Brass of the Month
Copyright © 2015 Monumental Brass Society (MBS)
Page last updated 03 December 2015
December 2015 -
St Mary’s Cathedral, Freiberg, Saxony, Germany
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This month’s brass relates to Anna, born Princess of Denmark, and Electress of Saxony by virtue of her marriage to Elector August I in 1548. It is situated amongst numerous brasses on the polished marble floor of the choir of Freiberg Cathedral against the north wall, in what became the ducal mausoleum for the Albertine Line of the House of Wettin, following a lavish Renaissance – style renovation project instigated by her husband just before his death in 1586. This project continued during the reign of their son Christian I who died in 1591, and was completed in 1594 during the Regency of Friedrich Wilhelm of Saxony-
The brass comprises two plates and has overall dimensions of 2.54m x 1.42m. It is one of a distinctive group of 5 brasses of similar design from the Hilliger bell and cannon foundry in Freiberg during the period of Martin Hilliger the Younger (1538-
The design features an ornamental perimeter band 0.19 metres wide along the top and sides containing 14 oval shields with decorated mirror-
Beneath is an oval ended scroll-
On the north wall of the ducal mausoleum adjacent to Anna’s brass is a lifesize kneeling figure of her cast in bronze facing the figure of Christ Triumphant behind the altar. The figure is in a niche of red and green marble flanked by double Corinthian columns with coats of arms above, the monument extending upwards to the stuccoed ceiling. Her costume is very similar to that on her brass. This is the work of Carlo di Cesare referred to above in the first paragraph. He was also responsible for virtually the whole of the sculpted work in the mausoleum up to 1594 including the ceiling and all but one of the other bronze kneeling figures of the most important Albertines to be buried in the chapel at the time -
The oval shields represent as follows;
1. Top left to right; Denmark, Norway, Jutland, Wenden ( Slav territory which no longer exists)
2. Left side; Dithmarschen, Sweden, Gotland, Duchy of Holstein, Stormarn
3. Right side; Duchy of Schleswig, Iceland, Oldenburg, Delmenhorst, Cross of Danish Territories.
The foot inscription reads as follows;
IM IHAR M D L XXXV DEN 1 OCTOBRIS DES ABENDTS NACH VII VHR IST/ DIE DVRCHLAVCHTIGSTE HOCHGEBORNE FVRSTIN VND FRAW; FRAVV ANNA/ GEBORNE AVS KONIGLICHEN STAMME ZV DENEMARKEN, HERZOGIN VND CHVR-
This translates as;
In the year MDLXXXV on the evening of 1St October after 7pm has / the most noble and illustrious Princess and Lady, Lady Anna / of the Royal House of Denmark, Duchess and / Electress of Saxony, Landgravine of Thuringia, Margravine of Meissen / and Burgravine of Magdeburg, spouse of Prince Elector August of mild Christian / remembrance departed in God in Dresden whom / God may graciously endow with eternal joy and bliss. Amen.
Anna was born on 25th November 1532 in Haderslev as the eldest daughter of King Christian III of Denmark from the House of Oldenburg, and Dorothea of Saxony – Lauenberg. She married Duke August of Saxony on 7th October 1548, who later became Elector August I on the death of his brother Moritz at the battle of Sievershausen in 1553. They had 15 children, 11 of whom died in infancy and are each commemorated by brasses in the cathedral.
Following Anna’s death through the plague in 1585, August married Agnes Hedwig Princess of Anhalt in 1586 but died himself soon afterwards.
Anna developed a keen interest in herbs, horticulture and agriculture which was influenced by her mother and then learnt the art of herbal medicine / pharmacy from the elderly Countess Dorothea of Mansfeld (1493-
Anna & August had an unusually close relationship; they shared apartments and bedchambers at the palaces of Dresden and Annaburg. Both were strict orthodox Lutherans vehemently opposed to Calvinism but did not see it necessary to break faith with the Catholic Habsburg Emperor, to the dismay of other Protestant rulers. Anna became increasingly involved in court affairs to the disdain of many courtiers and her business acumen led to the running of the Albertine estates and the selling of surplus produce giving her the nickname “the cheese woman”. Saxony at this time enjoyed a period of relative prosperity and stability, developing in the mould of the Lutheran ideal.
© Article & photos. Kevin Herring
My thanks to our member Reinhard Lamp for the translation of the foot inscription
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