lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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A Monk with Back Problems

 
Is this not what appears to be represented? He definitely seems to carry a heavy load. Perhaps he groans under the weight of an obese canon.
 
 
 
 
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With this unusual depiction, I would like to draw your attention to the choir stall, an interesting piece of medieval church furnishing.
 
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From the Romanesque period, little has remained. Also from the Gothic period, only fractions have survived.
 
 
Yet, it is worthwhile to study them. Particularly the misericords underneath the folding seats, which were supposed to alleviate the prolonged standing during the celebration of Mass, frequently feature rich, artful, and often comical woodcarvings.
 
 
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Depending on the number of monks or canons, as well as the period of production, the choir stall could be modest yet also enormous. Especially during the late-Gothic period, the wood carved decorations could be very rich. The master woodcarvers were often inspired by the stone decorative elements of church architecture, with their pinnacles and canopies. Of the largest original ensembles, only remnants have survived.
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)
 




A Bride with Deficiencies

 
 
The Middle Ages knew great women and female rulers.
 
 
One of these was Theophanu, Empress and Regent of the Ottonian Empire in the tenth century. For reasons of politics and prestige, Otto I, Emperor between 962 and 973, had sought a tighter relationship with Byzantium, which regarded itself as the heir of the Roman Caesars.
 
Marriage policy offered itself as a solution. The heir to the throne, the later Otto II, was of a marriageable age. Thus, the court sent a delegation to Byzantium to seek a purple-born bride – that is, the daughter of Emperor Basil II.
 
The choice fell on Theophanu, not the daughter but the niece of Basil. The disappointment at the Ottonian court was great, despite the precious dowry. Scholars have determined that parts of the bridal gift were incorporated in the pulpit of Henry II at Aachen Cathedral.
 
 
 
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Ambo in Aix-la-Chapelle Cathedral
 
 
 
The court considered to send the girl back to Byzantium. Yet, either Otto I possessed good people skills or he feared a scandal, and Theophanu staid and married her 17-year-old groom. After his death in 983, Theophanu resolutely defended the crown and throne for her three-year-old son against a Bavarian relative who (not undeservedly) was called "The Brawler", and became regent for the later Otto III.
 
 
 
Sarcophagus in St. Pantaleon, Cologne
 
The Empress died in 991, at the age of 36 or 31, four years before the coronation of her son.
 
 
She is interred in a white marble sarcophagus in the Church of St. Pantaleon in Cologne.
 
The likewise well-respected Adelheid, widow of Otto I, took over the regency.
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (MA)




The repainted Saint

 
 
 
Maurice, the patron saint of the military, infantry, and armorers, is not particularly the most popular saint within the Roman Catholic Church. According to legend, he suffered martyrdom as commander of the Theban Legion in Valais around the year 300, together with thousands of his men.
 
 
The devotion to St. Maurice slowly spread North and Northeast, and finally reached the East Frankish Empire, which experienced its heyday under Otto I.
 
Maurice became the patron saint of the Empire and of the new imperial cathedral in Magdeburg. Together with other martyrs, he stands high on one of the ancient columns in the choir.
 
 
All this would not be worth mentioning if the representation of the saint had not fundamentally changed over time. Around the middle of the thirteenth century, St. Maurice – originally represented as a white knight – was changed into a Moor. He allegedly represents the earliest depiction of a black African in post-antique times.
 
 
 
Magdebg Mauritius 0472 resol 3 hell
 
 
 
 
A torso on the southern side of the choir was dated to the mid-thirteenth century, i.e. to the early constructioperiod of the cathedral.
 
The reason for this change in representation is puzzling, especially since his depiction as a Moor in later artworks – with a few exceptions in southern regions – was maintained.
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)
 




The Saint on the Swing

 
 The Vinschgau is a region that offers its guests art treasures and culinary delights amidst beautiful scenery.
 
For art lovers, the Church St. Proculus in Naturns is a must-see. The history of the structure can be traced back to the seventh century. Its Romanesque and Gothic modifications cannot hide its venerable age.
 
The "star" of the church, however, can be found inside: the saint on the swing depicted as part of the interior's rich mural paintings. It has been a controversial topic among scholars.
 
 
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As far as I know, the consensus is that the frescoes are pre-Carolingian and date from the eighth century. They are the oldest mural paintings in German-speaking Europe.
 
In recent times, the figure has most commonly been identified as Bishop Proculus of Verona, fleeing from his martyrdom.
 
However, it has also been suggested that the figure represent the Apostle Paul, fleeing from Damascus. A herd of cattle, also depicted on the wall, nevertheless points towards Proculus, the patron saint of animals.
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)
 




The Gem in the Valley

 
About 15 kilometers northwest of Caen there is a quiet valley with an absolute gem of Norman architecture, the parish church of Saint-Pierre de Thaon. A murmuring brook, trees casting shadows on the ancient stones, white cows grazing the lush meadows...
 
 
it is just as romantic as described. The place would actually have been ideal for a Cistercian church, yet the Order did not exist then.
 
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Inside the church, which dates from the second half of the eleventh century, a time during which the famous monasteries of William the Conqueror, Saint-Etienne and Sainte-Trinité in Caen were built as well, a far-flung community met for mass.
 
 
At its core, the building remained almost untouched. Only the aisles were demolished during the eighteenth century, and the arcades were walled up. Noteworthy are the architectural decoration and the tower.
 
 
The church was cautiouslly restored, and excavations are conducted inside. Visits should be possible with an appointment. A group of enthusiasts is trying to preserve this old house of worship.
 
A good description can be found in:
 
Musset, Lucien, Romanische Normandie (West), Echter Verlag, Würzburg, 1989
 
 
 
 
 
 
Translation: Erik Eising (M.A.)
 




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