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

Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service

A Documentation
by Helmut Schatz

English translation by Matthew Carver

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Cultural History Museum of Görlitz
Epitaph of Abraham von Nostiz, 1572
Formerly from the church of Rengersdorf am Queis (Silesia)
Photo: Cultural History Museum, Fig. 13, 14 a, b, c, d
Photo: German Center for the Conservation of Crafts and Monuments. Johannesberg Priory, Fulda, reg. assoc. Mr. Schaaf, Fig. 15, a, b, c

“With its relatively unique iconography, the chief painting of a former epitaph-altar from the church of Rengersdorf-Tzschocha (Lauban community) produced by an anonymous master, is a prime example of evangelical art in Upper Lusatia. Created around 1572 on behalf of the Ecclesial Patron of Rengersdorf , Abraham von Nostiz, it represents a typical Lutheran pictorial confession [Merkbild] with multiple image planes and sophisticated details.

“Depicted is the distribution of Bread and Wine to the congregation, and above it, the Last Supper, Christ on the Mount of Olives, and the Resurrection—as images of salvation knowledge.” (Winzeler, op. cit.)

“Of the textiles of the ancient church, Martin Luther explicitly prohibited only the ‘hunger cloth’ [=Lenten veil] [Nevertheless, a hunger cloth or Lenten cloth from the period of 1470, measuring 56 square meters [over 600 square feet], has been preserved right in Zittau from Lutheran times and is on exhibit there in the the Holy-Cross church. Author’s note.] But the decision whether to continue using hangings in the new cultus was left to the respective church authorities. In Upper Lusatia, the fine eucharistic hangings for the celebration of Communion continued to be used, as vividly seen in Abraham von Nostiz’s epitaph-altar painted in 1572, in which two pastors with chasuble or talar [and white surplice. Author’s note.] distribute the Supper side by side. Since serving at multiple altars was ended by the Reformers, most of the old paraments were no longer in use, and were therefore sold or repurposed. Thus, for example, in 1596, Görlitz tailor Hans Arnold fashioned christening cloths [Taufdecken] from old chasubles.

“Nevertheless, a portion of the medieval treasury of paraments from St. Peter’s church in Görlitz has been preserved to this day. Until their donation to the city museum in 1903, there were five chasubles from the 15th and 16th centuries present in the sacristy. They had survived the church fire of 1691 unscathed and were still in use in the 18th century—then supplemented by a dalmatic and two handsome vespers-copes following medieval design. The black velvet chasuble depicted here, with pomegranate rosettes symbolically referring to God’s plentiful grace, shows (along with strong signs of wear) a characteristic post-Reformation procedure: the back piece was probably originally adorned with a cross with painted embellishments, as usual from the 14th century. Since the chasuble, by virtue of its subdued color, approximates the dress of an evangelical pastor, it likely enjoyed preferential treatment, primarily for celebrating memorials of the deceased. The “catholic” chasuble cross was replaced, probably because of damage, with a simple, nonpictorial cross of white silk, which would have been scarcely imaginable for the middle ages.” (Winzeler, op. cit.)

Fig. 13: Epitaph of Abraham von Nostiz; Görlitz, City Museum, Kaisertrutz; Photograph: Cultural History Museum of Görlitz

In Schweidnitz (Świdnica, Poland), the evangelicals obtained permission, as granted by the Peace of Westphalia in 1652, to build a “Peace Church dedicated to the Holy Trinity.” They furnished the half-timber structure worthily in the Baroque style. Three chasubles dating from the time of construction, which were used until 1802 (Piepkorn, op. cit.: “At Schweidnitz the rector and his two assistants wore chasubles for an anniversary service in the Friedenskirche in 1802.” Quoted from Worthmann, Geschichte der Friedenskirche Schweidnitz: 1902.) These chasubles are still preserved today in the sacristy (Fig. 15 a, b, c). Aust, op. cit., p. 58f: “The basic form of the Old-Lutheran Sunday service remained almost undisturbed throughout Silesia during the Enlightenment and up to the introduction of the provincial church agenda” (emphasized in the original typesetting). “It is frequently possible to verify the use of (colored) chasubles for solemnizing new congregations and church dedications around the middle of the 18th century.” Yet in his reform proposal in 1791, Engelmann, the senior pastor of Steinau, expressed opposition to retaining chasubles. Aust: “When the clergy appeared in chasubles for the Schweidnitz anniversary service in 1802, they were perfectly willing to adhere to traditional forms as long as these did not have the offense of connoting some ‘magical quality’ or impropriety.” This sheds an interesting ray of light. The Schweidnitz pastors Kunowski (pastor prim[atus]), Lehmann (senior), and Wollgast (deacon) were all friends of the new liturgical movement. We have also come to learn that the last-named was the author of a reform agenda [Versuch einer möglischst vollständigen Kirchenagende . . . 1811], with the second as his collaborator. Perhaps this way of proceeding, comparable to “a householder, who brings out of his treasure things new and old,” was not quite so bad, especially at an anniversary service.

“[This is] more recent evidence that we should not regard the Silesian Reformers as blind, fanatical destroyers of any time-honored tradition, wholly incapable of appreciating history. For chasubles are strenuously forced upon the clergy.”

Fig. 14 c. Fig. 14 d. Chasuble, black velvet, 18th c., from the SS. Peter & Paul church, Görlitz. Photographs: Cultural History Museum of Görlitz.

Fig. 14 a.; Figs. 14 a. & 14. b: Two copes [Pluviale], 18th c., from the SS. Peter & Paul church, Görlitz; Photograph: Cultural History Museum, Görlitz

Fig. 14 b.

Fig. 15 a, b, c: Evangelical Peace-Church of Schweidnitz (Śwednica, Poland); three chasubles from the time of the church’s construction in 1652: a) Floral brocade; b) Green velvet overlaid in brown; c) Red velvet trimmed with metal bobbin lacework. Photographs: Schaaf, Fulda (German Center for the Conservation of Crafts and Monuments, Priory of Johannesberg, Fulda, reg. assoc.)


Otto Aust, Die Agendenreform in der evangelischen Kirche Schlesiens während der Aufklärungszeit und ihr Einfluss auf die Gestaltung des kirchlichen Lebens: Inaugural-Dissertation. (Universität Breslau, 1910).

Arno Büchner, “Fragen und Anmerkungen zur Geschichte des evangelischen Gottesdienstes in Schlesien nach Einführung der Reformation,” in Jahrbuch für Schlesische Kirchengeschichte NF, vol. 63 (1984).

Jan Harasimowicz, Kunst als Glaubensbekenntnis — Beiträge zur Kunst und Kulturgeschichte der Reformationszeit (Baden-Baden: Koerner, 1996).

Marius Winzeler, Kunst und Architektur in der Oberlausitz 1526–1635 Ausstellungskatalog Habsburg und die Oberlausitz (Zittau: Oettel, 2002).

Arthur Carl Piepkorn. (op. cit., with black and white illustration) [Die liturgischen Gewänder in der Lutherischen Kirche seit 1555, illus. [in English: The Survival of the Historic Vestments in the Lutheran Church after 1555 (St. Louis: School for Graduate Studies, 1958)]

Fig. 15b.

Fig. 15 c.