Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Catholic Bamberg: The Church of St. Getreu

Starting off our series about Catholic Bamberg (cf. introductory post here) is the church of St. Getreu. This, like so many other things, is a foundation of St. Otto. Since he is such a determining figure for Bamberg, and we will encounter him quite often, I will quote here in full his entry from the Catholic Encyclopedia:

Bishop of Bamberg, b. about 1060; d. 30 June, 1139. He belonged to the noble, though not wealthy, family of Mistelbach in Swabia, not to the Counts of Andechs. He was ordained priest, but where he was educated is not known. While still young he joined the household of Duke Wladislaw of Poland; in 1090 he entered the service of Emperor Henry IV, and about 1101 was made chancellor. In 1102 the emperor appointed and invested him as Bishop of Bamberg. In the conflict of investitures he sided chiefly in political matters with Henry IV, although he avoided taking sides openly. He refused to be consecrated by a schismatic bishop. Through ambassadors he declared his loyalty to the Holy See. In 1105 he joined the party of Henry V, went to Rome, and there on 13 May, 1106, was consecrated bishop. He never became a partisan. In 1110-11 he accompanied Henry on his journey to Rome, but, like other noble characters, he disapproved of the disgraceful treatment of Pope Paschal. This is clear from the fact that he received the pallium from the pope on 15 April, 1111. When the war broke out again, he did not desert Henry V, and in consequence was suspended by the papal party at the Synod in Fritzlar in 1118. At the Congress of Würzburg in 1121 he strove hard for peace, which was concluded in 1122 at Worms. Meanwhile he had devoted himself entirely to his diocese and as bishop had led a model, simple, and even a poor life. He increased the possessions of the Church by new acquisitions, recovered alienated dependencies, completed the cathedral, improved the cathedral school, built castles and churches. In particular he favoured the monks, and founded over twenty monasteries in the Dioceses of Bamberg, Würzburg, Ratisbon, Passau, Eichstätt, Halberstadt and Aquileia. He reformed other monasteries. Thus he merited the name of "Father of the Monks".

His greatest service was his missionary work among the Pomeranians. In the Peace with Poland in 1120 the latter had engaged to adopt Christianity. Attempts to convert them through Polish priests and through an Italian Bishop, Bernard, proved futile. Duke Boleslaus III then appealed to Otto, and it is due to Otto that the undertaking partook of a German character. Through an understanding with the pope, who appointed him legate, the emperor and the princes, he started in May, 1124, and travelled through Prague, Breslau, Posen, and Gnesen in East Pomerania, was received by the duke with great respect, and won over the people through his quiet yet firm attitude, his magnificent appearance, generous donations, and gentle, inspiring sermons. He converted Pyritz, Kammin, Stettin, Julin, and in nine places established eleven churches; 22,165 persons were baptized. In 1125 he returned to Bamberg. As heathen customs began to assert themselves again, he once more journeyed to Pomerania through Magdeburg and Havelberg about the year 1128. In the Diet of Usedom he gained over through his inspiring discourses all the nobles of the land to Christendom. He then converted new communities, and led back those who had fallen away. Even after his return (in the same year) he was in constant communication with the Pomeranians and sent them priests from Bamberg. His wish to consecrate a bishop for Pomerania was not fulfilled as the Archbishops of Magdeburg and Gnesen claimed the metropolitan rights. Only in 1140 was his former companion Adalbert confirmed as Bishop of Julin. In 1188 the bishopric was removed to Hammin and made directly subject to the Holy See. In Bamberg he once more gave himself up to his duties as bishop and prince and performed them with great zeal. He kept out of all political turmoil. In the papal schism of 1130-31 he tried to remain neutral. The active, pious, clever bishop was greatly esteemed by the other princes and by Emperor Lothair. He was buried in the monastery of St. Michael in Bamberg. Bishop Embrice of Würzburg delivered the funeral oration and applied to Otto the words of Jeremias: "The Lord called thy name, a plentiful olive tree, fair, fruitful, and beautiful." On his mission journey he is reported to have worked many miracles. Many happened also at his tomb. In 1189 Otto was canonized by Clement III. His feast is kept on 30 September, partly also on 30 June; in Pomerania on 1 October. [Here in my own archdiocese of Berlin, to which Western Pomerania still belongs and whose Patronus æquiprincipalis St. Otto is, his feast is kept on 30 June.]

The name "Getreu" is a literal translation of "Fides", and refers to St. Fides (Foy) of Agen, whose relics are kept in the Abbey of Ste. Foy in Conques-en-Rouergue. St. Otto's foundation thus, like other churches and chapels he founded, represents an important station on the pilgrimage route to Santiago de Compostela. St. Getreu was a priory of nearby St. Michael's Abbey (which we will visit in one of the next posts of the series). Its present form dates from the 1730s.
Here is an impression of the interior in its entirety (click on all images to see - really - large versions):

Drawing nearer to the sanctuary:

The church is unique for its concentration of manifestations of Marian, Passion and Trinitarian devotion. The latter two are very well expressed by one of the ceiling paintings which are considered the most important of Bamberg, even though their author is not known. It is the one of the first bay west of the choir (seen at the top of the preceding picture):

In the centre we see the Divine Infant embracing the Cross - while putti show forth the instruments of the Passion - and conquering with it death and sin, symbolised by the skull of Adam and the snake. The Divine Infant together with Mary and Joseph, who kneel to His sides, forms the earthly trinity, while together with God the Father and the dove of the Holy Spirit hovering above Him, He is the heavenly Trinity. The Redemption He achieved is further symbolised by the lunettes (is that the right word? In German its "Stichkappe"): opposite to the fall is Fides, the personification of the Faith, who collects in a chalice the blood shed by the Lamb of God and thus halting (the German expression shown here is "to fall someone into the arm") Divine Justice with her flaming sword.

A closer look at the sanctuary:

And the high altar:

Above the tabernacle of the high altar is the sacred image (Gnadenbild, literally image of grace, there is no rela equivalent in English I think) of the Mother of God, carved around 1486. The triangular composition of the high altar refers to the Trinity and culminates in the gloriole with God the Father and the Dove of the Holy Spirit above the globe. Another representation of the Most Holy Trinity is formed by the image of God the Father - most prominent above the high altar - and the images of God the Son above the Northern and God the Holy Spirit above the Southern side altar, each also in a triangular gloriole (cf. the third picture from the top).

A very interesting item is the altar opposite the pulpit, and the tester of which forms the exact pendant of the pulpit ceiling (if there is a specific term for that, like German Schalldeckel, please do not hesitate to point it out to me; that goes for all the termini technici). It is the altar of the confraternity of the Trinity which was introduced at St. Getreu by the abbot of St. Michael in 1739. It shows the vision of St. John of Matha: an angel with the red-and-blue cross of the Trinitarian Order holding his protecting hands above a prisoner and a slave. Above him the most Holy Trinity, beneath him the hart drinking from the fountains of water, the common vision of Saints John of Matha and Felix of Valois, the two founders of the Order, who kneel at the sides:

Then there is the Holy Sepulchre used for the Triduum liturgies. During Eastertide, the is the statue of the Risen One is exposed there, as you can see. Otherwise the whole stage-like structure is covered by a painting of the Cross, converting into a Holy Cross altar. Around the altar/sepulchre are loggia-like architectures with balustrades and baldachins, framing reliefs of the Passion carved in 1483 after the engravings by Schongauer:

Beghind this altar is the image of the Entombment, which dates from before 1503 and is the last station of a way of the Cross leading up to St. Getreu:

In one of the side chapels is another part of this Via Crucis, the Crucifixion from before 1500, which used to be placed on the cemetery:

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