Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Sacrament Houses: Fürstenwalde Cathedral

Occasionally, we have mentioned the Sakramentshaus, or sacrament house, a particular form of freestanding tabernacle, which developed in German gothic architecture from the late 14th/early 15th century onwards, the use of which was (mostly) discontinued after the rubrics of the Tridentine liturgical books called for the reservation of the Blessed Sacrament on the altar. (See here, e.g., for the rather splendid one of St. Lawrence, Nuremberg.)
One such sacrament house is extant in the cathedral of Fürstenwalde, a small town east of Berlin, where the see of Lebus, one of the three medieval bishoprics of the March of Brandenburg, was translated in 1373. The city church, dedicated to Our Lady, was raised to cathedral of the diocese, but destroyed by Hussites in 1446 (bishop John V of Lebus had been one of the main accusers of Hus), after which a new cathedral was built. For this cathedral, bishop Dietrich von Bülow (of the same family to which in the 20th century belonged, among others, Prince Bernhard von Bülow, Chancellor of the German Empire, as well as the great and recently deceased humorist Vicco "Loriot" von Bülow) in 1517 commissioned a sacrament house by the Saxon sculptor Franz Maidburg (although this atrribution is being disputed, as well as Maidburg's authorship of the sacrament house of Cologne Cathedral). The cathedral was practically completely destroyed by Allied bombardment at the end of World War II (16-23 April 1945), and has since been rebuilt, although the interior remains mostly a shell. Fortunately, the sacrament house, along with several grave-slabs was walled in as a precuationary measure in 1942 and thus, almost miraulously survived. At this link you can see the state of the cathedral after bombardment; at the pillar to the left, you can see the walled-in sacrament house.

This is how the interior of the cathedral looks today:


And here, to the Gospel side of the altar (the usual position for sacrament houses), is the sacrament house:




The inscription on the ledge: Domine, dilexi decorem domus tue, et locum habitationis glorie tue - I have loved, O Lord, the beauty of thy house; and the place where thy glory dwelleth (Ps 25, 8). Also note the little animals.



The other side, with St Jerome in the middle:


This is the very fine grave-slab of bishop Dietrich von Bülow, also attributed to Franz Maidburg:


Two more grave-slabs show some liturgical minutiae. Here we have a canon of Lebus wearing the almuce:


And this is bishop John VII von Dreher (1443–1455), who amusingly exhibits one of the pet peeves of many of today's liturgically minded regarding pontifical vesture - the pectoral cross above the chasuble - nothing new under the sun:


In case it is hard to make out on the photograph, I have highlighted it here: