Skip to comments.Martin Luther's Death Mask on View at Museum in Halle, Germany
Posted on 11/03/2008 8:58:17 AM PST by Alex Murphy
HALLE.- Martin Luther's original death mask belongs to the treasures and witnesses from the Reformation that Halle is amply equipped with.
In one room of the tower, you can see the death mask of the great reformer, as well as a later plaster cast and a pulpit that stems from Luther's time. Presumably, the mask was created after a plaster cast that had been made by the local painter Lukas Furtenagel on Luther's deathbed in Eisleben on February 19, 1546. As Luther's body had to be taken to Wittenberg for the planned burial, his coffin was placed in the vestry of Halle's Market Church for one night, from February 20 to February 21, 1546. It was due to the Protestant minister Justus Jonas, who was a close friend of Martin Luther and preacher at Halle's church Marktkirche, that the church's parish came into the possession of Luther's death mask.
The plastic cast of Luther's death mask testifies of the chequered history of the mask, proving people's admiration or Luther and his work in the course of the centuries. From the 17th to the 20th century, Luther's death mask was part of a life-sized Luther figure. For this purpose, several modifications to the original masks had been realised, such as the opening of its eyelids. In 1926, the anthropologist Hans Hahne, director of Halle's regional museum for pre-history, reconstructed Luther's original death mask and let make a plastic cast of it.
The Pulpit from Luther's time is a high-ranking piece of the Middle-German Renaissance art of carving. Its small basket stems from the Marktkirche (Market Church). According the records, Luther used to preach from thie pulpit, for the present pulpit was only set up around 1547. Luther held three sermons in Halle's church Marktkirche (Market Church): on August 5, 1545, as well as on January 6 and January 26, 1546.
These things weird me out.
It is very interesting how the 'death mask' as prettified for public view didn't look much like Luther at all, while the version restored to more or less its original condition is much closer to Cranach's sketch.
Mr. Cranach was a very good artist and 'got a likeness' extremely well.
Yeah, but it seems it was the thing to do back then. I think they were in a bigger deal of taking these accurate masks and then making busts of more prominent figures of the day.
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I can’t read the small print. Which is which?
The far right is the "reconstructed" Lukas Furtenagel death mask without the alterations.
The sketch on the left is also by Lukas Furtenagel and was made on Luther's deathbed. But it closely resembles the Cranach sketches of Luther in life.
Thank you. I didn’t know there were competing versions.
I went to the Halle museum site and looked at the original. Thankfully I can read German.
Needs a Lutheran ping.
This is most certainly true!
One week until the 525th anniversary of the birth of Martin Luther!
These masks are fascinating. I have a question that is a little off topic, though. Although half of my family has been Lutheran literally since the Reformation, the other half wasn’t. I was raised by the latter half, and came to the Lutheran denomination later in life. When I’m with my brother and sister Lutherans, I often get the feeling that they know far more about this/our particular brand of Christian faith than I do. At the same time, I’m a very busy person. I can’t devote very large amounts of time to ‘catching up,’ as it were. Can anyone recommend a book, or at the most two, that I could read to fill in the gaps? I would be very appreciative; thank you in advance.
Luther’s Large Catechism is unparallelled in expounding the Christian faith for folks about your age. I assume you exceed the age of reason/accountability. Ha!
Thank you for your suggestion. I have a good grounding in the Christian faith in general, and also in Christian theology. What I really need, I think, is either a good Martin Luther biography, or better yet a brief biography in conjunction with a history of the Lutheran Church.
First, I recommemd the recent “Luther” movie. Then the book written by Eric Gritsch (one of my professors) “Martin—God’s Court Jester”. Then read Luther’s Table Talk. Then and only then dig into the most serious writings, being sure to intermix some of the House Postil sermons.
The House Postils were part of many a Lutheran family’s library, especially treaured by those in remote areas where access to Church services was limited. They were often read aloud by the head of the household on Sundays when Church attendance was not possible or not available.
Those are some very good suggestions. Thank you!
And what would have been my dad’s 70th...he was a Lutheran minister, passed away 2.5 years ago now already...hard to believe.
I would also suggest, the classic biography called “Here I Stand” by renowned Reformation historian Roland Bainton, from the 1950s.
A more recent biography, if you can handle it (it is pretty thick...) is a translation from the German, by scholar Heiko Obermann, called “Luther, Man Between God and Devil.” I found it excellent, and even has a chapter on Luther’s “scatalogical language” (why he seemed to use an extra rich...shall we say, vocabulary...very interesting).
The recent Luther movie (2003) with Joseph Fines is EXCELLENT in understanding the early Luther. I think Oberman’s book is better at understanding the later Luther. Bainton’s book does well in the early (more exciting) years, but tapers off at the end of Luther’s life, leaving one a bit disappointed.
Dr. Luther suffered a lot of ill health in his final years, was tired and arguably (and very understandably) got somewhat embittered by the controversies of the Reformation. It was in 1544 that he wrote his (in)famous anti-Jewish pamphlet, and I’m afraid for many that has checkered his autumn years. However, he died negotiating a peace between two brother princes—and was faithful to biblical beliefs to the end, despite his (normal) bombastic style in writing. Famously found discovered scribbled next to his bed were his last words, “we are beggars all.”
A plaster cast of Luther's death mask (and hands(!) in the house where he died in Eisleben.
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