'Belly-Worshippers and Greed-Paunches': Fatness and the Belly in the Lutheran Reformation

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Corpulence is an area of body-history which is receiving increased attention in line with current concerns about rising obesity as well as social movements which champion body positivity and fat acceptance. Historians have challenged the traditional narrative that in past societies being 'fat' was simply viewed as a positive sign of wealth and prosperity, showing instead that fatness could be criticized as early as the sixteenth century. Yet the complexities and contradictions present in historical understandings of bodyweight and size often remain overlooked. This article explores such nuances in conceptions of fatness and thinness by examining the various ways in which bodyweight and size held meaning in the specific context of the Lutheran Reformation. Through a consideration of the bodily resurrection, apocalyptic belief and the form of heavenly bodies, it demonstrates how discussions of weight and fatness were embedded in fundamental debates about sin and salvation. Within these discussions, the significance of the belly comes to the fore. For Luther in particular, the belly was a source of nuance, enabling understandings of weight to be flexible and presenting the complexity of differentiating between fat and thin bodies, where 'fat' could be deployed as a metaphor regardless of actual physicality. Luther's own large size has been shown to be linked to his theology as well as to his success as a reformer, and this article takes this position further, using the figure of Luther as a lens through which to view the wider significance of bodyweight and size in the Reformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)173-200
Number of pages28
JournalGerman History
Issue number2
Early online date18 Mar 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jun 2021


Dive into the research topics of ''Belly-Worshippers and Greed-Paunches': Fatness and the Belly in the Lutheran Reformation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this