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In the church of Wiesenbronn hangs during the “green” church season an antependium (altar frontal), on which a sector labyrinth is stitched.

The altar with the antependium

The altar with the antependium

I took notice of it when I visited the Wiesenbronn vine labyrinth. It is an extraordinary representation and I tried to find out more about that.

The labyrinth on the antependium

The labyrinth on the antependium

It was purchased probably between 1960 and 1970 under the Protestant pastor Horst Beyer. It was produced in the parament shop of the Evangelical Lutheran deaconess house of Neuendettelsau as a label at the reverse side displays.

Label on the reverse side

Label on the reverse side

Pastor Horst Beyer acted up to his death in 1986 in Wiesenbronn. He is also buried on the cemetery there and on his headstone another sign of his esteem for the labyrinth is found. At the back side is carved Ariadne’s thread diminished to three circuits.

The headstone

The headstone

Ariadne's thread

Ariadne's thread

What type of labyrinth is that?

The external or geometrical form is unimportant for the classification. A labyrinth can be circular, square, octagonal or polygonal, it can be right- or left-handed. The path sequence is crucial.
The labyrinth on the antependium is a sector labyrinth with 5 circuits. The sectors are completed entirely one by one. Here the path runs alternately in a serpentine line from the inside outwardly (1st and 3rd sector) and then from the outside inwards (2nd and 4th sector).
The path sequence expresses it as follows: Beginning-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1-2-3-4-5-centre. That is quite an other alignment or rhythm as in the classical or Chartres labyrinth.

The design drawing

The design drawing

When this type appeared first?

Andreas Frei of Switzerland writes on his website about the pattern in the labyrinth very in detail about the historical labyrinths and her classification. Besides, he also suggests distinct names for the different labyrinth types. Therefore, “our” labyrinth would have to be called type Filarete (1465). Because it has appeared for the first time as a drawing in a book of the Florentine architect Antonio di Pietro Averlino (called Filarete) about the architecture (Tratto di Architectura) in 1465. In it a square labyrinth of water jumps is illustrated around a 16 floors high step pyramid as a fort for the harbour of Plusiabolis.

Castle for the harbour of Plusiapolis

Castle for the harbour of Plusiapolis (Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, Abb. 343)

Where are other examples of this type?
There are eight octagonal floor labyrinths in the Palazzo del Te in the Sala di Psiche (completed in 1530), a palace of Duke Federigo II. Gonzaga in the suburbs of Mantua. The concept comes quite originally from Giulio Romano, even if Paolo Pozzo has restored in 1784 the floors.
Palazzo del Te, Sala di Psiche
Palazzo del Te, Sala di Psiche (Source: Por Laberintos, Ramon Espelt S. 26, Barcelona 2010)

A ceiling labyrinth with the same alignment is found in the Sala del Labirinto in the Palazzo Ducale in Mantua. The hall was rebuild in 1601 from architect Antonio Maria Viani for Herzog Vinzenzo IV. Gonzaga.

Palazzo Ducale, Sala del Labirinto

Palazzo Ducale, Sala del Labirinto (Source: Por Laberintos, Ramon Espelt S. 26, Barcelona 2010)

A contemporary example of the use of this labyrinth type is the plastic >water labyrinthVolker Brüggemann. It is made from Kornberg sandstone and should be put up in spring, 2012 in the Schilde-Park in Bad Hersfeld as a well.

Water labyrinth

Water labyrinth © Volker Brüggemann

How came this labyrinth type on the antependium?

While I inquired in Hermann Kerns book I hit upon a picture which could have served as a reference. Emblems and impreses came into vogue in the 16th century and are illustrated in numerous emblem books. As well the labyrinth was popular in all styles as a symbol.
A labyrinth with the device>fata viam invenient< (fates will find the way) is as a relief emblem on the ceiling of a loggia in the castle Dampierre-sur-Boutonne (in 1545-1550) in France.
Pastor Beyer certainly did not know the book of Hermann Kern which was first published in 1982. But maybe he had access to an emblem book with the picture?

Relief emblem

Relief emblem (Source: Hermann Kern, Labyrinthe, 1982, Abb. 360)

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