Exhibition will shed fascinating light on the Reformation

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

In a matter of months, it will be the 500th anniversary of the Reformation.

It sometimes seems as if there are blizzards of anniversaries commemorating countless different events from the past, and yet a 500th anniversary of huge global event is extremely rare.

When Martin Luther nailed his ‘95 Theses’ on the castle door in Wittenberg, he set in motion a process which spread through Europe and later the world, and has lasting implications to this very day – not least here in Northern Ireland.

The Orange Order has opened a major exhibition on the Reformation, which looks at factors ranging from pre-1517 reformers to the later role of Orange Order figures in spreading the flame.

Few institutions would be more fitting hosts for such a display. The 1690 Battle of the Boyne was a pivotal moment in the British throne remaining Protestant, and so had major implications for the make-up of the later United States. Even now half the population of America is Protestant Christian.

The Grand Master of the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, Edward Stevenson, said when opening the exhibition that “it is only natural” that an organisation wedded to the reformed faith should pause to celebrate “the impact and legacy these events have bequeathed to the modern world”. The exhibition runs five days a week until the end of November.

People from Ulster of the reformed faith have played a major part in western history, often after emigrating to the new world. Their culture and beliefs and motivations, and the origins of their Protestant faith, are an important and often untold story.

The Reformation came in the decades after the printing revolution radically improved people’s literacy and access to information and so Luther’s thinking had even more impact than it might have done.

This welcome exhibition will shed light on that fascinating history.