Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service: Berlin (Wilmersdorf)

Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service

A Documentation
by Helmut Schatz

English translation by Matthew Carver

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Chapter 2: Berlin (Wilmersdorf)

(Previous installments)

Karl Ludwig Julius Rosenfelder, (1817–1881)
“Lesser Hochmeister Painting” Hochmeisterkirche
Photo: Reinhold George, fig. 6

For the album which Königsberg presented to King Frederick William IV and Queen Elisabeth on the occasion of the city’s 600th anniversary, Rosenfelder created two large watercolors: “Duke Albert of Prussia Receives for the First Time the Supper according the Protestant Rite, in Königsberg Cathedral, 1525. (ADB loc. cit.)

The watercolor is found in the Hochmeisterkirche, Berlin. It comes from the possessions of superintendent Reinhold George, pastor of the church “at Heilsbronn” (Berlin-Schöneberg, previously in Königsberg, Prussia). He received this painting from a member of the formerly-ruling royal house of Prussia. How this painting came into royal possession was as the result of the aforementioned dedicatory gift. This painting depicts the confessional change of the former Hochmeister [Grand Master] of the Teutonic Order. Compare the painting on the theme “change of confession” by C. Röhling in the Nikolaikirche, Spandau.  It is striking to note in the present painting how, externally, the divine service followed traditional forms. Yet that a Lutheran divine service is meant is manifestly clear: the chalice in the pastor’s hand stands as the central focus. On the altar of the Königsberg Cathedral—the church of the see of Sambia (the Gothic cathedra and throne of the Grand Master are seen on the left side of the painting)—above all is the flagon, a symbol of the evangelical-Lutheran divine service. The episcopal office was not abolished in this see. The Roman-Catholic bishop, Georg von Polenz (1478–1550), had been confirmed by Pope Leo X on March 23, 1519, in the days of the Teutonic Order, and was consecrated bishop by Bishop Hiob von Dobeneck of Pomesania (Marienwerder) in 1520. He introduced the Reformation into his diocese in 1525, the same year he married Catharina Truchseß von Wetzhausen. After she died from childbirth, he married Anna von Heideck. (On Georg von Polenz, see Allgemeine deutsche Biographie, vol. 26, p. 382, Leipzig, 1888). His episcopal office passed to Joachim Mörlein (1567), who was followed in turn by Tilemann Heßhusius from 1573 to 1587—incidentally, a refutation (among other things) of the belief that the episcopal office disappeared in the evangelical church because the Catholic incumbents were not ready to adopt the Reformation. In the neigboring see of Pomesania (in Marienwerder), circumstances were comparable.

Unusual to today’s evangelical eyes are the ministrants in red gown and surplice. In their hands they each hold something which has long since vanished from use: on the right, a “houseling tray” [vorhalteplatte] (a similar tray is held in the Germanic National Museum of Nürnberg and elsewhere) and on the left, a houseling cloth [vorhaltetuch]. A number of years ago in Marktbreit (Lower Franconia), Mrs. Gertrud Voll of Neuendettelsau discovered similar cloths from the 18th century. These cloths are known from literature. Karl May, among others, writes in his memoirs concerning the use of such cloths. In the Baroque period, a custom arose in East Prussia of setting up life-sized sculptures of angels to the left and right of the altar, in whose hands these cloths could be inserted: “that nothing of the holy food be lost.”  Retained in some places until World War II, these “Communion angels” are now only documented in photographs. The ministrant on the left holds a handbell (“cymbal”) in his hand—another tradition attested in some evangelical churches (in Schleswig-Holstein, Lübeck, Breslau, and Leipzig and other locations) which likewise fell victim to the iconoclasm of the Rationalists. In Breslau and Leipzig they were even named “transubstantiation bells”! In the Magdeburg Cathedral, the bell served to call forward the communicants.

The celebrants in our painting wear the dark gown [talar] and (white) surplices [chorhemden] over it. The historical accuracy of this might be called into question, since the use of the chasuble and alb was certainly still current at that time even in East Prussia. Andreas Zieger: loc. cit., 83ff: “Of liturgical garments, two are prescribed by the church orders [Sehling: Kirchenordnungen, loc. cit.] of the Duchy of Prussia (and Courland): the chasuble [messgewand] and the rochet [chorrock].” And Gebser writes in his “Geschichte der Domkirche” loc. cit. p. 357: “Two chasubles which at the behest of the congregation had not been out of use since the occurrence of the Union (after 1817). One, of red satin with gold and silver embroidery, in the corner of which was an embroidered lamb with genuine pearls, was a present made to the church by Ludwig Ginitzki in 1671. The other was from a donor by the name of Jacob.

In 1525, the Lutheran Reformation was introduced, and 159 years later, chasubles were still being donated. A more precise report in Gause, loc. cit.: “The ornaments and chasubles of the Schloßkirche [in Königsberg] were retained. Not until 1780 were they sold to the protected Jew, Levin Isaac, and a silver baptismal basin made from the proceeds.” (Record: Etats-Ministerium 72a).

The oldest portrayal of an evangelical Eucharist is found in the Gebetbüchlein der Herzogin Dorothea von Dänemark [Prayerbook of the Duchess Dorothy of Denmark] (Albert’s wife from Feb. 19, 1526) dating from 1530. This manuscript on parchment, bound in black satin and chased silver plates with clasps intact, 189 pages, was illuminated in the period 1533–1534 by Nikolaus Glockendon in Nürnberg (cit. in Iselin Gundermann, Untersuchungen zum Gebetbüchlein der Herzogin Dorothea. Bonn, 1966). It is still held in the Herzog August Library, Wolfenbüttel, (Signature:  HAB 12 Aug). This indubitably “evangelical” book, on the page with the “Aaronic Benediction,” depicts a priest in chasuble and alb, and a deacon in surplice [chorhemd]. See Fig. 80. [in PDF p. 126]

By this image the painter intended to show that, while the prince had changed his confession inasmuch as he received Communion under both kinds (the reception of the Chalice, of course, being not permitted to Roman-Catholics), he had not changed the church. Perhaps it requires a further clarification in our day: There is, according to the New Testament, only one church (“one Lord, one faith, one baptism”) and in this church Luther’s Reformation is at home. Lutheranism is church, catholic church. To make it clear: the catholic church is not the same as the Roman Catholic church. But this awareness has to some degree been lost in the Lutheran church. For the appraisal of the efforts of ecumenism at present, there is perhaps a somewhat different perspective here—a somewhat unfamiliar “way of seeing.”

Refer in the aforementioned exhibition catalog (“Albrecht v. Brandenburg-Ansbach u. d. . . . Kultur”) to item no. 11: “Herzog Albrecht in the cathedral, receives Communion under both kinds.” Painting from the 19th c. Origin obscure. A colored engraving with the same illustration was given by Kaiser Wilhelm II to his court preacher in Potsdam. “The object of the exhibition piece is not a painting but a photograph which is essentially identical to the picture as described.” Friendly notice from Dr. Gundermann from April 27, 2003.

On Rosenfelder: Fritz Gause (loc. cit., vol. II, p. 479, among others): “Plastic arts have their center in the art academy which Rosenfelder directed for thirty years. It was the heyday of historical painting, which Rosenfelder himself celebrated in several dramatically inspired paintings replete with figures.”

The exhibition catalog: Luther u. d. Reformation in Preußen, loc. cit., p. 39–40, no. 56, relates: “the (lost) original belonged to a series of thirteen watercolors which were painted by Academy artists for the 600th jubilee of the city of Königsberg. Rosenfelder participated in this collection by means of two contributions; the second watercolor depicted the royal coronation of 1701. The painting shows the altar of the Königsberg Cathedral before the restoration undertaken shortly after the turn of the century. In the front, the Supper is distributed under both kinds. To the right in the foreground, two choirboys hold a houseling tray, as was customary in Prussia for several hundred years, so that no drop of Wine would be spilled (cf. catalogue no. 233) while in the distribution of the Host (on the left side of the image) two choirboys hold a cloth so as to catch any fragments. The clergy wear a white surplice (Alb) [superpelliceum (alba)] over their gowns [talaren].

Original lost. Photo in possession of Superintendent George, ( + ) congregation Zum Heilsbronnen, Berlin.



Fig. 6: “Duke Albert of Prussia Receives for the First Time the Supper according to the Protestant Rite, in Königsberg Cathedral, 1525.” Watercolor by Karl Ludwig Julius Rosenfelder (1817–1881); The so-called “Lesser Hochmeister Painting”; Hochmeisterkirche, Berlin-Wilmersdorf; Photo: Reinhold George


Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie, vol. 29, p. 207ff. (Leipzig 1889).

Ulrich Thieme und Felix Becker: Allgemeines Lexikon der Bildenden Künste. vol. 29, p. 217,(Leipzig 1888—).

Hermann Becker.: Deutsche Maler (Leipzig, 1888).

Friedrich von Boetticher: Malerwerke des 19. Jahrhunderts II/ 1, 1898 2 vols. in 4 parts (Neudruck Leipzig, 1941).

Karl Gustav Heinrich Berner: Schlesische Landsleute (Leipzig, 1901).

Fritz Gause: Die Geschichte der Stadt Königsberg in Preußen, 3 vols., 2nd. enl. ed. (Köln, 1996).

August Rudolph Gebser: Geschichte der Domkirche zu Königsberg und des Bistums Samland, (Königsberg, 1835).

Käte Gläser: Das Bildnis im Berliner Biedermeier (Berlin, 1932).

Gerd Heinrich: Tausend Jahre Kirche in Berlin–Brandenburg (Berlin, 1999).

Walther Hubatsch: Albrecht von Brandenburg–Ansbach, Deutschordens–Hochmeister und Herzog in Preußen, 1490–1568 (Heidelberg, 1960).

idem: Geschichte der Evangelischen Kirche Ostpreußens, vol. 1 (Göttingen, 1968).

idem: Albrecht von Brandenburg–Ansbach und die Kultur seiner Zeit. Exhibition catalog, Rheinisches Landesmuseum Bonn. (Düsseldorf 1968).

idem and Iselin Gundermann: Luther und die Reformation im Herzogtum Preußen Ausstellungs-Katalog (Geheimes Staatsarchiv Preußischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin, 1983).

Georg Kaspar Nagler: Neues allgemeines Künstlerlexikon, Nachrichten von den Leben und Werken der Maler etc. vol. 13 (München, 1843).

Atanazy Raczynski: Geschichte der neueren deutschen Kunst, vol. 3 (1841), transl. from French by Friedrich Heinrich von Hagen (Berlin, 1836–).

Emil Sehling: Die evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des 16. Jahrhunderts. vol. 4: Das Herzogtum Preußen (Leipzig, 1911).

Julius Nicol Weisfert: Biographisch–litterarisches Lexikon für die Haupt und Residenzstadt Königsberg i. Ostpreußen. 2nd ed. (1898).

Verzeichnis der Werke lebender Künstler auf der LV. (55.) Ausstellung der königlichen Akademie der Künste zu Berlin (1881).

Andreas Zieger: Das religiöse und kirchliche Leben in Preußen und Kurland im Spiegel der evangelischen Kirchenordnungen des 16. Jahrhunderts. (Köln–Graz, 1967).