Brass of the Month

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September 2015 -  Adam von Herzenradt, Brauweiler, Germany, 1483


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This month’s brass commemorates Adam I von Herzenradt, Abbot of Brauweiler who died on 24th July 1483. ( HKC 1)  It is located in the former Benedictine Abbey of Brauweiler, near Köln in Nordrhein – Westfalen Germany.  This is now the abbey church of St. Nikolaus & St. Medardus.  The brass is postioned high up on the north wall of the north aisle / ambulatory, adjacent to the altar of St Michaelis near an entrance to the high choir, having been placed there in 1861.

    It is set within an architraved stone surround. The central and original composition is made up of five plates showing;

Surrounding this composition is a 19th Century marginal inscription with four evangelical symbols in the corners. The symbols themselves are set in a central square with perimeter quadrilobes.  A replacement symbol of St Luke was added in 1861; the others are original. The Latin text at the top and sides simply refers to the year of death, the identity of the commemorated and that he rest in peace. The Latin text at the bottom refers to the brass being moved from the floor of the central part of the church to its present location in 1861. The original text for the marginal inscription appears to be unknown but was composed by a monk, Nikolaus von Kerpen.

    The texts with expansion and correction read as follows;

Anno Domine  incarnationis millesimo quadringentesimo octogesimo tertio obiit reverendus dominus Adamus de Hertzogenradt requiescat in pace Amen !

Monumentum hoc olim in medio ecclesiae positum de terra levatum et hic erectum est Anno Domini MDCCCLXI.

All the lettering is filled with black mastic. The overall dimensions of the brass are 234 mm x 105mm.

    The design concept of the brass incorporates elements found on the brass to Count Gerhard VII,  Duke of Jülich-Berg  & Count of Ravensberg  d. 1475 from the former Cistercian Abbey of Altenberg, also near Köln. In particular the “floating” figure, facial expression with eyes closed, the lions and the canopy detail, especially the crockets, interwoven arches and cusps. The Altenberg brass is however far superior in its design and execution; it is attributed to a Rhenish workshop. 1

    Adam sought the reform of Brauweiler, in spite of economic difficulties, and secured its integration within the Bursfelder Kongregation. He attended the General Assemblies at various abbeys in 1469 ( St. Jakob Mainz); 1470 ( St. Matthias Trier); 1477 (St. Christopherus Rheinhausen); 1478  (SS. Peter & Paul, Abingdorf near Paderborn); 1481 (St. Peter Erfurt); 1482 (St. Jakob Mainz). Adam’s growing reputation and success at Brauweiler led to the inclusion of a nunnery in the Kongregation at nearby Königsdorf and his appointment as a visitator /emissary (in the years 1477, 1480 & 81) on behalf of the Kongregation. In this role he supervised the inclusion of the imperial abbey of Werden in the Kongregation and the reform of St. Pantaleon in Köln. He had expansion plans for Brauweiler in the latter part of his tenure which did not come to fruition.   He was elected as Joint President of the General Assembly to be held in Erfurt in 1483, but died before the Assembly took place, at the monastery of Neuwerk, during  a tour of visitation through Holland & Friesland.  He was buried at Brauweiler Abbey in front of the altar of the Holy Cross and succeeded as Abbot by Adam II von Münchrath (1483-96).

    His seal still exists. It is in the shape of a mandorla principally showing a sitting bishop or abbot with pedum (crozier) and hand raised in benediction; beneath is another abbot with pedum, in profile, praying under a rounded arch which has shields in the spandrels incorporating the letter “A”.

    The current Abbey Church is the third church to be erected on site and is from the late Romanesque period, constructed between 1136- 1220. It has a three aisled nave, high choir, apsidal east end and a large crypt. The ground plan is very similar to the 11th century Romanesque church of St Maria -im- Kapitol in nearby Köln. It is a treasure trove of medieval art.

    I am grateful to our Member, Reinhard Lamp, for help with the German sources.


1 Malcolm Norris “ The Memorials” Vol 1 p.124

2 Cardinal Nikolaus Krebs, known as de Cusa, who died in 1464 and whose brass is on the floor of the hospital chapel he founded at Kues, was a Papal Legate. In 1451 on a journey of reform through Germany, he appointed the Abbot of Bursfelde as visitator for the Benedictine monasteries of Mainz- Bamberg province whose representatives met at Wurzburg. As a consequence, the Bursfelde Kongregation was first approved as a recognised body in a papal bull on 7th June 1451.


© article & photos.  Kevin Herring