Brass of the Month

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Page last updated 04 March 2015

Copyright: Jon Bayliss

December 2013 -  Bishop Heinrich von Spiegel, 1380, Paderborn Dom, Germany

Heinrich von Spiegel zum Desenburg was the son of Ludolph von Spiegel zum Desenburg, a member of a noble family in Paderborn. He became a Benedictine monk and his first known appointment was as head of the church of Tom Roden, near both the town of Hoexter and the Abbey of Corvey. In 1359, he was elected as 37th Abbot of Corvey with the support of the Bishop of Paderborn, Baldwin von Steinfurt. In 1361 Baldwin, who had suffered from gout for many years, made Heinrich coadjutor, with the right of succession, and resigned immediately afterwards, thus making Heinrich Bishop of Paderborn without the need to be formally elected by the cathedral chapter. Heinrich then swore allegiance to Pope Innocent VI, who had previously opposed his appointment as Abbot of Corvey.

During Heinrich's tenure, Paderborn followed the then-current trend of becoming a Prince-Bishopric, meaning that Heinrich was also a secular ruler. As this usually took priority over his spiritual duties, he appointed a vicar to take care of them. Militarily he had to deal with the so-called robber-barons of Westphalia and did so successfully, with the assistance of Emperor Charles IV, acquiring additional power to the south of Westphalia as a result. He built the Neuhaus, the episcopal palace north of Paderborn, as a castle, and what he built still survives, albeit considerably updated and augmented.  He also established a mortuary chapel in Paderborn Cathedral, to which his brass marked the entrance.

In contrast to the brass of a slightly later bishop, Ruprecht, 1394, which shows the latter in canon's robes, albeit with a mitre, Heinrich's shows him in the usual pontifical robes of a bishop, with crosier in one gloved hand and book in the other, his mitre on his head. The feature it shares with Ruprecht's brass is the armoured figure underfoot, presumably referring to Heinrich's success as a miltary leader, with his enemy trampled underfoot. Ruprecht's brass takes this imagery further, with a figure in armour under each foot, whereas Heinrich has a lion under the other foot. Heinrich's effigy is cut out, as is not unusual for German brasses of this date, with a renewed marginal inscription and two shields in quadrilobes, once part of a set of four set at the corners of the inscription, completing the composition. The shields in the quadrilobes enabled the brass to be identified after  It is set on a pillar on the north side of the nave, over steps leading up to the choir.   

The marginal inscription in Latin is a replacement of the original and reads, from the top left corner:

    Mille quadringentis bis denis inde retentis

    filius invicti moritur festo Benedicti Praesul is Henricus procerum flos pacis amator

    Singula vir prudens iusto moderamine gessit

    Salvus dum vixit hanc ecclesiam bene rexit cum triplici Speculo proh iacet in tumulo.

This tells us that he died on the 21st March (the feast of St Benedict) 1380 and was an ornament of nobility, friend of peace and a wise man who knew his duties in government. Before lamenting that he now lies in his grave, the inscription puns on his name (Speculum = Spiegel = mirror), saying that he ruled this church well with a triple mirror. This is reflected by the shield showing the arms of Paderborn, which has a smaller shield set in its centre with three mirrors. The other shield has part per fess, in chief a demi lion rampant, in base a field lozengy.   



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