lipprose Werner Nolte über mittelalterliche Architektur und Geschichte
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A Refugee from Damascus

His whole family has been extinguished. As sole survivor, the 25-year-old man flees to North Africa, to the Berber family of his mother, where he is placed into hiding. His relatives then smuggle the unaccompanied youth to Southern Spain.

What appears to be such a modern tale happened in 756. The refugee is the sole survivor of the Umayyads, whose caliphate had ruled over the Islamic world since 661. Now, after nearly 100 years, their murderers, the Abbasids, seized power in Damascus.

Abd al-Rahman quickly succeeded in unifying the Berbers and supporters of the Umayyads, and defeating the previous rulers. As Emir of Al-Andalus, he defended its independence against the hostile caliphate.


Abd ar Rahman I

 Two years before his death in 786, he began building the Great Mosque of Córdoba.

The Wandering Vault

In the middle of the twelfth century, the so-called Angevin Gothic style was developed in the southwest of France. Its main feature is the dominical vault, which unifies dome and ribbed vault. The corner stones of the arches are positioned rather high.

This type of vault only became popular in its region of origin, and in Westphalia – thousands of kilometers to the northeast.


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                                    Münster Cathedral

In search of an explanation, Westphalian historians came across the founding father of the dynasty of Lippe. Bernhard II was a faithful follower of Henry the Lion, who, after the loss of his duchies, went into exile to his father-in-law, the ruler of the Angevin Empire. Bernhard was supposedly part of his entourage. >>The Lion.


Nicolai Church, Lemgo


Immediately after his return, Bernhard founded Lippstadt in 1184 or 1185, and shortly thereafter also Lemgo. In addition to that, he was involved with the foundation of Marienfeld Abbey.

With an apparent interest in building projects, it is not unlikely that Bernhard, impressed by the Gothic churches found in southwestern France, brought the dominical vault back to Westphalia via French building masters, who he employed at the beginning of the thirteenth century.




A Pediment with Gold

By the sixteenth century at the latest, the eastern pediment of Constance Cathedral was decorated with four cart-sized golden discs, recognizable from afar by boatmen on Lake Constance.

The largest disc, with a diameter of almost 2 m, was created in the eleventh century. It shows Christ as Pantocrator, accompanied by two angels.


DSC 1297.KO



The other three discs are only about half the size in diameter and are thought to be works by different anonymous masters. Two of these show busts of the patron saints of Constance Cathedral, Pelagius and Conrad, while the third disc features the image of an eagle, the symbol of St. John the Evangelist.



         Disc featuring the eagle    Photo: Konstantin Köhler
After their restoration in 1973, the artworks were placed in the Cathedral’s crypt (built around 900). Today, the eastern pediment is decorated with copies.

Holy Graves

Around 800, the Islamic ruler Harun al-Raschid is said to have recognized Charlemagne as the official protector of the Christian Holy Sites in Jerusalem.

Despite frequent turmoil among various Islamic ruling dynasties, Christian pilgrimages had been possible before, and they would also be after this period. The high nobility, among which Henry the Lion and the later King Conrad III, made pilgrimages to Jerusalem as well
Impressed by the Holy Sepulcher, some returnees built replicas of the structure.


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St. Cyriacus, Gernrode


The oldest of these works north of the Alps featuring figurative decoration are the tombs of the collegiate church of St. Cyriacus in Gernrode, built around 1090.
>>Ottonian collegiate church at Gernrode

Rotundas in particular were commonly used forms, such as in the case of the Mauritius Rotunda at Constance Cathedral, constructed in 1260, and the Holy Grave at >>Magdeburg Cathedral, built during this same period.


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Magdeburg Cathedral


Also worth mentioning is an important representation of the Holy Sepulcher as part of the Jerusalem complex in Görlitz, dating from the end of the fifteenth century.

Those who returned to other European countries built replicas of Christ’s grave as well.

Resting in Dignity

Ossuaries or bone houses, called “Karner” in the Alpine regions, have become rarities in Germany.

During the Middle Ages, they were quite common in monasteries. When space became scarce at the cemetery, these buildings became the final resting place of the remains of the dead.

In contrast to today’s rather minimalist practice, ossuaries were richly decorated.

An example of such a bone house can be found on the premises of the Cistercian monastery church at Doberan, dating from the middle of the thirteenth century. The slim octagon was placed over the crypt. Up until the middle of the sixteenth century, it functioned as the monks’ final resting place.

Based on medieval remnants, the interior was richly decorated with paintings during the nineteenth century.

At the beginning of our century, the entire structure was extensively restored.

The monks had hardly skipped an opportunity to decorate the exterior of the brick structure.

The window section was furnished with horizontal rows of alternating darkly glazed and red stones. Delicate brick torus moldings frame the pointed-arch windows. Torus moldings enclose the eight sides of the structure as well.

Above the window section one can see dazzling decoration consisting of halved quatrefoils topped by gables with differently colored and shaped bricks, separated from the window section by narrow cornices.


The door, below a rosette, is decorated in a similar manner as the windows.

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