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This monk is the instrument of the Devil
Woodcut by Erhard Schoen, 1536
Fine art replica giclée print © 2014 Allen Bjorkman

Devil With Bagpipe

  • Image Dimensions: 7 x 10 5/8 inches

    Matted Dimensions: 13 1/2 x 16 5/8 inches

    Please note that the frames shown are not always available, and the outside dimensions of framed prints vary in size. Mat colors may also vary. Contact our frame shop for custom framing at no extra cost at

  • “Devil playing the bagpipes; perched on the shoulders of a monk whose head forms the bagpipe. 

    This is one of the most striking images to be seen among the vast number of broadsheets directed by the reformers against the Roman Catholic church. The image of the Devil perched on the shoulders of a monk, through whose ears and nose he "plays his tune", is made particularly pungent by the more usual association of bagpipes with lust. The idea that monks were the instruments of the Devil was common and resulted in numerous woodcuts showing them as thinly disguised monsters. Scribner has commented that the enormous popularity of these prints must be associated with a proverb linking monks with the Devil which was in current use before the Reformation: "Misfortune has broad feet, said the peasant, as he saw the monk coming" (see Scribner, p. 134).
    Another impression of this woodcut in the Schloss-museum, Gotha (Röttinger, pl. 5), has eight lines of letterpress in the lower right corner, in which the Devil laments of a past age, presumably brought to a close by the reformers' activities, when he was able to play his 'pipes'; although he is sure that man's sinful and cunning nature will put an end to his grief before long: "Vor zeytten Pfiff ich hin and her/ Aus solchen Pfeiffen dicht und mer / Vil fabel Trewm und fanthasey/ Ist yetsundt auß und gar entzwey/ Das ist mir leyd auch schwer und bang/ Doch hoff ich es wer auch nit lang/ Die weyl die welt so furwitz ist/ Sündtlich dürchisch vol arger list".
    There is a sixteenth-century woodcut copy of this print in the British Museum (inv. no. 1870,0625.560; not in Dodgson) with twenty-one lines of letterpress. This also conveys an anti-Catholic sentiment in its description of the Devil, who infiltrated all the monastic orders in his search for an unscrupulous cleric, until he eventually found 'Friar Nose' (Bruder Nasen) whom he transformed into his instrument. The widespread circulation of a broadsheet such as this makes it possible that a copy of it could also have been used as a potent tool against the reformers, and it has been noted that this could be construed as a caricature of Luther as he was himself a monk; however, no such print is known with the addition of a suitable anti-Lutheran text.

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