Unesco World Heritage Site

Maulbronn Monastery

Relief on the high altar at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatliche Schlösser und Gärten Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
SUFFERING ETCHED IN THEIR FACES

HIGH ALTER RELIEFS

The impressive reliefs carved out of oak have stood on the high altar's large sandstone slab since 1978. They are part of a larger altar which has been lost and illustrate the Passion of Christ: Jesus being nailed to the cross, the crucifixion and the lamentation.

Figures on the high altar at Maulbronn Monastery. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Traces of gold hint at the former splendor of the altar.

MASTERPIECES OF SOUTHERN GERMAN WOOD CARVING

The reliefs are remnants of a partially painted or even fully carved high altar dedicated at the monastery in 1394. The altar must have appeared even more precious in an earlier age, when the reliefs were painted and gilded down to the faces on the individual figures. Traces of the gilding are still visible. The excellent wood carving work is attributed to a southern German workshop that worked on projects for the famous sculptor family, Parler.

Jesus being nailed to the cross, high altar at Maulbronn monastery church. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
Detail on the lamentation, high altar at Maulbronn monastery church. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff
The lamentation, high altar at Maulbronn Monastery church. Image: Staatsanzeiger für Baden-Württemberg, Julia Haseloff

Skilled carvings of scenes from the Passion of Christ are both detailed and moving.

REALISTICALLY DEPICTED EMOTION

Realistically depicted emotions are typical in sculptures from the late 14th century. The figures' expressive gestures convey grief and pain, malice and scorn. For example, in the scene depicting Jesus being nailed to the cross, Herod looks apathetic, the women are shocked and the soldiers nailing Jesus to the cross seem to gloat—the action is portrayed in a vivid language. As part of the iconoclasm of the Reformation, the figures were damaged by blows and many are missing noses.

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