The Mill and the Cross (2011) / 16th-century Antwerp

The film focuses on a dozen of the 500 characters depicted in Bruegel’s painting. The theme of Christ’s suffering is set against religious persecution in Flanders in 1564.

16th-century Antwerp

City of Antwerp, 1572City of Antwerp, 1572

At the end of the 15th century, nearly all the Low Countries were united under the Burgundian and Habsburg dynasties, Antwerp quickly became the leading commercial centre of western Europe. 

Antwerp also became a great cultural centre: its school of painting began to flourish at the end of the 15th century; the city’s printing houses became known throughout Europe; and humanism began to thrive. In the early 16th century, Antwerp became a centre of Protestant activity.

By the 1560s, the Protestant community had become a significant influence in the Netherlands. In a society dependent on trade, freedom and tolerance were considered essential. Nevertheless, the Catholic rulers Charles V, and later Philip II, made it their mission to defeat Protestantism, which was considered a heresy by the Catholic Church and a threat to the stability of the whole hierarchical political system. Between 1523 and 1566, more than 1,300 people were executed as heretics in the Netherlands.