SAXONS? WHO WERE THEY?
The Saxons were a Teutonic tribe first mentioned in recorded history
by the geographer Ptolemy in the second century AD.
But in the 3rd and 4th centuries after the birth of Christ the tribal
confederations, which included Bavarians, Thuringians, Franks, Frisians
and Saxons, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, replaced the
numerous, petty tribes with their popular tribal form of government.
There was one exception to this tribal form of government, and it
was the Saxons.
The Saxons were divided into a number of independent bodies under
different chiefs. But in time of war they elected a duke to lead
them into battle. The Saxons (Latin for Saxones) were originally
a small tribe living on the North Sea between the Elbe and Eider
Rivers in present state of Holstein.
(According to the latest Deutschland Landerkarte (German land map),
the state of Holstein is joined together with Schleswig to form
one state, namely, Schleswig-Holstein. The state of Schleswig-Holstein
is located on the land bridge that links Denmark to the rest of
Their name, derived from their weapon called Sax, a stone knife,
is again mentioned in literature by the Roman author Claudius Ptolemaeus
(about 130 AD). During the 3rd and 4th centuries of the Christian
era, the Saxons fought their way victoriously toward the West, and
their name was given to the great tribal confederation that stretched
toward the West and stretched exactly to the former boundary of
the Roman Empire. That boundary is almost to the Rhine River.
Toward the south the Saxons pushed as far as the Harz Mountains
and the Eichsfeld, and in the succeeding centuries absorbed the
greater part of Thuringia. In the east their power extended as first
as far as the Elbe and Saale Rivers; in the later centuries it certainly
extended much farther eastward. All of the coast of the German Ocean
belonged to the Saxons excepting that west of the Weser River, which
the Frisians retained.
The history of the powerful Saxon tribe is also the history of the
conversion of Christianity of that part of Germany, which lies between
the Rhine and Oder Rivers. That represents geographically almost
the whole of present Northern Germany.
But from the 8th century, the Saxons divided into four sub-divisions:
Westphalians, between the Rhine and Weser; the Engern or Angrians,
on both sides of the Weser; the Eastphalians, between the Weser
and Elbe; the Transalbingians, in the present Holstein. The only
one of these names that has been preserved is the Westphalians,
given to the inhabitants of the Prussian Province of Westphalia.
The rest of the story includes another German tribe the Angles,
a part of the Saxons, settled on the Island of Britain from which
the Roman Legions had withdrawn, where as Anglo-Saxon, after accepting
Christianity about 600, laid the foundation of the Anglo-Saxon civilization
and the present Great Britain.
In attempting to reach Gaul by land, the Saxons came into violent
collision with the Franks living on the Rhine River. The Frankish
king Clovis (481-511) united the various Frankish tribes, conquered
Roman Gaul, and with his people accepted Christianity.
The new Frankish Kingdom was able to bring all the German tribes,
except the Saxons, under its authority and to make them Christian
with a rustic finish. Earlier, however, for almost 100 years, there
was uninterrupted warfare between Frank and Saxon. Many Anglo-Saxon
Christian missionaries sought to convert the Saxons and other warlike
Some were killed, some were driven away. Still others labored mightily.
The honor roll of missionaries to Europe Willibroad (658-739 AD),
"Apostle of Frisca."
Latourette speaks of Willibroad in laudatory fashion. "In early
childhood he expressed a wish to enter monastic life . . .. [After
winning his father's consent], "he received his training in
monasteries near Exeter and Winchester and there displayed qualities
of scholarship, Christian character, teaching ability, sound judgement,
and administrative skill which marked him for distinction. In 716,
he went as a missionary to the Frisians and for a time was in Utrecht.
In 718 he once more left England for the Continent and was never
to see his native land again" (349).
"Willibroad wished to name Boniface his successor, but it was
the latter's conviction that only the Pope could appoint the episcopate
(349). St. Willibroad and St. Boniface (680-754 A.D), who was called
the "Apostle of Germany" received papal support for his
missionary work to Frisians. After two years of failed labor among
these pagan peoples and yet undaunted, Boniface journeyed to Rome
where in 719, now armed with Papal authority, made a second visit
to Germany and met with success in Bavaria and Thuringia and converted
many of the Hessians.
In Hesse, Boniface had the most spectacular success of his career,
according to Latourette (349). He organized communities and won
pagans to the new faith."
In Geismar, near Fritzlar, in the presence of a large number of
hostile pagans, he began cutting down an ancient oak which was sacred
to the god Thor" (349). The felling of this mighty tree was
assisted by the blast of a powerful wind, which assisted in the
demolition of the oak, and the wind sent it crashing to the earth.
The hoary giant broke into four fragments. Of course, the pagan
bystanders were dutifully impressed by the powers of this Apostle
of a new faith. The timber from the oak was used to erect an oratory
to St. Peter (349).
In due course, Boniface gained the approval of a succession of popes,
and he was elevated to the rank of bishop and later to archbishop.
The Carolingians were committed to Boniface, too, and gave him the
task of reforming the Church in Franks domains, which he undertook
after the death of Charles Martel (741). Boniface achieved this
through a series of church councils. Boniface is buried in Fulda,
which is a story in itself, and will be related in a few moments.
About 747, Boniface was elevated to become archbishop of Mainz,
a post he resigned in order to return to missionary work among the
Frisians. It was among the Frisians that he met his martyrdom.
Once he left Mainz, Boniface spent his years, and baptized thousands,
destroyed pagan temples and erected churches. "The end came,
probably in June 754, and as he would have wished. He had set a
day for the confirmation of neophytes and had summoned them from
far and wide to meet him on the banks of a river. There a band of
pagans, apparently intent on plunder, fell upon him and killed his
companions. Enjoining non-resistance on those about him, he was
killed by the attackers. Humble, a man of prayer, self-sacrificing,
steeped in the Scriptures, a born leader of men, affectionate, a
superb organizer and administrators, he was at once a great Christ,
a great missionary, and a great bishop" (349). To a great extent,
Boniface and his missionary companions prepared the way for the
Christian conquest of Germany, but other methods were enforced,
methods that would not have been approved by Boniface.
"The conversion of the bulk of the Saxons was through the vigorous
use of armed force by Charlemange. Charlemange was determined to
bring the Saxons into his realm and in 772 reduced much of the region
to ostensible submission." (350).
But the use of naked force to conquer a people did not go without
protest. Alcuin (c. 735-804) described as the inspirer of the Carolingian
Renaissance . Alcuin used the dialogue method for instruction, and
made Boethius , Augustine, and the grammarians the chief subjects
of study. Of importance to the future of Christian worship, Alcuin
revised the Roman lectionary in Gaul and added an appendix to the
Sacramentary sent by Pope Hadrian to Charlemange, reconciling it
with the surviving Gallican customs.
Nevertheless and in spite of rigorous protests, the great Frankish
ruler, Charlemange, after a bloody struggle that lasted thirty years
(772-804), finally brought the Saxons under Frankish Supremacy.
Even though Charlemange was able to force them to follow Christianity,
the last German tribe no doubt still held persistently to belief
in the Germanic gods for some time after formal conversion.
Kenneth Scott Latourette's magisterial A History of Christianity
recounts the importance of Charlemange to the establishment of Christianity
in Europe in the first millenium after the birth of Christ. Here
are some observations by Latourette:
1. "Charlemange was deeply and genuinely religious and conceived
of himself as ruling by Christian principles" (355).
2. Charlemange perfected a system of tithes for the support of bishops
and parish clergy. For authority for the principle the clergy cited
the Mosaic Law." (356).
3. "Charlemange also stressed the education of clergy"
4. "Charlemange was not especially interested in furthering
asceticism. He founded a few monasteries, but to him they were not
important for the practice of a full Christian life, but rather
as centres of education and civilization" (357).
5. "Charlemange concerned himself with the papacy. He renewed
his father's grants to the see of Peter and treated the Popes with
respect. However, he made it clear that he expected them to support
him with their prayers while leaving to him practical matters of
political action and administration" (357).
It is interesting to note that some of the folklore and tales recovered
by the Grimm Brothers relate to this period and are worth reading
and telling. Perhaps time will permit telling a story or two from
the Brothers Grimm while we are on the road or during light conversation
around the tables in Wittenberg.
In course of our journey we will find ourselves in Sachsen, a state
in the German Republic with its center in Dresden. When we travel
to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, we enter the state of Sachsen Anhalt.
The combination of Sachsen Anhalt may be understood if one remembers
that, after World War II, the former East German government [DDR]
created a new administrative arrangement that erased the former
With the dissolution of the DDR, however, the names of many states
were restored. Anhalt-Sachsen is one state; and Sachsen is another
state and so on. A comparison of maps over the last 150 years will
prove indispensable to understand the implications of change.
A BRIEF HISTORICAL SKETCH
In order to use our time in Dresden well and make time for the
Zwinger Museum and for a visit to The Semper Opera or The Semper
Oper, a little history may be in order if for no other reason than
history interprets the past.
Originally, Saxony was one of five Germany tribal duchies. Otto,
son of Saxon named Lindolf, was named the first duke of Saxony in
800. By 908, he acquired Thurgia, too.
His son Henry the Fowler was elected king of Germany as Henry I
in 919. His son, Otto I, Another Otto I, succeeded him as king and
was crowned Holy Roman emperor in 962. This coronation, beginning
the line of Saxon rulers, lasted until 1042.
If you have time today, visit and view the impressive and colorful
portraits of the rulers and princes of Saxony, located near the
Hofkirche (Roman Catholic Cathedral).
While you are near the lane of portraits, consult your map and make
your way to the restoration - the rebuilding of the Frauenkirche
(the Church of our Lady). The restoration project is expected to
be completed in 2004, complete with interior cupola and the exterior
cupola, known as "stone bell," and this project should
be delivered on time to commemorate Dresden's 800th Anniversary
celebration in 2006.
Other nearby sites that are important to your visit is the Semper
Opera (Oper) house, modeled after that late Renaissance style, and
opulently decorated, though 19th century buildings. Time permitting,
the Semper Oper house is worth visiting, as it is one of the most
important theater buildings to be build over two centuries ago.
The Schloss Pillnitz is a highlight of Saxon palace architecture,
too. It was built by Prince Elector August the Strong of whom more
will be said later.
On the road to Lutherstadt Wittenberg, one passes through or near
the historic city of Meissen, a 1,000-year-old city, located in
the historical heart of Saxony and home of Meissen porcelain.
In this area, we are in the center of the German baroque art and
architecture and see some of its important artifacts during an age
of opulence, magnificence and grandeur at its height. Please observe
the highlights around you: the magnificent and palatial buildings
around the Theaterplatz and the Bruhl Terrace and, of course, the
art treasure at the Zwinger and other nearby museums as time permits.
If time permits, take a tour of the Semper Oper (Opera). On Augustusstrasse,
the Procession of the Dukes (Furstenzug) is worth a look. The 93
figures in the mural also include the famous Wettins such as August
the Strong (who is shown as the Polish King August II) and his son
Friedrich August II (August III of Poland). The mural created in
1872 suffered damage until today when it has been restored using
25,000 Meissen porcelain tiles - making it the biggest porcelain
mosaic in the world.
Unlike the other great works of art in Dresden during World War
II, the Procession of Dukes only suffered minor damage, necessitating
a few of the tiles be replaced.
For students and participants who want a useful color guide of Dresden,
I recommend the English version of Dresden. The price is modest
and the text and photographs are quite good.
Now that you have some of the important places in mind, let us resume
our brief journey into the history of Germany.
Definitions of Titles: In the 13th century the margraves of Meissen
Frederick the Warlike, who founded the university of Leipzig in
1409, acquired in 1423 the duchy of Saxony-Wittenberg, and the electoral
His grandsons Ernest and Albert divided the territories between
them through the Leipzig partition of 1485.
Ernest received most of Thuringia, Saxony-Wittenberg, and the electoral
title. The Ernest line [Wittier] produced Fredrick the Wise [1486-1525].
Albert, as duke of Saxony, ruled from Meissen and Northern Thuringia.
In 1502, Elector Frederick the Wise [G. kurfust, literally choosing
prince], one of princes of Germany who elected the Emperor of the
Holy Roman Empire] founded the University of Wittenberg.
In passing, one notes our debt to Fredrick the Wise and his successors,
John the Constant [1525-1532] and John Frederick [1532-1547], because
their combined dedication to the success of the Lutheran Reformation
is incalculable. Their vigilance protected Luther's doctrines against
the decrees of the Roman Catholic Church and of the Holy Roman Emperor
Their legacy not only includes a stalwart defense of Luther's Reformation
but their legacy is interwoven through the history that surrounds
us in Dresden and accompanies us to Lutherstadt Wittenberg.
The role of Saxony in the 16th century, aside from its religious
significance, advanced the economic development of the region, which
contributed to the rise of art and the advance of culture.
The geographical advantages enjoyed by the state of Sachsen increased
the fortunes of Leipzig, of course, and later the trickle down effect
The economic development of the 16th century made this region one
of the chief mining regions of Europe. The region produces silver,
copper, precious stones, tin, and salt and the manufacture of textiles.
THIRTY YEARS' WAR (1618-1648)
The Thirty Years' War was literally a series of wars to which
our attention now turns because they are important in the telling
of the story.
1. The Bohemian Period. (1618-20).
Emperor Rudolf II (1576-1612) wanted to restore the Roman Catholic
faith in Bohemia. His successor, Mathias 1612-19) continued Rudolf's
policies. These acts met with great opposition in Bohemia where
the population was heavily Protestant.
In 1618, the Bohemians rose in revolt and threw out the window two
representatives of the Emperor. After this act, the Bohemians called
up the Protestant Union to join them.
After the death of Matthias, Ferdinand II (1619-1637) became the
Emperor of Bohemia and move promptly to crush the protestant rebellion.
Meanwhile, the bohemians offered the crown to Frederick, Elector
of the Palatinate. He accepted the crown and was crowned King of
Bohemia on November 4, 1619. The army of the Catholic League, headed
by Maximilian of Bavaria and Tilly, attached and defeated the Bohemians
at the Battle of White Mountain on November 8, 1620.
Frederick, who had been crowned King of Bohemia on year and four
days before this defeat was compelled to abdicate the throne, forever
to be known as the Winter King.
Following the defeat of the Bohemian forces, Catholic armies overran
Bohemia. The estates of nobles who had revolted were confiscated,
and ordinary Protestant believers were gradually forced to return
to the Roman Catholic fold.
2. Palatine Period (1621-23).
Urged by his advisers, Emperor Ferdinand II (1619-1637) now carried
the war to the Palatinate. By 1623, the imperial army had completed
its conquest of the palatinate. Frederick went into exile, and his
successor was Maximiliam of Bavaria who became Elector in place
of the defeated and deposed Frederick.
3. The Danish Period (1625-29).
James I of England sought in vain for an ally to take up the case
of his son-in-law Frederick (the Winter King). At last, Christian
IV of Denmark espoused the Protestant cause
Two armies confronted him: the army of the Catholic league, commanded
by Tilly; and the imperial army, commanded by Allenstown.
The army of Allenstown supported itself by living off the country,
a practice soon followed by all armies in this war, and this practice
proved devastating to the ordinary people and emptied cities of
an urban population, in some cases, for three centuries. This practice
Christian was defeated and forced to take refuge in the Danish islands.
In 169, he signed the Peace of Lubeck in which he promised to not
meddle in German affairs, provided he got back his Danish territories.
The end of the Danish period marks the zenith of the fortunes of
the Catholic powers. In march 1629, Ferdinand published the Edict
of Restoration, by which the Protestants were deprived of all church
territories seized by them since the Peace of Augsburg (1555).
In 1630, the Diet held in Regensburg compelled the emperor to dismiss
4. The Swedish Period (1630-35).
The Protestants discovered a new champion when the Swedish king,
Gustavus Adolphus, entered the war. Wise in the art of diplomacy
and understanding the necessity of protecting one's diplomatic flanks,
Gustavus Adolphus came to an understanding with Cardinal Richelieu.
The Germans at first regarded the Swedes with coolness. But after
the sack of Magdelburg by Tilly in May 1631, they flocked to Gustavus's
support. Gustavus defeated Tilly's army repeatedly.
In the Battle of Lech, Tilly was killed. In 1632, Gustavus entered
Munich in triumph. Wallenstein was called out of retirement and
he engaged the Protestant armies at Lutzen on November 16, 1632.
Although the Protestant army won the battle, Gustavus Adophus was
killed on the field of battle. A cabal of officers who thought he
wad disloyal to the emperor murdered Wallenstein in Eger in February
The war dragged on under the direction of the Swedish Chancellor
but, at Prague, in 1635, a treaty was signed between the parties,
which withdrew the Edict of Restitution.
5. The French Period (1635-48).
The French, directed by Cardinal Richelieu, entered the war, hoping
to secure some advantage from the exhausted contestants. The French
armies, commanded by Conde and Turenne, achieved some notable victories.
In due course, Emperor Ferdinand III (1637-57) sued for peace. In
1644, it was agreed the French would confer with the Emperor at
Munster, and the Emperor and the Swedes should meet at Osnabruck
-- both towns in Westphalia.
The Peace and resultant Treaty of Westphalia (1648) ended the war.
Negotiations were in progress for four years before the treaties
were signed. The land terms of the Treaty of Westphalia are worth
Sweden received the western half of Pomerania and the Bishoprics
of Bremen and Verden (not to be confused with Verdun). Thus Sweden
gained control of the mouths of the Oder, Elbe, and Weser Rivers.
France was confirmed in its possession of the Bishoprics of Toul,
Metz, and Verdun, which had been acquired under Henry II in 1552.
France also received the Alsace but not the free city of Strasbourg
or Strasbourg). With respect to church property, whatever was in
Protestant hands on January 1, 1624, was to remain Protestant; whatever
was in Catholic hands on that date remained Catholic.
However, no concessions were made about Bohemia, which remained
in the emperor's hands but, of theological importance, Calvinism
was put on the same footing as Lutheranism. Unfortunately, the Palatinate
was restored in a mutilated condition.
The son of "the Winter King" was made its ruler and the
eighth elector. The dignity of the seventh elector, which formerly
been given to the ruler of the Palatinate, was transferred to the
Duke of Bavaria.
The princes of Germany were given a number of new sovereign rights,
thus reducing the authority of the emperor. Brandenburg received
eastern Pomerania and four bishoprics, enabling it to replace Saxony
as the dominant Germany State after Austria. Switzerland and the
Dutch Netherlands were formally declared sovereign and free states.
The sufferings of Germany defy description. Thousands of villages
were wiped out. Augsburg was reduced from 80,000 to 16,000 inhabitants.
Some areas had only one-third as many inhabitants as at the start
of the Thirty Year's War.
Many German cities did not regain their pre-1618 size until 1900.
That is how devastating and destructive the war had been and not
until 1800 did Germany become strong enough to make a contribution
The Treaty of Westphalia marks the final acceptance of the religious
division of Germany.
In returning to Saxony, now, one finds in 1635, Saxony concluded
the Peace of Prague with the German Emperor Fredinand II. This Peace
accord solved one problem of the Roman Catholics but Saxony suffered
much devastation by Protestant armies in the years to follow.
Thus, once the war ended in 1648, the rise of absolutism proved
irresistible and in spite of the impoverished land, the court developed
great luxury, which reached its height under Frederick Augustus
I or known as Augustus the Strong. He is responsible for building
the castle, which has become known in art history as the Zwinger.
Augustus the Strong, whose reign extended from 1694-1733, made Dresden
one of the most beautiful baroque cities on the continent, and its
beauty surrounds us today, though the original beauty was marred
by wars, especially the dark days of February 1945 and the close
of World War II.
Frederick Augustus, after joining the Roman Catholic Church in order
to become king of Poland in 1697, also changed his name to Augustus,
but this act created new problems for his kingdom.
In short order, Saxony forfeited leadership of the Protestant princes
of northern Germany, which threw their support to a rising of Brandenburg
Meanwhile, Polish ambitions forced Saxony, under Augustus, to side
with Austria, and the fortunes of Saxony suffered severely in the
mid-and late 18th century. The wars of Frederick of Prussia, whose
highest though unfulfilled ambition was the conquest of Saxony,
went unrealized, but the people of Saxony bore the brunt of the
DRESDEN - THE FLORENCE OF THE ELBE
In spite of the long historical chronicle that has been presented,
it is important to consider the 16th century as a time when Dresden
began to develop as a center for government, art, architecture,
culture, and crafts.
One measure of the cultural life of Dresden is that it became a
magnet to draw the dukes and duchesses of the realm to live there,
which, in turn, increased the cultural life, and importance of the
By the 17th century Dresden had a set of city laws to preserve the
architecture of the town and encouraged the building of new, city
parks and garden. The first newspaper began publication during the
time, and the rise of goldsmiths lead to the formation of craft
guilds that encouraged the work of the artisans.
But Dresden was not finished with these cultural contributions.
Dresden was becoming known as center for music. Organ building,
in keeping with the musical enthusiasm that seized the population,
flourished and spread the fame and fortune of Dresden.
The Roman Catholic faith, declared through the medium of the baroque
style, with its realism and dynamism, proved to be an effective
instrument. The baroque style could translates a religion - string
in its appeal an richly provided with incident and heroic characters
- into dramatic visual terms and do it with energy and panache.
A worshiper entering a sanctuary and gazing at the solemn pictures
surrounding the altars, the gilded, heavily ornamented and glittering
statues against the piers, and viewing the vision of heaven on the
ceiling was made to feel, emotionally and mentally, to feel and
sense the almost literal presence of God and the saints.
Though the name Dresden porcelain was introduced to Europe and is
frequently and instantaneously associated with the name of this
city, the production center for porcelain was in nearby Meissen.
Baroque and rococo architecture flowered under Augustus the Strong.
He encouraged the building of the Church of our Lady, a Roman Catholic
basilica, to honor his change of faith from Lutheran to Roman Catholic.
In the late 1880s and the early 1900s, Dresden grew into a large
city. Bridges across the Elbe, railroads connected the city to other
European cities and the port on the Elbe. Industry flourished, including
manufacturing, pharmaceutical, sewing machines, typewriters, cigarettes,
cameras and electrical materials of all kinds pushed the city to
growth and wealth.
Universities were founded and art institutes established and Dresden
was a city of promise with an impressive future.
In the 20th century, however, a darkening cloud was gathering. The
disastrous Great War or First World War and, in 1933, Adolph Hitler's
rise to power lay ahead.
Dresden became a Nazi center for the defamation of the arts, and
in 1938, the systematic persecution and holocaust of the Jewish
population began here with the infamous Kristallnacht, the night
when Jewish shop windows were broken and their stores burned, looted
The outset of World Was II found Dresden rather isolated and largely
protected from the devastating bombing raids of American and British
warplane until 1945.
Overnight between 13 and 15 February 1945, bombs rained death, destruction
and devastation on Dresden. At the urging of British Prime Minister
Winston Churchill, the Allied bombers destroyed much of the city,
including most of the original buildings. The raid was supposed
to demoralize the German population and, in some sense, be a payback
for the devastation of Coventry, United Kingdom.
The Allied raid on Dresden, however, achieved the opposite effect
of Churchill's intentions, because the Germans viewed the Allies
now were not engaged in total war and thus had every intention of
destroying not only Dresden, a truly magnificent city and a symbol
of German culture, but of the state itself.
What we see today is restorations of the originals but for the most
part much of the Alstadt lay in ruins after the raids.
Three months later, Russian soldiers entered the city and converted
the old central market into a rather drab, sterile, emotionally
dead, gray socialist architecture and the lackluster complex.
But in 1947, to their credit, the citizens of Dresden supported
the restoration of the Florence on the Elbe. What is around you
today is the result of that restoration.
GERMAN ART AND ARCHITECTURE
1. Carolingian (751-814) and Ottonian Period (912-1050).
German art and architecture have not had a clearly defined local
tradition but work with the ideas generated from other sources.
The origin of German art can be traced to the metalwork of migrating
Teutonic tribes of the 5th century. These early craftsmen fashioned
gold and bronze ornaments interlaced with zoomorphic and other designs.
However, the development of German art, architecture, sculpture,
and painting of the Carolingian period (751-814), through contacts
with the Roman world, enabled the Franks under Charlemanage (742-814)
to develop a new culture that was founded on and completed imbued
with imperial and Christian ideals.
The ideals of Charlemange and his new culture were pervasive, so
that works of art, until the 13th century, were chiefly created
in and for the royal courts, monasteries and bishoprics.
After the division of the Carolingian Empire, French and German
culture drifted apart and became separate and thus more and more
With the rise of the Ottonian dynasty of Saxony, however, the first
and one of the most brilliant epochs of a specific German art began.
The influence of Roman, Carolingian and Byzantine prototypes enabled
the artists of the Ottonian period (900-1050) to create works that
sternly but passionately expressed religious faith and fervor.
St. Michael's Church in Hildesheim (about 1000) is a choice representative
of this period. Here one discovers the traditional style associated
with the Ottonian period. Timber-roofed, rectangular basilica with
high nave and lower side aisles was developed into a monumental,
rhythmical system with additional vaulted apses, chancels, and transepts
at both east and west ends. No one know whether St. Bernward, the
bishop who built this church, invented this system or not, but what
is known, however, is this style inspired church design in central
Europe for the next two centuries. In some sense perhaps one may
say the Ottonian period may have formally closed about 1050, but
the style continued well past that time.
St. Bernward influenced sculpture during the Ottonian period, too.
Under his direction the most important bronzes of the age were for
St. Michael's: the Christ Column and a pair of doors more than 15
feet high, covered with marvelously vital Biblical scenes.
The Ottonian period was equally famous for the goldwork and ivory
carving produced in abbeys at Reichenau, Bamberg, Fulda, Mainz,
and Trier. It was during this time that an important new concept
entered into the sculpture of the period: the suffering Christ crucified.
It was superbly expressed in the large wooden cross Gero Cross in
Cologne (Koln) cathedral (970).
Painting during this period includes manuscript illumination, though
some murals were done, also. In some major works of the Ottonian
period, monastic scriptoria created a brilliantly colored, nearly
abstract imagery of intense spirituality.
2. Romanesque (ca. 1050-1250).
The major achievement in architecture during the Romanesque period
was development of a definitive style of the great cathedrals endowed
by the emperors, at Speyer, Mainz, Worms, and Bamberg.
Characterized by huge-scale vaults, dramatic towers, massive stone
barrel vaults, and imposing east and west facades, these structures
remain as awesome symbols of the close relationship between church
and state on which the Holy Roman Empire depended.
Yet it was during this period that cities supplanted monasteries
as centers of artistic production. It was also during this period
that distinctive regional styles emerged. The richly carved stone
architecture of Cologne (Koln) is exemplified in the Church of St.
Mary in the Capitol and the Church of the Apostles.
In northern Germany, a magnificent brick style evolved, as in the
cathedral in Lubeck. Backsteingotik (brick Gothic) became the characteristic
building mode for both the merchants of the Hanseatic League and
the crusading knights of the Teutonic Order.
In the realm of sculpture and painting, painting in all types from
murals to miniatures continued but failed to distinguish itself.
But in the realm of Romanesque sculpture, however, it distinguished
itself in the expression though the media of ivory carving, bronze
casting, gold work, enamel, and, on occasion, stone carving. In
Cologne about 1200, a display of figures of the Three Kings (Wisemen)
is acknowledged as an advance over anything found in monumental
3. Gothic period (1200-1500).
During the early Gothic period in Germany, German art felt the
influence of French Gothic and that of Italy. By 1400 the Germans
had created their own version of Gothic. This version of the Gothic
was exemplified in hall-churches (Halleenkirchen), with side aisles
as high as the nave and large carved altarpieces (Schnitzalttaere).
On the one hand, although imperial power waned during this period,
compared to the past, individual territories and especially the
free cities flourished as never before. Inspired by a more realistic
view of the newly powerful merchants, artists turned away from the
otherworldly visions of the Romanesque period.
On the other hand, the mysticism of the mendicant orders encouraged
an outburst of devotional art of extraordinary sensitivity.
In architecture, the massiveness of Romanesque design gradually
gave way to lighter and more open structures of Gothic architecture.
The most famous building of this early Gothic German is St. Elizabeth's
Church, Marburg that was begun in 1238.
For the most part, however, Germans were most creative with the
hall-church, developing it into a uniquely beautiful style, a style
that became pervasive in 15th century central Europe.
In these churches, with their vast, soaring light filled interiors
and their picturesque star-and-net vaults, held up by incredibly
tall and slender pillars, the German genius gave form to the most
exalted religious feelings of a new urban culture.
Earlier in the fourteenth century, sculpture in Germany became less
monumental and more intimate. Mysticism introduced new themes, such
as the Vesperbild (pieta), and encouraged personal styles suitable
for private devotion. It was during this time that a courtly mode,
a "soft style," a style that was famed for its graceful
It was during this time also, about 1500, that wooden altarpieces
began to be produced, and German sculpture reached its zenith, informing
a sturdy realism with a delicate Gothic spirituality.
With the advent of Gutenberg's printing press, woodcuts and engraving
techniques evolved in the 15th century to become yet another major
German art form. Martin Wolgemut's wood cuts and Martin Schongauer's
engraving prepared the way for the incomparable Albrecht Durer's
later epoch-making achievements. Not only was the energetic use
of line in these prints aesthetically effective and pleasing to
the eye and mind, but the prints answered the need of the pious
middle class for inexpensive devotional images.
4. Renaissance and Reformation (1500-1600).
The early decades of the German Renaissance achieved levels of
excellence not seen since the Ottonian and late Romanesque periods.
In spite of the religious and civil strife and foreign invasions
that convulsed the German states after 1530, great commercial cities
such as Nuremberg and Augsburg flourished. During these difficult
and trying time, also, the wealth and power of some German princes
actually increased and resulted in the building of numerous castles
In architecture, German architects flourished. Palaces and the Rathaus
(city hall) of many cities were structures that showed the influence
of Italian renaissance ideas. Many of the first buildings of this
period were adorned with classical orders or designed, in part,
according to Renaissance principles.
In addition to palaces and city halls, Augsburg was the developed
the first low-cost housing development in history - 250 houses and
a chapel endowed by the Fugger banking family.
Sculpture of this period includes work in bronze, gold, and silver.
These metals once again became important, because wealthy princes
and patrons wanted burial chapels to be adorned with great art.
In Augsburg, the design and art to adore and surround the burial
chapel for the Fuggers (begun in 1509) commissioned artists like
Durer to submit sketches for the chapel. Peter Vischer the Elder,
the best German bronze artisan of his time, created and cast a large,
bronze choir screen for the chapel.
Around 1500, painting in German experience and extraordinary bursts
of creativity and energy. It was during this period that paint in
German became the leading art from in central Europe and achieved
a level of excellence comparable to that of Italian painting.
It was during this time that German produced three of the world's
greatest painters: Durer, Hans Holbein the Younger, and Mathis (Mathias)
Durer, who mastered Renaissance form and theory, studied mathematics
and humanist literature, and wrote treatises on art, became for
the north a model of the "modern" scholar-artist. A tribute
to his genius is that Durer continues to draw scholarly interest
because he develops religious as well as non-religious scenes. The
religious and secular themes of his work transport the astute viewer
to a new level of appreciation not only of his genius but also of
his importance to the age in which he lived.
Holbein, like Durer, absorbed Renaissance concepts. His controlled
but penetrating realistic portraits gave him an international reputation.
Although his best know masterpiece is that of Henry VIII of England,
his characterizations of Erasmus and Sir Thomas More became classic
example of the Renaissance ideal of the gentleman and humanist.
Of immediate importance to our work on the Reformation, Holbein
illustrated the Luther Bible. But he did more than that. His woodcut
scenes of the Dance of Death and Alphabet of Death, the best known
versions of medieval themes, reveal the bitterness of an intense
religious and social conflict of the period.
Gruenwald's reputation was strictly provincial. His Isenheim altarpiece
(1513) typified, like no other work of the time, German emotions
about the agonized suffering of Christ and a nature filled with
supernatural forces. Though Gruenwald was well acquainted with Renaissance
ideas, he made them subservient to an expressionist vision based
on brutal realism, graphic distortion and otherworldly color effects.
Of the three artists - Durer, Holbein or Gruenwald - not one of
them was able to establish a stylistic tradition, but Grunewald's
conception of nature was echoed by the 16th century landscape painters
of the Danube school - Albrecht Alsdorfer and Wolf Huber.
Some painters of this period, such as Lucas Cranach the Elder, an
important figure in the expansion of Reformation theology and ideas,
made what one might call propaganda printers for Luther. Cranach
was one of several partisans actively involved in the Reformation.
To some degree, Protestant iconoclasm discouraged artistic expression,
subsuming it to the printed and spoken word, because no important
Protestant style emerged.
On the other hand, the taste of Catholic courts in Munich and Prague
(Praha) in the mid-16th century favored an aristocratic mannerism
that evaded the harsh realities of the time and did do by inventing
a luxurious world of refined sensuality and make-believe. At the
end of the century, the most important German painters were working
outside the country. Adam Elsheimer of Frankfort, for example, painted
the landscapes of Rome.
5. Baroque and Rococo (1600-1750).
The Thirty Years' War and its lingering effects arrested all artistic
developments in the first two thirds of the baroque-rococo period.
Not until 1700 did religious and secular princes, monasteries and
cities again begin to commission are on an ambitious scale. Numerous
foreign artists, mortal Italian and French were employed, but their
influence soon fused with German ideas to produce festive and sensuous
baroque-rococo style. This style possessed a larger-than-life aristocratic
grandeur; yet it exercised an immense popular appeal. Not since
the Middle Ages had German religious art experienced such a flowering.
In architecture, the period from 1600-1750 can be divided into two
phases. The first, a restrained and rather heavy form of the Italian
baroque, gives way to the second. The second phase, more exuberant
and at times closely related to the French baroque, because central
Europe's greatest architecture.
In almost every one of the more than 300 - yes, 300 - independent
German states of the period, new projects were begun or old projects
renovated. In the Catholic south, Italy provided the first models
and designers of such structures as the Salzburg Cathedral (begun
fin 1614) and the Munich Theatinerkirche (begun in 1663).
At the close of the 17th century, Austrians such as Johann Bernhard
Fischer Von Erlach and Johann Lukas Von Hildebrandt, both of who
studied in Italy, dominated the architecture of their day.
Fischer Von Erlach built Karilskirche in Vienna (Wien) which was
begun in 1716. He is also responsible for the Belvedere (begun in
1714), Wien's most splendid palace. The palace is lighthearted and
has rather clean lines, which one may call airy.
At Dresden, Matthaus Daniel Popplemann (1662-1736) set about building
churches of great splendor, including the Schloss Pillnitz and Schloss
Moritzburg and the Dreikonigskirche. Furthermore, his most famous
work is the Zwinger.
This famous building is a unique example of baroque architecture
and the most important example of baroque architecture in all of
Germany. It was built in 1709 simply as a wooden arena to be used
for parades, tournaments and other court pageants.
As Master Builder, a title of considerable prestige and importance,
Popplemann executed the pavilions and galleries in sandstone between
1710 and 1728. He worked closely with the famous sculptor Permoser.
In the Zwinger, architecture and sculpture merge in magnificent
harmony. It was not until 1847-1855 that another builder by the
name of Semper finished the project. He closed the northern side
of the quadrangle with the gallery building in a Neo Renaissance
style, which you may see if you walk about the courtyard on today's
In World War II the Zwinger was totally destroyed. In spite of their
own problems, the citizens of Dresden supported the reconstruction
program, so that 1964 restored the Zwinger to its former splendor.
The pavilions and gallery house many collections: The Old Masters'
Picture Collection with masterpieces of art from the Middle Ages
until the 19th century. There is a Porcelain Collection , the Historical
Museum and the Mathematical and Physical Science salon. In summer
concerts and performances take place in the courtyard.
From the Zwinger, attention shifts to secular designers who attempted
to coordinate all the arts, including planning of the gardens and
undertook city planning on a scale that truly advanced for the time.
In the Protestant north, baroque architecture was usually simpler
and more classical in design. Andreas Schuelter's magnificent Berlin
buildings made Prussia a leading architectural center. At the famous
Sans-Souci at Potsdam (begun 1745), designed by Frederick the Great
and his master build Georg Wenzeslaus Von Knobeldsdorff, the work
is fanciful and an example of French rococo. The gardens are spectacular
and demonstrate considerable imagination with their terraces, fountains,
sculpture, avenues, paths, walkways and splendidly conceived gates.
The palace itself reminds one of Wien's Belvedere.
Stucco decoration and abundance of statuary complete and compliment
the setting, which in the case of Sans-Souci is located on an elevated
hill that gives it a commanding profile above the city of Potsdam.
In terms of sculpture and painting, fresco painters, stucco workers,
and sculptors are to be credited for much of the brilliance of German
Porcelain. Germany was responsible for the European development
of a new medium for artistic expression - porcelain. Johann Joachim
Kaendler brought into being a whole rococo world made of Meissen
porcelain - 1,000 piece flowered table sets, animal groups such
as monkey orchestras, fanciful figurines and even religious scenes,
and some figures attained a height of 7 feet (2 meters).
The Random House Encyclopedia.
Dictionary of European History.
Kenneth Scott Latourette, A History of Christianity.
Encyclopedia Americana, appropriate volumes.
The Columbia-Viking Desk Encyclopedia.
The Catholic Encyclopedia.
Eerdman's Handbook to the History of Christianity.
Oxford Dictionary of Architecture.
J.M. Purvis, An Dictionary of Ecclesiastical Terms.
Erwin Panofsky, Gothic Architecture and Scholasticism.
The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, ed. by F.L. Cross,
Essay prepared by:
James A. Glasscock
1708 Morningside Drive
Garland, TX 75042-8352
Paper may be accessed at: www.longdrycreek.com