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.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

St Otto of Bamberg

One of the pleasures of belonging to the Medieval Religion discussion group, which recently celebrated its twenty fifth anniversary has been the contributions by several members who have undertaken to post a series of Saint of the Day pieces. I have in the past copied and reposted some of these on this blog. Unfortunately in recent years the custom fell into abeyance, but happily the last compiler, John Dillon from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, has re-started posting.
Today he produced the following about St Otto of Bamberg (d.1139, canonised fifty years later) which I thought I would copy and share. Not only does it celebrate a great bishop, the apostle of Pomerania, and a patron of the arts, but also provides links to some fine examples of medieval German ecclesiastical sculpture and painting.

An influential Imperial servant, Otto (d. 1139) was named bishop of Bamberg by Henry IV in 1102.  Previously he had directed the building works of the cathedral of Speyer, the burial church of the Salian emperors (the vaulting of the central aisle, the dwarf gallery, and the four tall towers at the east and west ends are attributed to him); just prior to his investiture he had been Henry's chancellor. In 1106 Otto was consecrated bishop by Paschal II at Anagni. He rebuilt Bamberg's cathedral (it had been badly damaged by a late eleventh-century fire), founded numerous monasteries, negotiated successfully between Henry V and the papacy in a series of missions and meetings leading up to the Concordat of Worms (1122), acted decisively to avoid famine in his diocese after a crop loss in 1125, and led evangelizing missions in Pomerania in 1124/25 and 1128 (whence he is known as the apostle of Pomerania).

Otto is buried in Bamberg's abbey church of St. Michael. He has a closely posthumous Vita by a monk of Prüfening, one of his foundations, (BHL 6394) and two Vitae written in the next generation by monks of St. Michael's in Bamberg, Ebo (BHL 6395) and Herbord (BHL 6397). In addition to detailing his missionary work these emphasize the personal asceticism of this rich and powerful bishop and ascribe various miracles to him. Otto was canonized in 1189. Today is his _dies natalis_ and his day of commemoration in the "new" RM (prior to 2001 the RM commemorated him on 2. July). In the diocese of Szczecin-Kamień he is celebrated on 1. October.

Otto's fourteenth-century tomb (1335/1340) in Bamberg's St. Michaelskirche:
A distance view of the 1335/1340 tomb:
Another, showing how flattened is Otto's presentation there:
Otto as sculpted on the cover of this tomb:
Detail view (headshot):

Earlier tomb's cover (1288) mounted upright on a wall in Bamberg's St. Michaelskirche (photo from 2011):
another view:

An illustrated history of Otto's tombs:

Otto as depicted in an earlier twelfth-century fresco (1130) in the Klosterkirche St. Georg in Regensburg-Prüfening:
Context (Otto at bottom center):

Otto as sculpted in a 14th-century statue (prob. 1346) now in the Muzeum Narodowe w Szczecinie (p. 58 here):
modern copy (1934) mounted on the belltower of the ducal castle in Szczecin:

Otto (at left) as depicted in the fifteenth-century dedication portrait in the Münster in Heilsbronn:

St Otto of Bamberg Pray for us

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