Happy New Year
I wish everyone a Happy New Year. May your hopes and wishes come true.
My balcony in winter
Fred the Snowman sends greetings as well. He's been around for ten days now and hopefully will stay a bit longer. This winter has been a bit crazy so far, but I don't mind the cold and the snow. Only the frozen rain could have gone elsewhere. ;)
St.Mary's Church in Magdeburg, Part 3 - From Reformation to Reunion
Magdeburg became one of the centres of the Reformation, not the least because the archbishop was heavily involved in the trade with indulgences. The cathedral was closed after his death (1545) and became a Protestant church in 1567.
(Detail from the crypt)
St.Mary's Abbey remained a Catholic enclave; its immunity was confirmed in 1555 under the Treaty of Augsburg. But the situation was not easy for the inhabitants; for example they stopped wearing their religious habits outside the monastery. After the death of the provost in 1597, the last canons abandoned the monastery, leaving the relics of St.Norbert behind. The relics were transfered to Prague in 1626 - the Thirty Years War was already raging in the surroundings - and two years later, several Premonstratensians returned to St.Mary.
The troops of the Catholic general Tilly conquered Magdeburg in 1631; the massacre of Magdeburg would become known as one of the most cruel events in a time when atrocities were committed almost daily. All of Europe, Catholic and Protestant, was aghast about what happened in Magdeburg. But the main churches survived the plunderings and fires. Tilly put St.Mary under his personal protection, and the cathedral was respected as well, despite being a Protestant church. The people who had managed to flee into both churches were among those who survived the massacres, but they had to hold out without water and food for three days.
With the town more or less destroyed, the canons left the monastery in the following year. The took the library and archive with them.
Well house in the cloister
The monastery was secularised in 1832. During WW2 the west wing of the cloister and the choir and roof of the church were damaged by airborne attacks. The choir was restored as early as 1947-49 and some repair work was going on in the years to follow - the GDR government considered St. Mary and Magdeburg Cathedral to be important enough to keep them, and I'm sure there were donations from west Germany as well (a lot of historical buildings fared much worse and were tumbling into ruins for lack of care). After the Reunion the crypt was restored, and redevelopment of the cloister began in 1999. That work was almost finished when we visited the place.
In 1993, St. Mary's Abbey was declared one of the main attractions of the Romanesque Road (Straße der Romanik
), a net of roads that connects important Romanesque buildings in Germany; you can travel the 'road' all the way from the Alpes to the sea.
I wish everyone a Blessed and Merry Christmas.
Christmas decoration in my sleeping room
I prefer handcrafted decorations; those angels are ceramic work from Sweden. Below is some traditional German craft from the Erzgebirge, a mountain area in eastern Germany long famous for its wood carving and turning crafts. Among the best known items they create are nutcrackers, Christmas pyramids, musical boxes, angels and other figures that are still made in small private craftsman's workshops. They also produce all sorts of wooden children's toys; there is a famous museum in Seiffen displaying toys from several centuries.Advent decoration in my living room
The Erzgebirge was a mountaineering area since the 12th century. When less ore was to be found since the 17th century, people turned to other ways to make a living. Wood carving already had a tradition and there was no shortage in timber, so working with wood became a new source of income. The first products were everyday things like plates, spoons and whatnot, but over time, the people in the Erzgebirge specialised in toys and decorative art. Snowman with trees, closeup
The spiral trees (made by wood turning) are something I collect. I try to get a new one every year.
If you want your very own spiral tree forest or nutcracker next Christmas, here
is where you can order them. Christmas decoration in my living room
The little nativity scene under the vase with fir green was carved in Israel. My late mother found it at a Christmas market in Braunschweig and gifted it to me. I never put out everything I have (I collected and inherited a good deal of decorative items) but that little nativity gets a place every year, usually together with the smallest spiral trees of my set.
Exhibits from the Cathedral Museum Mainz: Choir Screen Figures
The Cathedral Museum (Bischöfliches Dom- und Diözesanmusem) in Mainz presents a number of beautiful Mediaeval works of art, among them a set of reliefs that once belonged to the choir screen. Choir screens (German: Lettner) are a feature of Gothic church architecture which separated the the area with the main altar from the naves and the congregation. They were elaborately wrought of iron or carved of wood or stone.
The screen in the cathedral of Mainz had been removed in the 17th century (where that feature was no longer felt appropriate) but parts of it were integrated elsewhere in the church which underwent a number of changes and repair / rebuilding during times. In the end, the remains of the choir screen made it into the museum.
Choir screen, Passage of the Damned
The screen is a work of the Master of Naumburg. His name is not known, but he is regarded as one of the most important artists of the 13th century. He supposedly was educated in France and worked in Amiens and Reims, and since about 1230-1239 in Mainz where he created the choir screen. He then moved to work on the cathedral in Naumburg where several of the figures he created for the choir of the cathedral can still be seen. Choir screen, Passage of the Blessed
The Passages of the Damned and the Blessed are part of a Last Judgement scene. The damned are dragged to hell on a chain to the left of Jesus (the Jesus figure is missing) while the blessed go to heaven at his right side. The presentation of the blessed follows the estates of the realm with the pope and a bishop (in the background) first, followed by a crowned emperor, monks and nuns, and a smiling boy who stands for the innocent children Jesus called to him. Passage of the Blessed, closeup
Though at close look I suspect that boy wasn't so innocent. His smile is rather smug, more like, 'heh, I always teased my younger brother, grabbed the cat by its tail and filched apples from neighbour's orchard, and I still made it, neiner, neiner.' Makes you wonder if the Master of Naumburg had kids. :) One of the custodians told me the smiling boy is the most popular postcard and poster motive the museum sells.
St.Mary's Abbey in Magdeburg, Part 1 - An Austere Archbishop
This is one of the posts I mentioned that needed to be completely rewritten. We visited Magdeburg in 2005, before I got my own digital camera, so the photos are by courtesy of my father.
The monastery Unserer Lieben Frauen (To Our Dear Lady, also known as Liebfrauenkloster or St.Mary's Abbey) in Magdeburg is one of the most important Romanesque buildings in Germany. It is used as art museum and concert hall today.
(Liebfrauen-Monastery Magdeburg, westwork)
Magdeburg already had a cathedral dating to the time of Otto the Great (912-973) and was the see of an archbishop. St.Mary's Abbey was founded by Archbishop Gero in 1015 and started as collegiate church for a non-monastic community of clergy led by a dean. The first building may have been half-timbered, but since 1063 it was replaced by a stone basilica. There must have been a break in the building process because the basilica was only finished during the time of the Archbishop Norbert of Xanten (consecrated 1126).
Norbert of Xanten, founder of the Premonstratensian Order, was an interesting character, and since he played a more important role in Magdeburg than his native Xanten, I'll put his story here.
Norbert of Gennep (born between 1080-85) had his life cut out for him with a nice prebendary in the St.Victor Chapter in Xanten and a political career ahead. He accomp-agnied King Heinrich V to Rome but obviously got disillusioned by the events that led to Heinrich's coronation as Emperor in 1111.
Heinrich V didn't get along with the pope any better than his (in)famous father Heinrich VI and imprisoned the pope and a bunch of cardinals to blackmail the pope into a) crowning him as emperor, b) releasing his dead father from the church ban so he could be buried in the crypt of Speyer Cathedral, c) never excommunicate him (he learned from his father there, lol), and d) allow Heinrich the investiture of bishops in his realm.
BTW Heinrich V married Maud, the daughter of Henry I of England in 1114; the betrothal had taken place in 1110 before Heinrich became emperor, but Maud was not with him in Italy.
St.Mary's Abbey, Magdeburg, exterior
Norbert refused a position as bishop of Cambrai which Heinrich offered him and instead gave his possessions to the poor and got ordained as priest. Legend tells that his change of mind was caused when during a ride "...suddenly the terrifying sound and sight of a thunderbolt struck the ground opening it to the depth of a man's height. From here steamed forth a putrid stench which fouled him and his garments. Struck from his horse he thought he heard a voice denouncing him." (Vita Sancti Norberti, Version A
After Norbert failed to reform the chapter in Xanten while himself living as hermit nearby, and after he barely escaped an accusation of heresy in 1118, he obtained permission to become an itinerant preacher. Norbert wandered through Belgium and France, calling people to a true vita apostolica
in the following of Jesus and his disciples, and criticising the Church that has become too worldly and too rich.
The majority of bishops and other churchmen didn't like that, of course, and the pope tried to channel his activities by offering him to establish a monastery and a new religious order. Norbert finally accepted and chose a village named Premontré near Laon. The Order of the Canons Regular of Premontré
was officially approved by Pope Honorius II in 1125. St.Mary's Abbey, interior
But Norbert exchanged his contemplative life in a French valley again for the intrigues of the German Court. He traveled to Rome in 1125, where he was honourably received by Pope Honorius II and agreed to work for King Lothar III (the future Emperor Lothar of Süpplingenburg). Lothar, Duke of Saxony, had been elected king after Heinrich V had died without children.
Later that year Norbert was offered the position as archbishop of Magdeburg during a diet in Speyer. "All the leaders of the Church of Magdeburg cried out, 'He is our choice for our father and bishop, we approve him as our shepherd.'" Norbert didn't want the position, but "... Finally, yielding to numerous arguments and the apostolic authority, he accepted the yoke of the Lord, not without much weeping; and thus dismissed by the emperor, he set out for Saxony to the place destined for him." (Vita Sancti Norberti
The Church of Magdeburg was in for some changes. Norbert arrived, according to the Vita
, barefoot and in poor robes, and started reforming the clergy (no more sex and parties) and wrestling church possessions back from burghers who had obtained them as pawn from the archbishops. Soon even many of those who had called him wanted to get rid of Norbert, and there were two assassination attempts plotted by members of his inner circle. But it got worse; the citizens of Magdeburg rebelled and drove Norbert out with armed force. Well, he was not as saintly as the Vita
makes him and put the town under interdict which brought the people back to obedience and Norbert back to Magdeburg.The two-storeyed cloister
In 1129, Norbert transfered the St.Mary's Abbey to the Premonstratensian Order, an act that was confirmed by Pope Honorius the same year. My guess is that Norbert not only wanted to enlarge the possessions of the order he founded (and which would soon extend into the Slavic lands east of Magdeburg that future emperors would conquer) but also hoped to replace the unruly canons with men more loyal to him. At that time the towers of the church were completed, and the cloister, the wellhouse, and the refectory added.
Norbert also changed the Monastery of Pöhlde
into a Premonstratensian monastery. One of the walks in the cloister
Soon Norbert would become involved in Imperial politics again. The death of Pope Honorius led to a schism during which Pope Anacletus drove Pope Innocenz II out of Rome. Innocenz fled to France where he gathered support for his cause. He could make King Lothar an interesting offer: the Imperial crown; so Lothar traveled to Italy with an army to do something about Anacletus. Norbert accompagnied the king. The army didn't prove large enough to kick Anaclet's followers out of St.Peter's Basilica in Rome, but the investiture took place in the Lateran Church instead (June 1133). There were a lot of negotiations going on between Innocenz and Lothar; I'm not going into details in this post. Archbishop Norbert stayed with the king during the time in Italy, even acting as chancellor, and only returned to Magdeburg in 1134. He died there in June, probably of malaria. "It was the year of the Lord's Incarnation 1134, the Wednesday after Pentecost, the eighth day before the Ides of June, in the fifth year of Pope Innocent, in the ninth year of the reign of Lothair." (Vita Norberti
; you gotta love Mediaeval dates).
Norbert was buried in front of the altar of the holy cross in St.Mary's Church. Saint Norbert was canonized by Pope Gregory XII in 1582 and is the patron saint of Magdeburg and Bohemia.