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Medieval Theology of the Mass and the Iconography of the Oberwesel Altarpiece

Author(s): Donald L. Ehresmann

Source: Zeitschrift fr Kunstgeschichte, 60. Bd., H. 2 (1997), pp. 200-226
Published by: Deutscher Kunstverlag GmbH Munchen Berlin
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1482878
Accessed: 27-07-2017 11:32 UTC

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Donald L. Ehresmann

Medieval Theology of the Mass and the Iconography

of the Oberwesel Altarpiece
In Memoriam Wolfgang Lotz

ism in in-
The magnificent carved and painted altarpiece the style of Rhenish art during the late M
stalled around 1340' on the high altar of dle
Colle- Recently, the debate has been revi
giate Church of Our Lady in Oberwesel ona the
with new, revisionist stance4. In all of this lit
Rhine has long been recognized as one ofattention
the great has been paid to the complex iconog
phy of
masterpieces of Rhenish art of the fourteenth the more than seventy figures decoratin
tury and a considerable art historical the
altarpiece. Most writers were content wit
dealing with the altarpiece has accumulated since identification of the individual figur
Friedrich Bock first presented the beauty of its
that took much for granted and overlooked sever
delicately carved figures and ornament to admir-
crucial motifsS. The origins of the various figu
ing connoisseurs in 18682. The bulk of this motifs have not been explored and little con
ship was produced between the two world wars has yet been given to the coherence o
and was preoccupied with a debate overthe
overall iconographic program. This neglect

Altarpiece is in nearly original condition. Six miss

'E. Sebald, >>Der Oberweseler Goldaltar,, in: Hochgo-
tischer Dialog: Die Skulpturen der Hochaltare vonmar the otherwise pristine appearance. Ho
Marienstatt und Oberwesel im Vergleich, Worms am iconography of the six can be ascertained fro
ever, the
earlier illustrations and photographs. The photograp
Rhein 1993, 88, has made a convincing case for abandon-
ing the traditional opinion, recently repeated by F. Ro-
reproduced in this study show the altarpiece before
nig, >>Kunst unter Balduin von Luxemburg<<, theftin: Bal-
in 1975, except where noted.
duin von Luxemburg: Erzbischof von Trier - 3F. Back, >>Werke der Plastik und Malerei in Oberw
des Reiches 1285-i354. Festschrift aus Anlafl des 7oo. Ge-
sel,,, in:was
Zeitschrift des Rheinischen Vereins fiir Denk-
malpflege und Heimatschutz, XVI, 1922, 65-69. T.
burtsjahres, Mainz 1985, 502, that the altarpiece
complete at the consecration of the high altarKlingelschmitt,
in I331. >>Balduin von Trier und die Anfinge
der mittelrheinischen Kunst<, in: Hessenkunst, 1913, 19f.
Evidence that the choir was closed off by a provisional
wall indicates that interior decoration could not
E. L.have
Fischel, Mittelrheinische Plastik des 14. Jahrhun-
been completed before 1340. derts, Munich 1923, 118-127. I. Kiilz, Die dekorative Ar-
2F. Bock, >>Der Fliigel-Altar der ehemaligen Cister-
chitektur und die Plastik des 14. Jahrhunderts in der
cienser-Abtei-Kirche Marienstadt und seine formver-
Stiftskirche Unserer Lieben Frau zu Oberwesel. Ein
Beitrag zur >>Mittelrheinischen Frages, Phil. Diss. Bonn
wandte Parallele zu Oberwesel,,, in: Annalen des
Vereins fiir Nassauische Alterthumskunde1927,und
Bad Neuenahr 1928, 12-24. C. Frowein, Plastik und
Geschichtsforschung, 9, 1868, 330-337. On February 26,
Malerei des friihen 14. Jahrhunderts in der Liebfrauen-
1975 all of the carved figures of the altarpiece were in Oberwesel, Phil. Diss. Marburg 1931, 22-47.
O. Schmitt, >>Die Muttergottes des Oberweseler Al-
from the church. All but three figures were subsequent-
ly recovered. Between 1984 and 1991 the altartars<,
was in:theBeitrage zur Kunst und Geschichte des
Mainzer Lebensraumes. Festschrift E. Neeb, Mainz
subject of an extensive restoration and conservation.
The record of this work is contained in six volumes in
1936, 8I-90.
the archives of the Landesamt fiir Denkmalpflege
4 R. Suckale (as in note 2), 96-108, 201 especially note 88.
Rheinland-Pfalz in Mainz. For a summary see R.
E. Sebald (as in note I), 80-88 argues for the position
that the entire altarpiece is a product of a workshop
D611ing, >>Restaurierungsarbeiten und Beobachtungen
zur Technologie der Altare in Marienstatt und Ober-
dependent on Cologne.
5 Kiilz (as in note 3), 12-24; Frowein (as in note 3), 22-47;
wesel,,, in: Hochgotischer Dialog (as in note i), ioo-io8.
Important for this study is the absence of anySchmitt
physical (as in note 3), 81-97. R. Bellm's pamphlet: Der
evidence to support the suggestion made by R.Goldaltar
Suckale, der Liebfrauenkirche in Oberwesel. 2nd ed.
Die Hofkunst Kaiser Ludwigs des Bayern, Munich Koblenz 1982 (Kunst und Kiinstler in Rheinland-Pfalz,
note 88, that the altarpiece had been enlarged or other- in the same vein. Sebald (as in note i), 68-
4), continues
80, provides a more informed and cautious description
wise altered in the fourteenth century. On the contrary,
the recent restoration has revealed that the Oberwesel
of the iconography.


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M v~l Li

i. Oberwesel Altarpiece, wings o

the iconographic aspect

altarpiece of
unfolds. The flow of the
ideas begins in the Ob
piece is undeserved,
outer cornersas
of the it has
lower tier the
and proceeds to the mo
center, where it passes into the upperprogram
winged altarpiece. An
Flanking examination
the Coronation of the Virgin are figures o
offers a rare opportunity
of the twelve apostles, each ofto explore
which was, at one
motivated the time,
carefully distinguished by attributesof
and fa- im
around the altar in Western Christendom in the cial features7. Originally there were seven figures
early decades of the fourteenth century6. of female saints in the upper tier of the right wing.
The most familiar aspect of the Oberwesel Altar- Of the six that remain, four can be identified by
piece is with its large wings folded open (fig. i), their attributes: SS. Margaret, Agnes, and two of
exposing the gilt and polychromed screen of fine- the three Marys from the Easter morning narra-
ly-carved Gothic architecture enclosing two tiers tive8. The male, priestly saints in the left wing's
of carved figures. The tiers extend across bothupper tier are differentiated by costume - five
wings and the center section and create a dominant bishops, one priest, and one pope - and in number
horizontal accent in the design of the entire altar- and type correspond to the seven confessors: SS.
piece. A more subtle vertical accent is formed bySilvester, Gregory, Ambrose, Augustine, Jerome,
the Coronation of the Virgin which occupies a Martin, and Nicholas9.
slightly larger archway in the center of the upper Identification of the figures in the lower tier re-
tier. It is along these intersecting vertical and hor- quires closer scrutiny for there are many revealing
izontal axes that the iconographic program of the features and some anomalies in what might other-

6 For the origin of the winged altarpiece see: D. L. Ehres- 8 All the figures in the upper tier stand free in their niches
mann, >Some Observations on the Role of Liturgy in and surely the present arrangement is not the original.
the Early Winged Altarpiece<<, in: The Art Bulletin, 64, It seems likely that the six apostles that look to the right
1982, 359-369. would have been grouped to the left of the Coronation
7 Existing attributes and those now lost but discernible in and the six that look to the left, on the opposite side.
early illustrations (Bock as in note 2, 331) permit the 9 The number and arrangement of the saint figures in the
identification of SS. Paul, Peter, Andrew, Bartholomew whole upper tier recall the litany of the saints in which
and James the Less, as the first, second, fourth, fifth, the faithful call upon the twelve apostles, seven confes-
and sixth figures to the right of Christ and St. John as sors, and the seven virgins to intercede on their behalf at
the second figure to the left, of the Virgin. the celestial throne.


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;s Y


ink -0

7 W aL

2. Oberwese

wise seem to
Virgin Mary'o. There are many unusual features in b
figures in
the iconography the
of this cycle of Passion subjects; l
they will be discussed further on. It is convenient th
fer to to point out here, however,early
the that the selection of
refer to the
the subjects is distinctive. Early episodes of the Pa
subjects within
Passion - the Entry into the Jerusalem and the Last
thecenter. As
Supper, for example - have not been included, nor a
Christ hasin
the culmination inthethe Resurrection. Only To
of the altarpiec
subjects expressive of the suffering of Christ are
the Virgin. present, and in these the aspect of suffering is em-
The Passion cycle (figs. 3 and 4) commences with phasized by a most unusual isolation of the figure
Christ in Gethsemane and continues with Christ of Christ.
before Pilate, Christ on the Column of the Flagel- The series of subjects in the right half of the cen-
lation, Christ Carrying the Cross, the Crucifixion, ter section (fig. 5) is introduced by the figure of St.
Deposition from the Cross, and concludes with John the Baptist holding the Agnus dei medallion.
Christ in the Tomb mourned by St. John and the The figures to the left of the Baptist enact the An-

io The crucifix is a copy of the original now in the Mainz fixus im Altertumsmuseum der Stadt Mainz<<, in:
Altertumsmuseum (0. Schmitt, ,Ein gotischer Kruzi- Mainzer Zeitschrift, X, 1915, 122-124).


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3. Gethsemane, Ecce homo, F

center section left

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*rr F

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'7 vn, 5

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4. Carrying of the Cross, Crucifixion, Deposition, Entombment,

Oberwesel Altarpiece, center section left

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, .. ,,!
: ,. k -
?~ ~ : : ri
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? ., ,.

5. Adoration

to the subjects from the early life of Christ and
those on the left to the Passion subjects.
subjects exhOn both
subjects in
wings the series of figures is introduced by a pair o
except for
of remarkable musical angels (figs. 6, 7, 8, 9). Only t
one of the four angels has wings12. Originallyrig
winged angel held cymbals. His neighborand plays a
Virgin holds
portative organ. The first angel on the left wing
plucks a psalterium and his partner plays a viol.
reversal, in
The graceful intensity of these angels marks them
position is
as masterpieces among the figures of the Oberwe-
ers the
sel Altarpiece. app
side. The figure of the old woman (fig. 12) standing
The figures in the lower tier of the wings are al- next to the musical angels on the right wing is one
lied to the two groups of figures in the lower tier of of two figures on the altarpiece whose identity is
the center section. Those on the right wing relate not immediately clear. Holding a book and gestur-

" H. G. U. Schmidt, Die Darstellung der stehenden Mut- 2 It is rare to encounter wingless angels after the twelfth
tergottes in der deutschen Skulptur des 13. und 14. Jahr- century (H. W. Hegemann, Die Engel in der deutschen
hunderts, Frankfurt/Main 1939, 52-65. Kunst, Briinn, Munich, Vienna 1943, 27ff.).


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io. Moses, Isaiah?, Jerem

ing in rated.she
salutation, Aside f
Otto would
Schmitt, who leave the
longed, with dant,
the thereof
figure is th
ciation scene the
in the center
lower tier s
group'3. He There is
concluded no dis
that t
up in the and the
original outline
altarpiece ground
and that behin
two fig

'3 Schmitt (as infor some

note 3), figure
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the pat
worked independently
gree of of the
freedom. c
both the ure
patterns of
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painter-gilder ha
where each carved
ing figure
the wasm
figure t
outlines of eachthe is left evidenced and cove
punch marks '5
follow A copy the of conto the
cluding the ently
complicated, preserved three-
in the Tomb, walland of the choir. patches
It reads: Anno domini. M. CCC. of g
behind the tricesimoprimo. In die/The
figures. Assumptionis gloriose
slight virgi(ni)s


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Mary. When the Annunciation to St. Anne is rep- about to sacrifice his son Isaac. The subject next to
resented in Gothic art it is closely modeled after Abraham has been identified as Abel presenting
the Annunciation to Mary'7. This explains the his sacrificial lamb to the Lord, another standard
similarity between the figures of Mary and St. type of the sacrifice of Christ'9. Several features
Anne that led Schmitt to think the two belonged speak against this identification. First, the Ober-
together in a Visitation group. Positioned as it is in wesel figure is old and bearded. Abel presumedly
the outer part of the right wing, when the figure is suffered a premature death and consequently he is
identified as St. Anne it accords with the scheme of always depicted young and beardless2o. Second,
subjects in the lower tier of the wings',. Those sub- the figure is dressed in a long robe with a broad
jects are used to elucidate by way of prefiguration border and wears a beret, the costume worn by
the main themes of the altarpiece expressed by the priests in the fourteenth century2". Abel aside, two
subjects in the center section. chief possibilities seem to present themselves:
The three male figures (fig. io) holding bande- Aaron and Samuel. Both were priests and both
roles are undoubtedly Old Testament prophets. made notable sacrifices, but only Aaron's sacrifice
The loss of the inscriptions on the banderoles, of the paschal lamb is regularly represented in
which certainly originally served to identify their Gothic art and in a typological context with the
owners, permits only speculation about their spe- sacrifice of Christ.22
cific identity. This is a pity, for to a degree unusual Finally, because of missing attributes, the inner-
for the time, the sculptor attempted to differenti- most figure on the left wing has not been previously
ate each by age, costume, and to some extent by identified. Old illustrations of the altarpiece show
expression. The last of the three is ascetically the figure holding loaves of bread and what might
dressed, especially wizened, and points emphati- have been a wine vessel23. These offerings, com-
cally at his banderole. These features fit the general bined with the fact that the figure wears a crown
image of Isaiah in thirteenth- and fourteenth-cen- and is dressed in priestly vestments, leave no doubt
tury art. It is logical that the other two are also that the figure is Melchizedek, the priest-king of
major prophets, perhaps Jeremiah and Daniel. The Salem and the chief Old Testament type of the sac-
concluding and innermost figure in the lower tier rifice of Christ as embodied in the Eucharist24.
of the right wing is Moses holding the tablets of To conclude the description of the iconography
the law. of the open altarpiece it is necessary to return to its
Turning to the opposite wing, the figures of center, where three unusual, and hitherto unob-
Adam and Eve - in poor nineteenth-century cop- served, objects present in the Coronation of the
ies - follow the musical angels. The three succeed- Virgin were intended to link the subjects of the
ing figures (fig. ii) serve to link the fall of man to upper and lower tiers of figures. Mounted on two
the theme of Christ's sacrifice in the Passion sub- budding stalks rising in front of the figures of
jects in the center section. The first is Abraham Christ and Mary in the Coronation (figs. 13, 14) are

7 G. Schiller, Ikonographie der christlichen Kunst, 4,2, 20o H. Aurenhammer, Lexikon der christlichen Ikonogra-
Giitersloh 1980, 59-61. phie, Vienna 1959, 8.
8 The suggestion made by Bellm (as in note 5), 24 and 21J. Braun, Die liturgische Gewandung im Occident und
Sebald (as in note 1), 72 that the figure in question is a Orient, Freiburg im Breisgau 1907, 512.
sibyl is not supported by the iconographical record. In 22 Most notably, Aaron is found among the typological
the late thirteenth century and early fourteenth century jamb figures on a group of French gothic portals which
sibyls are shown crowned and presenting their pro- includes Senlis, Chartres and Rheims. A. Katzenellen-
phecy on scrolls or tablets (E. Mile, The Gothic Image. bogen (The Sculptural Programs of Chartres Cathedral,
Religious Art in France of the Thirteenth Century, New Baltimore 1959, 61-62) and others before him mistaken-
York 1972, 336-338). ly identified the figures as representing Samuel making
'9 Frowein (as in note 3), 29, Bellm (as in note 5), 12, Sebald sacrifice. L. Pressouyre (>>La mactio agni au portail des
(as in note 1), 72. cathedrales gothiques et I'exegese contemporaine,<<


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12. Daniel?, St. Anne, Musical Angel, Oberwesel Altarpiece, right wing

tiny representations of the pelican. Both are

an eucharistic ciborium. It faithfully copies in
perched in stylized nests with heads bent inwards
miniature the form of early fourteenth-century ci-
toward their breasts. Three minuscule chicks hud-
boria, which resemble chalices fitted with a domed
dle at the feet of each adult bird. The third object
cover surmounted by a finial 5. The enameled ci-
stands on the throne between the figures of Christborium of circa 1325 in Klosterneuburg is an elabo-
and Mary. Superficially resembling the vases hold-
rate example of the type of footed ciborium with a
polygonal container imitated in the Oberwesel
ing flowers in late medieval representations of the
Annunciation, the vessel on the throne can onlyCoronation26.
be The two symbolic birds and the

Bulletin Monumental, 132, 1974, 48-65) has shown thatwesel it is remarkable that he appears in contemporary
the figures must instead represent Aaron with the pas-dress that combines the dalmatic and chasuble of the
chal lamb. In the thirteenth century Aaron is dressed priest with the coronet of a king. The effect is to em-
either as a Jewish high priest or as a Christian pontiff.phatically express the duality of the priest-king and
The designer of the Oberwesel Altarpiece chose to rep-thereby to underline the specific significance of
resent Aaron as a priest, no doubt because it was com- Melchizedek as the prototype of the new, i.e., Chris-
missioned by a community of canons. tian, priesthood expressed by Paul in his Epistle to the
23 Bock (as in note 2), fig. 5.
Hebrews (Heb. 5,6).
24 Earlier representations of Melchizedek show him ei- 25J. Braun, Das christliche Altargerat, Munich 1932, 311-
ther as a Jewish high priest, ex., middle portal of the314.
north transept of Chartres, or dressed in generalized26 Die Gotik in Niederosterreich. Kunst, Kultur und Ge-
priestly robes and wearing a royal crown, ex., Klo-schichte eines Landes in Spatmittelalter, Vienna 1963,
sterneuburg enamels by Nicholas of Verdun. In Ober-203-204.


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eucharistic ciborium, rarely shown with the Coro-
nation of the Virgin, are all but invisible to an ob-
server standing in the place of the priest celebrat-
ing at the high altar, but their presence is crucial
evidence of the eucharistic focus of the altarpiece
When the wings of the altarpiece are folded
across the center section the appearance of the
Oberwesel Altarpiece is strikingly changed (fig.
15). The flat expanse of painted panels replace the

t.! ?' ,": 4":: ?i lacy screen of carved architecture. Yet the same
intersecting vertical and horizontal axes organize
the program of the closed altarpiece. Two tiers
with ten painted figures of standing saints in an
ii arcade flank a tall center field decorated with ro-
1'. b: ? settes on a purple ground. Today the center field is
empty of figures, as are the two innermost arch-
?, , ?- ?
ways of the upper tier. The archways originally
held carved figures of St. John and the Virgin Mary
and the center strip, a carved, removable crucifix.
The crucifix is presently in the church sacristy.
The figure of the Virgin has found its way into the
Schniitgen Museum in Cologne27. Both have been
13. Coronation of the Virgin,
Oberwesel Altarpiece, center section

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15. Oberwesel Altarpiece, photomontage wi

The visual
restored to their places by sources for the
means of iconography of the
in the illustration of Oberwesel
the Altarpiece
closed altarpiece.
reveal continuity with early The
combination of painted altarpiece
and iconography,
carved that figures
is, the iconography is
of unu-
sual but not unknown inthefourteenth-century
painted and carved retables of Westphalia and altar-
pieces28. But a carved the
crucifix that
Lower Rhineland dating from themust
second half be de-
tached in order to open the altarpiece is ofnearly
of the thirteenth century, as well as reception
unique and is explained by thefrom
major features distinctive liturgical
other art forms, most particu-
function of the Oberwesel Altarpiece29.
larly from The
portal iconography. The influence from iden-
tities of the painted figures are
earlier altarpiece clear.
iconography In
is chiefly the
in the use upper
tier, from left to right, are:
of two tiers ofSS.
figures John the Baptist,
as the main compositional
Paul, Peter, and James the Great.
and iconographical The
device. female
Two tiers are used in all saints
in the lower tier are: SS. Barbara,
of the Agnes,
extant early fourteenth-century Kather-
winged al-
ine, Dorothy, Mary Magdalene,
tarpieces and the deviceand Margaret.
can be traced back to the All
of these saints turn andMinden
face Retablethe
from thedirection of the
middle of the thirteenth
crucifix. century30. But each early winged altarpiece uses

27 Schniitgen Museum inventory number A987. Schlofi Tirol of circa 1370 (V. Oberhammer, Der Altar
8 A carved crucifix was originally attached to painted vom Schlofi Tirol, Innsbruck, Vienna 1949).
panels on the outside of the wings of the altarpiece from 29 Ehresmann (as in note 6), 366-367.


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16. Typanum r

the arrangement
ter section in Cismar has its own left-to-right pro-
of the gram,
except for the typological subjects around
Cismar and
the Crucifixion Dob
in the upper tier where there is a
by about a
symmetrical arrangement decad
similar to that found in
central the Oberwesel
axis Altarpiece. The Doberan
- Altar-
vides the tiers
piece is different again. Each scene from the life of in
from outside to inside3s. In both North German Christ in the upper tier refers to an Old Testament
altarpieces the subjects are read from left to right, subject beneath it in the lower tier; symmetry is
although with certain programmatic interrup- completely lacking and the sequence of subjects
tions. The narrative subjects on the wings of the terminates in the outermost position of the right
Cismar Altarpiece - originally there were three wing.
tiers of figures - began at the lower left corner, The symmetrical arrangement in Oberwesel and
skipped over the center section and concluded in the connection of the themes of the lower tier with
the upper right corner of the right wing. The cen- the themes of the upper through a central axis

77-83. For the Doberan Altarpiece see: D. L. Ehres-

30 E. Simon, ,Der Mindener Altar. Ein Schnitzwerk des
XIII. Jahrhunderts,,, in: Jahrbuch der Preussischen mann, ,The Iconographical Program of the Doberan
Kunstsammlungen, XLVII, 1927, 209-220. Altarpiece<, in: Studies in Cistercian Art and Architec-
31For the Cismar Altarpiece see. H. Wentzel, Liibecker ture, III, 1987, 178-zo200.
Plastik bis zur Mitte des 4. Jahrhunderts, Berlin 1938,


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w I


Ir , -7


IfK?P ~x:


I iit
7;? "'

4r A a C~li 7~~ L :

17. Tympanum relief, west portal, detail, Freiburg im B

The similarities
must derive from portal iconography. are not in the p
The princi-
ple of arranging figures on awhich does not
hierarchic seem
as well as to
a be the pr
chronological basis from outside
to inside
but in the tymp
16 and
ed in the earliest Gothic portals, i7). also
as did The the
idea is divi
of directing the symmetrical arrangement
of figures that, into an
a manner typic
anagogical fulfillment in the of the
upper time, It
register. combine
is subject
not necessary to refer to the Passion,
French and Last Judgem
in which this schema was perfected
ment of to find
these an ap-in the tier
propriate prototype, for thesame arrangement
Oberwesel used in the
ment exists in the west portal of
piece. the are
They minster of on eithe
Freiburg in Breisgau32. Thisaxisportal, completed
that connects the lower with
shortly after 13oo, exercised in Freiburg
considerable as in Oberwes
influence on the sculpture of the
the Oberwesel
early Altar- and his Pa
life of Christ
piece, and the iconographical
the similarities
culminating are so
sacrifice in th
significant that Freiburg can is connected,
be identified as the via the sy
single most important source anagogical
for climax
the program of of Christ
the Oberwesel Altarpiece33. uppermost tier. It is not possible

32 0. Schmitt, Gotische Skulpturen des stylistic

33 The Freiburger Miin-
connection between
wesel was first pointed out by F. Ba
sters, I, Frankfurt/Main 1926, 32-50.
and most fully analyzed by Schmitt (


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parison further. The details are different. The Last middle years of the thirteenth century employs
Judgement at Freiburg necessitated a Christ in exactly the same seven Passion episodes found in
Majesty as the central focus - although the Coro- Oberwesel37. The late thirteenth-century painted,
nation of the Virgin in the gable above the portal is winged altarpiece in Hofgeismar is also devoted to
the actual climax of the Freiburg program - and Passion subjects38. The painted retable from
the selection of subjects from the early life of Quedlinburg, circa 1240, formerly in Berlin, dis-
Christ and his Passion are different. It is the broad played Passion subjects beneath a Coronation of
iconographical schema that the designer of the the Virgin39. This feature, so like Oberwesel, is
Oberwesel Altarpiece borrowed from the Frei- further support for the premise that the Corona-
burg tympanum. tion as the focus for the Oberwesel program de-
Turning to individual subjects on the altarpiece, rives from the tradition of thirteenth-century
the same dualism exists between sources in tradi- altarpiece iconography.
tional altarpiece iconography and sources in portal The early scenes from Christ's life have a similar
iconography. From their positions in the schema, history. They are found on early retables such as
the figures of Old Testament prophets and types the stone retable from Carrieres-St. Denis in the

on the wings of the altarpiece call to mind the near- Louvre40. But no earlier, extant altarpiece shows a
ly ubiquitous occurrence of similar figures on the combination of all three major subject groups:
jambs of Gothic portals. In Freiburg they are Childhood, Passion and Coronation of the Virgin
found on the archivolts around the tympanum. with saints. This distinctive grouping must there-
Since they do not occur on altarpieces before 1300, fore have occured under the influence of portal
one can assume that their use on the Oberwesel iconography.
Altarpieces derives from the general tradition of To some extent the lineage of individual motifs
portal iconography. The closest comparison is to that are iconographical peculiarities in the Ober-
the prophets on the jambs of the west portal of wesel Altarpiece can also be traced to portal ico-
Strasbourg Cathedral34. nography. The choice of Aaron instead of Abel in
The Coronation of the Virgin, however, had en- the group of three typological figures on the left
tered altarpiece iconography at least a century be- wing is a clear example. Abel is the universal
fore the Oberwesel Altarpiece. It is the central choice in typological programs on liturgical ob-
subject of the Minden Retable (fig. i8) and as in the jects before 13004I; he is, however, absent from the
Oberwesel it is surrounded by figures of the apos- programs of Gothic portals, where his place in ty-
tles and other saints35. Because the Coronation be- pological series is invariably taken by Aaron42.
comes a major subject in fourteenth-century altar- The rejection of Abel, who is recalled together
pieces36 there is no reason to look for a direct with Abraham and Melchizedek in the Canon of
source in portal iconography. The same is true of the Mass and consequently directly associated
the series of Passion subjects. Although the Pas- with the sacrament of the altar, is persuasive evi-
sion is represented on the portals of Freiburg and dence of the strong influence of the tradition of
Strasbourg, it was already a major subject in early portal iconography on the program of the Ober-
altarpieces. The painted retable in Wetter from the wesel Altarpiece.

34 0. Schmitt, Gotische Skulpturen des Strassburger Miin- 39Destroyed in the Second World War (A. Stange,
sters, Frankfurt/Main 1924, Tafel i68. >>Deutsche romanische Tafelmalerei<<, in: Miinchner
35 Simon (as in note 31), 216. Jahrbuch der bildenden Kunst, N.F. VII, 1930, 149-153).
36 J. Braun, Der christliche Altar, Munich 1924, 2, 476-477. 40 Braun (as in note 36), Tafel 207.
37G. Krampe, >>Das Altarretabel der ehemaligen Stifts- 41 For example, the programs on twelfth- and thirteenth-
kirche in Wetter<<, in: Kunst in Hessen und am Mittel- century portable altars, see Braun (as in note 36) I, 501-
rhein, i8, 1978, 9-19. 506.
38 Ehresmann (as in note 6), 368. 42 See note 23.


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*r ?*?a;-. .ra... *ma.. "~~~-- ?I~I ?c??-I-
el. "' ? '- '?l~--Y--~r?~_aiT~11~-u ' II
- , ---" c~r?~j~,'A "
1? rl

eir, ?
. c~~/
--:-I ;a
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II 4 . I
81 ?-
lir ?\
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1 r ::? i.

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:? 'f?? I

-~L:?.. "~:I
v i' -??? c ?~J~-? r

, ?f-r
~a i~tr


amkuruar~~p~i~u -~a!?~~ ~
L: c =s;:

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x+ 1
~ ;e

?i. r'?*? t? ~k~i~ ~:~Fl~tf ri??:~i~2~r.~

:r -r: ..iL ??tikt~-~Il

11#11 ; `
?, ?T???

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: *

i8. Minden Retable, Berlin, Staatliche Museen, Skulpturen-Sammlun

However, the same is not true of the source

rectly forthe Coronation. There are ot
the most unusual iconographical motif in the
larities altar- the iconography of the v
piece, the pelican in the Coronation and theVirgin.
of the altarpiece. In most of the emb
The symbolic bird is common in German theofdecoration
the is arranged in tier
early fourteenth century, but it is recalls
nearly the
schema of the altarpiece. On th
depicted in association with the Passion and most the Coronation is always in
particularly the Crucifixion. Such iscenter
the case
in several examples it is flanked
the pelican on the Freiburg tympanum
ures (fig. 16). In saints; lower arcades are
of standing
other works stylistically related to to
the Oberwesel
scenes from the life of Christ, particu
Altarpiece the pelican is found in Passion46.
Strasbourg Invariably
and the subjects are a
in the Hessian Willehalm Manuscript43. In the central axis. In several e
with a strong
context of the altar, the pelican is scenes
found ofonthe crucifixion and the birth of
Cismar Altarpiece, on an altar mensa appear relief in one another and below the
next to
Cleves, and on a small painted diptych
tion ofin the
Virgin47. Some details of the
Stolzenfels44. These works demonstrate the also
phy are popu-
shared, such as the liberal use
larity of the imagery in artistic circles around
cal angels the
and the recurrence of certain sai
Oberwesel Altarpiece but do not offer a source
as the for
the birds in the Coronation of theWhat Virgin. This
might be the relationship between
source appears to be English embroidered vest- and the German altarpie
lish vestments
ments dating from around 1300. probable that examples of Opus anglican
In several examples of Opus anglicanum,
known to dated
the designer of the Oberwes
by Christie as circa 1300, the bird is foundEnglish
in con- embroidery was exporte
nection with the Coronation of the countries
Western Europe in the first h
closest comparison is to a cope in the Cathedralcentury.
fourteenth of It is also possible that
St. Bertrand de Comminges, on which were influenced by altarpiece de
the pelican
is prominently displayed in a large medallion
The di-
architectural design is new to Opus

43 Schmitt (as in note 3), Tafel i68; H. 45Reinecke,

A. G. I. Christie,,,Der
English Medieval Embroidery, Ox-
Wandermeister des Kasseler Willehalm<<, in: 124,
ford 1938, Wallraf-
Richartz-Jahrbuch, X, 1938, Abb. 36. 46The Lateran Cope, the Cope in the Cathedral of St.
44H. Wentzel (as in note 31), 141; Kunstdenkmdler
Bertrand de Comminges,der and the Cope in Anagni
Rheinprovinz I, 4: Kreis Kleve, DUsseldorf 1892,
Cathedral, 97; (as in note 45), pls. XCVI, LI.
see Christie
A. Stange, Deutsche Malerei der Gotik, I, Berlin
47 The 1934,
Lateran Cope, the Anagni Cathedral Cope, and the
Abb. 48. Cope in the Museo Cristiano, Rome.


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num around 13oo and must be derived from an of the Mass: the Mass as a sacrifice; the real pres-
outside source, possibly manuscript illumination ence of Christ in the Eucharist; and the Mass as an
or carved retables like those common in France expression of the unity of the Church. The sacri-
and possibly England in the decades around 130048.fice and real presence had reached the state of
The present state of research on Opus anglicanum accepted doctrine centuries before the creation of
does not permit a definitive answer. But the Eng- the Oberwesel Altarpiece. By 1300oo both doctrines,
lish vestments are proof of the existence of a verybut especially the real presence, had left the sphere
similar iconography in other forms of liturgical artof theology and entered the broad stream of pop-
contemporary with the Oberwesel Altarpiece. ular piety. The Mass as an expression of the unity
This suggests that there was a shared body of ideas of the Church had always been a subcurrent in
centering around the meaning of the liturgy. The medieval Mass theology but it, conversely, never
task of the following iconological analysis is tobecame a feature in medieval popular piety. In the
draw out these ideas. years around 13oo, however, the unity theme was a
The description of the iconography of the Ober- prominent feature of one school of theology49.
wesel Altarpiece has revealed a distinctive tripar- The prominence of the unity theme and the
tite schema. The subjects in the lower tier are di- extraordinary sophistication displayed in the
vided into two groups, one centering on subjects visualization of the other two doctrines reveal the
from the early life of Christ and the other on thehand of a learned advisor in the design of the
Passion, and the figures in the upper tier form a Oberwesel Altarpiece.
unified group around the Coronation of the Vir- The subjects on the right half of the lower tier of
gin. As also in portal iconography, this schemathe center section have been identified as the child-
embodies an instinctual sense of movement from hood of Christso. The presence of the Baptist makes
the sides towards the center and from below to that impossible. The three subjects -John the Bap-
above. Although this movement is primarily ac- tist, Annunciation to Mary, and Adoration of the
complished by the chronological arrangement of Magi - are represented together in order to visual-
most of the subjects, the presence of St. Anne on ize aspects of the doctrine of the real presence of
the right wing, Aaron between Abraham and Christ in the Eucharist. The core concept of the
Melchizedek on the left wing and the Baptist to doctrine, the identity of the historical and eucharis-
the right of the Annunciation make it quite clear tic Christ, is expressed in the Annunciation.
that temporal progress is not the purpose of the From the early patristic period onward, the doc-
schema. The tripartite schema of the altarpiece's trine of the real presence had been linked to the
program is designed to order the visual explication doctrine of the incarnation. The doctrine provided
of the three themes dominating medieval theology a means of expressing the reality of Christ's pres-

48The influence of English painting on west German 50 Kiilz (as in note 3), 16; Schmitt (as in note 3), 87.
painting contemporary with the Oberwesel Altarpiece 51First Apology, 66: Enchiridion Patristica, coll. M. J.
has been well established. In the case of the murals exe- Rouet de Journel, i8th ed., 113, 29.
cuted around 1335 in the nuns' choir in Wienhausen, 52 De mysteriis, 9, 53: Enchiridion Patristica, coll. M. J.
English painting exercised both stylistic and icono- Rouit de Journel, i8th ed., 129, 34.
graphic influence (W. Michler, Die Wand- und 53 Paschasius Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine domini, i,
Gewolbemalereien im Nonnenchor des ehemaligen 2: C. C. C. M., i6, Io; Remigius of Auxerre, De celebra-
Zisterzienserinnenklosters Wienhausen, Diss. G6ttin- tione missae: P. L. 0oi, 1260; Landfranc of Bec, De cor-
gen 1967, IIu). pore et sanguine Christi, 18, 19: P. L. 150o, 43o. Also:
49 Beginning with Alexander of Hales (d. 1245), the idea Rhabanus Maurus, Poenitentiale, 33: P. L., 110, 493:
that the Eucharist represented the unity of the Church Hincmar of Rheims, De cav. vit. et virt. excerc., io: P. L.
was prominent in Franciscan scholastic thought. See: 125, 928; Pseudo-Haimo of Halberstadt, De corp. et
H. de Lubac, Corpus Mysticum. Kirche und Eucharistie sang. Dom., 1260: P. L. 11ii8, 818; Silvester II., De corp. et
im Mittelalter, Einsiedeln 1969, 127-141. sang. Dom., 8: P. L., 139, 187.


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ence in the consecrated elements: ?The food which unseen action of one and the same Spirit...<< (Ful-
has been made eucharist... is the flesh and blood of bert of Chartres)54.
the same Jesus who has been made incarnate<< (Jus- In the twelfth century, the theological connec-
tin Martyr)'5. It provided, as well, an analogy for tion of the incarnation to the eucharist reached its
the mysterious transformation of those elements: final stage of development. The consecration of
4It is clear then that the Virgin conceived contrary the eucharistic elements was seen as a reincarna-
to the course of nature. And this body which we tion of the Christ. In the sixth vision in the second
make is from the Virgin?< (Ambrose)52. book of Hildegard von Bingen's Scivias, God de-
During the eucharistic controversies of the early scribes the consecration to her as a reincarnation:
and high Middle Ages the proponents of the doc- >Because, just as my Son, miraculously, first as-
trine of the real presence tightened the connection sumed His humanity inside the Virgin, so also this
with the incarnation with the result that references offering now miraculously becomes His flesh and
to the conception and birth of Christ became for- blood upon the altar<<55.
mulas for expressing the official doctrine: >this This eucharistic interpretation entered the ico-
certainly is no other flesh than that which was nography of the Annunciation by the middle of
born of Mary...<< (Paschasius Radbertus); >>there is the twelfth century. In an Evangelistary from Ge-
one body of Christ, identical with that which he genbach the Virgin Annunciate is dressed in
received from the Virgin's womb<< (Remigius of priestly vestments and receives the angelic mes-
Auxerre); >we receive that very body which was sage in the orans posture of a preist during the
taken from the Virgin...<< (Lanfranc of Bec)53. prayers of the canon of the Mass56.
The action of the Holy Ghost at the conception The thirteenth century saw an enormous growth
of Christ by the Virgin Mary is now presented as in popular eucharistic devotion, and the incarna-
analogous to the action of the Holy Ghost in the tion imagery which was previously restricted to
transformation of the eucharistic elements into the theological writing now flowed into the territory
body and blood of Christ: >so that as from the of popular piety. The elevation of the consecrated
Virgin through the Spirit true flesh is created..., so host became for the laity the focus if not the pur-
through the same, out of the substance of bread pose of the Mass57. At the elevation, the faithful
and wine, the same body and blood of Christ may greeted the >reincarnated? Christ with Aves mod-
be consecrated?. (Paschasius Radbertus); >that the eled after the angelic salutation to Mary at the an-
bread consecrated on earth is called the real body nunciations8. There are numerous accounts of mir-
of Christ, since both that which was taken from acles in which an infant Christ was reported to
the Virgin and that which is consecrated... is have appeared in place of the host at the consecra-
transformed into the real substance of flesh by the tion59. Popular preachers such as the Franciscan

54 Paschasius Radbertus, De corpore et sanguine domini, 57 A. Franz, Die Messe im deutschen Mittelalter. Beitrdge
4,1: C. C. C. M., 16, 28; Fulbert of Chartres, Epistles, 3: P. zur Geschichte der Liturgie und des religiosen Volksle-
L. 141,193. Also Rabanus Maurus, Com. in Matth. 1,8: P. bens, Freiburg im Breisgau 1902, reprint: Darmstadt
L. 107, IIo6, Florus of Lyon, De expositione missae., 6,21: 1963, 17-18, Io4; E. Dumoutet, Le desir de voir l'hostie et
P. L. 118, 18; Hugh of Langres, De corpore et sanguine les origines de la devotion au saint-sacrement, Paris
Christi contra Berengarium, 5: P. L., 142, 1383; Guit- 1936, 49-54.
mond of Aversa, De corporis et sanguinis Jesu Christi 58 E. Dumoutet, Le Christ selon la chair et la vie liturgique
versitate in eucharistia, i: P. L. 149, 1481 and others, see. au moyen age, Paris 1932, 147-182; P. Browe, Die Ver-
J. R. Geiselmann, Die Eucharistielehre der Vorschola- ehrung der Eucharistie im Mittelalter, Munich 1932, 26-
stik, Paderborn 1926, 97-205, 331-439. 49.
55 C. C. C. M., 43, 244. 59 P. Browe, Die eucharistischen Wunder des Mittelalters,
56 M. E. G6ssmann, Die Verkiindigung an Maria im dog- Breslau 1938, ioo-iii. A miniature in a Breviary from
matischen Verstdndnis des Mittelalters, Munich 1957, Aldersbach circa 1260 (Eucharistia. Deutsche euchari-
127. stische Kunst. exh. cat. Munich 1960, 49) and a scene on


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Berthold of Regensburg (d. 1272) told their listen- crated host during the devotions of eucharistic
ers that they would confront Christ in the Mass confraternities and in Corpus Christi proces-
exactly as he was born in Bethlehem6o. The estab- sions66.

lishment of the Feast of Corpus Christ during the The eucharistic significance of the figure of St.
late I3th and early I4th centuries marked a climax John the Baptist in the Oberwesel Alterpiece is
in medieval eucharistic devotion. The readings for readily apparent, for he holds the medallion bear-
the new feast were taken from the feasts of the ing the image of the Agnus Dei, immediately calling
Annunciation and the Nativity, and the consecrat- to mind the communion hymn sung during Mass
ed host was saluted with the age-old hymn: Ave, and the distribution of communion with the
verum corpus natum de Maria Virgine6'. words, Ecce Agnus Dei. In both instances the ad-
In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the dress to the Lamb of God refers not to Christ in
form and decoration of the containers for the re- general but specifically to Christ present in the
served host reflected the popularity of thinking of eucharist as a sacrificial offering67. The Agnus Dei
the eucharistic presence in terms of the incarna- is a common subject depicted on medieval patens68.
tion. The few eucharistic ciboria with figurative Ursula Nilgen has demonstrated the eucharistic
decoration to survive from this period display meaning attached to the representation of the Ad-
scenes from the Childhood of Christ62. From the oration of the Magi in northern European late
middle of the thirteenth century eucharistic cibo- medieval art69. In theological and exegetical writ-
ria in the form of the Virgin and Child were pro- ings the Magi bringing their gifts to Bethlehem,
duced in France and possibly elsewhere63. At the the domus panis, are interpreted as prototypes of
end of the thirteenth century Durandus stated that the faithful who go to the Church, the true Bethle-
the eucharistic ciborium was symbolic of the hem, and to the eucharistic feast at the altar, the
womb of the Virgin Mary64. After the introduc- true manger of the heavenly bread7o. This eucha-
tion of the feast of Corpus Christi, eucharistic tab- ristic interpretation of the Adoration of the Magi
ernacles, frequently decorated with the Annuncia- explains the popularity of the Magi on antependia,
tion and the Madonna and Child,65 appeared as the altarpieces, and eucharistic ciboria7'.
loci for the cult of the reserved host. The same was Taken as a group, these three subjects depicted
true of the monstrances used to expose the conse- on the right half of the lower tier of the altarpiece's

the early i4th century embroidery antependium from neia. Beitrige zur Religions- und Kirchengeschichte
Mechlin in the Cluny Museum, Paris (L. de Farcy, La des Altertums, 29), 323-325. In 1328, a eucharistic pyx in
broderie du XIe siecle jusqu'2i nos jours, Paris 1890, pl. the form of the Virgin Mary was donated to the Cathe-
48) show an infant Christ issuing from the elevated dral of Vienna, see: Browe (as in note 58), o01.
64 Rationale divinorum officiorum, i, i, c. 3, n. 25: ed.
60o F. Pfeiffer and J. Strobl, Berthold von Regensburg. Naples 1859, 27.
Seine Predigten, Vienna 1862, 493. 65 H. Caspary, Das Sakramentstabernakel in Italien bis
6'The second stanza begins: >>Ave verbum incarnatum zum Konzil von Trient, 3rd ed. Munich 1969, 102-103;
operante flamine.<<, C. Blume and H. M. Bannister, O. Nussbaum (as in note 63), 420.
Analecta hymnica Medii Aevi, 54, Leipzig I915, 257. See 66 As early as the last decade of the I3th century mention is
also: M. Vloberg, L'eucharistie dans l'art, Grenoble and made of the use of monstrances in the Rhineland. The
Paris 1946, 269 and: E. Dumoutet (as in note 57), 129-144. earliest surviving Rhenish monstrances date from the
62 For example the mid-thirteenth century ciborium with last quarter of the I4th century. In the next century they
the Adoration of the Magi in St. Maurice in Valais (J. are common among the vasa sacra of all major Rhenish
Braun, as in note 25, 342) and the enameled ciborium churches. The Madonna and Child is one of the earliest
circa 1325 in Klosterneuburg (see note 26). and most common subjects decorating Rhenish Gothic
63 M. M. Gauthier, >>Majest6s de la Vierge, limousines et monstrances (L. Perpeet-Frech, Die gotischen Mon-
m6ridionales au Metropolitan Museum of Art de New stranzen im Rheinland, Diisseldorf 1964, 12-18, 73).
York<<, in: Bulletin de la Socite' national des Anti- 67J. A. Jungmann, The Mass of the Roman Rite, New
quaires de France, (1969), 66-94. 0. Nussbaum, Die York 1955, 2, 335.
Aufbewahrung der Eucharistie, Bonn 1979 (Theopha- 68J. Braun (as in note 25), 235 and V. Elbern, >>Euchari-


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center section present the visualization of the doc- Since the bird stands in front of the figure of the
trine of the real presence flanked by images refer- resurrected Christ in the Coronation scene as well
ring to communion. The process and product of as above the Virgin and Child in the series of incar-
the conversion of the eucharistic elements are ex- nation subjects, there is every reason to see the
pressed by the Annunciation, the most common pelican as a nexus in the altarpiece's program, link-
eucharistic image in the Western Middle Ages. ing the right half of the lower tier with the upper
The reception of the eucharistic Christ by the tier. The second pelican, in front of the Virgin in
faithful in adoring thanksgiving and for the for- the Coronation and above the scene of Christ in
giveness of sins is expressed by the flanking images the tomb, plays the same role in the other half of
of the Magi and the Baptist. the lower tier.
Commonly interpreted as a symbol of the sacri- The seven episodes from the Passion on the left
fice, the pelican seems completely out of place half of the lower tier of the center of the altarpiece
above the Virgin and Child in the Oberwesel Al- are a direct expression of the second major idea in
tarpiece7z. In actuality, at the time of the altarpiece the medieval theology of the Mass: that the Mass is
the pelican had become a common symbol of in- a sacrifice by virtue of its relationship to the his-
carnation in German poetry and Latin devotional torical of Christ. The history of the idea is long
writing. In popular Mary Minnesang from the late and expansive. It is first expressed in the second
thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries, Mary is century, and in the following century, particularly
identified with the nest of the pelican73. Konrad in the writing of St. Cyprian, the idea takes on the
von Wiirzburg (d. 1287) writes in his Goldene outlines it maintains throughout the Middle
Schmiede: >>man sol dich viir das himelnest bez- Ages75. To Cyprian the celebration of the Eucha-
eichenlichen immer hin, di der vogel Pellican iiz rist is an offering and sacrifice by the priest who
und in vil schone vlouc.<< operates in place of Christ, the high priest, who
In Pseudo Bonaventure's (d. 1274) Psalterium offered and sacrified himself at Calvary76. Thus in
minus Beata Virgo Maria the same idea is ex- the Eucharist >the Passion of the Lord is the sacri-
pressed: >>ave virgo, mundi sidus, domus tectum, fice which we offer<<7.
mons et nidus, ubi passer solitaris Iesu Christe, At the beginning of the Middle Ages the patristic
demoraris<<74. idea of the eucharistic sacrifice is summarized and

stische Kelche im friihen Mittelalter, Ikonographie und 73 C. Gerhardt, Die Metamorphosen des Pelikans. Exem-
Symbolik?<, in: Zeitschrift des Deutschen Vereins fiir pel und Auslegung in mittelalterlicher Literatur. Mit
Kunstwissenschaft, 17, 1963, 181-187. Beispielen aus der bildenden Kunst und einem Bildan-
69 U. Nilgen, >>The Epiphany and the Eucharist: on the hang, Frankfurt 1979 (Europdische Hochschulschriften.
Interpretation of Eucharistic Motifs in Mediaeval Reihe L Deutsche Literatur und Germanistik, Bd. 265),
Epiphany Scenes<, in: The Art Bulletin, 49, 1967, 311-316. 34-35.
70Most notably in Rabanus Maurus, Commentaria in 74 S. Bonaventurae opera omnia, VI, Lyons 1668, 476. To
Matthaeum 1,2: P. L. 107, 76o0. Pseudo-Bonaventure's popular, poetical image of Mary
7'The Adoration of the Magi is a common subject in as the pelican's nest should be added Bonaventure's
Catalonian antependia from the 12th century to 14th own image of receiving the eucharist from the hands of
centuries, W. W. S. Cook, Pintura romanica en Catalu- the Virgin Mary: >>sicut per eam hoc sacratissimum cor-
nia, Madrid I960, 21-23, and Nilgen, (as in note 65), 313, pus nobis est datum, ita per manus ejus debet offerri et
and is the subject of the mid-I2th century retable altar- accipi sub sacramento, quod nobis praestitum est et
piece in Oberpleis on the Rhine (F. Rademacher, Die natum ex ejus utero<< (De Corpore Christi, sermo 3, 20.
Regina angelorum in der Kunst desfriihen Mittelalters, Opera omnia, V, edition Quarrachi, 1902, 559).
Diisseldorf 1972, 9-13), the late 13th century eucharistic 75 M. Lepin, L'idde du sacrifice de la messe d'apres les
ciborium in St. Maurice in the Valais (note 25) and the thdologiens depuis l'origine jusqu ' nos jours, Paris 1926,
enameled eucharistic ciborium circa 1325 in Klos- 82-94.
terneuburg, (see note 26). 76 Cyprian, Epistles, 63, 14: C. S. E. L. 3, 713.
72 >>Pelikan<, Lexikon der christlichen Ikonographie, 3 77 Ibid., 63, 17: C. S. E. L. 3, 714.
(Rome, Freiburg 1971), 390-391.


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the relationship with the Passion is strenghtened The selection of seven Passion episodes on the
by Gregory the Great: >>For as often as we offer Oberwesel Altarpiece corresponds exactly with
unto Him the sacrifice of His passion, so often we the >>Seven Hours of Christ<<, which were Passion
renew His passion to ourselves to set us free<<78. devotions that, beginning in the thirteenth centu-
Drawing from St. Gregory, the Carolingian writ- ry, were commonly combined with the prayer of-
ers on the Eucharist carry the relationship a step fice. Each of the seven canonical hours of the
further and speak of a repetition of the Passion in prayer office was marked as a key moment in the
the sacrifice of the Mass: >>daily is Christ mysti- events of the last twenty-four hours of Christ's
cally offered on our behalf, and the passion of earthly life. At matins the arrest of Christ in Geth-
Christ is daily presented in the mystery<< (Pascha- semane was recalled, at prime his appearance be-
sius Radbertus)79. fore Pilate, at tierce his flagellation, at sext the road
This realistic manner of speaking about the Pas- to Calvary, at none Christ's death on the cross, at
sion of Christ in the sacrifice of the Mass contin- vespers his deposition from the cross, and at com-
ued to be characteristic of medieval theology of pline his burial83.
the Mass: >>This sacrament is called a sacrifice inas- The location of the pelican above the last of the
much as it represents the Passion of Christ<< (Tho- seven Passion episodes is clear indication that the
mas Aquinas)8o. Passion series on the Oberwesel Altarpiece was
The Mass as a re-presentation of the Passion of designed to express the doctrine of the eucharistic
Christ most likely entered medieval popular piety sacrifice. Since Augustine, the legend of the bird
through the many allegorical treatises which from feeding its young with its blood has been inter-
Amalar of Metz in the ninth century to Durandus preted as an allegory of Christ shedding his blood
of Mende in the last years of the thirteenth century for the salvation of mankind84. The natural linking
dominated the medieval understanding of the lit- of this well-known allegory and the words spoken
urgy. In these allegorical treatises every aspect of by Christ over the cup at the Last Supper, and re-
the Mass, the divisions and language of the various peated by the priest in the consecration of the wine
texts, the actions, gestures, and vestments of the made the pelican an ideal symbol of the life-giving
participants, and the sacred utensils, was a symbol sacrifice of the Eucharist. Shortly before the crea-
that recalled events in the life of Christ8'. The can- tion of the Oberwesel Altarpiece the eucharistic
on of the Mass, in which the eucharistic elements symbolism of the pelican was vividly recalled in a
are consecrated and the sacrifice offered, came to strophe: >>Pelican of goodness, Jesu Lord, cleanse
be universally interpreted as recalling the Pas- me unclean in Thy blood< of the famous hymn,
sions2 Adoro te devote. The Adoro te devote was com-

78 In evangelia homiliae, 37, 7: P. L. 76, 1127. ing the Canon see: R. Suntrup, Die Bedeutung der litur-
79De corpore et sanguine Domini, 9. I, 2: P. L. 105. For gischen Gebarden und Bewegungen in lateinischen
similar statements by other early medieval writers see: und deutschen Auslegungen des p. bis 13. Jahrhun-
Geiselmann (as in note 54), 88, 98. derts (Miinstersche Mittelalter-Schriften, 37), Munich
80 Summa theologica, III, 73, 4. For similar statements by 1978, 182-255.
other writers of the high Middle Ages see: Lepin (as in 83C. Greith, Die deutsche Mystik im Predigerorden,
note 75), 15-37. Freiburg im Breisgau 1861, 329-330. The importance of
8'1. Jungmann (as in note 67), 87-91. these devotions is reflected in the number of high qual-
82 >>Notandum autem per totum Canonem Dominicae ity rhymed German texts of the Christi Tageszeiten
passionis commemorationem potissimum actitari...<< which survive from the late thirteenth and early four-
(Bernold of Constance, Micrologus, 26: P. L. 151, 987). teenth centuries (G. Ehrismann, Geschichte der deut-
For a survey of other major allegorical interpretations schen Literatur bis zum Ausgang des Mittelalters, 2.2,
of the texts of the Canon, see Franz (as in note 57), 351- Munich 1935, 60o6-607).
482. For the allegorical meanings attached to the various 84 L. Portier, Lepe'lican. Histoire d'un symbole, Paris 1984,
gestures and actions of the celebrant and assistants dur- 42-50.


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posed in the circle of Thomas Aquinas as an eucha- pose of the series of Old Testament figures is not
ristic hymn and it was commonly sung at the ele- to trace the history of the economy of salvation.
vation of the chalice8S. The bird appears frequently Consistent with the schema of the lower tier fig-
on eucharistic chalices dating from the thirteen ures in the center section, the Old Testament fig-
and fourteenth centuries86. ures on the wings are arranged in order to express
The position of the pelican above the scene of a sequence of ideas relating to the themes of eucha-
Christ in the tomb is very unusual. The vast ma- ristic presence and sacrifice.
jority of pelicans are represented in association When read from right to left - that is, according
with the crucifixion87. The unusual location makes to the outside-inside axis of the altarpiece schema
manifest that the symbolism of the bird offering its - the figures of Moses and the three prophets ex-
life's blood for its young is applied to the Passion press the idea of Christ as the perfect fulfillment of
series as a whole88. Thus the pelican summarizes the Old Testament, the fulfillment of the law and
and focuses the theme of sacrifice of the left half of prophets referred to often in the Gospels to ex-
the center section in the same manner that its part- press the mission of Jesus as the Messiah. The
ner does for the theme of the incarnation in other proximity of the Baptist points specifically to the
half. passages in Matthew and Luke in which John's
The themes of eucharistic presence and sacrifice mission is described as the sum and seal of the old
are carried back through the figures from the Old covenant and the inauguration of the new cove-
Testament in the lower tiers of the wings. The nant in Christ: >>For all the prophets and the law
three prophet figures and the figure of Moses on prophesied until John; and if you are willing to
the right wing are standard images of the prefig- accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come.<< (Matt. ii,
urement of the incarnation common on the jambs 13) and >>The law and prophets were until John;
of many Gothic portals. The same is true of the since then the good news of the kingdom of God is
pendant figures on the opposite wing. Abraham, preached...<< (Luk. 16,16). This basic, biblical con-
Aaron and Melchizedeck are familiar prototypes cept found early and continuous expression in the
of the sacrifice of Christ on Gothic portals89. allegorical interpretation of the Mass. Beginning
However, in the selection and arrangement of the with the writings of Amalarius of Trier in the early
Old Testament figures, the altarpiece differs from ninth century to those of Durandus of Mende at
portal iconography. Chronological order is violat- the end of the thirteenth century, the first part of
ed in both series regardless of how the sequence is the Mass symbolized the prophets of the Old Tes-
read. The positions of Moses between the Baptist tament's anticipation of Christ's coming90. In Du-
and the prophets and Aaron between Abraham randus, the introit symbolizes Moses and the
and Melchizedek make it quite clear that the pur- prophets waiting for the advent of Christ, and the

85 A. Wilmart, Auteurs spirituels et texts divots du moyen above the scene of Christ in the tomb may also refer to
age latin, Paris 1932, 361-414. the common interpretation of the elevation of the chal-
86 Braun (as in note 25), 179. ice in the Mass as symbolizing the deposition and en-
87 In the extensive catalog of pelican images in C. Ger- tombment of Christ (Suntrup, as in note 82, 390-392).
hardt, (as in note 73), 118-163, there is not a single exam- An example of the pelican above the entombment is
ple of the bird in association with an entombment. found on an Opus anglicanum orphrey in Christie, (as
88 Already in the mid-twelfth century Hugo de Folieto in note 45), plate 141. On this orphrey the pelican ap-
calls the pelican's death the symbol of the Passion of pears above each of ten scenes from Christ's Passion
Christ: >>Mors pelicani, passio est Christi<< (De Bestus et and Resurrection.
aliis rebus. 33: P. L. 177, 29). In the Credo of Jean de 89 A notable example is the center portal of the north tran-
Joinville (c. 1250) the pelican is cited after the fourth ar- sept of Chartres where prophets of the incarnation are
ticle: >>Was crucified, dead, and buried<< (L. J. Friedman, represented opposite prototypes of the sacrifice on the
Text and Iconography for Joinville's Credo, Cam- jambs, see: Katzenellenbogen (as in note 22), 62-65.
bridge, Mass. 1958, 64). The location of the pelican 90 Franz (as in note 57), 377, 405, 409, 422, 437.


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reading of the epistle symbolizes the Baptist9'. The hundred years prior to the Oberwesel Altar-
acolytes standing to either side of the bishop as he piece94. The fact that the designer did not use the
enters the church symbolize Moses and Elias who established typology once again underscores the
teach men that both the law and the prophets are extraordinary inventiveness of the iconogra-
embodied in Christ92. In Marquard von Lindau's phic program of the Oberwesel Altarpiece.
Middle High German tract on the Eucharist The symbolic meanings attached by medieval
(c. 1350), the allegorical interpretation of the begin- liturgists to the Old Testament types in the Canon
ning of the Mass as symbolic of Moses and the of the Mass had no strong, common theme95. The
prophets is specifically related to the incarnation: specific identities of the three: servant Abel, father
>>Das erst stuk ist der anvang der messe vnd betutet Abraham, priest Melchizedek were the basis for
die grosse begird der altvetter vnd propheten vnd one set of interpretations. Abel the servant prefig-
der wissagen, die si hatten dar zu, das jnen gesant ured Christ the servant of God-the-Father. Father
wurde gottes sun in mentschlicher natur...<<93. Abraham is identified as the father of all the faith-

The iconological meaning of the figures of Abra- ful. And the priest Melchizedek, on the basis of the
ham, Aaron and Melchizedek on the left wing can- fifth chapter of Hebrews, prefigured Christ the
not be supplied from the stock of familiar medie- new high priest. The actions of the three suggested
val typology. It was mentioned previously that the a second set of meanings. Abel's death at his
three figures are found among the Old Testament brother's hands prefigured Christ's death at the
types on the jambs of several French Gothic por- hands of his own people. Abraham's willingness
tals. But in no portal program are the three to sacrifice Isaac prefigured God the Father offer-
grouped together and with the same disregard for ing Christ as a sacrifice. Melchizedek's offering
biblical chronology as they are on the altarpiece. bread and wine prefigured the Last Supper and the
As elsewhere in the program .of the altarpiece, the sacrifice of the Mass. In this collection of mean-
violation of chronology marks a distinctive se- ings, those attached to Abraham and Melchizedek
quence of interrelated ideas. Mention has also touch the very core of the medieval conception of
been made of the fact that the three figures do not the sacrifice of the Mass while those attached to
correspond to the three Old Testament types in Abel are at best tangential to that conception. Abel
the Supra quae of the Canon of the Mass: >>Deign was dispensed with, in spite of the authority of the
to regard them with a favorable and gracious Supra Quae typology, and a far more coherent and
countenance, and to accept them as it pleased thee pointed typological commentary on the sacrifice
to accept the offerings of thy servant Abel the just, of the Mass was created by adding Aaron sacrific-
and the sacrifice of our father Abraham, and that ing the paschal lamb.
which thy great priest Melchizedek sacrificed to It is a commonplace of medieval exegises to see
thee, a holy offering, a victim without blemish<<. the sacrifice of the paschal lamb as a prefigurement
These three types had been commonly repre- of Christ's redemptive sacrifice96. However, it is
sented on liturgical works of art for at least two Rupert of Deutz who places the prefigurement in

9 Rationale divinorum officiorum, 4, i, 40: ed. Naples in: R. Suntrup, >>Prafigurationen des Megfopfers in Text
1859, 146.
und Bild,, in: Friihmittelalterliche Studien, i8, 1984,
1984, 521-528.
92 Ibid., 4, 6, 2: ed. Naples 1859, 156. The bishop or priest
coming out of the sacristy symbolizes Christ entering 95R. Suntrup, >>Te Igitur-Initialen und Kanonbilder in
the world from the womb of the Virgin Mary, ibid., I, I,
mittelalterlichen Sakramentarhandschriften,,, in: Text
38: ed. Naples 1859, 17. und Bild. Aspekte des Zusammenwirkens zweier Kiin-
93A. J. Hofmann, Der Eucharistie-Traktat Marquards ste in Mittelalter und friiher Neuzeit, C. Meier and
von Lindau, Tiibingen 1960, 268. U. Ruberg eds. Wiesbaden 1980, 303-312.
94In addition to the Romanesque portable altars men- 96 Pressouyre (as in note 22), 57.
tioned previously (see note 41) see also the works listed 97 Rupert of Deutz, De Trinitate et operibus ejus. In Exo-


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the context of the sacrifice of the Mass. To Rupert angels have no narrative relationship with the fig-
the paschal lamb signifies God's acceptance of the ures that follow them. They have been placed
eucharistic sacrifice of bread and wine97. When where they are, at the beginning of the subjects on
this interpretation is assigned to the figure of the wings, in order to introduce the overarching
Aaron on the Oberwesel Altarpiece, a sequence of theme of the iconographical program of the altar-
ideas emerges: God's offering of his Son (Abra- piece. The angels make explicit reference to the
ham offers Isaac), the reenactment of that offering Mass99. From Origen the idea arose that there are
in the sacrifice of the Mass (Aaron and the paschal two congregations, one of angels, the other of
lamb), and the transformation and acceptance of men, and that the two congregations are united
that sacrifice in the eucharistic gifts of bread and through the liturgy of the MassI'o. The unity of the
wine (Melchizedek with bread and wine). It is not earthly and heavenly liturgies finds expression in
improbable that Rupert was the source for the the Preface of the Canon of the Mass: >It is
ideas expressed in the Oberwesel eucharistic typo- through him that thy majesty is praised by angels,
logy. The great twelfth-century monastic theo- adored by dominations, feared by powers;
logian spent the last dozen years of his life in through him that the heavens and the celestial vir-
Cologne and several of his works have been shown tues join with the blessed seraphim in one glad
to have exercised considerable influence on Rhen- hymn of praise. We pray thee let our voices blend
ish medieval art98. with theirs as we humbly praise thee...<<
The remaining figures on the left wing, Adam Gregory the Great expresses the idea thus: >Who
and Eve, serve simply to express the theological among the faithful could doubt that at the hour of
background to the explication of the sacrifice of the sacrifice... the heavens open and choirs of
the Mass in the figures of Abraham, Aaron, and angels appear. Above and below unite, heaven and
Melchizedek: Christ's sacrifice embodied in the earth, seen and unseen become oneI''<.
Mass is in atonement for mankind's sin. In a simi- With roots in both patristic thought and the
lar fashion, the figure of Saint Anne in the same liturgy, the idea of the heavenly and earthly lit-
position on the opposite wing serves as the back-urgy becomes a common theme in the middle
ground for the incarnation - in giving birth to the ages. Thomas Aquinas makes numerous referen-
Mother of God, Saint Anne prepares the way forces to the theme. At the time of the Oberwesel
the incarnation. It is tempting to see in this early Altarpiece the idea is found in German eucharistic
representation of the conception of the Virginliterature. Quoting the passage from Gregory,
Mary the influence of Duns Scotus' defense of the Marquard von Lindau (c. 135o) describes the Real
doctrine of the immaculate conception which oc-Presence of Christ in the Mass as the descent of the
casioned great controversy in the early fourteenthentire host of heaven - Christ, Mary, the saints,
century. Duns Scotus died in Cologne in 1308. and the choirs of angels. >Die vierd wise ist, das
The remaining figures in the lower tier are thoseCristus in dem wirdigen sacrament nit allein ist.
of four angels playing musical instruments. These Mer sin wirdige mioter die ist da liplich gegenwur-

dum II, 6: P. L. 167, 613: Tandem quarta decima die, ad 99 See: H. Diillmann, >>Engel und Menschen bei der Mefg-
vesperam, ubi illum paschae veteris agnum comedit cus feier<, in: Jahrbuch fir Philosophie und spekulative
discipulis suis, tunc ipse novi sacrificii Agnus continuo Theologie, 27, 1949, 381-411 and E. Peterson, The Angels
capiendus et ducendus ad immolandum, jam in augustia and the Liturgy, New York 1964, 34-35.
passionis agonizans, prius propriis manibus Deo Patri 00oo Origen, De oratione X, X: C. S. E. L., i, 141. For addi-
semetipsum immolavit, accipens panem et vinum, et tional patristic reference see: R. Hammerstein, Die
mira atque ineffabili santificationispotentia transferens Musik der Engel. Untersuchungen zur Musikanschau-
haec incorpors et sanguinis sui sacramentum. ung des Mittelalters, Bern and Munich 1962, 30.
98 See: E. Beitz, Rupert von Deutz und die Kunst, Co- 1oi Dialogues, 4, 58: P. L. 77, 428.
logne 1930.


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tig, vnd die lieben selen der menschen, die da be- Triumph. Their absence from the Oberwesel
halten sind, die sind ouch gegenwurtig da... Die Altarpiece and all other German fourteenth-cen-
funfft wise ist, das er nit allein mit den heilgen da tury, carved altarpieces and the presence instead of
ist, mer ouch die k&r der englen sind da gegen- groups of saints creates a context in which Mary as
wurtig<<'2. the Church comes to the fore, an idea reaching far
Marquard's image of the Mass as a dramatic unity back into patristic thoughtI07. Through twelfth-
of heaven and earth is reflected in the Oberwesel century commentaries on the Song of Songs, the
Altarpiece in the figures of the upper tier. Christ idea of Mary as the Church entered the early rep-
and the Virgin Mary appear in the midst of the resentations of the Coronation of the Virgin'I8.
saints: apostles on either side flanked by groups of Thus in the Oberwesel Altarpiece and in early
Virgins and Confessors. In the upper tier of fig- altarpiece iconography in general, Mary in the
ures heaven is seen opening up at the Mass. The Coronation symbolizes the Church Triumphant
expression of this idea is repeated in many other who, in an attitude of prayer, intercedes for her
fourteenth-century altarpieces in representations members.
of saints grouped around the Coronation of the The two pelicans standing before the figures in
Virgin'03. the Coronation of the Virgin place the intercession
In the Oberwesel Altarpiece and other German of the Church in an eucharistic context; Christ's
fourteenth-century carved, winged altarpieces the sacrifice recalled in the Mass is the sacrifice of the
type of Coronation of the Virgin depicted is the Church. In the Canon of the Mass the climax of
so-called Triumph of the Virgin Mary in which the sacrifice is reached when, after the consecra-
both Mary and Christ are enthroned and Mary is tion of the bread and the wine, when the priest
already crowned'I4. The type can be traced back to prays, Supplices te rogamus: >>Humbly we ask it of
the 170 typanum of Senlis's5. The fact that Mary is thee, God almighty: bid these things be carried by
already crowned and seated on the same throne as the hands of thy holy angel up to thy altar on
Christ indicates that this type of Coronation em- high, into the presence of thy divine majesty.
phasizes the elevation of Mary as the Queen of And may those of us who by taking part in the
Heaven. This meaning is emphatic in the Christ's sacrifice of this altar shall have received the
salute. However, the iconographical context of the sacred Body and Blood of thy Son, be filled with
Triumph of the Virgin Mary on the German altar- every grace and heavenly blessing: through the
piece is different from the context of earlier exam- same Christ our Lord.<< The pelicans serve to
ples, primarily in portals. In virtually all twelfth- both focus the eucharistic themes of real presence
and thirteenth-century examples of the Triumph and sacrifice developed in the iconography of
of the Virgin Mary, the context is the death and the lower tier of figures and to transfer those ideas
Assumption of MaryI'6. Typically, as in Senlis, into the image of the Church triumphant in the
those subjects are shown directly beneath the upper tier.

102 Hofmann (as in note 93), 282-283. Zeitschrift fiir schweizerische Archaiologie und Kunst-
103 The altarpiece in Marienstatt (c. 1350), the altarpiece in geschichte, 23, 1963/64, 205-207.
the parish church of Dornberg, Westfalia (c. 1350), the io5 See: P. Wilhelm, Die Marienkr6nung am Westportal
altarpiece in the parish church of Rossow in der Ost- der Kathedrale von Senlis, Hamburg 1941 and P. Ver-
priegnitz (c. 1350), the altarpiece in Brandenburg Cathe- dier, Le Couronnement de la Vierge, Montreal I980,
dral (c. 1375), the altarpiece in the former abbey church 31-33.
of Arendsee (c. 1390), the altarpiece in the Marienkirche io6 Verdier (as in note Io5), 49-58.
in Gardelegen (c. 1390), to name those that are largely 107 See: A. Miiller, Ecclesia-Maria. Die Einheit Marias und
intact and in situ.
der Kirche, Freiburg, Schweiz 1955 (Paradosis. Beitriige
'04 R. Suter-Raeber, >>Die Marienkr6nung der Kathedrale zur Geschichte der altchristlichen Literatur und Theo-
von Lausanne und die verschiedenen Typen der logie, V).
Marienkr6nung im 12. und friuhen 13. Jahrhundert<, in: io8 Verdier (as in note Io5), 81-112.


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In contrast to the extraordinarily complex ico- in the Tomb. There, in the center, the program
nography of the open altarpiece, the closed altar- passes into the upper tier where the Church
piece presents a single subject: the sacrifice of Triumphant gathers around the celestial throne.
Christ on the Cross. The central event, originally The nexus between the programs of the lower tier
depicted in carved figures, is surrounded by ten and upper tier of figures is marked by the remark-
painted figures of saints'09. All of these, with the able, miniature pelicans.
exception of Mary Magdalene, are martyrs and The iconographical program of the Oberwesel
thereby echo the theme of Christ's sacrifice. The Altarpiece was intended for the eyes and minds of
Magdalene with her ointment jar refers directly to a very select audience. Located in the choir, and
death of Christ. The virgin saints are crowned and separated from the nave by a rood screen, the al-
all the figures - even the Baptist - wear gowns dec- tarpiece program could be viewed in its entirety
orated with a scattering of golden rosettes. We are exclusively by the canons from their stalls on ei-
meant to regard these figures as inhabitants of the ther side of the high altar. The laity had merely a
heavenly Jerusalem where they bear constant wit- glimpse of the golden altarpiece through the open-
ness to the salvation afforded to all by Christ's work tracery of the screen. The canons had both
death on the Cross. full view as well as hours each day at divine office
The designer of the iconographical program of and Mass to contemplate the features of the ico-
the Oberwesel Altarpiece set himself the ambi- nography. Understood in this context, its overall
tious task of creating an artistic backdrop for the purpose becomes clear: the Oberwesel Altarpiece
celebration of Mass that would express the chief was designed as a self-representational focus for a
ideas current in medieval understanding of the eu- community of learned priests who viewed them-
charistic sacrifice. Viewed in its closed position, selves largely in terms of the celebration of the
the program has a single focus in the redemptive Mass.

sacrifice of the Christ. This was certainly the eve- All of the earliest large, carved winged altarpieces
ryday message of the Oberwesel Altarpiece. Only originally decorated high altars in monastic or col-
on major feast days were the wings opened to re- legiate churches, resulting in the exclusion of the
veal the dazzling interior. At these times, Mass was laity from the space before those altars. This
celebrated in front of a program of imagery of far simple fact precludes the possibility presented by
greater complexity. In the lower tier of figures, the Bernhard Decker that such altarpieces were in-
dual doctrines of eucharistic real presence and sac- tended to express the power of the church, which
rifice are explicated through two sequences of im- controlled the cult of relics and images vis-a-vis
ages that begin in the wings and continue in the the laity"o. On the contrary, all of these early
center section, culminating in the juxtaposed im- winged altarpieces have self-representatinal pro-
ages of the Virgin and Child and the Dead Christ grams that are designed, as was the Oberwesel

o09 In an earlier study (Ehresmann, as in note 6, 367) I have stone sepulchre which is then sealed with a stone. At the
pointed out the functionality of the detachable crucifix festive mass of Easter night the cross is removed from
that originally hung on the closed altarpiece. The likeli- the sepulchre and carried back in procession to the
hood that the crucifix was used in the Depositio and choir. In the procession, the canons are accompanied
Elevatio crucis ceremonies of Holy Week is now by the masters of the Confraternity of the Holy Grave,
strengthened by the publication of excerpts from the who carry burning candles. One cannot be certain that
fourteenth-century antiphonary of the Oberwesel the detachable crucifix is the cross referred to in these
Liebfrauenkirche (F. Pauly, Das Erzbistum Trier 2, Die sources, but the sources do prove that the Depositio
Stifte St. Severus in Boppard, St. Goar in St. Goar, Lieb- and Elevatio crucis ceremonies were part of the liturgi-
frauen in Oberwesel, St. Martin in Oberwesel, Germa- cal life of the Liebfrauenkirche in Oberwesel at the time
nia Sacra. N.F. 14, 2, Berlin 1980, 346-47). At the conclu- of the creation of the altarpiece and for several centuries
sion of the liturgy of Good Friday, a cross is placed in a following.


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Altarpiece, to mirror to the exclusive community sion of Mary and the saints"3. In the Premonstrat-
its particular identity. In Benedictine Cismar, the ensian Nunnery of Altenburg, the program is fo-
altarpiece program extolls the history of the order cused almost exclusively upon devotion to the
and the community's devotion to the blood of Virgin Mary"4. In concentrating on the theology
Christ"'. In Doberan, the program presents a Cis- of the Mass, the iconography of the Oberwesel Al-
tercian preoccupation with the Virgin Mary's role tarpiece is unique among this small group of
in the economy of salvation"'. In Cistercian winged altarpieces dating from the first half of the
Marienstatt, the program concerns the interces- fourteenth century.

0o B. Decker, Das Ende des mittelalterlichen Kultbildes "' There is no detailed study of the iconography of the
und die Plastik Hans Leinbergers, Bamberg 1985 (Bam- Cismar Altarpiece, otherwise see Wentzel (as in note
berger Studien zur Kunstgeschichte und Denkmal- 31).
pflege, Bd. 3), 58-113. For a brief critique of Decker's 112 See Ehresmann (as in note 31).
thesis see W. Wilhelmy, >>Der Marienstfitter Altar<< in "3The basic outline of the program has been accurately
Hochgotischer Dialog (as in note 1), 11-13. See also: N. drawn by W. Wilhelmy in Hochgotischer Dialog (as in
Wolf, ,>>berlegungen zur Entstehung, Funktion und note i), 41-46.
Verbreitung der deutschen Schnitzretabel des 14. Jahr- "4 P. Zimmer, Die Funktion und Ausstattung des Altares
hunderts,<< Figur und Raum. Mittelalterliche Holzbild- auf der Nonnenempore. Beispiele zum Bildgebrauch
werke im historischen und kunstgeographischen Kon- in Frauenklostern aus dem 13. bis 16 Jahrhundert,
text, U. Albrecht and J. von Bonsdorff eds. Berlin 1994, Cologne 1991, I46ff.

Photo credits: I-I5 author. - 16, 17 Bildarchiv Foto Marburg. - 18 Staatliche Museen zu Berlin Preu1gischer

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