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

Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service

A Documentation
by Helmut Schatz

English translation by Matthew Carver

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Assorted illustrations, photographs, and sources:
Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg, figs. 28–33.
Nuremberg Provincial Church Archive, fig. 34.
Nuremberg City Library / City Museum, figs. 26–27.

Selling the Evangelical Faith— Radical Rationalists in the Margins of the Church

“The contemporary Christianity propagated by official Lutheranism was apparently not modern enough for a number of clergymen. In the pulpit and in countless treatises, in private hymnals and self-published agendas shamelessly set before the eyes of the congregation in traditional gold bindings, such men presented religious and moral banalities of the worst sort. Under the pretext of realizing a new union of Christianity, Enlightenment, and human good, they introduced to the churches of Franconia a platitudinous Rationalism . . . Tinkering with liturgy and hymnody was only one facet of a broadly conceived transformation of church life generally at the close of the 18th century. At every turn, Enlightenment churchmen believed it necessary to maintain that things could no longer continue as they had hitherto. Outside Franconia, there was no end to ridiculing the antiquated piety of the jurisdiction Brandenburg-Nuremberg. When the author of the Allgemein Deutsche Bibliothek, Friedrich Nicolai (Berlin), visited Nuremberg in the early [seventeen] eighties, he published a rather critical report on the state of religion in Pegnitz. He decried the multitude of “Catholic” ceremonies, and mockingly observed that the preachers, during the sermon and Holy Supper, wore albs, chasubles, etc., might be permitted to go on, since it is essentially immaterial whether the one officiating the divine service be dressed in white, colored, or black garments; and while using candles in broad daylight is illogical, at least the taperer and clerk derive some advantage from it.”

“. . . Finally, much of what the proponents of a sensible form of divine worship have brought to congregations, the latter would have safely been able to forgo—the contemporary hymns, perhaps, the sentimentality of confirmation, the abolition of Apostles’ days, and the gloomy black vestments of the clergy.” (Roepke, op. cit.)

Discussions on the divine service in Nuremberg had taken place already in the early eighteenth century. Nuremberg clergy were ridiculed by various writings, sometimes appearing anonymously. It was alleged that they observed early masses, daily offices, Vespers, and the like only out of financial and selfish reasons. (On this refer expressly to H. v. Schubert, op. cit.) A literary defense was especially to be found in Carl Christian Hirsch, deacon of St. Laurence church, from about 1740. Accusations were made to him that the clergy observed the Supper and their “daily offices” while wearing chasubles, their liturgy bore Catholic vestiges, and Latin chants were regularly sung at choral services, and in some churches, after the sermon, they processed with the chalice to the altar with the utmost eucharistic solemnity when no Communion was administered, and finally, that the school choir was required to chant the canticle of Mary at daily Vespers. (Op. cit.) In his book, Herold provides a thorough description of the divine service orders.

Revealing also is the report by Geyer (op. cit.): “Anyone who visited a divine service in Nuremberg a century ago would be astonished by numerous supposed superfluities foreign to Protestant areas, inherited from historic Catholicism; namely, the use of chasubles, albs, and ruffs during Communion as well as addresses from the pulpit and other clerical functions. Not until November 11, 1810, was this old form of dress laid aside by all pastors. This was the last vestige of a whole, powerful tradition of Latin and half-Latin divine services, which together with the old institution of private confession gave church life in Nuremberg a strange, antiquated air. After attack by clergy and laity, one need only mention here the churchwarden Paul Karl von Welser, among others . . . in particular the deacon of St. James church, Johann Ferdinand Roth, author of a truly malicious writing, who was instantly recognized despite using a false name. He writes (note 5, op. cit.): ‘Description of religious life in the imperial city of Nuremberg, 1789 . . . Roth attacks the institution of confession (as a product of the Interim), daily offices, choral Matins, choral Vespers, early masses, chasubles, albs, church adornments, perpetually lighted lamps 1, candles during the divine service in broad daylight, and latin chant, as holdovers from the papacy.” To be sure, many “improvements” are noted, such as the elimination of baptismal exorcism (Dez 1783), early masses, ringing the bells in storms, and the Latin Magnificat before the Vespers sermon. Apparently, the council wished to support the improvement of religious life, and this led to two opposing factions in the citizenry that feuded with each other in writings and lampoons. He especially opposes the use of Dietrich’s Summaries, the historic prayers of the church (especially the Litany, the Agenda book [of Dietrich], the chanting of the Collect, Verba, and Lord’s Prayer, the 1,359 page-long standards manuals [Normalbücher], the Scripture summaries and Passion Harmony used for prayer offices, the city hymnal, and the equally “pitiful” territorial hymnal. With especial acerbity he criticizes the catechism manual as being “of extremely poor quality” and only promoting superstition. Concerning confession and the institution of the father confessor dominant in Nuremberg to this day, he asserts, “Long loathsome to me have the words father confessor, penitents, confession seat, and the confession fee—ranging from a groschen to a penny—been in the evangelical church. When, oh, when will it be possible to identify all these terms as obsolete? When will the old institution of confession, that complex of fanaticism, avarice, intrigue, and popish deceit, be banished from the evangelical church? Who does not know what mischief is perpetrated here and there by one party or another in the name of confessing? Who has not heard of religious instructors debasing themselves to recruit penitents, or to have them recruited through others, even as one recruits soldiers? And who does not notice the unfortunate consequences that this creates for the estate of religious instructors, indeed, for religion itself?” He advocates the complete elimination of the father confessor relationship. The “costly, patchwork chasubles of former days may certainly be disposed of.”

By decree of the council, private confessions and daily offices, choral services, etc., were eliminated in 1790. The consequence was a sharp decline in communicants. Waldau, the leader of this very movement, mourned the darkening of so many minds and hearts by the misunderstood Enlightenment. But the numbers, e.g., of St. James plainly show the effects of the Enlightenment. Communicants in 1632: 2,525; 1698: 8,207;2 in 1790: 2,601; 1800: 939; 1806: 577.”

Von Schubert suggests in summary (op. cit., p. 226): “The opposition (to worship life) extends into the early eighteenth century, when it was no longer Rationalism but Pietism that experienced its flowering. Once more invoking 1 Corinthians 14 and the necessity of edification in the sense of a vigorous promotion and intense cultivation of the inner life, the ‘Rigidists’ took up the old struggle of the Enthusiasts and Reformed against popish liturgy as the pinnacle of a gleaming but dead churchliness. In this point too Pietism (despite the aforesaid conservatism of Spener’s thought) laid the preliminary groundwork for Rationalism; both could continue to work side by side, and inherent in both was a disregard for historic tradition and aesthetic sense. Nuremberg’s order of divine service was old and beautiful, but it was neither stirring nor sensible. It did not thrill the soul, nor did it produce luminous ideas. It had seen its day.”

As already mentioned above, there were various factions in the council and the citizenry. The party supported chiefly by the clergy who wished “to abolish everything,” has been substantially represented. Therefore, some words must be given to the other side. Schleif (op. cit.) cites a document of the Clothmakers’ Trade (p. 252ff.):

January 25, 1798.


To the worthy Council: A fitting, voluntary Admonition with a submissively obedient Request; the four named Executors of our Conrad Horn’s generous endowments: concerning the vestments and sacred vessels in St. Laurence church.


Most well-born Sirs,


Gracious and most mighty Sirs,


Formerly you did endow to Conrad Horn, citizen and clothmaker here, a gentleman no less beneficent than wealthy, with many other generous endowments one very prestigious endowment, held in the neighboring St. Laurence church and consisting of the following items:


First, a dalmatic [Convertiten-Rock], very finely stitched with pearls.


Second, three chasubles embroidered with gold on which an image of Mary is stitched with pearls.


Third, two flagons and two patens of “pure, fine gold,” as the documents state, weighing 7 marks.


The four perpetual entrustees of the Clothmakers’ Trade, to whom the blessed Horn entrusted the execution of his complete Will and Testament of 1514, are also executors of this generous endowment and are duty bound in the name of the entire Clothmakers’ Trade to ensure its right maintenance.


In keen awareness of this duty we, the undersigned, being submissive to our oath as present jurors of the clothmakers’ trade and so as executors of the entirety of Conrad Horn’s ample endowments, have not remained indifferent to the rumors which have spread in this city, to wit, that the church’s precious articles and sacred vessels are to be consigned and publicly sold for the reduction of civic debts; but did, one year ago, by means of one of our party, make known to the most reputable Lord Imperial Mayor von Haller, his most well-born Majesty and Grace, this solemn intent, viz., that, while we would by no means fear that the precious articles in St. Laurence church belonging to Conrad Horn’s endowment would be counted among the civic property and as such be alienated with the other; nevertheless we would, in so unimaginable a case, avail ourselves of the best protection against such confusion of assets, and solemnly but with all due respect protest any step tending toward the dissipation of said endowment, being called to such action by our sworn duties. Hereupon receiving by oral communication a most pleasing assurance that no such step would be taken, we were supplied with a sense of peace commensurate with our hopes. But now that this rumor not only grows louder than before, but also the consignment of the church treasures of St. Sebald is even now commencing, we regard ourselves compelled to apply most devotedly to Your Most-Wellborn Majesties and Graces with the following plea:


The precious articles endowed by Conrad Horn in the Laurence church were not bequeathed to the church as an unconditional gift, to treat them as her full and complete possession according to the episcopal decree concerning the alienation of property; but the execution of the Horn endowment duly possesses the right of administration, and the Clothmakers’ Trade the use of said precious articles, as is plainly understood from the following, viz., the dalmatic has heretofore been worn by the Lord Schaffer [Archdeacon or Deacon] at the wedding of any member of the Clothmakers’ Trade who was married at a daytime office; and in former times, this costly garment was so highly valued that permission was sought to use it for weddings even of the patrician class.3


Likewise, the three chasubles always worn by the administering Lord Deacons when the Lord Councilman of the Clothmakers’ Trade attended the Holy Supper; outside of this occasion, they were used only on Second Easter Day at the usual solemn daytime office.


The clearest proof that the endowed precious articles do not comprise an unconditional property of the church, but that the execution of the Horn endowment has always had, and still has, charge over them, is further provided by the repairs made to the priestly vestments, which were paid from the endowment’s account. For example, in the year 1730, for the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the Augsburg Confession, the three chasubles were repaired, which repair required a withdrawal from the endowment’s fund of 94 Rhine guilders. Clearly every such repair would have been paid for by the church administration if they had been able to regard those precious articles as a wholly unconditional property.


The circumstances here adduced clearly testify that the sacred articles held in St. Laurence church are not the unconditional property thereof, but have always been used and held under the governance and participation of the executors. If said precious articles are not an unconditional property of the Laurence church tamquam universitatis [as of the whole], there is no doubt that for it or for the most highly respected position wielding jura episcopalia [episcopal rights and privileges] over them, no right of alienation over said precious articles can be obtained which would infringe on the rights of any third party, but that in the case that the intent of the endower actually ceases, and the use of these precious articles in the church is no longer permitted, a joint agreement would have to be reached. Now because the former situation of a conditional property is the actual case, we, the submissively undersigned, have therefore no reason to fear that Your widely praised love of justice and Your wisdom will take any step which would tend to any infringement of the privileges of the Horn endowment, and we have surely removed all danger from them by this present writing, in which we have endeavored to move the relationship of said Conrad Horn endowment closer to the most enlightened view thereof. There remains only for us, as few prestigious families have already done, to make the humble plea that You would graciously be pleased to issue to ourselves and our Trade the reassuring guarantee, by means of the most honorable Council’s report, that the vestments and sacred vessels in the St. Laurence church belonging to the Conrad Horn endowment are left free from all consignment, and no alterations will be made to them without the presence and consent of the executors of the endowment.


To each one of you who has expressly defended us until this time, and has now done so yet again, and whose intent it is solemnly to uphold all the rights of the endowment in the name of our entire Trade and in our own names as executors, we remain in due devotion,


Your submissive & obedient servants,
John Hieronymus Schölhamer, Frederick Hinin,
Frederick Otto Conrad August Erdle.

Fig. 26. Evangelical minister (presumably of St. Laurence) from the mid-18th century; photograph: Nuremberg State Archive

Schleif (op. cit.): “There is mention of three chasubles embroidered with gold and stitched with pearls. Their costs are estimated at an astounding sum of 1,500 Rhine guilders. The three chasubles with the image of Mary, St. Laurence, and St. Stephen, as well as a dalmatic and, according to the inventory of 1566, nine chasubles, remained in the custody of the Clothmakers until the tragic end of these precious vestments at the close of the eighteenth century.

“The special significance of the vestments for the Trade finds passionate expression in the sources of this period. The reports begin with the apprehension about the vestments on the part of the master draughtsman of the Clothmakers’ Trade in the fall of 1796, when they learned that the vestments and other treasures from Nuremberg churches were being alienated by the council in order to resolve city debts. The corresponding entry in the transaction records of the Trade runs: ‘From this rampant and not unfounded rumor, a concern has arisen in the Clothmaker’s Trade that, in the process, the dalmatic and three similarly precious chasubles belonging to the Conrad Horn endowment might possibly be regarded as state property and so alienated.

“First, the conciliar friend—the unofficial representative of the Trade in the Council, obtained an oral pledge that the garments would not be alienated. But when, at the close of 1797, the treasures from the Sebald church were brought under scrutiny, the Trade confronted the council on the basis of a written guarantee. Hereupon the council challenged the Trade to produce with in a week a sealed certificate as proof of their alleged claim. But before the document in question— a certificate from 1698— could be presented, the subdelegate requested the surrender of the vestments together with all unnecessary and superfluous municipal properties. In the written request, this action is justified in two ways. First, it is argued that the patricians and other noble families had already given up their claims to similar ecclesial goods in order to assist the city in its troubles. Second, a promise is made to return to the Trade the proceeds from the church treasuries, to be used for good purposes, at what time soever the state should be restored to greater means.” The Trade’s response has been provided above.

Nevertheless: “All its passionately presented arguments were of no avail, and the Trade was finally compelled to relinquish its claims. On March 28, 1798 the jurors of the Clothmakers’ Trade, as executors of the Horn endowment, wrote a letter to the Council in which they expressed both their resignation and their regret—not least with respect to their successors and posterity. As a final point, they therefore requested a promise to restore the proceeds in the event of an improvement in the finances of the city, that they may be used by the Clothmakers for pias causas, [good purposes]. Additionally, they added the claim for the replacement of the repair costs just mentioned. With painful detail, then, the report concludes: ‘In the following week, said chasubles were seized from the Laurence Church, brought to the council chamber, the pearls removed from them, and both the pearls and gold cloth sold to the highest bidders. The pearls on these vestments, large and small, weighed 70 lots and were sold for 50 guilders per lot. The proceeds of 2,835 guilders represents a huge sum. A carpenter around the year 1800 would have earned about 90 guilders a year. In 1806, the Trade’s chapel of St. Anne (next to St. Laurence Church) was demolished.” (Schleif, op. cit.., p. 122.)

Of the rich holdings of vestments, almost nothing is preserved from the main churches of the city. Leonie von Wilckens reports in Das Germ. Nat. Museum 1852–1977,” p. 804: “. . . as well as baroque vestments from St. Leonard, Nuremberg. They show that not only did old liturgical vestments remain in use in Protestant Franconia after the Reformation, but also that new ones were fashioned from colorful silks. To these belong the coat of arms of the Nuremberg patrician family, Fürer von Haimendorf, and the chasuble from the Regelsbach by Schwabach furnished in the year 1714, which was surrendered as a loan in 1895. Up to the eighteenth century, the inventories of the Nuremberg parish churches of St. Laurence and St. Sebald reveal a great number of complete vestments and individual articles from the late middle ages, which—like those endowed in the 17th and 18th centuries—were used by the clergy on specific Sundays and feasts according to their color. However, with few exceptions, they no longer appear in the inventories of the early 19th century.”

In 1782, a surplice, still extant, was endowed to St. Leonard Church. Nuremberg had its university in Altdorf from 1750 to 1809.

Klaus Leder (op. cit.) reports concerning “2. The homiletical seminary. As already briefly sketched, the professors at Altdorf, at Spener’s instigation, joined forced and in 1691, with the assistance of the Nuremberg curators, added to the catechism school a homiletics seminary, which had its permanent base in the hamlet of Penzenhofen (Winkelhaid district) 45 minutes from Altdorf. The small, extremely dilapidated church was renovated at the request of the Altdorf theologians. A new “set of church vestment and priestly habit” was purchased for the students, and an endowment of Veit Dietrich’s agenda was made, which had already experienced a further edition that same year. The candles were mostly donated . . . The Halle theologian, J. A. Nösselt, who would later achieve great fame, came to Altdorf in 1755 after a four-year study, and ascended for the first time the pulpit in Penzenhofen. His biographer Niemeyer reports of this: “Already in the first weeks of his sojourn there he delivered his first sermon in the country. He often recalled with pleasure this first visit, although the white chasuble, the big, round ruff, and the special conveyance on a sled furnished with a wool sack in the bitterest cold, as he often recounted humorously, almost completely spoiled preaching for him. (Klaus Leder, op. cit.)

For fig. 26, I found a note in the Beschreibung einer Reise durch Deutschland und die Schweiz im Jahre 1781, vols. 1 & 2, (Berlin: Friedrich Nicolai, 1781; reprint: Hildesheim, 1994), p. 35: “The church wardrobe of a Nuremberg preacher is manifold. In addition to his usual black robe, he has a long rochet [Priesterrock,] without sleeves, which reaches to his feet and is buttoned from top to bottom. Besides this, there is a short, white surplice [Chorrock] with many pleats, which reaches halfway down the body; in addition, for solemn occasions, there is also a colored chasuble; and besides all this, a large, broad, Spanish ruff. This combination is in all ways awkward. The Catholic vestments are not suitable for Protestant preachers; and the ruff, which for our ancestors was properly a secular article of clothing, does not fit with the Catholic religious attire. On the other hand, in his everyday life, a Nuremberg preacher wears a simple black or gray robe [Rock] with no distinguishing mark.”

Literature: (selection)

Eisen, Ludwig, “Die Besetzung der Nürnbergischen Pfarrei St. Leonhard-Gostenhof,” in Beiträge zur bayerischen Kirchengeschichte, vol. XXIV (Erlangen: Fr. Junge, 1923), p. 10ff.

Geyer, J. A., “Das kirchliche Leben in Nürnberg vor und nach dem Übergang der Reichsstadt an Bayern,” in Beiträge zur bay. Kircheng.,” vols. XI (Erlangen: Fr. Junge, 1905).

Herold, Max, Alt-Nürnberg in seinen Gottesdiensten. Ein Beitrag zur Geschichte der Sitte und des Kultus (Gütersloh [et al.], 1890).

“Inventarium und Beschreibung aller Ornamenten, Messgewandter, Teppichen und anderer Kirchenzier . . . in St. Sebalds Pfarrkirchen allhier befindlich, aufgerichtet Anno 1689.” Nuremberg Church Archive. United Church Concern of the city of Nuremberg, no. 532.

Klaus, Bernhard, Veit Dietrich: Leben und Werk (Nuremberg: Verein für bay. Kircheng., 1958).

Kubach-Reutter, Ursula, Im Anfang war das Wort: Nürnberg und der Protestantismus, exhibition catalogue (Nuremberg: Museen der Stadt Nürnberg, 1996).

Leder, Klaus [=Pfeiffer, Gerhard] Nürnberg. Geschichte einer europäischen Stadt (Nürnberg: Verein für bay. Kircheng., 1968; Munich: Beck, 1971), p. 329 ff.

Leder, Klaus, Universität Altdorf: zur Theologie der Aufklärung in Franken. Die theologische Fakultät in Altdorf 1750–1809 (Nuremberg: Spindler, 1965).

Lehner, Julia, “Die Mode im alten Nürnberg . . .”; Nürnberger Werkstücke zur Stadt- und Landesgeschichte. Schriftenreihe des Stadtarchivs Nürnberg 36 (Nuremberg, 1984).

von Murr, Christoph Gottlieb, Beschreibung der vornehmsten Merkwürdigkeiten in des H. R. Reiches freyen Stadt (Nuremberg: J. E. Zeh, 1778). [LINK]

Pilz, Kurt, Die Egidienkirche in Nürnberg. Ihre Geschichte und ihre Kunstwerke, essay from Kirchengeschichte Bayern, vol. 4 (Nuremberg: Verein für bayerische Kirchengeschichte, 1972).

“Reformation in Nürnberg— Umbruch und Bewahrung.” Exhibition of the Germanic National Museum for the 18th German Evangelical Church Assembly, Nürnberg, Dec. 6– Feb. 09, 1979 (Nuremberg: Verlag Medien u. Kultur, 1979).

Roepke, Claus Jürgen, Die Protestanten in Bayern (Munich, 1972).

Schatz, Helmut, “Als Nürnberg die Reformation einführt: Tafelgemälde in der Roßtaler St Lorenzkirche [Laurentius Kirche] von 1524,” in the Nürnberger Zeitung, Aug. 20, 2000. [IMG LINK]

Schleif, Corine, Donatio et Memoria: Stifter, Stiftungen und Motivationen an Beispielen aus der Lorenzkirche in Nürnberg (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 1990).

von Schubert, H., “Der Streit um die Lauterkeit der Nürnbergischen Ceremonien in der Mitte des 18. Jahrhunderts,” in Beiträge zur bayer. Kircheng., vol. IV (Erlangen, 1897).

Stroedel, Wolfgang, “Die Grundzüge der preußischen Religionspolitik in Ansbach-Bayreuth, 1791–1806,” dissertation, in Zeitschrift für bayerische Kirchengeschichte, vol. IX (Nuremberg: Verein für bay. Kircheng., 1936).

von Wilckens, Leonie, “Textilien und Kostüme,” in Das Germanische Nationalmuseum Nürnberg 1852–1977, p. 804, “Paramente” (Nuremberg [et al.], Deutsche Kunstverlag, 1978).

von Wilckens, Leonie, “Die textilen Schätze der St. Lorenzkirche,” in 500 Jahre Hallenchor St. Lorenz zu Nürnberg (Nuremberg, 1977).

Wölfel, Dieter, Nürnberger Gesangbuchgeschichte 1524–1791, vol. 5 of Nürnberger Werkstücke zur Stadt- und Landgeschichte (1971).

Fig. 27: House wedding from the “Rieter-Buch,” 1570; photograph: Nuremberg City Archive

Fig. 28. “Chasuble from Protestant liturgical use.” Black velvet with border and appliqué embroidery. Alliance coat of arms: “Gottlieb Tucher and wife, Jacobina Hardesheim, married 1687.” Endowed in 1714 for the burial mass in the church of Engelthal (Middle Franconia); inventory volume: Kirchenegerät 1130; photograph: Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg

Fig. 29. Chasuble from the Nuremberg parish of St. Leonard; inventory volume: Kirchengerät 500: Chasuble of green damask silk with floral pattern, lined with olive-colored waxed linen canvas, sewn together with a 2.6 cm-wide gold edging, which also attached to the front panel in the form of a cross. On the back panel is sewn a cross of 4.3 cm-wide gold edging, at the bottom of which is occupied by a crowned shield with monogram of initials JSW. Underneath is the year 1770. Photograph: Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg

Fig. 30: Chasuble from Nuremberg parish of St. Leonard, 1737; inventory volume: Kirchengerät 499; photograph: Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg

Fig. 31: Chasuble from the Nuremberg parish of St. Leonard, dated 1661; inventory volume: Kirchengerät 518; photograph: Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg

Fig. 32: Chasuble from Regelsbach (Roth circuit) from the year 1714; inventory volume: Kirchengerät 741; photograph: Germanic National Museum, Nuremberg

Fig. 33: “Celebration of the Holy Supper”; Woodcut by Christoph Stimmer, from: Kinder Postilla über die Sonntags und der fürnembsten Evangelia, durch das gantze Jar. Gestellet durch M. Vitum Dieterich, Prediger zu Nürnberg. Jetzund wider von newem gedruckt zu Nürnberg, durch Katharina Gerlachin, und Johannes vom Berg Erben. MDLXXVII.

(also see Figs. 77 & 78 below)

Photograph from: Klaus, Bernhard: Veit Dietrich: Leben und Werk (Nuremberg, 1958)

Further illustrations relating to Nuremberg: No. 71, 72, 73, 74, 75, 77, and 78


  1. Still the case at St. Sebald. —Author
  2. Footnote: Not a typo, but the culmination of a steady recovery after the Thirty Years War. —MC.
  3. Footnote: Could this be referring to the minister’s cope depicted in the “Rieter Buch” 1570, fig. 27? —Author.