Medieval Berlin 4 - The Dance of Death, The Reformation and the Mariankirche
Three letters from Hans Holbein’s Dance of Death Alphabet
The Reformation started in 1517 when Martin Luther nailed his 95 Theses to the door of All Saints Church in Wittenburg . Soon Mariankirche was was converted from a Roman Catholic to a Protestant Church. Reformed Churches were stripped of “Excessive ornamentation” so the mural was covered with a layer of whitewash, and forgotten about until it was rediscovered during repair work in 1860. It had been painted directly on the Masonry so just a suggestion of what was originally there remained. A study was begun to document exactly what was there. An Art Historian, an Artist and an Alt-German text expert worked through the winter and published their results in 1861. Then an artist from Dussendorf offered to Restore it. The “Restoration” was not unpleasing but most experts felt a lot was the fabrication of the Artist. It was restored again in 1892/3. Finally all the “Restorations” were were removed in 1955 for the name of accuracy. At the most recent conference in 2011 on what do with it the consensus seemed to be to, “...not take comfort in a deception,” and to hold out for a “... readable representation”.
During the Plague years of 1348 to 1351
It is estimated that 40% to 60% of the population died and that it took 200 years for the population to grow back to where it had been in 1347. Subsequent outbreaks occurred until the 1800's and occasional cases even occur today. This year (2018) a 14 yr old boy in Idaho was diagnosed with it. Fortunately today Tetracycline is effective in treating it but Doctors still worry about an Antibiotic resistant strain developing-
The Plague brought about an abundance of death motifs in art and architecture. The fragility of life and the inevitability of death are basic to the message of the Gospels. However some Churches made art that specifically addressed the Plague. The Marian Kirche was one with what must have been spectacular at the time. It's a mural, probably painted by the Monks of the Cloister in the 1450s, called the Dance of Death. It is 22.5 meters long and 2 meters high. People from all parts of society including the Pope dance with a pale thin unclothed figure. over a text of old German.
Today, two of the things the Church is known for are the Wagner Organ of 1723, considered to be the most beautiful in all Berlin. Also notable is the Andreas Schlutter Pulpit from 1703. The church is the longest continuously operating Church in Berlin. During WWII most of the churches were damaged to the point they were no longer useable. The Marienkirche was also damaged but was still useable for Services. As well as Church Services, there are many concerts and special events from Organ concerts and Gregorian Chants to Russian Sound Art