(b. ca. 1460, Osterode, d. 1531, Würzburg)

Holy Blood Altarpiece

Limewood, height 900 cm
Sankt Jakob, Rothenburg ob der Tauber

A small crystal, placed at the centre of a cross in the crowning of an altarpiece in the church of St. Jacob at Rothenburg ob der Tauber contained a relic: a drop of Christ's blood. Toward the end of the 15th century, Rothenburg town council resolved to build an altar to house this relic, and engaged Tilman Riemenschneider to carry out the sculpture for it.

The narrow altarpiece with its tall slender crowning rises up rather like an oversized monstrance. Instead of a predella, the altarpiece rests on a tripartite filigree-like arcade. Flanked by two angels in the outer arches, the crucifix stands in the central arch. Unusually, the blood relic is placed in the crowning, not at the centrepiece. The Last Supper, the main scene of the altarpiece has a direct connection with the blood relic. It was on that occasion that Christ initiated the Eucharist with the words "This is my blood."

© Web Gallery of Art, created by Emil Krén and Daniel Marx.