Stained glass from Mariawald Abbey

The church of Mariawald Abbey today. Photograph by Dagmar Täube.

The church of Mariawald Abbey today. Photograph by Dagmar Täube.

Mariawald Abbey in Germany was built between 1480 and 1539. It is in a wooded area just south-west of Cologne named after a miracle-working statue of the Virgin Mary – Mariawald literally means ‘Mary forest’. From the mid-15th century onwards the statue's miracle-working powers began to draw large numbers of pilgrims. The original chapel on the site was not large enough to accommodate them, so in 1480 the nearby Cistercian monastery at Bottenbroich financed a new abbey.

Cloisters, covered walkways attached to a monastery or church and enclosing an open courtyard, are usually open at the sides, but at Mariawald Abbey the cloister had glass windows. These were made of clear and coloured glass with painted and stained details portraying events from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.

 

The cloister at Mariawald Abbey today. Photograph by Dagmar Täube

The cloister at Mariawald Abbey today. Photograph by Dagmar Täube

 

The bottom row of the windows depicted the many religious leaders and prominent families of the north Rhineland who had contributed towards the cloister glass. These two panels show the family of Rabolt II von Plettenberg and his wife Margaretha Einenberg-Landskron, both from high-ranking families in the north Rhineland.

They were married in 1513 and had two sons and six daughters. The panel on the right shows Margaretha Einenberg with four of their daughters - the two youngest were not yet born. The panel on the left depicts Rabolt II with his eldest son, Rabolt III, and his wife. They were married in 1538, the same year as the second son, Engelbert, died.

Painted and stained glass panel depicting Rabolt II von Plettenberg with his son and daughter-in-law, Mariawald Abbey, Germany, 1500-99. Museum no. C.320-1928

Painted and stained glass panel depicting Rabolt II von Plettenberg with his son and daughter-in-law, Mariawald Abbey, Germany, 1500-99. Museum no. C.320-1928

Painted and stained glass panel depicting Margaretha von Einenberg-Landskron and her four daughters, Mariawald Abbey, Germany, 1500-99. Museum no. C.326-1928

Painted and stained glass panel depicting Margaretha von Einenberg-Landskron and her four daughters, Mariawald Abbey, Germany, 1500-99. Museum no. C.326-1928

If you look closely at the area behind the right leg of Rabolt III there are indications of a cushion and the drapery of a kneeling figure. It is possible that the panel originally showed both sons in their youth, just as their sisters are depicted opposite. Later, Engelbert was removed and an older Rabolt III and his wife were inserted. This probably happened at an important moment in the family's history, perhaps at Engelbert's death or Rabolt III's marriage.

The chapel at Ashridge Park, from 'The History of the College of Bonhommes, at Ashridge', by Henry John Todd, London, 1823. Museum no. 106.E.61

The chapel at Ashridge Park, from 'The History of the College of Bonhommes, at Ashridge', by Henry John Todd, London, 1823. Museum no. 106.E.61

During the French Revolution (1789–99) and the subsequent religious upheavals under Napoleon Bonaparte (reigned 1804–14/15), many monastic institutions in mainland Europe were secularised and their buildings sold or destroyed. Mariawald Abbey was closed in 1802, by which point the stained glass had already been removed.

The glass was bought by John Christopher Hampp of Norwich, who sold it on to various churches and private collectors in England. Many of the panels were bought by Lord Brownlow, who installed them in his new chapel at Ashridge Park, Hertfordshire. In 1928 the contents of Ashridge Park were sold at auction. A private collector bought the stained glass panels and donated them to the V&A.

 

 

 

Highlights from the V&A's collection of stained glass from Mariawald Abbey

 

 

By Terry Bloxham, 2009

The V&A would like to thank Dagmar Täube for permission to use images

Visit the website of Mariwald Abbey at www.kloster-mariawald.de

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