The Altar of Mary in Naumburg Cathedral
The project, initiated in its initial stages since October 2019 by the United Cathedral Founders and supported in terms of content by the Protestant parish of Naumburg and lively support from the bishops of the Protestant Church of Central Germany and the Catholic diocese of Magdeburg, aims to increase the spiritual appeal of Naumburg Cathedral. The main focus is to have the altar retable created in 1519 by Lucas Cranach the Elder for the altar of Mary in the west choir, of which only the two side wings remain, resurrected by the Leipzig artist Michael Triegel with a new central panel and liturgically placed in the service of the Annunciation.
On 3 July 2022, the spectacular Naumburg altar project "Triegel meets Cranach" will come to a successful conclusion. The altar retable in the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral will be consecrated in an ecumenical vespers at 5 pm. The solemn vespers will be conducted by and with Bishop Friedrich Kramer and Bishop Dr Gerhard Feige, the cathedral chapter of the United Cathedral Foundations as well as Regional Bishop Dr Johann Schneider and Cathedral Preacher Michael Bartsch. Musical accompaniment for the vespers will include the Leipzig vocal ensemble Amarcord, the Leipzig Baroque Orchestra and the Naumburg Chamber Choir. The musical programme will be conducted by cathedral cantor Jan-Martin Drafehn.
The Altarpiece by Lucas Cranach the Elder
Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) was one of the most important German painters of the Renaissance. In 1519 he completed a three-winged altarpiece for the altar of the Naumburg west choir, which has been dedicated to the Virgin Mary since its construction in the mid-13th century.
The central part of the retable, with a depiction of the Mother of God Mary with Child, was destroyed in 1541 in the course of the controversy during the Reformation. In this way, the west choir lost its patroness.
The large-format side wings of the retable with the portraits of the two founding bishops Johannes III von Schönburg (1492-1517) and Philipp von Wittelsbach (1518-1542) and various saints have survived the centuries and have been on display in the cathedral treasure vault of Naumburg Cathedral since 2006. They bear witness to the exceptional quality of the work. Especially the depictions of Mary Magdalene and James the Elder stand out due to their fine execution. The saints depicted on the inner and outer sides of the wings - Barbara, Catherine, Philip, James the Elder, James the Younger and Mary Magdalene - were previously dedicated to side altars in the west choir, which were demolished at the beginning of the 16th century. In this way, the reredos continues the liturgical tradition of Naumburg's west choir that has been tangible since the 13th century.
The new central panel and the predella by Michael Triegel
After more than 500 years, Cranach's two original wings were supplemented by a central section created by the Leipzig artist Michael Triegel and a predella.
The front of the new central panel depicts a "Sacra Conversazione", i.e. Mary surrounded by saints. Centrally, Mary presents the newborn Saviour. The personalities depicted can be interpreted both as saints venerated in the Naumburg west choir or as present-day people. The group is completed by the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The persons make it clear to the viewer that the event of salvation always has its own personal reference, which requires the commitment of the individual.
On the back of the central panel is the Risen Christ. He is depicted in the midst of the architecture of Naumburg's west choir and in this way makes clear that the completion of salvation history will not take place in an indefinable space distant in time and space, but is also possible concretely and directly in this place. The predella with front and back refers back to the symbolism of the Last Supper and the Passion respectively.
Dean Prof. Dr. Karin v. Welck is happy: "The re-commissioning of the retable on the altar not only takes into account the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of religious practice in a church space, but also strengthens the function of a cathedral church and thus complies with the authenticity and integrity of the use of the Naumburg Cathedral World Heritage Site. The visible return of the patroness of the west choir facilitates in a special way the communication of the highly complex theological and iconographic concept of Naumburg's west choir. Moreover, due to its history, the new reredos has the potential to become a symbol of Christian unity."
Collegiate Director Dr Holger Kunde is also pleased: "The declared goal is to transform a museum object back into a living liturgical decoration that combines the tradition of Naumburg Cathedral with the needs of the present. The artistic quality of Lucas Cranach and Michael Triegel assembled here will set new accents for the design of art in church interiors. It is about living proclamation and active congregations. Tradition and the present are mutually dependent.
With the altar retable, the west choir regains its liturgical centre.
The artist Michael Triegel
Michael Triegel was born in Erfurt in 1968 and studied painting at the Leipzig Academy of Visual Arts under Arno Rink and Ulrich Hachulla from 1990 to 1997. Triegel gained international fame in 2010 when he was commissioned to paint a portrait of Pope Benedict XVI. Before that, he had already completed several ecclesiastical commissions, such as two large-scale altarpieces for the churches in Grave and Ebern and a ceiling painting for the Würzburg Cathedral Music. This was followed in 2011 by the third altar for the church of St Augustine in Dettelbach and in 2015 by the design of two stained glass windows for the parish church of St Mary in Köthen. In 2017, his devotional picture "Merciful Jesus" was inaugurated in the church of St. Peter and Paul in Würzburg. This was followed in 2018 by the high altarpiece "Incarnation" for the church of St. Oswald in Baunach.
Significant personal exhibitions by Triegel were most recently on view in Leipzig ("Logos und Bild", 2017), Erfurt ("Discordia concors", 2018/19) and Rostock ("Cur Deus", 2020).
Special guided tours "Triegel meets Cranach
Special tours of the altar will be available every Sunday from 10.7.2022 at 1 pm.
Offer of the KinderDomBauhütte
"Altar Workshop. Cranach vs. modernity"
22 August 2022 | 10.00 a.m.
In the short project, the children learn what an altar is, the significance of the saints and can get creative themselves: Like the artist Michael Triegel, each child creates their own centrepiece to complement the Cranach altar.
We recommend early booking through our visitor service.
Naumburg Cathedral Vistor Centre
Domplatz 16/17 | 06618 Naumburg
Tel. +49 (0) 3445 23 01-133
The project was made possible with the kind support of
and numerous private donors.
The United Cathedral Foundations would like to thank all partners and supporters.