Naumburg Cathedral

Date: ca. 1250
Location or Findspot (Modern-Day Country): Germany
Description: Naumburg Cathedral was founded in the early eleventh century by Count Ekkehard and his wife, Uta. When the cathedral was rebuilt about 1230 as a longitudinal structure with apses at either end, Ekkehard and Uta were represented as life-size figures in the west choir. They were accompanied by ten other carved "founder" figures. These individualized aristocrats are elevated in a space normally reserved for saints and kings. They seem to supervise the liturgical celebrations in the western part of the cathedral that took place on their behalf.

The founder figures are separated from the main worship space by a monumental stone screen also erected around 1250 (the triple-arched east choir screen at Naumburg, ca. 1230, is one of the earliest such screens preserved in Europe). The screen usually supported a cross (in which case it is called a rood screen) or a sculpted Calvary group. At Naumburg, however, the Calvary figures were moved down near ground level, where viewers could more readily interact with the visibly suffering figure of Jesus. At the upper level of the screen are carved scenes of Christ's Passion, tilted downward for greater legibility. The Jewish figures, such as those in the second scene from the left, wear a distinctive hat. On the back of the west screen, stairs lead up to a platform from which the Gospels were read. The screen also served as a backdrop for liturgical processions.
Relevant Textbook Chapter(s): 8
Image Credits: Wikimedia Commons; Flickr; Navid Jamali

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