Monumental Brass Society

Karsten Middeldorp

Date of Brass:
Lübeck, St. Jakobikirche


January 2021

This brass relates to the Lübeck bell & cannon founder Karsten MIddeldorp and his wife Dorothea, engraved in 1562. It measures 95 x 65 cm and is located on the east side of the third of five pillars separating the central and northern aisles of the 3-aisled Brick –Gothic hall church of St Jakobi, in the Koberg district of Lübeck1. Its original location is apparently unknown and there is no evidence of its slab having survived.

It is designed in the early Renaissance classical style, with Corinthian columns topped with an entablature containing foliage motifs on either side of a skull. The pediment above encloses a tympanum with a demi bearded figure holding a prayer scroll. The columns rest on a plinth with the heads of three winged cherubs below.

The whole composition acts as a frame for an 11-line inscription in Low German, below which are two canted shields held by a full length winged figure. The dexter shield displays a bell suspended from a cannon and the initials KM as well as Middeldorp’s caster’s mark; the sinister shield two interlocking set-squares and the initials DM. The inscription comprises extracts from the Lutheran bible of 1534 – Job 19: vv. 25-26 and Colossians 3: vv. 3-4. 2 The Low German text is as follows;

  Ick weth dat min Vorloser levet. Unde werth / my ut der Erde up wecken. Un  werde myt dusser / miner huth wedder um gegeven werde. Un werde in / mt (minem) am fleske godt seen. Den sulvigen werde yck/ sen unde mini ogen werden en schowe. Job XIX/ Gi sin gestorven unde iw (im)levent is vorbogen mit/ cristo in gade. Wen sick averst cristus iw (im) levent apen/ baren wert. Den werde gi ock apenbart werden / mit em in der herlicheit. Colosser. In .1562

This translates in the new international version of the Bible as;

  Job 19: 25. I know that my redeemer lives and that in the end he will stand on the earth. 26. And after my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God.

  Colossians 3: 3-4. For you died and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The prayer scroll within the tympanum reads;

  Esaie 26 Dine doden werden leven.

This translates;

  Isiah 26: Your dead shall live. (This is the first line of Verse 19)

There is also a line of text within the plinth;

  karsten middeldorp un seine arve(n)


  Karsten Middeldorp and his heirs

It has been suggested that the brass was made by the prolific Lübeck bell and cannon founder Matthias Benning(k) from the well- known Benning atelier, who succeeded Middeldorp as the Council’s foundryman.3 It is documented that Middeldorp’s widow Dorothea sold her late husband’s complete set of casting tools to Benning for 600 Lübsch Marks. So the two families appeared to have some connection. Benning’s known brasses are however much grander and display a higher level of skill in both engraving and design, as well as overall aesthetic appeal. These include;

  •  Bishop Johannes Tydeman †1561, in Lübeck cathedral.
  •  Iven Reventlow, Landmarschall † 1569 in Lebrade parish church,  SchleswigHolstein.
  •  Gotthard IV von Höveln, Councillor †1571 in St Marienkirche Lübeck.4

Middeldorp’s brass by contrast is very similar to that commemorating Heinrich Gruter† 1524 merchant and councillor (engr. 1557) in St Marienkirche Lübeck, both in terms of size and featuring pilasters (rather than columns) supporting a pediment, framing a bold inscription above coats of arms for the deceased and his wife. Another similar brass is a commemorative plate eng. c. 1565, in the St. Annen Museum Lübeck where the columns / pediment frame two angels holding a shield with the scales of justice and a foot inscription below. 5 It seems unclear therefore as to the provenance of Middeldorp’s brass, although it could have been made by another hand in Benning’s workshop.

Lübeck has a long history of metal work, with evidence of several foundries. The Ratsgießhaus (Council foundry) situated in the Lastadie along the waterfront of the Trave, was first occupied in 1546, with Middeldorp recorded there in 1548. 6 Hach suggests he may have been an apprentice to the Flensburg bell and cannon founder Gert van Mervelt who was working in Lübeck at the time. (Middeldorp acquired his casting tools after Mervelt’s death in 1558). 7 In the early 1550’s Middeldorp acquired a house at 47 Burgstrasse from another bell and cannon founder, Heinrich von Kampen – this house still exists and is a short distance from St Jacobikirche.

Middledorp’s work included the oldest Post-Reformation bell in Lübeck at St Jürgen’s chapel, cast in 1548, as well as a confession bell at St Andreas church Schlutup an der Trave, within the Hanseatic city district. He also received commissions for bells from several churches in Denmark. 8 But he is best known for his many cannons and in particular one known as “The Lion of Reval”, commissioned by the city council of Reval (Tallinn) during a lull in the Livonian War with the Muscovites and in anticipation of further attacks. It was cast in 1559, in Lübeck, in the German tradition with anthropomorphic detail, in this case an image of Ivan the Terrible to represent the autocratic power of the city’s enemy. The gun barrel also features several symbols of Muscovite royalty. Its inscription in Low German translates;

  A Council of Reval had named me the ”Lion”,

  to tear apart his enemies

  should they not wish to live in peace.

  Karsten Middedorp cast me in the year 1559,

  That is true.

Bogatyrev describes the portrait on the gun barrel as individualized and expressive and executed with perfect command of three –dimensional space when compared with local products from Reval casters, which appear flat conventional and somewhat archaic for the mid- 16 th C. He considers the image of Ivan the Terrible as being one of the earliest examples, if not the earliest, of revived interest in this figure in North Western Europe during the Livonian War. As far as the attribution to the Muscovite ruler is concerned he says;

“A convergence of evidence, including the inscription on the barrel, the historical context of its production and the symbolism of Middeldorp’s sculptural portrait indicates that the master depicted Ivan the Terrible”. 9

The commission above is indicative of a steady stagnation in the Lübeck economy during the 16th C. The shrinking of local markets would have prompted Middeldorp to seek commissions from further abroad during the late 1540’s and early 1550’s.

He died some time before Easter in 1561, and had already purchased a site in 1560 for a grave for him and his heirs in St. Jakobikirche, close to his home in the Burgstrasse.



I am indebted to Pastor Jedeck for permission to rub the brass and the Verger Herr Glowe for facilitating my visit. Also to Reinhard Lamp, for providing the Low German text.


Sources; 1.

Baltzer J & Bruns F “Die Bau-und Kunstdenkmäler der Freien und Hansestadt Lübeck” Vol. III Pt II 1921. pp. 305-449. ISBN 3-89557-167-9

2. Bogatyrev, Sergei “ Bronze Tsars: Ivan the Terrible – Fedor Ivanovich in the Décor of Early Modern Guns” The Slavonic & Eastern European Review 88 pp. 48-72.

3. Norris M “ Monumental Brasses -The Memorials “ 1977 Phillips & Page ISBN 0- 950- 39421- 1

4. Norris M “ The Schools of Brasses in Germany” JBAA 19 pp. 34-52. 1956

5. Mührenberg D & Zschacke G “ St Jakobi zu Lübeck – Seefahrer und Fischerkirche “ 1984 Kirchengemeinde St Jakobi.

6. Hach, Theodor “Die Anfänge der Renaissance in Lübeck” Lübeck Rahtgens 1889.

7. Hach, Theodor “ Lübecker Glockenkunde” Schmidt 1913. 8. Meyer, Günter “Bronzecanonen aus Lübeck” In Zeitschrift Für Lübekische Geschichte Vol. 96 2016.



1 The current church was largely constructed c. 1300 replacing an earlier Romanesque church and consecrated in 1334. It survived WW2 unscathed. It is best known for the series of pillar paintings of saints from the 14th c. rediscovered during a 19th c. restoration. Amongst other treasures are the Brömsen altar donated by the Mayor Heinrich Brömse between 1490- 1500,and the Stellwagen organ rebuilt from a medieval one by Heinrich Stellwagen in 1636.

2 Baltzer & Bruns pp. 422-423.

3 Norris “ The Memorials 1” pp.215-216.

4 For Tydeman see Lamp R. “Aus einem Licht fort in das Andere” Abriebe von Grabplatten des Domes zu Lübeck . Exhibition Catalogue 2008 pp. 53-57; For Reventlow see Herring K. MBS Brass of the Month March 2014; For Höveln see Rogers N. MBS Monthly Portfolio of Brasses April 2009.

5 Norris M. JBAA 19 p.48 & Plate XVI.


7 Hach T 1889 p.26 & Mervelt was commemorated by a brass plate in St Nikolaikirche in Flensburg comprising a bell & cannon together with a Latin inscription. The brass has not survived.

8 Bogatyrev p. 52.

9 Bogatyrev p. 52.


© Kevin Herring – Article & Photos

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