21. All in all the image constitutes a rather underwhelming end to the Cranach series—the angel ends up being the focal point, rather than the city—perhaps giving credence to those who argue that Revelation, as written, is impossible to visualise.