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

Historical Pictures of the Ev.-Luth. Divine Service

A Documentation
by Helmut Schatz

English translation by Matthew Carver

Original PDF // Previous Installments // Donate to Pseudepigraphus


Ansbach district

Communion scene from a predella of an altar no longer extant.
18th century, parish church of Ohrenbach
Photograph: Mück, Uffenheim, Fig. 36

The scene, in the parish church of Ohrenbach, Ansbach district (there is a service area of the same name on route A7 between Rothenburg ob der Tauber and Uffenheim) is found below the galleries on the north side.

It is a remarkable scene—not as though it were of great merit artistically—but because it does not harmonize with the church-political situation of the period around 1817. It is a patent anachronism.

The image belongs to an altar of the 18th century, no longer extant, from which it was removed. The predella is a part of the altar serving as the base of the superaltar. Here Holy Communion was represented according to Luther’s conception. Most scenes of the Eucharist depict the institution of the Holy Supper with Jesus and the Apostles.
Our image from Ohrenbach features a depiction of Communion in the church in which it is located, according to the usual form in Lutheran churches of Franconia (e.g., the Lutheran parsons on baking molds as described in the chapter “Ansbach” fig. 3 and 4, {link} as well as on the representations of Lutheran parsons on epitaphs in Geslau, Ickelheim, St. James’s in Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Unternesselbach, Wendelstein, and on “confession paintings” as a commemoration of the Augsburg Confession, e.g.: Ansbach, Bad Winsheim, Kasendorf, Nuremberg-Mögeldorf, Schweinfurt, Weissenburg, etc.

Fig. 36. – Altar Image of the Ohrenbach Church near Rothenburg o.d.T.; Photograph: Müller–Mück, Uffenheim

The inscription on this painting: “J. P. Lang and B. Langin von Oberscheckenbach, 1817” indicates that this painting was rescued from a dismantled altar and was repurposed by the Lang family as a memorial plaque. However, I assume that those named also wished to convey a message to later generations. (If this chain of motivation is somewhat unrealistic for a peasant family, nevertheless the fact that this image was retained demonstrates a continued respect for the predella.) At any rate, by 1817, the clergy no longer wore surplices [Chorhemden] during the Distribution of Holy Communion.

The Margraviate of Brandenburg-Ansbach was sold by the last Margrave, C.W.F. Alexander, to the Prussians. The ruling house of the closely related Hohenzollern in Berlin–the new possessors of power–had in any case been Reformed (Calvinist) since 1613. There was no understanding in that house for Lutheran church usages (which led to protracted conflicts in Berlin, Brandenburg, and East Prussia). Already by the beginning of the 18th century, the “Soldier King,” Frederick William I (1713–1740) was fighting with Lutherans. Now the Margraviate of Brandenburg-Ansbach, a thoroughly Lutheran region, fell to the Prussians. The new “Calvinist” leadership under the barons of Hardenburg strictly enforced the removal of altars, candles, crucifixes (just think of the discussion on this subject in recent time!), confession thrones, and surplices—the “idols of the church,” as Enlighteners used to say.

In Ergersheim (near Bad Windsheim), for example, “on the 12th of June, 1798, surplices” had to be surrendered “to the Royal Prussian judiciary in Uffenheim.”

In Regelsbach (Roth district), the parson lodged a complaint in a bipartisan resolution of 1796 concerning the “Prussian Occupation,” which compelled him to hand over the surplice as well as the chasuble, the latter also in use until that time (see fig. 32). Source; Provincial church archive of Nuremberg. The chasuble from Regelsbach is kept in the Germanic National Museum. In 1806, Prussian Ansbach became Bavarian. In 1810, the surplice was banned, and in 1843 the Prussian robe [Talar] was introduced as official attire even in Bavaria.

Visitors to the church of Ohrenbach have a historic scene before their eyes. A comparable sight is also found in the church of Mistelbach near Bayreuth.


Piepkorn (op. cit.)