Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Notes from Salzburg: The Augsburg Holy Sepulchre

The international workshop began in Augsburg with a visit to a replica Holy Sepulchre built in the Church of St Anna.  This church has a number of connections to Jerusalem and a very interesting history. Built around 1321, it began as a Carmelite monastery and may have been founded as early as 1275 by the Bishop of Augsburg, Hartmann von Dillingen:
A nineteenth-century portrait of Bishop Hartmann von Dillingen: image from Wikimedia Commons

Bishop Dillingen was an enthusiastic supporter of the new orders of friars founded in the thirteenth century to live a life of apostolic poverty and lay ministry. He founded Dominican and Franciscan houses across his diocese, but his interest in the Carmelite order might indicate a particular concern for Jerusalem and the Holy Land. The Carmelite order was founded in the late twelfth or thirteenth century on Mount Carmel in the Holy Land, a mountain range strongly associated with the Prophets Elijah and Elisha. With the foundation of their monastery, the Carmelites claimed to be continuing an ancient tradition of holy priests, prophets and hermits dwelling on Mount Carmel and dedicating themselves to prayer and penitence. The rapid expansion of the order in Europe was often due to the activities of returning crusaders: Richard of Cornwall, elected King of Germany in 1256, brought the Carmelite order back with him to England in the 1240s, for example.

Around 1420, a chapel for pilgrims was built in the St Anna church by Conrad and Afra Hirn. In 1496, it became the burial chapel of the wealthy goldsmiths’ guild in the town and is known today as the Goldschmiedkapelle. Its fifteenth-century murals depict scenes from the life of Christ and St Helena in search of the True Cross. St Anna is also the location of a burial chapel built around 1508-1509 by Ulrich and Jakob Fugger, two wealthy members of the great Swabian banking and mercantile family. This is one of the earliest examples of Renaissance architecture in Germany:
The 1508-1509 Fuggerkapelle: image from Wikimedia Commons

At around the same 1508 date, the Holy Sepulchre chapel was founded. As you can see, this is a reconstruction of the tomb aedicule found in the centre of the Anastasis Rotunda in the Holy Sepulchre Church in Jerusalem:
Heilig-Grab Kapelle in Sankt Anna, Claudia Jung

This was not the first or even the only replica of the Holy Sepulchre found in late medieval Augsburg. A now-lost chapel of the Holy Sepulchre is recorded from 1129 in the Weinmarkt and a church now dedicated to St Maximilian remains on the site of a former Franciscan monastery dedicated to the Holy Sepulchre. This church was rebuilt after World War Two and today looks like this:

Sankt Maximilian, interior view, Claudia Jung

The Holy Sepulchre chapel at St Anna was built in what was originally the north-west corner of the Carmelite cloister. You can see the door here that leads into the replica tomb of Christ inside:

Heiling-Grab Kapelle in Sankt Anna, view from above, Claudia Jung

We know that the Carmelite cloister was used as a meeting place for the town’s burghers, who could have made a quick visit to 'Jerusalem' in between the bustle of their day to day business. In the Middle Ages, pilgrimage was seen first and foremost as a spiritual journey. A successful pilgrimage depended on your state of mind, not on how far you physically travelled.  People bound by monastic vows to remain within the cloister or those who were too sick to travel could still go travelling in their imagination, and successfully obtain the indulgences, blessings and spiritual benefits of a physical pilgrimage. Scholars today might refer this type of imagined travel as peregrinatio in stabilitate, but despite the Latin, this is not a medieval term! In fact, there doesn’t seem to have been an ‘official’ contemporary name for this practice.

The survival of the Augsburg Holy Sepulchre chapel is just as remarkable as its original construction. Martin Luther stayed with the Carmelites in 1518 and in 1525, the church converted to Protestantism. During the Thirty Years’ War, Protestants were twice barred from the church. Yet there was little iconoclastic destruction: in 1656, after these upheavals, the Holy Sepulchre Chapel was purchased by Johann Georg Österreicher for use as a family burial chapel. It was renovated in 1748, and the onion-shaped dome you see decorating the top of the aedicule dates from this period.

Today, the church is a centre of religious tolerance that can be used for services by Catholics and Protestants alike.

Interior view of Sankt Anna, Claudia Jung


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