The altar of Mary in Naumburg Cathedral

Initiated in its initial stages since October 2019 by the United Cathedral Founders and supported in terms of content by the Evangelical Parish of Naumburg and lively support from the bishops of the Protestant Church of Central Germany and the Catholic Diocese of Magdeburg, the aim of the project is 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 July 3, 2022, the spectacular Naumburg altar project "Triegel meets Cranach" will come to a successful conclusion. At 5 p.m., the altar retable in the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral will be consecrated in an ecumenical vespers. The solemn vespers will be organized by and with regional 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 program will be conducted by Cathedral Cantor KMD Jan-Martin Drafehn.

The altar retable 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 altar retable for the altar of Naumburg's west choir, dedicated to the Virgin Mary since its creation 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 in the Reformation period. In this way the west choir lost its patroness.

The large-format side wings of the retable with the portrait-like depiction of the two founder bishops John III of Schönburg (1492-1517) and Philip of Wittelsbach (1518-1542) and various saints have survived the centuries and were exhibited in the cathedral treasure vault of Naumburg Cathedral since 2006. They testify 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, which can be grasped 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 Leipzig artist Michael Triegel, as well as a predella.

The front of the new central panel depicts a "Sacra Conversazione", i.e. Mary surrounded by saints. Centrally, Mary presents the newborn Savior. The personalities depicted can be interpreted both as saints venerated in the Naumburg west choir or as present-day people. The group is supplemented by the Protestant theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer. The persons make clear to the viewer that the event of salvation always has its own personal reference, which requires the commitment of the individual.

On the reverse side of the central panel the risen Christ can be seen. 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 World Heritage Naumburg Cathedral. 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 the Naumburg west choir. In addition, because of its history, the new reredos has the potential to become a symbol of Christian unity."

Abbey 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 gathered 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 center.

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. Prior to that, he had already completed a number of ecclesiastical commissions, including two large-format 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 altarpiece 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. In 2018, the high altarpiece "Incarnation" followed for the church of St. Oswald in Baunach.

Major personal exhibitions of Triegel's work were most recently on view in Leipzig ("Logos und Bild," 2017), Erfurt ("Discordia concors," 2018/19), and Rostock ("Cur Deus," 2020).

Special tours "Triegel meets Cranach

Special tours to the altar are always available on Sundays from 10/7/2022 at 1 pm.

Offer of the KinderDomBauhütte

"Altar Workshop. Cranach vs. Modernity"
August 22, 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 centerpiece to complement the Cranach altar.

We recommend early booking through our visitor service.

Naumburg Cathedral Vistor Centre
Domplatz 16/17 | 06618 Naumburg
Phone +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.

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