In the left transept of the Chiesa del Gesu, the Jesuit Church of Rome, built during the Catholic Counterreformation of the 16th century, there is a sculpture group I wish to draw your attention to. It is titled "Religion Flagellates Heresy" by Pierre Le Gros, and is located at the altar built over the tomb (pictured at left) of Ignatius Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.
The statuary in question is to the lower right of the altar, and is a little difficult to see in this picture, but it does show the overall altar. It depicts a woman (Mary?) scourging two of the Protestant reformers, Martin Luther and John Huss.
In this close up you can see that in her right hand the woman has a lightning bolt, about to be cast at the two heretics, and in her left a cross, which the outcasts are recoiling from in apparent horror.
Here is a link to another, and even better photo of this sculpture group - Casting out the heretics.
At the base of the altar, we see an angel tearing pages out of a book. What book is it? A little history first.
John Huss was a student of John Wycliff, who translated the Bible into English in 1382. Wycliff advocated the right of the common man to read the Bible in his own language. Both Wycliff and Huss believed scripture to supersede the dogmas and ordinances of the church and both declared the Papacy to be the AntiChrist foretold in scripture. John Huss was burned alive* at the stake in 1415 for his "heresy" and rebellion against Catholic authority.
From the video "Israel of the Alps"
Copyright © 1993 LLT Productions - Used by Permission
Martin Luther challenged the Traditions of the Roman Catholic Church and coined the phrase Sola Scriptura, meaning the Bible only. In 1517 Luther posted 95 thesis to the door of the church in Wittenburg, challenging the authority of the Papacy and the sale of Indulgences. Martin Luther also declared the Papacy to be "nothing else than the kingdom of Babylon and of very AntiChrist" in his book On the Babylonian Captivity of the Church. Luther also translated the Bible into German, so that the German people could read scripture for themselves, in their own language.
So both John Huss and Martin Luther championed the Bible over the Traditions and dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church and declared the Papacy to be the AntiChrist taught clearly by the Bible. So what book is the little angel tearing pages out of? What book did the reformers look to as "the authority" on matters of faith and doctrine, rather than decrees of the church? The answer should be quite clear.
I have information from a credible source, who has visited Loyola's tomb in the Gesu, that it is indeed the Bible that the angel is tearing pages out of, based on the inscription on the back of the book. However, in some reference books, like "The Pilgrim's Guide to Rome's Principal Churches," by Joseph N. Tylenda, the little cherub, called a putto, is described as destroying heretical books.
* The Vatican Information Service (VIS) reported that on Dec 17th, 1999, Pope John Paul II made the following apology regarding the burning at the stake of Hus, while speaking before an international symposium on Jan Hus held at the Vatican:
"Today, on the eve of the Great Jubilee, I feel the need to express deep regret for the cruel death inflicted on Jan Hus and for the consequent wound of conflict and division which was thus imposed on the minds and hearts of the Bohemian people."
Please proceed to The Bible was once banned by the Roman Catholic Church!