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Abstract

The origins and development of the old settlement of Konradsgrün (now Jáchymov) were linked to the discovery and exploitation of silver ore in nests and veins. As a result of the dynamic growth of this new centre which was of an urban nature, in 1520 the Czech King Ludwik Jagiello granted it the city rights and the status of a free mining town. In the following years, the centre was granted the Mining Act (Bergordnung) from the noble Šlik family, modelled on the Annaberg Act. It defined the rights of miners and regulated the technical and organizational exploitation of silver. The richness of the land allowed for a dynamic expansion of the mining centre and the establishment of a mint by the Šliks. The rapid growth of the mines was due to the high content of silver in the exploited veins, as well as their ready availability. Affluent immigrant families, which originated from other parts of the Kingdom of Bohemia and from Germany, began to build substantial houses in the new town. These people, often coming from various regions of Germany, continued to maintain close contacts with their families, friends and business partners from outside the Kingdom of Bohemia. Many arrived from the lands of Saxony, where at that time Martin Luther’s Reformation enjoyed considerable popularity. Both the mayors of Jáchymov and the German-speaking gentry/nobility who settled in the Kingdom of Bohemia supported these reforms, with the Šlik, Salhausen, and the von Bünau families at the forefront. These families settled in the north-western part of Bohemia, where as a result the Reformation became widespread, primarily led by Luther’s supporters. This fact is evident in the numerous epitaphs, altarpieces and chapels found in the area (in Loket, Jáchymov, Krupka, Benešov and Ploučnica). In the first half of the 16th century, the churches of St. Jáchym and All Saints Church in Jáchymov saw the creation of such artworks as the painted epitaph of Ruprecht Pullacher, the St. Mary’s altarpiece of Heinrich Könneritz’s and his wife Barbara nee Breitenbach’s foundation, and the (now fragmented) altarpiece showing St. Christopher. Most paintings in the St. Jáchym Church, such as Ruprecht Pullacher’s epitaph, burnt down in the city fire in 1873, are only known from descriptions. The surviving works testify to the great religious freedom enjoyed during the first years of the town’s life. It was only around the middle of the 16th century, that Johannes Mathesius created the ethos of Jáchymov as a Lutheran town right from the beginning. The political situation in the Kingdom of Bohemia in the second half of the century was favourable to the coexistence of the two religions, Catholic and Lutheran, reflected in the religious art of the period. However, on the basis of the preserved epitaphs it is not possible to establish if strictly Catholic works were created in Jáchymov. The discussed epitaphs of Georg Pullacher and the Uthmann-Lerchenfelder family executed in the 1590s reflect Protestant ideas. The image of Christ’s resurrection was both the expression of hope for future resurrection and eternal life, as well as a public confession of faith on the part of the members of the Lerchenfelder and Uthmann families. A profound faith in the resurrection was also echoed in Christ’s deposition featuring on Georg Pullacher’s epitaph. The work referred to the Holy Scriptures and quoted individual passages from the Bible. Inscriptions present on the painted epitaphs provided a synthesis of the main theological principles. They were a public confession of faith of the deceased to their relatives and descendants, as is illustrated by Ruprecht Pullacher’s (Georg’s father) family portrait. Other aspects strictly related to the re-catholicization are revealed by the transformation of St. Mary’s altarpiece into an epitaph altarpiece in the 17th century.
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