Monday, 5 November 2012

The Horseman, St. Otto, and the Heavenly Garden.

This is my last post on our motoring holiday into Germany otherwise you will be thinking: "Not more holiday photos!!!  When will it all end!?"
So,
When we visited Bamberg, two sites made a huge impression upon us.  I would like to share them with you.  The first one is Bamberg Cathedral.

Bamberg Cathedral celebrates its 1,000 anniversary this year.  It is a big old church with (I think) copper roofing on its four towers that has gone green with age.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
The outside of this building is adorned with architectural treasures that are a joy to behold:
This is one of the side portals to the Cathedral.  The scene above the doorway shows the Final Judgement.  Sinners on Our Lord's left and saved on His right:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
 Here is a close-up.  I like the fact that one finds all sorts among both sinners and saved.  The sinners grimace in terror as a devil hauls them off, while the saved smile beatifically:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Here are the sculptures above the main portal.  Our Lady and the Infant Jesus are with St Peter and St George:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Another portal shows the various Saints associated with the Cathedral:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
St Stephen the Martyr, St. Kunigunde and St. Henry are on the left, while St Andrew and Adam and Eve are on the left.  These are not the original medieval statuary.  They are to be found within the Diocesan museum, having aged somewhat badly, however these are exact replicas.  Here is a detail of St. Kunigunde and St. Henry:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
And here are Adam and Eve with the appropriate leaves.  You will see that the replicas lack arms hands and other parts.  This is the condition of the medieval originals and the replicas are modelled similarly:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Once inside the Cathedral there are more treasures to behold.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This is a late Medieval statue of Our Lady and the Infant Jesus:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
And here is the famous thirteenth century sculpture: The Bamberg Horseman:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Some people think that it represents St Stephen of Hungary, others say it is the Emperor St. Henry while still others say it is a chap called Conrad.  No one really knows for certain and it all just guess work really.
Putting that to one side though, it looks as if the statue were carved recently rather than nearly eight hundred years ago, but I guess this is due to the fact that it is inside, high up, and out of the elements.

Here is the tomb of the royal Saints: the Emperor Henry II and the Empress Kunigunde; founders of the Cathedral.  The tomb was carved in the 1500s by the famous sculptor, Tilman Reimenshneider.  I have seen another work of his: a huge altar piece in the church at Rothenburg ob der Taube.  In the crypt one can see the skulls of the two Saints however as these are Holy Relics I did not take a photograph.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
And here, on the side of the tomb is carved the Empress Kunigunde walking barefoot across red hot plough shares before the Emperor, to prove her innocence when accused by the cathedral workmen (who didn't like the way she was bossing them about when it came to finishing the Cathedral buildings) of being unfaithful to the Emperor in his absence:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
 Here is a prosperous Prince Bishop of Bamberg giving his blessing:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Here, just behind the current Archbishop of Bamberg's throne, is the tomb of Pope Clement II, the only Pope buried in Germany.  This is a restricted and sacred area, being the High Altar, and as such off limits to wandering tourists, so I have taken a photograph using the zoom lens:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
And finally here is a statue of poor old Saint Denis, bishop of Paris, who had his head cut off during a Christian persecution in about 250.  A popular saint in medieval times:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
I really liked this cathedral.  It has gone through a lot not the least being the 'modernization' undertaken by an interfering 19th Century King of Bavaria (when much medieval painting was lost forever) and yet it retains a sense of dignity and gentleness that I found palpable.

The second place I would like to show you is the Michaelsberg Abbey:
Here it is bathed in autumnal sunlight.  It sits on its own hill and until secularization in 1802 was a prosperous monastery.
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
There are two treasures within this building:
The first is behind the High Altar which in itself is a thing of beauty:
This somewhat blurred Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
If you walk around the altar you come across a small room in which you find the tomb of St Otto of Bamberg.  St Otto (known as Otto the Good) died in the year 1139 and was later recognised as a saint.  Here is his tomb:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
St Otto is a Saint who looks after you if you have back ache (a problem that both AGA and I were suffering from, thanks to long hours of sightseeing).
If you crawl through the hole in the tomb, making a true and pious request, St Otto will cure you of back ache.  Well it isn't very scientific I know but AGA and I are Catholics and so we 'did' it.  There are no photographs as the process is somewhat ungainly, however we took it in turns to crawl through the hole and, I kid you not, our backs did not ache for the rest of the trip!
So thank you St Otto the Good!

The other treasure of the Michaelsberg Abbey is the Heavenly Garden; the painted ceiling of the Abbey Church.  Here it is:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Undertaken in the early part of the seventeenth century, it contains many, many paintings of flowers, trees, and other plants.  There is even a cactus and a pineapple plant (I thought I had taken a photograph of this but find that I did not, so I can't show you).  
The ceiling is awe-inspiring.  Wouldn't you agree?
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
Here is a close up.  You can see a Turk's Cap Lily amongst the floral delights:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
And here is an even closer look.  This foxglove is a work of art.  You know exactly what you are looking at.  Correct in all details, I could have spent all day looking at these little gems!
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
 Here is one more. I am fairly sure it is a geranium although I may be wrong:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
What I particularly like is the care and attention to detail taken by the artist, even though most people among the congregation would not notice the finer points because they were too far away for the eye to see.  And yet how often do we look at a flower but not really 'see' it?  Often we merely gain an impression before moving on to something else.  To have the ability to paint flowers, and to paint them with such detail - that is a talent I wish that I had!

Well, I hope you enjoyed this post.  I am glad that I have been able to share with you these two cultural and artistic wonders!

And just before I go I feel I must show you one more thing: The Bamberg Tickler...
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
This sculpture is over the entrance to the old Bishop's Palace.  It shows a 'wild woman' reclining on the ground.  A cherub or some such thing is doing something to her toe and I read where he is supposédly tickling her!  Here is a close up:
This Photograph was taken by Kirk Dale.
It certainly looks as though he is tickling her, either that or he is pinching her!

17 comments:

  1. Hello Kirk:
    It has been a delight to have such a close look at the details of Bamberg Cathedral and Michaelsberg Abbey with the aid of your wonderful photographs and keen observations.

    The sculptures throughout the Cathedral are truly inspiring in both their quality and in terms of the messages they convey. One is in awe at the ages of these pieces and mindful of the centuries of people who have passed through its doors.it does have a great dignity and, we are sure, that it is incredibly atmospheric when seen from within.

    The floral decoration of the Abbey Church is particularly special. Such botanical accuracy and all painted at goodness knows what angle.Remarkable and very, very beautiful. We are quite certain that the painters would have needed to walk through the 'hole' of St Otto's tomb several times after finishing their work!!!

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    1. Dear Jane and Lance,

      Thank you for your kind comments. You are right: That ceiling was wonderful. It really was one of the highlights of our trip.

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  2. Dear Kirk - the wild women sculpture is really rather amusing and I do wonder what is really going on.
    Like you I would have wanted to spend lots of time just absorbing those wonderful botanical delights on the ceiling in Michaelsberg Abbey.
    I do hope that you will not be offended if I gently take issue with you regarding the Final Judgement doorway.
    The saved always sit on the righthand of God, and the damned on the left. Looking at the doorway you are correct, but if you put yourself in the position of God it is the other way round.

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    1. Dear Rosemary,
      You are absolutely correct of course. I always get my directions wrong. I read that part a few times over to make sure it was right because I always mix up left and right, and even then I typed it in wrong! I have changed that so that my information is correct.

      I felt that that painted ceiling was the most amazing I have seen, and with its white background those flowers stand out as if a work of complex embroidery!

      We made a special last minute walk to see the wild woman. I didn't want to leave town without having seen her toe tickled!

      Bye for now

      Kirk

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  3. Hello Kirk, Thank you for the tours of the cathedral and abbey. Bamberg Cathedral has so many interesting features. I really like the architectural canopies above the various statues. Also the statue of St. Denis is rather bizarre. He doesn't seem to mind having been beheaded, and he rather reminds me of a Chinese saying which translates to "carry your head when entering".

    The Michaelsburg Abbey is a fine-looking building, especially in its setting of green.
    --Road to Parnassus

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    Replies
    1. Thank you Parnassus, for your kind comments. I also like those canopies for the statues - very ecclesiastical with trefoils and such.
      They always show St Denis carrying his head. Its his 'thing'. Just like St Peter Martyr always has a sword through the top of his head (illustrating the way he was killed), and St Stephen often (but not always) has a rock on top of his to symbolize the fact that he was killed by stoning.

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  4. Hello Kirk,
    the most wonderful images, for me, were of the Heavenly Garden ceiling at Michaelsberg. But, all the rest of what you've shown here is special - because, I feel, so much talent and time has been focused on producing such singular work. Is "devout" a word that has any purchase in the 21st Century?

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    Replies
    1. Dear Faisal,
      Thank you for your kind comments. They mean a lot to me.
      The Heavenly Garden was very special. When we walked into the Church, we just stood there, in the nave, staring up at the wonder before us. It was quite something.
      Kirk
      PS
      I think that the word 'devout' does have purchase in the 21st century.

      Delete
  5. Dear Kirk,

    I enjoyed your Bamberg tour and would have to say that my favorite photos are of that flowered ceiling. It is charming, and much of that charm is, I think, from it not being overwrought. In concept it seems much more modern to me. Was it Ludwig who altered the cathedral? That sounds out of character for him.

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    1. Dear Mark,

      Thank you for your comments.

      I agree with you: There is something modern about the Heavenly Garden. The whiteness of the ceiling, serving as a background to the paintings, is akin to the pages of a book - and that is indeed part of its charm.

      It was a Ludwig who altered the cathedral, but a different one: King Ludwig I.

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  6. Dear Kirk,
    You could write another 100 posts on Bamberg and this gorgeous cathedral, and it would not be too many! There are so many fascinating details in the photos you've shared: from the very warm, tender Madonna and Child, to poor ol' Saint Denis, to the wild woman (?!), to the exquisite floral ceiling... I agree with what's been said here in the comments, that it does have a modern sensibility to it, and yet relates to floral emboideries and illuminations of similar period. With regard to St. Denis, I'm reminded of a book entitled "Catherine, Called Birdy", by Karen Cushman, a hilarious and superbly written book about a very bright medieval girl who learns to read from a book of martyred saints... It's ostensibly a children's book, but I love it. Now, every time we visit a catherdral or church, I can't help smiling and remembering that book when I see a statue like St. Denis! Thank you for this fascinating post.
    Warm regards,
    Erika

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    Replies
    1. Dear Erika,
      Thank you for your kind words. I'm glad that you enjoyed coming with us to Bamberg.
      You know what; you are right, the Heavenly ceiling does indeed remind one of floral embroideries. I never considered that until you mentioned it. It reminds me of some of the exquisite dresses you see in paintings of the period.
      Ahh yes, Catherine call me birdy (who hated embroidery). I know that book. The sort of book you pick up and then find you have read half of it before you realised it.
      Bye for now
      Kirk

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  7. Hello, Kirk -
    That ceiling! I love it!!! Quite divine and unexpected. It's as if Basilius Besler decoupaged the entire surface from his Garden at Eichstätt. Thanks for sharing all the photos from your holiday. I've enjoyed the posts.
    Loi

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    1. Of course you love it, Loi — it would go very well with your Gustavian furniture! :o)

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    2. Hello, Loi,
      Thank you for your comments.
      One just can't help falling in love with that magnificent ceiling. I would return to Bamberg just to see it again and I can picture the ceiling in an entrance hall painted in a similar style - provided it was high enough. What a statement it would make!
      Basilius Besler - I wonder if he ever saw this ceiling. It was finished during his lifetime and he only lived down the road (in a manner of speaking). I would love to own an original of one of his works.
      Bye for now
      Kirk

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  8. Hi Kirk,

    I must admit that I never really considered going on holiday to Germany (beside Skiing in Winterberg), but your photographs made me realise it is worth it. I did visit Bayern in the past with my parents, which I liked very much, but Bamberg looks promising too. That cathedral really is magnificent with it's four turrets and it's amazing sculptures!

    Have a good weekend,

    Madelief

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