Albrecht Classen

title.none: Jezler, Himmel, Hoelle, Fegefeuer

identifier.other: baj9928.9505.014 95.05.14

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 1995

identifier.citation: Jezler, Peter, ed. Himmel, Hoelle, Fegefeuer. Das Jenseits im Mittelalter. An Exhibition of the Schweizer Landesmuseum. Munich: Fink, 1994. Pp. 449; multiple illustrations. DM 98. ISBN: ISBN 3-7705-2964-2.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: Bryn Mawr Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 95.05.14

Jezler, Peter, ed. Himmel, Hoelle, Fegefeuer. Das Jenseits im Mittelalter. An Exhibition of the Schweizer Landesmuseum. Munich: Fink, 1994. Pp. 449; multiple illustrations. DM 98. ISBN: ISBN 3-7705-2964-2.

Reviewed by:

Albrecht Classen
University of Arizona

Exhibition catalogues have become a major scholarly enterprise in Europe for the last twenty years. The catalogue for the exhibition Die Zeit der Staufer (The Time of the Hohenstaufens), published in 1977, was one of many subsequent monumental enterprises to which a host of medieval scholars from many different disciplines, then museum curators, and other scholars contributed. Since then a large number of similar exhibition catalogues have appeared, highlighting specific historical events, families, individuals, buildings, and concepts. As a norm, these catalogues contain an astounding wealth of factual information, new critical investigations, and first-rate illustrations. The same observation applies to the catalogue to the exhibition on "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory" in the Swiss State Museum in Zurich which obviously took place in 1994 (dates are not given). The majority of exhibition objects came from the Schweizer Landesmuseum (Swiss State Museum), the Schnuetgen-Museum and the Wallraf-Richartz-Museum in Cologne. The catalogue is divided in two parts, the first composed of articles on specific aspects related to the three themes "Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory," the second composed of the actual catalogue itself with photographs and illustrations of the wide range of objects reflecting these themes as seen in the Middle Ages. These illustrations are accompanied by detailed descriptions very often of the length of up to one whole page. Bibliographic references accompany each entry. The exhibition, as reflected in this catalogue, was divided into the following sections: Heathens and early Christians; memento mori; concepts of the afterlife and preparation for it; death and burial; the preliminary divine trial system coming immediately after the death; purgatory; end of times; day of judgment; Hell; and Heaven. Each of these sections is divided into several subcategories. For instance, in "death and burial" we find the aspects of the danse macabre; confrontation with death; danse macabre as depicted on swords; ars moriendi, support of the dying person; burial liturgy; mass for the dead; annual attendance of the grave; treatment of war casualties and the efforts of the Church to provide a Christian burial after the fact; and shields and banners as burial offerings. Even here, that is, for each exhibited item presented in this catalogue detailed references to secondary literature are given. After the actual catalogue follows a glossary of terms relevant for the world of the hereafter, again with some illustrations. Next, Lukas Dietschy discusses his architectural designs for the exhibition. An index of the origin of all illustrations and a wonderfully extensive bibliography conclude this breath-taking publication. Brief comments are due regarding the introductory articles, which are, in general, but not always, designed as broad surveys. Peter Jezler examines medieval concepts of the afterlife, especially of Hell and Purgatory. Hans-Dietrich Altendorf traces the development of the idea of Hell in the early Church (basically a synopsis of Vorgrimler's study, see above). Brigitta Rotach discusses the topos of the souls' thirst and the refrigerium interim, adding an art-historical investigation of the Jona depiction in reliefs, especially on sarcophagi. In Christa Oechslin's article we learn how people in the Middle Ages imagined Heaven (Heavenly Jerusalem, Paradise), whereas Martina Wehrli-Johns looks at Purgatory as a notion developed as early as in sixth century (Gregory of Tours) in the form of an analogy to human society. She also discusses the various types of penitentials and the support of the souls in Purgatory given by the Franciscans and Dominicans. Martin Illi presents the various aspects of burial as a preparation for Purgatory. Alois M. Haas provides an overview of how death and the world of the beyond were depicted in medieval German literature. He takes us from the period of Old High German (Heliand) to the fifteenth century (The Ploughman and Death by Johann von Tepl), but he does not really go beyond his own monograph on the same topic from 1989 (Todesbilder im Mittelalter). Very insightful proves to be Susan Marti's and Daniela Mondini's examination of the role and function attributed to the Virgin Mary's breasts and her milk as instruments to solicit Christ's mercy for the sinners. This article even includes a section on sexual roles in Heaven with regard to Mary's task as "regina misericordiae" versus the "rex justitiae." Bodo Brinkmann surveys the genre of hour books and what they tell us about medieval concepts of the afterlife. He discusses concrete examples and examines their art-historical values and observes that these hour books were often handed on from generation to generation in the hope that the descendants would pray for the previous owners. In the Late Middle Ages the urban elites strove, as Wolfgang Schmid convincingly argues, for new forms of self-presentation, which is reflected in pictures of the patrons of altar pieces, stained glasses, sculptures, and other objects. Roger Seiler investigates the medical practice of preparing for death and the afterlife. He also includes an examination how sickness and healing were seen as divine signs informing the observers about the future fate of the dying person. Moreover, he briefly goes into the field of baptism of unborn children and the need for Caesarean sections. The combination of these rather diverse themes deprive his article of its focus, leading to a hodgepodge of various aspects only loosely connected by means of their common denominator 'medicine.' The Waldensians and the "benandanti" and their view of Purgatory is the subject of Kathrin Utz Tremp's article, in which she discusses in detail the inquisition register of Bishop Jacques Fournier of Pamiers (1317-1326). Whereas the early groups of Waldensians objected to the idea of Purgatory, later groups adopted it after all, because it gained, as Utz Tremp argues, overall a popular appeal in the fourteenth century. One of the most impressive research papers is presented by Hans-Joerg Gilomen, who investigates the relationship between death and property, indulgences, and legal steps taken by governments and institutions to limit those. In some areas the clerics were the most influential land and property holders, against which city councils tried to intervene. One way was to pass legislation to allow the heirs to purchase back the property given to the clerics as payments for masses and other services on behalf of the dead ones, but the Church heavily opposed any attempt to limit its income through these channels. Gilomen is certainly correct in his conclusion that, long before the Reformation, the appropriation of land and buildings, for instance, through the Church constituted severe credit problems and negatively impacted the entire economy. Christine Goettler examines the art of altars in Baroque Bologna which were dedicated to the deceased. Finally, Roger Seiler presents a comparative analysis of dying in the Middle Ages and today, but is really more interested in the problem of how people in the late twentieth century can die a human death, that is, are allowed to die in a peaceful fashion. Whereas the medieval doctor was almost more concerned with the dying person's soul and its fate in the afterlife, the modern doctor only cares about preserving the patient's health at any cost. Seiler therefore calls for a new "ars moriendi" as a remedy for our modern age. Not every article is as clearly structured as it would be desired, and not every author presents new research findings. Nevertheless, together with the stupendous richness of the high- quality illustrations and the wealth of information, this catalogue is a seminal piece of scholarship on death, Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven.