Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service: Ansbach

Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service

A Documentation
by Helmut Schatz

English translation by Matthew Carver

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The Ansbach city pastor and consistorial councilor Johann Wilhelm von der Lith (1678–1733) mentions in the aforementioned work, p. 282:

…how, upon entering the city parish, I found still more such things… and the messgewand [eucharistic garment]. Wherefore, although our Christian predecessors were not guilty of any papistical superstition, our church was entirely purified of these dispensable remnants some few years ago with the Christian, princely assent of our most blessed prince and lord.

The Ansbach city pastor in this quote refers to a consistorial allowance of July 27, 1714, in which it reads:

According as his Serene Highness, our most gracious territorial Prince and Lord, has issued a most gracious decree to the consistory, that in those places of the most worthy Principality where the eucharistic garments are still in use, such, being already fallen into disuse in the majority of evangelical churches in this land as in others, shall from henceforth no longer be put in use, and the churchly ceremonies being therefore ordered after the observance of the very princely residential city, a uniformity in these matters shall be kept throughout the territory; even as the prescription is issued at the deanship of Weimersheim (near Weißenburg i.B.), needfully to publish this very princely, most gracious decree through customary circulars to all the chapter parishes located therein, and to be zealous that these requirements may be met with full submissiveness in every locality. It is trusted that this shall be wholly accomplished. Signed Onolzbach, 27 July, 1714.

Address: To be delivered to the very princely Brandenburger Onolzbach. the Deanship of Weimersheim, Weimersheim praes W., August 13, 1714. (Citation, Dr. K. Schornbaum, loc. cit.)


Fig. 1, from the Catechism of 1760. Photo: Staatliche Bibliothek, Ansbach.

In any event, this prescription was valid only for the region of the Margraviate of Brandenburg-Ansbach (then still “Onolzbach”). In Nürnberg, liturgical garments were still being acquired, or rather donated, in 1782. While skimming through the Ansbach catechisms in the Staatliche Bibliothek, something caught my eye:

The “Catechismus: Das ist: Eine kurze Summa Christlicher Lehre, Wie die in der Kirche Frag-Weise am nützlichsten gehandelt werden kann. Aufs neue und aus sonderbaren Befehl gedruckt. Onolzbach, Gedruckt und verlegt durch Christoph Lorenz Messerer, Hof Buch- drucker, 1760” [Catechism, that is, a brief summary of Christian doctrine, how it can be conducted treated in the church in the form of questions; newly printed by special demand; Onolzbach, printed and set by Christoph Lorenz Messerer, court printer, 1760], shows an illustration in the explanation of the Holy Supper, the administration of Communion. The clergy hold out Chalice and Hosts and are dressed with a long, white undergarment, the alba [alb] (from which article of clothing the chorhemd [surplice] descended) and over it, messegewänder [eucharistic vestments, i.e., chasubles], even though these had not been permitted since 1714. Was there perhaps less obedience than expected?

Until 1798, evangelical pastors wore surplices even in Ansbach. Two baking molds from around 1760 (in the possession of Mrs. Elisabeth Mödlhammer, Ansbach) are testimony to this. In addition, a source by Gabriele Mortiz in Rothenburg ob der Tauber im neunzehnten Jahrhundert, p. 259:

A reliable sight for those visiting the divine service at the outset of the 19th century included the stiff Mühlsteinkrausen [millstone collars] and the white chorhemden [surplices] worn by some, mostly older clergy of both city and country. Such anachronistic relics of ancient church religiosity elicited from the progressive Ansbach consistorial council only sneering comments about the consciousness of tradition in the imperial city, and thus many a veteran churchman was forced to accustom himself to the simple black gown of the younger generation of pastors trained in the strict rationalist school (according to “Bay. Kons. Ansbach No. 26 / T. 1” [May 10, 1807], Landeskirchlichen Archiv Nürnberg. Also: Matthias Simon, “Vom Priesterrock zum Talar und Amtsrock in Bayer,” in Zeitschrift für Bayerische Kirchengeschichte 34 [1965, pp. 19–61]).

In any event, it was a long time until liturgical clothing received official church sanction. In the “Kirchlicher Amtsblatt der Evangelisch–Lutherischen Kirche Bayern” from August 8, 1996 (No. 17/1996) file 2021-2-4 signed “D. Glaser”: among others, no. 3, “A stola [stole] may also be worn with a black talar [gown],” or 4, “An alb and a stole corresponding to the time of the church year may be worn” and the deacons’ garments for the divine service: “When the deacons in Rummelsberg have been called to the proclamation of the Word and, as necessary, to the administration of the Holy Supper, and liturgical clothing is to be worn, the alb suggested by the brotherhood and a stole with the diaconal cross are employed.”

Excursus: An Ansbacher as pastor in Aha (Gunzenhausen) fig. 2.

Figure 2: Gunzenhausen – Aha, Kirche Hl. Kreuz, Pastor Willibald Knoll; Photo: Thormann, Dagmar

In the sacristy of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church of the Holy Cross in the Aha district of Gunzenhausen there is a painting, the artistic merit of which is somewhat indifferent, which was donated by the congregation in gratitude as a painted epitaph.

Willibald Knoll was pastor of that locality throughout the Thirty Years War (1618–1648), even when the congregation consisted only of nine souls. Willibald Knoll came from Ansbach, being born there on Oct. 15, 1589. His father worked in Ansbach as a city councilor and burgomeister.

The inscription on the painting reads: “Daniel, chapter 12: Teachers shall shine like the brightness of heaven, and those who point many to righteousness, like stars forever and ever”; and: “Anno 1666. Here stands the renowned Master Knoll of Ansbach, a minister of Jesus Christ, full of wisdom and understanding, before the congregation of Aha, which he shepherded fifty years in good times and ill. He adorned his office with diligence and honesty, with love and longsuffering, and with godliness. Then upon reaching eighty years of life he fell joyfully to sleep in the grace of God. W. S. H. F.”

Pastor Knoll wears a halskrause [ruff collar] and a white, lace-trimmed chorhemd [surplice]. Evangelical pastors— even in Franconia— were generally to be seen thus in their usual ministerial dress until about 1800, and in many locations until 1810. In 1714, the messgewänder (Kaseln) [eucharistic vestments (chasubles)] were suppressed in Ansbach by a decree of the margrave. Consistorial councilor von der Lith writes that these had still been present in his time. In the inventory of the city church of Gunzenhausen from 1737, six old messgewänder [eucharistic vestments] are still noted. In 1792, the margraviate of Brandenburg-Ansbach was sold with Bayreuth to Prussia. The new ruling house, however, was Reformed (Calvinist) and sought to implement, partly by force, the suppression of the chorhemd [surplice] in the new Lutheran territories (v. also “Ohrenbach”)

Source: Dagmar Thormann: Kirchenschätze aus Gunzenhausen und dem Fränksichen Seenland, Gunzenhausen 1997.

Excursus: Rothenburg ob der Tauber, St. Jacob’s.

On the occasion of a red and green altar covering being restored . . .” the church accounts from 1701 to 1796 were examined. In the process, it was learned that until 1769, it had been the practice at St. Jacob’s to continue to use the pre-Reformation array of paraments without alteration. While this suggests a definite appreciation of these liturgical hangings, it also serves to show the excellent quality of the velvet used here.

In the accounts, repeated disbursements for the repair of “Levitenrocks” (dalmatics?) or chasubles constantly appear, along with, e.g., payments in 1708 for the washing of “two albs under the chasuble” at the same time as the washing of the superintendent’s Sunday chorhemd. In the year 1710, black and gold brocade was purchased for the not-insignificant sum of 250 florins, from which a chasuble, a dalmatic, and an altar hanging were prepared. How closely they adhered to the traditional (i. e. medieval) forms when designing the new paraments is made clear when 3 florins, 30 kreuzer, are sent to a Lord Tafinger in Nürnberg for “2 lots [approx. 1.5 oz.] of bright gold thread for the tassels on the dalmatic” and a further 3 florins “to H. Hornungen in the same place, to gild the lionheads and buttons.” In addition, in Ansbach, an unnamed embroiderer of gold in particular received 45 florins “for a crucifix of gold and silver on the chasuble.” It is unclear whether the trimming of the dalmatic with lionheads in the year 1710 is to be ascribed more to the negation of the contemporaneous “Catholic parament style” or to the more or less conscious retention of locally handed-down forms.

(Also see “500 Jahre St. Jakob,” Rothenburg o.d.T., 1985, p. 32)

Not until the year 1769, at the request of the “Lord Mayor Oberpfleger,” were the “old” chasubles for the distribution of the Supper abolished. (Surplices then served as the surrogate for the traditional chasubles even though they were already in use before.) From this point in time, expenses appear for the repair of altar coverings only, no longer for the repair of chasubles. Thus, e.g., in 1775, the seamstress Kümmerlein received 12 kreuzer “for using a Levitenhemd to make a linen lining for the green velvet altar cloth, and washing it. At this time, this altar cloth must therefore already have been composed of green velvet.”

“The long use of pre-Reformation paraments in Rothenburg in no way represents an isolated case. Rather, it can be demonstrated that in the churches of the Augsburg Confession, albs, chasubles, and dalmatics, or the similarly employed white surplices, were never completely eliminated, and enjoyed great popularity until the beginning of the 19th century . . . As far as liturgical colors are concerned, in the 18th century accounts of St. Jacob’s, mention is made of red, green, black, and blue or blue-yellow and yellow paraments, as well as (probably as the most expensive piece) a gold-ornamented or brocaded chasuble (presumably that which was ordered in 1710). If one compares with the colors noted in 16th century inventories, hardly anything has changed. All the colors in use before the Reformation continue to be used into the 18th century. Concerning the use of color canons, only a little can be deduced from the accounts. Thus in the cemetery church, black paraments were used for obsequy services.”

“In 1762 in St. Jacob’s, a red chasuble is designated for Sunday use. Whether the green altar covering was only spread on the altar for celebrations of the divine service or served as the permanent covering of the altar cannot be determined here. No less unclear is the respective provision of altar hangings for different altars, which is apparent on the basis of the various sizes.”

The chasubles have been retained as altar vestments and exhibited in the Rothenburg Reichstadtmuseum.

From: Historische Textilien — Beiträge zu irher Erhaltung und Erforschung, ed. Sabine Martius and Sibylle Ruß. Here: Two late-medieval altar coverings from St. Jacob in Rothenburg o.d.T., p. 139ff. Germanisches Nationalmuseum Nürnberg 2002.


Johann Wilhelm von der Lith: Erläuterung der Reformations – Historie Schwabach 1733.

Karl Schornbaum: Monatschrift für Gottesdienst und kirchliche Kunst, 1926.

Fig. 3 and 4: Evangelical [Lutheran] pastors from the margraviate of Brandenburg-Ansbach in surplice. baking molds, ca. 1764, Ansbach. Photograph: H. Mödlhammer, Ansbach.

Fig. 3 and 4: Evangelical [Lutheran] pastors from the margraviate of Brandenburg-Ansbach in surplice. baking molds, ca. 1764, Ansbach. Photograph: H. Mödlhammer, Ansbach.


Fig. 5. “Ansbacher Intelligenz Zeitung vom 30. May 1798.” Public Library of Ansbach.

[Ansbach Ingelligenz-Zeitung vol. 22. Wed. May 30, 1798. Advancement. The Cand. Theol., Mr. John Christoph Ludwig Pflaum from Weissenburg, has been named noon-preacher and cathedral catechist. — For Publication. Frederick William, by the grace of God King of Prussia, etc., etc. We find Ourself moved by various compelling objections submitted to Our Ministry of Religion in Berlin, from henceforth (after the precedent of several territories of the Augsburg Confession) to abolish utterly the vesting of preachers with white surplices, which has hitherto been very needless in the various religious actions which are in use, and which continues to be reminiscent of the chasuble. For it is only burdensome to these [preachers], and unnecessarily depletes the church treasuries, which purchase them and provide for their cleaning. This We herewith do, moreover, in all good conscience, as We are able to assume safely that Our loyal subjects of this Principality are too well instructed to be able to take any offense at this change, which has no reference to Religion itself nor any close relation thereunto. Further, that custom, which has invaded in certain localities, whereby the candles which sit burning upon the altar during the celebration of Holy Supper for the appropriate remembrance of the Consecration thereof, are previously lighted and burn even during the sermon—We do regard as a superfluous extravagance, and desire that the same should hereafter be caused to burn only during the celebration of the Supper, and by no means from the very beginning of the divine service, nor at baptisms either, the more so because the latter abuses prove too costly for some poorer saints and limit the more suitable employment of their means. Wherefore you, the Deanship, are obliged not only to institute these two corrections in your parishes, but also to direct your Diocesans conformably to obey this Our supreme will, to the effect that those available surplices should be surrendered to the charge of the church treasurers. And you, the judiciary, are to see that they are properly delivered over to yourself, and are used for the good of the sacred in whatso manner you yourself shall deem fit. Howbeit as regards the lengthy priest’s gown, or so-called church-gown, it is left free to all clergymen to continue to make use of it or to exchange it for a cope {or cloak} [Mantel]; yet in those localities where several clergymen are employed, they are to see that there is agreement in this attire. Ansbach, 19 May 1798. Second Senate of the Royal-Prussian Government, as Consistory. Falkenhausen. To all Deaneries and Judiciaries of the Lower Principality.]



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  1. I found my surname Froelick and was doing some research into family history. Any information would be appreciated.

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