A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul Too

Albrecht Dürer (1471–1528), considered the master of the German Renaissance artists, was already well known throughout Europe during his lifetime. Today Dürer is recognized for his timeless paintings and sketches. However, he is best known for his mastery of the painstaking art of printed woodcuts and etchings. Among Dürer’s most stunning woodcut series are the Life of Mary and the Passion.

Concordia Historical Institute (CHI) is showing for the first time its spectacular collection of 43 Dürer woodcuts to the public with the theme A Sword Will Pierce Your Own Soul Too: The Life of Mary and the Passion of Christ in the Woodcuts of Albrecht Dürer.

As the infant Jesus was presented at the Temple, the aged Simeon said to Mary, “A sword will pierce your own soul too” —prophesying the coming rejection and suffering her son would experience over thirty years later in his passion.

Fifteen hundred years later Albrecht Dürer gave these words their most enduring graphic expression. Now after another five hundred years, his woodcuts still have the power to draw the viewer into the lives of Mary and Jesus.

The exhibition has been made possible by a very generous grant from Robert and Katharine (nee Haffenreffer) Selle in memory of Katharine’s father, Theodore C. Haffenreffer, whose ancestor Matthias Haffenreffer was a contemporary and acquaintance of Albrecht Dürer and Martin Luther.

  • Refusal of Joachim’s Offering

    Refusal of Joachim’s Offering

    According to the Golden Legend, Mary’s father, Joachim, was a priest whose offering was refused because he and his wife Anna (who were both well along in years) were childless. c. 1504

  • Angel Appearing to Joachim

    Angel Appearing to Joachim

    The despondent Joachim went into the wilderness where an angel appeared before him announcing that his wife would bear a daughter. The angel continued, “And your daughter will someday bear a son and she will give him the name of Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins.” c. 1505

  • Joachim and Anna Embracing under the Golden Gate

    Joachim and Anna Embracing under the Golden Gate

    The Immaculate Conception, which according to legend took place at the Golden Gate, teaches that Mary was conceived sinless. This is the only woodcut in the series with Dürer’s monogram and date. (The date is often misread as 1509.)

  • Birth of Mary

    Birth of Mary

    The whimsically depicted scene of a mother in labor, typical of a sixteenth century Nuremberg household, surround by willing gossips. c. 1503

  • Presentation of Mary in the Temple

    Presentation of Mary in the Temple

    The three-year-old Mary is taken to the temple just as a young girl in the artist’s day would have been presented to the cloister for service to the Lord. c. 1504–1505

  • The Marriage of Mary and Joseph

    The Marriage of Mary and Joseph

    The espousal of Mary and Joseph takes place in a typical Nuremberg setting. c. 1505

  • Annunciation


    The angel Gabriel brings news to Mary that she will bear a son who will be the Christ. c. 1500–1502

  • Visitation


    Mary visits Elizabeth after learning that she also is expecting in her old age. c. 1503

  • Nativity


    This cut is also known as the adoration of the shepherds who are seen to the right in the entryway. c. 1502

  • Circumcision


    Joseph can hardly look on as Jesus is submitted to the Law that all male children at eight days be circumcised. c. 1505

  • Adoration of the Kings

    Adoration of the Kings

    The Wiseman followed the star to the Bethlehem house where the child and his parents reside. A Mohammedan is beckoned also to come worship, depicting the Epiphany as the “Gentiles’ Christmas.” c. 1502

  • Presentation in the Temple

    Presentation in the Temple

    On the fortieth day, the male child was presented to the Lord in the Temple. c. 1505

  • Flight into Egypt

    Flight into Egypt

    In order to escape wicked King Herod’s plotting against the child, Joseph was warned in a dream by the angel to flee to Egypt. c. 1503

  • Repose in Egypt

    Repose in Egypt

    The artist whimsically presents the Holy Family in refuge in Egypt. c. 1505

  • Christ among the Doctors in the Temple

    Christ among the Doctors in the Temple

    The twelve-year-old child sits among the doctors, while to the left his frantic parents look on in amazement. c. 1503

  • Christ Taking Leave of His Mother

    Christ Taking Leave of His Mother

    Mary feels the sword’s first piercing as her son Jesus blesses in divine determination in departing to suffer and die. c. 1505

  • Death of Mary

    Death of Mary

    Drawn when Dürer decided to put the series in book form. c. 1510

  • Assumption


    Drawn when Dürer decided to put the series in book form. 1510

  • Adoration of Virgin and Child by Saints and Angels

    Adoration of Virgin and Child by Saints and Angels

    Though often placed at the end of the series after the later prints of 1510, this cut may be regarded as the first image of the Life of Mary on which Dürer worked. c. 1500

  • Adoration of the Magi

    Adoration of the Magi

    This cut is not part of the series of the Life of Mary. c. 1511

  • Virgin Crowned by Two Angels

    Virgin Crowned by Two Angels

    This cut was produced much later than the Life of Mary cuts and was not part of the series. c. 1518

  • Christ as the Man of Sorrows

    Christ as the Man of Sorrows

    Title page to the Small Passion series “He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and familiar with suffering” Isaiah 53:3a c. 1511

  • Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem

    Christ’s Entry into Jerusalem

    “The next day the great crowd that had come for the Feast heard that Jesus was on his way to Jerusalem. They took palm branches and went out to meet him, shouting, ‘Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” John 12:12–13a c. 1508–1509

  • Cleansing the Temple

    Cleansing the Temple

    “Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there.” Matthew 20:12a c. 1508–1509

  • Last Supper

    Last Supper

    “When evening came, Jesus was reclining at the table with the Twelve. And while they were eating, he said, “I tell you the truth, one of you will betray me.” Matthew 26:20–21 c. 1508–1509

  • Agony in the Garden

    Agony in the Garden

    “They went to a place called Gethsemane, and Jesus said to his disciples, ‘Sit here while I pray.’” Mark 14:32 c. 1510

  • Christ before Caiaphas

    Christ before Caiaphas

    “Those who had arrested Jesus took him to Caiaphas, the high priest, where the teachers of the law and the elders had assembled.” Matthew 26:57 c. 1508–1509

  • Mocking of Christ

    Mocking of Christ

    “The men who were guarding Jesus began mocking and beating him. They blindfolded him and demanded, ‘Prophesy! Who hit you?’” Luke 22:63–64 c. 1508–1509

  • Christ before Pilate

    Christ before Pilate

    “They bound him, led him away and handed him over to Pilate, the governor.” Matthew 27:2 c. 1508–1509

  • Christ before Herod

    Christ before Herod

    “When he learned that Jesus was under Herod’s jurisdiction, he sent him to Herod, who was also in Jerusalem at that time.” Luke 22:7. 1509

  • Scourging


    “Then Pilate took Jesus and had him flogged.” John 19:1 c. 1509

  • Christ Presented to the People

    Christ Presented to the People

    “When Jesus came out wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, Pilate said to them, ‘Here is the man!’” John 19:5 c. 1509

  • Pilate Washing His Hands

    Pilate Washing His Hands

    “Pilate took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, ‘I am innocent of this man’s blood,’ he said.” Matthew 27:24b c. 1509

  • Christ Nailed to the Cross

    Christ Nailed to the Cross

    “When they came to the place called the Skull, there they crucified him.” Luke 23:33a. c. 1509

  • Crucifixion


    “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.” John 19:30b. c. 1509

  • Descent from the Cross

    Descent from the Cross

    “Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead. When he learned from the centurion that it was so, he gave the body to Joseph.” Mark 15:44a, 45. c. 1509–1510

  • Preparation for Burial

    Preparation for Burial

    “Taking Jesus’ body, the two of them wrapped it, with spices, in strips of linen.” John 19:40. c. 1509–1510

  • Entombment


    “And Joseph placed it in his own new tomb that he had cut out of the rock.” Matthew 27:60a c. 1509–1510

  • Resurrection


    “His appearance was like lightning, and his clothes were white as snow. The guards were so afraid they shook and became like dead men.” Matthew 27:3–4 c. 1510

  • Christ Appearing to His Disciples

    Christ Appearing to His Disciples

    “Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it in my side. Stop doubting and believe.’” John 20:27 c. 1510

  • The Ascension

    The Ascension

    “After he said this, he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight.” Acts 1:9 c. 1510

  • Pentecost


    “When the day of Pentecost came they were all together in one place. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.” Acts 2:1, 4 c. 1510

  • Last Judgment

    Last Judgment

    “Jesus said, ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’” Mark 14:62 c. 1510

Print Friendly, PDF & Email