Tuesday, 29 May 2012

Medieval mural armoires of Kloster Isenhagen

Kloster Isenhagen in Hankensbuttel, Germany does have an interesting collection of medieval furniture. During our visit in May we have examined not only the chests, but also a large amount of armoires, of which seven 14th century cabons (or fixed armoires).

A cabon is a piece of storage furniture that is set in a niche in the stone wall with a frame and door attached to it. The door-frame could be fixed to the wall with wooden dowels or with iron nails or clamps. The shelves of the cabon are either directly set into the wall, or to wooden boards. It is also possible that a complete armoire is built into the wall, sometimes secured with wooden wedges to refrain it from moving.

Cabons do not have feet or any other construction to stand on. They are often directly planned with the construction of the building. Niches had to be built specificly for this purpose. Cabons are only found in stone buildings, because the walls of timber-framed building do not offer enough space for this type of storage furniture.

The cloister with four mural armoires from the 14th century. 

In Isenhagen the cabons are found in the cloister and in the Chapter house. The medieval cabons date from around 1345-1350 AD. All cabons are still in use.

This map of Kloster Isenhagen shows where the cabons are located. The blue arrows show the seven cabons from the 17th century. The red arrows show the three medieval cabons in the Chapter house and the green arrows the four 14th century cabons in the cloister. One green arrow is marker with a question mark. I can not remember to have seen four - We also have only photo's of three - but there should be a fourth. Perhaps it is found in the small chapel, which we did not visit.

I am taking photos of two of the cabons.

All four medieval cabons in the cloister have two doors and most have one simple lock to close both at the same time. The doorframes are nailed to a wooden boards (the edges are visible on the right side of the cabon). This cabon has a height of 268.5 cm and a width of 131 cm. All wooden material is made of oak..

The lock of the first cabon is a simple sliding bar with a hinge that falls in the lock-plate. 

The second cabon has two locks and a ring on the left door to pull the door open. Sizes are similar to the first cabon. The top of the cabon is a stepped gable. The lighter wooden parts are later restorations. Curiously these square restorations are on all cabons in the cloister. Perhaps these used to be windows with latticework.

The third cabon, the bottom piece of the door-frame is missing. Also here the lighter wooden parts are replacements

The lock of the third cabon. On the left door there is a ring to pull the door open. 
The wooden restoration is clearly shown.

The three cabons in the Chapter house date from the late 14th century. They are much smaller in width and only have one door. The shelves of these cabons are directly set into the wall. Each cabon has a slightly different decorated top and bottom of the door-frame. The top and bottom of the door-frame are nailed into the wall, whereas the sides of the door-frame are nailed / dowelled into the thick shelves

The cabons on the far left side and the one on right side of the entrance door of the Chapter house.

The cabon directly on the left side of the entrance door. The lower part of the doorframe is missing here. The opened cabon clearly shows that the shelves are directly set into the walls. You can see that the nails of the sides of the doorframe are exactly at the place of the shelves. A small opening between the wall and the left doorframe also proves that these framepart can not be nailed into the stone wall. This particluar cabon is 210 cm high, 62.5 cm width and 41 cm deep. The other two have similar sizes, and all made from oak.

There are also such mural armoires in Kloster Wienhausen, but photography was not allowed there. One of the recently bought books however does give a black and white photograph of two simple cabons next to an open niche with two shelves. The book also shows a nice example of a (small) complete armoire that was inserted into the wall, as well as a complete mural armoire now standing loose from the wall from nearby Kloster Ebstorf.

Two cabons in the cloister of Wienhausen, dating from the 14th century. Photo from the book 'Schrank - Butze - Bett vom Mittelalter bis ins 20. Jahrhundert am beispiel der Luneburger Heide' by Thorsten Albrecht.

 A small cabon dating from 1337 in the St. Annenmuseum in Lubeck, Germany. 
Height 50/61.5 cm, width 29/39 cm and 27.5 cm deep. 
The crenels on top were complete in 1924 (i.e. in the book by Otto von Falke). 

Although this is a mid 16th century armoire from Kloster Ebstorf, Germany,, you can see clearly that it once has been a cabon by the extended edges of the door-frame. Pine wood with oak decorative rails. 164.5 cm high, 67.5 cm width and 33 cm deep.

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