Thursday 21 May 2015

St. Thomas on holiday

A few months and it already time for this years summer holidays. Last year we (both Thomasguild families) went to northern Germany, but to separate locations. Marijn and Anne stayed around the hanseatic city of Lübeck, while Bram and Katinka went further north to the Gothic brick cities of Wismar, Greifswald and Stralsund. During our holidays we (of course) visited some musea, old churches and buildings, etc. and did find some medieval images and statues of our patron saint, St. Thomas.

 The altarpiece of the Thomasbruderschaft der brauerknechte.
From the Burgkiche in Lübeck, now in the St. Annenmuseum.

In Lübeck in the St. Annenmuseum Marijn and Anne encountered many Thomasses. The museum houses a large medieval collection, mainly religiously based, and mostly retrieved from the bombed churches in the second world war. One of the finest pieces was a special altar dedicated to him, although our saint had to share it with the two other Thomas saints, Aquino and Beckett. This altarpiece of the Thomasbruderschaft der Brauerknechte (the Thomas brotherhood of the brewers) from the Burgkirche in Lübeck dates from around 1520. It consists of a gilded shrine with sculptures by the Master of the Burgkirchealtars, and painted panels by Erhart Altdorfer and the Master of the Thomasaltar. The shrine is 2.32 metre high and 1.3 m wide, with a depth of 26 cm. The altar wings are 62 cm wide and 17.5 cm deep. The predella (the lower part of the altar) has a height of 94 cm height, a width of 2.84 metre and a depth of 49 cm. There are some marks of the makers of the shrine left on the backside of the altar piece, but unfortunately not visible for us.

The lower middle part of the altar piece with from left to right: Thomas of Aquino, Apostle Thomas and Thomas Beckett.

Part of the predella, with the unbelieving St. Thomas and Christ in the middle.

The backside of the right group of apostles from the predella.
 You can see that the backside of the sculpture is roughly hollowed out.

An old black and white image of the complete altarpiece, but with the parts mixed up.

A part of the high altar from the Marienkirche has a painting on an oak panel of two apostles, of which one is St. Thomas and the other St. Paul or St. Matthias. The painting dates from around 1420 and was made by Conrad von Soest or a successor.

The Apostle on the right is St. Thomas.

Another painting from an altar piece of the Valentinsbruderschaft shows another part of the legend of St. Thomas. He was absent during the death of Maria, and therefore was witness to her ascendency to heaven. Maria did give him her belt (with help of an angel) to show as proof. The painting was made between 1490-1500 by Wilm Dedeke on the wings of the predella.

An angel gives the belt of Maria to Apostle Thomas. Altar piece of the Valentinsbruderschaft.

The following are some remarkable oak statues from an altar from Molln. The statues were made in Lübeck around 1395-1400 and now reside in the St. Annenmuseum. Thomas has a spear in his hand. The two other statues are of St. Simon. He has a saw as an attribute, because he was martyred by being sawn in half lengthwise. One Simon carries an M-toothed cross-cut saw. This is (sofar) the earliest image of such an M-toothed saw, and decades earlier than the saws mentioned in the blogpost on two man cross-cut saws (1450-1475). The other one is more like the two-handed push saw. The back of the statues are hollowed out. The original colour of the statues has been gone, although some traces of bolus remain.

St. Thomas (left) and St. Simon (middle and right) from the altarpiece from Molln.

The hollow backside of St. Simon.

In nearby Ratzeburg, Marijn and Anne visited the Dom, in which an altar resides from the end of the 15th century. One of the apostles on the wings of the altar was Thomas. The Thomasses met by Bram and Katinka will likely be presented by them in a blogpost.

St. Thomas with spear (left photo) and St. Simon with saw (right photo) from the altar piece of the Ratzeburger Dom. 


The St. Annenmuseum does not allow photography, but a catalogue of the medieval wooden pieces is available. The images were scanned from this book: Corpus des Mittelalterlichen Holzsculptur and Tafelmalerei in Schleswig-Holstein. Band I. Hansestadt Lübeck, St. Annen-Museum. edited by U. Albrecht. Verlag Ludwig. ISBN 978-3-933598-75-2.

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