The charming lake-side German city of Constance has many picturesque features to photograph. But the most snapped attraction in this town is a nine-metre-tall prostitute holding a naked king in her right hand, while her left hand clutches an equally nude pope.
To understand how such a statue could come to be erected in this city we need to go back six hundred years.
The Council of Constance began in the year 1414. In attendance would be a pope, a king, and approximately 18,000 ranking clergy – including 183 bishops and 29 cardinals. The main goal of this major gathering was to resolve the biggest leadership crisis the Christian church had ever faced – the situation where three popes ruled the Catholic Church at the same time. Referred to as the “Papal Schism” by historians it was a situation decades in the making and would take this large gathering three and a half years in Constance to clear up.
So what does a medieval town like Constance need in 1414 to run such an important and prestigious congress for the clergy of the church? Food, accommodation, meetings rooms and halls, and fifteen hundred prostitutes.
Yes, you read those last three words correctly.
The church was in such a corrupt and immoral condition that fifteen hundred sex-workers were imported into Constance to help with each evening’s entertainment. In the face of such hypocrisy there were surprisingly few eyelids being batted in this medieval city – such was the church’s perishing shape.
And so, the city of Constance has a statue down by the lake as a reminder of the less than salubrious state of spiritual affairs in the church in former times. It was a church in desperate need of Reformation.
By the lake today, as you gaze up at a gorgeous scantily-clad giant holding her two prominent clients, it is easy to stand in moral judgment of past religious leaders who should have known better.
But in amongst the photographing and the tittering and the sniggering there’s a small voice that points to our own hearts. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus tells his listeners to reflect on our own inadequacies before we adjudicate others. “Judge not, lest you be judged” says the Saviour. Yes, the church needed a Reformation, but so has each individual before and since the catastrophe that was the Council of Constance six hundred years ago.
“Create in me a pure heart, oh God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me” (Psalm 51:10) – a prayer for everyone needing their Creator to perform a reformation in their own life today.