ERHART, Michael
(active 1469-1522 in Ulm)


Benedictine Abbey Church, Blaubeuren

In the chancel of the church of the former Benedictine abbey of Blaubeuren stands an altarpiece almost 12 meters high, created by the Ulm sculptors Michel and Gregor Erhart.

Supported by a predella of the same width as the altar table, the Blaubeuren altarpiece takes the form of a polyptych with two side wings that can be opened. Both the outer and the inner sides of these wings and the predella are decorated with paintings. Only when both the wings were opened was the sculptural decoration fully revealed.

On the predella are half-length figures of Christ and the Apostles, while in the central section the Virgin stands with the Child on the sickle moon. She is accompanied, on her right by St John the Baptist, the saint to whom the church was dedicated, and St Benedict, the founder of the order, and on her left by St John the Evangelist and St Scholastica, the founder of the order's female branch. The left-hand wing has a relief showing the birth of Christ while the right-hand one depicts the Adoration of the Magi. In the central section of the filigree superstructure that towers over the altarpiece Christ is depicted as the Man of Sorrows. At the sides of the superstructure stand the Virgin and St John. Below each of them are three busts of saints and Church Fathers.

The Blaubeuren Altarpiece is regarded as a work in the distinctive style of the Erhart workshop. Yet it is Michel Erhart himself who is now regarded by most experts as the master chiefly responsible for this altarpiece.