Sunday, 30 April 2017

The Cranachs - Father and Son Painting the Reformation (Germany)

Lucas Cranach the Elder was born around 1472 in Kronach. His artistic development was promoted very early and he learned the art of drawing from his father. Between 1502 and 1504 he lived in Vienna. In 1505 he was attached to the court of Elector Frederick the Wise, who gave him the winged snake as an emblem in 1508. In 1509 Cranach went to the Netherlands, where he painted Emperor Maximilian and the young Emperor Charles V.

500th birthday of Lucas Cranach the Elder (issued 18-05-1972)
The stamp shows a portrait by Albrecht Dürer.

During his first years in Wittenberg Cranach worked at the Castle, but in 1512 he moved his painter's workshop to the town. Also in 1512 he married Barbara Brengbier and together they had five children. Later he also owned an apothecary shop and a book shop and became a respected and influental person in the town. In 1519 he became a member of Wittenberg's town council for the first time. While living in Wittenberg he became friends with Martin Luther and Philipp Melanchthon. In the following years Lucas Cranach became the most important painter of the Reformation and one of the most famous painters of the German Renaissance. For example he provided woodcut illustrations for Luther's German translation of the Bible and painted various portraits of the reformers. In 1524 he met Albrecht Dürer in Nuremberg. He remained the court painter of John the Steadfast after Frederick's death in 1525 and of John Frederick I after John's death in 1532. Between 1537 and 1544 he was also multiple times mayor of Wittenberg. After John Frederick I's defeat in the Battle of Mühlberg in 1547 and his following imprisonment, Lucas Cranach followed him to Augsburg and later Innsbruck. In 1552 Lucas Cranach also followed John Frederick I to his new residence in Weimar, where he lived together with one of his daughters and where he also died in 1553.

Lucas Cranach the Elder bought two houses in Wittenberg. The Cranach-Hof at Markt 4 was bought by him in 1512. There he run his famous painter's workshop and print shop. It is also considered to be the birth house of Lucas Cranach the Younger. It seeks for the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Lucas Cranach the Younger was born in 1515 as second child of Lucas Cranach the Elder and Barbara Brengbier. Together with his older brother Hans he learned the art of drawing at their father's painter's workshop. In 1537 he assumed the workshop of his father and in 1544 he also got his houses in Wittenberg. Like his father he became a member of the town council and also worked as mayor. Lucas Cranach the Younger died in 1586. The style of his paintings can be so similar to those of his father that there have been some difficulties in attribution of their works.

500th birthday of Lucas Cranach the Younger (issued 01-10-2015)

Detail of the stamp

Begun by the father and finished by the son, the Reformation's Altar at the Town and Parish Church of St Mary's in Wittenberg is said to be one of the most important pieces of art of the Reformation. It arose in close cooperation between the artists and the reformers and was erected in 1547/48.

Over the last months I was able to buy various postcards and stamps of Lucas Cranach the Elder's paintings.

Adam and Eve from the
Herzog Anton Ulrich Museum in Braunschweig

Venus and Cupid from the Picture Gallery in Berlin

Venus with Cupid from the
Lower Saxony State Museum in Hanover

The Golden Age from the Alte Pinakothek in Munich

The Last Judgement (detail) from the Picture Gallery in Berlin

500th birthday of Lucas Cranach the Elder (issued 04-07-1972)
Portrait of Margaretha Luther, Luther's mother, from the Wartburg-Stiftung

A nymph at a Fountain from the Museum of Fine Arts in Leipzig
A Princess raped by St Chrysostomos from the Wartburg-Stiftung

Unfortunately I was not able to find so many cards about Lucas Cranach the Younger, in fact I only found one.

Caritas from the Kunsthalle Hamburg

Friday, 31 March 2017

Philip Melanchthon, the Praeceptor Germaniae (Germany)

Philip Melanchthon was a reformer and close friend of Martin Luther. He is said to have been the intellectual leader of the Lutheran Reformation and is known as Praeceptor Germaniae (Teacher of Germany), as he was an influential designer of educational systems.

Philip Schwartzerdt was born in Bretten on 16th February 1497 as oldest child of the superintendent of the princely armoury and the mayor's daughter. His grandfather organised an extensive education for the boy with teachings in Latin and frequent discussions with perambulating scholars. In 1508 his father and grandfather died in quick succession.

The Melanchthonhaus in Bretten was built on the site of his birth house.
It houses a museum

After their death Philip and one of his brothers moved to Pforzheim. Their he went to a prestigious Latin School and also started to learn Greek. The famous humanist and scholar Johann Reuchlin became his patron and also gave Philip the humanistic name Melanchthon, a Grecization of his name Schwartzerdt.

Left column second picture from the top: Johann Reuchlin Memorial
In October 1509 Philip Melanchthon moved to the University of Heidelberg. Due to his previous knowledge the studies were not a problem and in June 1511 he made his baccalaureus artium.

Afterwards he went to the University of Tübingen where he studied the quadrivium (arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy) and also devoted himself to Latin, Greek and Hebrew. In 1514 the magister degree was conferred to Melanchthon. In Tübingen he also worked for the first time as tutor and also released his first own publications. In 1518 he heard Martin Luther during the Heidelberg Disputation and decided to go to Wittenberg.

500 years University of Tübingen (issued 16-08-1977)

In 1518 Frederick the Wise donated a professorship for Greek language at the University of Wittenberg and after Johann Reuchlin refused, the honour was accorded to Philip Melanchthon. With his inaugural speech he impressed the audience which also included Martin Luther. Hereafter Melanchthon became a very popular professor and with the collaboration of Luther and Melanchthon the University of Wittenberg became one of the most important universities in Europe. He acquired the baccalaureus biblicus in 1519 and was afterwards allowed to deliver theological lectures. In 1520 Melanchthon was unwantedly married, but soon came to appreciate his new life. In 1530 he wrote the Confessio Augustana. Despite offers from other universities Melanchthon stayed in Wittenberg until his death and in 1536 Elector John Frederick I sponsored a house befitting the rank of the professor and his family. In 1560 Philip Melanchthon died in Wittenberg.

The Melanchthonhaus in Wittenberg houses a museum and
is on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Religious Art in Olomouc (Czech Republic)

The Diocese of Olomouc was first mentioned in 1063 and back then covered the area of whole Moravia. The monasteries in the diocese became centres of art, culture and education in the following centuries. In 1777 the diocese was elevated to an archdiocese. In Czechoslovakia the seat of the archbishop remained vacant, but in 1989 a new archbishop was consecrated.

The Archdiocesan Museum of Olomouc preserves and shows the works of art of the Olomouc Archdiocese. Its collection represent thousand years of Moravian culture and its picture collection is the second largest in the Czech Republic. It was also one of the first museums in the Czech Republic with a lecturing department. In 2015 the Olomouc Premyslid Castle and Archdiocesan Museum got the European Heritage Label.

Official European Heritage Label postcard

Monday, 20 March 2017

Christian Monasteries around the World (Austria, Egypt, France, Germany, Russia, Spain, Switzerland)

The Heiligenkreuz Abbey was founded in 1133 and is thus the second oldest continuously occupied Cistercian monastery in the World. Its medieval parts are of exceptional value in terms of architectural history, but it was later also enriched by Baroque additions to interiors and furniture. It currently seeks for the inclusion on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Saint Catherine's Monastery on Sinai was founded between 548 and 568 and is thus the oldest monastery of the Christianity being still in use. According to the legend God appears Moses as Burning Bush at the Mount Horeb near the monastery. Here got Moses also the Tablets of the Law. The area is sacred to Christians, Jews and Muslims. Because of its isolated location it is one of the few monasteries that was never destroyed. Since 2002 is the Saint Catherine Area an UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The Abbey of Cluny was founded in 910. It was free from the local authorities and was only subject to the pope. The abbey was the spiritual and administrative centre of one of the largest monastic networks in European history and had an important influence on the Christian world of Western Europe throughout the Middle Ages. During the French Revolution the abbey was mostly destroyed. In 2014 the Abbey of Cluny got the European Heritage Label.

The Mont-Saint-Michel is a Benedictine abbey on a small tidal islet. It is considered to be a Wonder of the West and is a popular tourist attraction. Since 1979 is the Mont-Saint-Michel with its Bay on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Abbey of Corvey was founded in 822. It was a Benedictine monastery and imperial abbey. In 1803 it was secularized. The Carolingian Westwork and the Civitas Corvey are since 2014 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Ettal Abbey is a Benedictine abbey and was founded in 1330. Today it is one of the largest Benedictine houses. It is also a popular tourist attraction.

The Abbey of Lorsch was during the Middle Ages one of the most important claustral centres of Central Europe. The Abbey and Altenmünster of Lorsch have been since 1991 an UNESCO World Heritage Site and the "Lorscher Arzneibuch" written in the Abbey is since 2013 a part of the Memory of the World Programme of the UNESCO.

The Gatehouse was built in 774 by Benedictine Monks and is thus regarded the oldest, still standing German building of the post-Roman time.

The Maulbronn Monastery was founded in 1147 by Cistercians. The main building were built between the 12th and 16th century. The Monastery's church was built in Transitional Gothic style and had an influence on the spread of Gothic architecture in northern and central Europe. Today is the Maulbronn Monastery Complex considered the most complete and best-preserved medieval monastic complex north of the Alps. Some parts of Hermann Hesse's novel Beneath the Wheel are set in the Maulbronn Monastery. Since 1993 is the Maulbronn Monastery Complex on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Reichenau is the largest island on the Lake Constance. In the 8th century a Benedictine monastery was founded on the island, which later had a big spiritual, intellectual and artistic influence in the Middle Ages. Since 2000 is the Monastic Island of Reichenau on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Riddagshausen Abbey was founded in 1145 by Cistercian monks and later became an imperial abbey. After the Reformation an abbey school was founded there. Today the abbey is known for its abbey church, the abbey garden, the Cistercian museum, its arboretum and its fish ponds.

Weltenburg Abbey is a Benedictine monastery on the Danube. It is said to be the oldest monastery in Bavaria.

The Ferapontov Monastery is a famous example of a Russian Orthodox monastic complex. Since 2000 is the Ensemble of the Ferapontov Monastery on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Poblet Monastery is one of the largest Cistercian monasteries in Spain and one of the best-preserved of the Occident. It was founded in 1150 on lands conquered from the Moors. Once it was the royal pantheon of the Kings of the Crown of Aragon. Since 1991 is the Poblet Monastery on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

The Abbey of Saint Gall was once one of the most important monasteries in Europe. It is known for its rich library. The Abbey of Saint Gall is since 1983 on the UNESCO World Heritage List.

Sunday, 19 March 2017

Olympics in Berlin and Munich (Germany)

The 1916 Summer Olympics were planned to be held in Berlin, as the city was selected as host city in 1912. Berlin was actually selected to relieve tensions in Europe, but due to the outbreak of World War I the games had to be cancelled. First the hosts continued their preparations, as no one thought that the war would last until 1916. But later they realised that the war would not be over then, so the 1916 Summer Olympics became the first cancelled Summer Olympics in history. Until now the games had to be cancelled in only two other years, in 1940 and 1944 due to World War II. 

Instead of hosting the 1916 Summer Olympics Berlin hosted the 1936 Summer Olympics. The games were the first to be televised and the radio broadcasts reached 41 countries. They were largely used to promote the Nazi government and their ideals of racial supremacy.

The Games of the XX Olympiad were held in August and September 1972 in Munich. During the games eleven participants from Israel and one German police officer were killed by terrorists. The Games are also known for being the first Olympic Games with a mascot.

Friday, 17 March 2017

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing and the Herzog August Library (Germany)

Gotthold Ephraim Lessing was a German writer, philosopher, dramatist, publicist and art critic. He was one of the most important persons of the Enlightenment era in Germany and had an important impact on German literature. His most important works include Nathan the Wise, Emilia Galotti and Minna of Barnhelm. He died in 1781 in Braunschweig.

Lessing stamp from the
series Great Germans (issued 28-06-1961)
 In 1770 Lessing became librarian at the Herzog August Library in Wolfenbüttel.

The Herzog August Library was founded by Duke Julius of Brunswick-Lüneburg in 1572. It houses a large collection of manuscripts of the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period and is one of the oldest libraries in the World which have never suffered loss to its collection. Today it is a major international research centre for Medieval and Early Modern culture. Some of the documents from its collection are part of the Memory of the World Programme of the UNESCO.

The Lessinghaus was built next to the library in 1733 as residence for court officials. In 1777 Gotthold Ephraim Lessing moved to the house. There he lived until his death in 1781 and wrote his play Nathan the Wise. Today it is owned by the Herzog August Library and houses a museum about Lessing's life and work.