500th Anniversary of The Protestant Reformation


500th Anniversary of The Protestant Reformation
Reformation, Restoration, and Romeyn: Faith and the Founding of Union College


In 1517, Martin Luther, a scholar and theologian at Wittenberg University in Germany, posted his “Ninety-five Theses,” essentially challenging some of the practices of the Catholic Church and paving the way for the Protestant Reformation. The ripple effect of that act of rebellion is reflected in notable objects from the Special Collections and Archives at Union College. Indeed, the Reformation in many ways influenced the creation of Union College in 1795.
In June 2017, I joined Union faculty on a study tour of Berlin, a trip supported by a Presidential Leadership Grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. That experience inspired me to think globally and consider the specific ways in which the Reformation impacted the founding of Union College.
Reformation, Restoration and Romeyn presents objects that reflect the connections between Union College and the Reformation movement. The exhibit features four recently restored Bibles, including the family Bible of Dirck Romeyn, a Protestant minister and principal founder of Union College. Written in the Dutch vernacular, the Romeyn Bible is the direct result of the Reformation’s influence on making the gospels accessible to ordinary citizens.
Following the Berlin study tour, I undertook two research trips. I traveled to the small town of Leerdam, in The Netherlands, about 40 miles south of Amsterdam, where Wim van‘t Zelfde and Fineke van Driel of the Statenbijbel (States Bible) Museum provided keen insights on the rich history of Union’s own Romeyn Bible.
I also visited Wittenberg to witness the birthplace of the Reformation. I gathered with others at the door of the All Saints’ Church, where Luther may have first nailed his theses on Oct. 31, 1517. Now, 500 years later, at Union College, we reflect upon objects from the Special Collections that tell one small part of the Reformation’s sprawling tale. I hope you enjoy these tangible connections between the birth of a movement and the founding of a college.
- India Spartz, Curator Head of Special Collections & Archives Schaffer Library

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