Monday, 6 January 2014

Misericords from Luneburg

Usually, I do not find church interiors very interesting. The exception is of course when there is something medieval to see - fresco's, sculptures, (some) stained glass windows, and/or furniture. Most church furniture is restricted to either shrines, altar pieces, choir stalls or pulpits. Occasionally, these furniture pieces are really interesting. One such a place with good church furniture is the Dom of Bardowick near Luneburg, Germany. It is a small brick church dedicated to Saint Peter dating from 1146 and rebuild after partial destruction in the 13th century.

Ubiquitous furniture pieces in catholic churches are the choir stalls, which are situated on both sides of the choir. Mostly these choir stalls are surrounded by a metal fence preventing anyone to have a close examination of the stalls. But not here. We could enter the stalls, open and close the seating, have a rest, and view (and photograph) the nice misericords. The choir stalls of Bardowick were built in the 15th century (1486/87) and have beautiful misericords. The construction of the choir stall is typical for this type of furniture: a double row of chairs is at each side of the choir, providing place for 54 men. The entrance to the back row is in the middle of the front row. The back row has seats for the canons, the front rows have places for the vicars. The individual seats have rounded backs and armrests, and a folding seat supported underneath by a misericord (a 'seat of mercy', as they were meant to provide a degree of comfort to a person who has to stand during long periods of prayer). Misericords can be beautifully carved, as in Bardowick, with a sense of humour. But also the panels dividing the seats were very nicely carved.


The choir with both choir stalls and the baptismal font. The back row is just a bit higher than the front row.
One of the choir stalls with the Gothic style canopy. You can also enter the back row from the sides.

The Bardowick choir is covered with a canopy in the Gothic architectural style. The ends of the choir stalls are closed with panels decorated with carvings of several saints. Interestingly, three different carving styles could be recognized (not by me I have to confess), indicating that three different craftsman were responsible for the production of the misericords and saints. One of these artists has been identified as Severin Tile from Luneburg.
Three of the misericords underneath the folding seat of the choir stalls: a kissing couple, 
a man sticking his tongue out, and a man hiding from a wolf.

 Some of the carvings on the seat dividing panels: a dog/lion, a cockatrice and both sides of a man's face.

One of the apostles on the end panels of the choir stalls: Saint Jacob the Elder.

The choir stalls were not the only piece of interesting medieval furniture. Also a mutilated oaken Levitensitz (or three-seater) dating from 1410 could be found in the choir. A levitensitz was a seat used by the priest and his helpers (the ministrants) during mass. The seat from Bardowick, however, is rather small to hold three men, and more likely is a two-seater. It has a carved relief of Moses and Isaiah, with a red and black painted text scroll. The top half of the Levitensitz has been sawn of, but this gives an opportunity to see some details of the construction, like the fixation of the rounded backrest. A complete Levitensitz with the upper half dating from around 1400 is found in the nearby Kloster Lune. This seat has more space for the mass officiating priest. The large side panels show Maria, St. Bartholomeus, St. Jacob the Elder and Benedictus. These painted Saints are carved in the so-called 'International' or 'Soft' style, which stretches the portrayed bodies. The Levitensitz has a 'architectural style' canopy like that of a choir stall. 

Left: Moses with the text on the scroll. Right: The lower part of the Levitensitz.

The seat board of the Levitensitz is also gone. It is unclear from the remains if the seat board was closed in front, 
as with the Levitensitz in Kloster Lune.

The left photo shows some construction details of the Levitensitz. You can see the places of the dowels that were used to fix the rounded backrest. The backrest itself is made up of two parts. The size of the seat hardly has space for three people. Right: A complete Levitensitz from Kloster Lune with cushions and a small embroidered tapestry from 1507.

The St. Johanniskirche in Luneburg also contains some (late) medieval furniture. One is a bench that is easily overlooked in the church. It belonged to the Von Dassel family, which were important salt merchants and mayors of the city. The sides show a nicely carved quartefoil, together with more flowery motifs.

The large bench has three legs and a backrest.

An oak armoire from the early 16th century, used to store utensils for sacristy, is also supposed to be in the church, but, unfortunately remained hidden from view. Therefore, I have only a scanned image from the book 'Schrank, Butze, Bett' by T. Albrecht to offer. This large three-storey armoire is 3 metre 33 cm heigh, 4 metre 57 cm wide and 61 cm deep.


The left upper panel of the baptismal altar of the same church has a gilded image of St. Thomas. The altar is made by Benedikt Dreyer (= turner) in 1507. On the left stands St. Paul (with sword), in the middle is St. Matteus (with book) and on the right stands St. Thomas (with spear and book).


Der Dom zur Bardowick by U. Boeck. DKV-Kunstfuhrer nr. 280 - Klosterkammer Hannover heft 4. ISBN 978-3-422-02256-0.
St. Johanniskirche Luneburg by M. Voigt.  DKV-Kunstfuhrer nr 344. ISBN 978-3-422-02301-7.
Kloster Lune by J.U. Brinkmann. Die Blauen Bucher. ISBN 978-3-7845-0829-0.

1 comment:

  1. These are some really nice images about a subject which really intrigues me. Thanks for posting and listing the sources.