For more than 250 years, the famous original of mary magdalene from the munnerstadt parish church has no longer been in its original place. Today, the town’s parish church houses a copy – acknowledged as a masterpiece – by the sculptor lothar buhner from bad neustadt. The maria magdalena is a typical case of how the zeitgeist has influenced the view of the artistic work also in sacred art. The original figure has been in the possession of the bavarian national museum in munich since 1901. Efforts to bring the figure as well as the four evangelists from the dahlem museum in berlin back to the local church treasury and altar room have failed.
"I regret that we don’t have the original in the church", emphasizes city pastor P. Markus rice. The painful loss was all the more apparent to him since he shut down the "real" twitter account maria magdalena from munnerstadt in munich viewed in museum. It would have been nice if all the belt-cutting figures on the altar had been returned to their place of origin, finds the cleric.
Today, the people of munnerstadt know what treasure their ancestors once gave away. Unusual this is not. For every era had its fashions resp. Forms of expression, also in sacred art.
In the local parish archives, there is still the order document of the city council, with which tilman riemenschneider was commissioned on the 26th of june. June 1490, he was commissioned to carve an altar for the town’s parish church, explains parish archivist bernd eckert. The city rulers had given precise instructions. Magdalena should be in a "rawen gewant" being painted with seven angels. From the "raw" (arguably: raw, rough) gewant" tilman riemenschneider made a fur-like hair covering the whole body of the saint; face, chest, feet and knees are free of it. Whether the representation was a completely personal interpretation of the artist or whether he oriented himself at the so-called magdalenenfenster of the city parish church, will probably no longer be able to be clear. But P. Markus refers to the depiction of the magdalene in the stained glass window; there the body is covered with fur. And the stained glass window is about 50 years older than tilman riemenschneider’s artwork.
Mary magdalene was probably chosen as the church’s patron saint because the german order – which was based in munnerstadt at the time – particularly venerated the saint, explains bruno eckert, who has worked intensively on the local and church history of munnerstadt. In a time when people believed above all in a hard god, maria magdalena was an ideal image of how man, despite his faults, finds grace with god when, like maria magdalena, he renounces worldly things and turns completely to prayer.
At the consecration in 1492, neither the altar’s sprinkling nor the figures were painted in a brightly colored version. But the munnerstadter found this naturalness probably too discreet. Already in 1497 they love to recommend a painter from habfurt, who colored the altar and the figures.
In the middle of the 18th century. At the end of the seventeenth century, the gothic style had gone out of fashion, also in munnerstadt. The church received a baroque altar. Bruno eckert female that there is from this time a letter of the episcopal government, which requested the city to remove the magdalenenfigur from the altar. What happened to it afterwards lies in the darkness of history. In munnerstadt, there is no record of when the people of munnerstadt gave up this and other belt-cut figures from the dismantled altar. Neither P. Markus reis, nor bruno eckert know the reasons why their patron figure did not fit into the church anymore. Was it the morality of the times or was it simply the taste of the times that led to the disappearance of riemenschneider’s church patron saint?? Both assume, however, that the sculptor’s work simply did not fit in with the lavish baroque style any more. But it is also sometimes said that the women of the town did not like it that their husbands liked to go to church because of the sight of the saint in her hair, female P. Mark. But this belongs more to the realm of myths. This is not documented, according to the city priest.
Renaissance of the gothic
At that time, the artist tilman riemenschneider and his work were partially forgotten, explains bruno eckert. Only with the discovery of his gravestone around 1830 and with the beginning of the neo-gothic, the "steckelesgothic", as bruno eckert calls them in a french-joking way because of their pointed upward construction, the artist and his work were rediscovered and also systematically researched.
This is also the time when the magdalene figure from munnerstadt is mentioned again.In the first half of the 19th century. At the end of the 19th century, the art collector wilhelm sattler from schweinfurt bought the belt-cutting figure in an art dealer’s shop. 80 years she was part of the collection and during this time was washed away. In 1901, the bavarian national museum acquired the maria magdalena from the sattler family estate. Today it has a permanent place in the munich museum.
The rough figures of the riemenschneider altar that remained in munnerstadt were still colored until 1954. Traces of this version were probably still visible later, as P. Markus reis had once heard from a fellow confrere. The latter had told him how, as a grammar school pupil under the guidance of his art teacher P. Emeran hocht had cleaned the belt-cutting figures.
The people of munnerstadt have long been aware of their cultural heritage. From 1979, the altar was reconstructed, which, in addition to the eight original works by riemenschneider that remained on site, also includes the copy of maria magdalena, which has once again found its place in the center of the altar.
But the biblical figure of the saint has also undergone changes in the history of the church. For a long time considered mainly as a converted sundress, she has since found a clear expression in the catholic church. Her name day was upgraded to a church holiday. The saint today bears the name apostle of the apostles, explains P. Markus rice.