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December 2014 - Hermann Schomaker, 1406, Bardowick, Germany

This brass commemorates Hermann Schomaker who died on 9th September 1406 and is located on the south wall of the sanctuary of the Collegiate Church of SS. Peter & Paul, Bardowick in Lower Saxony. It was originally positioned above his tomb in front of the high altar but the precise location is unknown. It is set in its original chalkstone slab which has overall dimensions of 2.08m x 1.06m. It comprises a central figure made up of four plates with a separate Latin marginal inscription in raised Gothic Miniscule lettering, with evangelical symbols in the corners. There are also two shields unusually positioned and a leopard courant as a footrest.  Surrounding the figure is a canopy incised in the stone, with double side shafts, the outer acting as buttresses, triple ogival arches above, crocketted and with embattled pinnacles. This combination of a surviving brass figure and marginal inscription with an incised slab is unique in Germany as far as I am aware. There are however examples of figures having brass elements with the remainder in stone, sculpted in low relief. Both are in Erfurt Cathedral cloisters;

 1. Canon Johan von Heringen (1505).  This monument has the upper part of the figure and a marginal inscription with shields in the corners in brass with the rest of the figure in low relief chalkstone which has suffered wear. An indent remains of a fifth brass shield at his feet.

 2. Canon Heinrich Gassmann (1481). The whole of this monument including the marginal inscription is in low relief chalkstone (worn) apart from the head of the figure, a chalice and a canted family shield at the feet in brass. The shield is in low relief.  

The Latin text is as follows;

Anno : domini : M° : cc°cc · v°j : / ip(s)o : die : beati · gorgonij : martiris · obijt : d(omi)n(u)s · hermannus · dictus / · schomekers : hui(us) · ecclesie / · decanus : cuius : anima · requiescat · in perpetua · pace · amen

In the year of Our Lord 1406 on the day of the blessed martyr Gorgonius (9th September) died Hermann Schomaker Dean of this church. May his soul rest in perpetual peace Amen

The left hand untinctured shield is Schomaker – Party per bend Or and Azure, in chief an erased bear’s head wounded and with bared fangs. The lower part of the shield was originally filed with blue mastic or enamel.  This shield can be found woven on a tapestry in the textile museum at St Michaelis KlösterLüne. (Situated on the outskirts of Lüneburg and a short distance from Bardowick)

The right hand canted shield is von der Brücken (Hermann’s mother) – Per fess 1) Argent a leopard Sable. 2) An inverted arrowhead erased (no tinctures known).

Hermann wears an Alb which extends to his feet, a Chasuble extending below the knees and a hooded Almuce with fur tails or tippets. He is clutching the base of a chalice in his left hand, with his right raised in benediction towards a wafer hovering above the chalice.

Whilst the overall composition has some charm there are some obvious deficiencies in the execution of the brass elements ;

 1. The engraved lines of the figure are crude and irregular pointing to the work of a relative novice.

 2. The chalice and wafer are particularly poor in execution with an odd introduction of shading in an attempt to give the chalice a three-dimensional appearance.

 3. The four plates do not marry up and are considerable “out” in places.

 4. The positioning of the shields, and especially the canted shield which was meant to fit to the corner of the hem of the Alb, detracts from the composition as does the position of the footrest.

 5. The evangelical symbols at the bottom are sitting on their backsides.

 6. The marginal text has a variety of crude word spacers.  

The engraving and design of the evangelical symbols is somewhat reminiscent of those on the large brass to Queen Agnes of Sweden, Duchess of Mecklenburg 1432 at Gadebusch near Schwerin. Both the figures have similarities in design and execution and these brasses may well have come from the same workshop although its identity is unknown. Lübeck is relatively close and a known centre for brass engraving.

Hermann Schomaker was born in 1353 to a family of rich burgers from nearby Lüneburg who had become wealthy through the salt trade. A Hermann Schomaker is recorded as far back as 1299 as a salt- distiller or “sülfmeister” in Lüneburg where salt mining took place and gave the town its membership of the Hanseatic League.  The commemorated Hermann’s father Johann was also a sülfmeister who died on 29th November 1366. His mother was Gebbeke von der Brücken, also from a wealthy Lüneburg family, who died on 4th April 1396. Both of these families produced members who held high ecclesiastical office.

Hermann is first recorded as Vicar of the altar of SS. Nicolas & Catharine at SS. Peter & Paul’s church Bardowick. During his tenure he became involved in a dispute over a reduction in his stipend which culminated in his resignation. He then became a Canon of the church in 1376 financed from the family’s involvement in the salt trade. He rose to a senior position in the local Chapter and was involved in convening the election for the current Dean’s successor. He himself became Dean in 1403 and oversaw improvements to the legal and administrative affairs of the Foundation of the Collegiate Church.  In 1405 he is last recorded as acquiring two farmsteads for the Dean & Chapter.

Bardowick is a quiet agricultural village today but was the most prosperous city in Northern Germany in the middle ages, founded by Charlemagne and situated by the navigable River Ilmenau.  It was razed to the ground by Henry the Lion in 1189 ( his second wife , Matilda was the daughter of Henry 11 of England)  for its allegiance to Frederick Barbarossa, previously responsible for exiling Henry, although the Collegiate Church of SS. Peter & Paul was spared. Its name derives from the Slavonic tribe of the Longobardi who went on to found Lombardy. Its trading mantle passed to Lüneburg which was given town status by Henry the Lion, and held a monopoly in salt production leading to membership of the Hanseatic League. The salt was used to preserve fish caught in the Baltic and was transported overland to Lübeck initially but then in cogs (sailing barges) via the River Ilmenau  and the Stecknitz Canal constructed in 1398 to the Salzspeicher ( Salt Warehouses). The saltworks at Lüneburg finally closed in 1980.

The present Collegiate Church at Bardowick has a Romanesque west front with squat twin towers.  The majority is a late Gothic hall – church erected between 1389 and 1485. Its winged high altar and choir- stalls with misericords from 15th Century are of particular merit. The Church together with St Andreas at Verden is under the control of Klosterkammer Hannover. St Andreas was founded by Bishop Yso von Wölpe during the period of his Catholic Prince – Bishopric between 1205 until his death in 1231, with his brass now mural in the sanctuary. He was previously a Provost of the Collegiate Church at Bardowick.

My thanks to our Member Reinhard Lamp for help with the German sources below and to Corinna Lohse, Monument Restorer from Klosterkammer Hannover, for photos of my rubbing and the brass itself.

© Kevin Herring


 1. Urs Boeck: Der Dom zu Bardowick, DKV-Kunstführer Nr. 280, 11. Auflage, Deutscher Kunstverlag GmbH Berlin München, 2010, ISBN 978-3-422-02256-0.

 2. Schlöpke, Christian.  Chronicon oder Beschreibung der Stadt und des Stiffts Bardewick 1704. Nabu Press 2011. ISBN- 10 1175888966.

 3. Witzendorff, Hans – Jürgen.  Stammtafeln Lüneburger Patriziergeschlechter  1952.  pp 20 f & 111-115.