Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Frankfurt Kaiserdom

Today being the feast of St Bartholomew my mind, being what it is, turns to thoughts about churches dedicated to him. One that comes into the mind's eye, although I have not visited it, is the Kaiserdom in Frankfurt - often referred to as a cathedral, although it has never been the seat of a bishop.

The Kaiserdom in Frankfurt

Image: www.capturedplan.com

As with several other apostles there have been many disputes as to which church holds their authentic relics, and the former papal enclave of Benevento has claimed to hold them for centuries. However Imperial veneration of St Bartholomew also manifested itself north of the Alps, where a chapel dedicated to him was erected in 1017 in the residence at Paderborn and adjacent to the cathedral.

Frankfurt has claimed to have his skin since 1238 - remember the predominant western tradition thatBatholomew was flayed. In 1239 construction began of the present church, dedicated to him and associated with the the imperial residence at Frankfurt am Main. Popularly known as the Kaiserdom ('Dom' in the sense of 'large, impressive church'), it was not completed until the early fifteenth century.

In its present form, including the pinnacles and spirelet on the tower, it is a result of a major restoration following a fire in 1867.


A detail of the upper stages of the tower

There is a multi-page site on the church here , and a brief history can be read here. There are floor plans of the church here and here.

The high altar has a fine Gothic retable from the second half of the fifteenthth century, which depicts the life of Christ, and was originally created for the Katharinenkirche in Salzwedel.
The splendid Maria Schlaf Altar, situated in the Lady Chapel, is the only altar which originally graced the Kaiserdom. It was created in 1434 and shows the dying Virgin Mary surrounded by the apostles. The choir stalls, from 1352, are also noteworthy.

Maria Schlaff Altar

The Maria Schlaff altar.


From the issue of the Golden Bull by the Emperor Charles IV in 1356 it was the site of the election of the Holy Roman Emperors, and in the Wahlkapelle (Election Chapel) the seven Electors (nine from the seventeenth century) gathered here to elect a new Emperor. 16 out of the total 23 German emperors were elected in this small vaulted room on the south side of the church.

Election Chapel

The Wahlkappelle.


The procedure was for the Archbishop of Mainz as senior Elector to be seated in the chapel, for the remaining electors to go in individually and state their choice to him before the Archbishop himself voted and announced the result. If he was present the successful candidate was then enthroned on the altar - that is, I assume, derived from the Offertory at Mass.


The Golden Bull of 1356.

Image: www.hotelpraguecity.com

From 1564 the Holy Roman Emperors were crowned in this church in Frankfurt, as were their heirs, the Kings of the Romans until the last coronation in 1792. In front of the choir a white modern altar, installed in 1994, marks the site where the newly elected Emperors were crowned. There is an article, with illustrations, about the Coronations in the same series as those on the Kaiserdom here.


The Coronation of Emperor Leopold I on August 1 1658.
Top left the proclamation, top right the coronation,
and below the procession to the banquest after the ceremony.

Image: germanhistorydocs.ghi-dc.org


The coronation of Joseph II as King of the Romans April 3 1764.
A painting by Martin II Mytens or Meytens in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna.



A detail from the painting of the coronation in 1764.

Image: english-habsburger.net


A medal commemorating the coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor Francis II in 1792 - the last such coronation.
Considering what had happened in France on July 14 just three years earlier this was perhaps not a very auspicious date.


The Holy Roman Emperor Francis II died as EmperorFrancis I of Austria in 1835. In his last years he was much loved by his grandson, the young Archduke Francis, born in 1830 and who became the Emperor Francis Joseph in 1848. In his last years he was photographed with his great great nephew Archduke Otto, who died earlier this year - a remarkable link across the centuries.

1 comment:

Sir Watkin said...

And of course S. Bartholomew's arm is at Canterbury Cathedral to this day.