Church of the mendicant order

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The church buildings of the mendicant orders form their own type within the history of architecture. The architecture of the mendicant order began in the first quarter of the 13th century and flourished in the 14th century.

Many churches of the mendicant order, such as St. Martin in Freiburg, originally a Franciscan church without a tower, around 1300, do without towers and rich decorations .
The hall-like wide room, adapted to the purpose of the sermon, such as the nave of the Predigerkirche in Erfurt (formerly Dominican) is typical for many mendicant churches.


The building regulations of the Dominicans and Franciscans were limited to a few requirements and prohibitions. They demanded simplicity and moderate size of the building, the extensive renouncement of sculptural or pictorial furnishings, the renunciation of vaults in the church with the exception of the choir, as well as the lack of a tower and the use of a roof turret as a bell chair . At first glance, violations of the regulations appear to have occurred early on. Already one of the first churches on German soil, the Dominican Church in Esslingen / N , consecrated in 1268 . , is completely arched. However, in the case of the churches concerned, special motivation can usually be asserted for this on the part of the convents or the sponsors (donors, cities), or, as in the case of Esslingen, it can be determined through detailed building studies that the vaults above the lay area (nave without Choir area) were not secondary arched until the end of the 13th century. In the 14th and 15th centuries, the buildings evidently moved further and further away from the canon of rules. However, they remain simple on a local scale.

Stylistically, the mendicant churches were based on the Gothic style that was current at the time , but in a reduced formal language. In contrast to the verticality, the fragmented structural forms and the splendid architectural decoration of the cathedral Gothic, the mendicant churches of the same period are characterized by their simplicity and rigor in terms of construction and spatial form, as well as the economy in the individual forms. Their external appearance usually shows a cube-shaped, horizontally stretched structure without complex structures. Rich sculptures , a transept and bell towers were always avoided.

A preference for a certain characteristic building type cannot generally be determined, and differences can also be recognized within the individual orders. Were built hall churches , basilicas and hall churches with one or three vessels (rarely), partly asymmetrically applied, for instance with two ships. However, at least in the first decades of building activity among Franciscans and Dominicans, there seems to be indications of the preferences of the respective orders for certain building types. The Franciscans apparently initially preferred simple hall churches, while the Dominicans resorted to the type of basilica. The Dominicans built vaulted churches a little earlier and more often (above the choir), while the Franciscans preferred rooms with wooden beam ceilings, wooden barrel vaults or - south of the Alps - open roof spaces with transverse arches. The choir usually has a cross vault . The initial small choirs and the renouncement of a rood screen were soon given up. The takeover of the Cistercian choir with chapels lined up at the transept is characteristic of the Italian mendicant orders (e.g. Santa Croce in Florence )

The general characteristic is the spaciousness of the lay area, which results from the extensive lack of differentiating structural elements. The terms sermon - or national church, which are frequently used to characterize mendicant churches, are not applicable. Most of the medieval mendicant churches consist of a two- or three-aisled nave and a single-nave choir .


Today hardly anything can be said about the furnishings and jewelry of the mendicant churches due to the thorough destruction since the Reformation . Initial efforts by the orders to curb excessive luxury - a Franciscan statute from 1260 only allowed images of the crucifix , the Madonna , St. John , Francis and Antony - seem to have failed anyway. The dependence of the monasteries on patricians who were willing to donate spoke against them . One reads quite often in contemporary sources about magnificent glass windows, a large number of tombs and coats of arms, which were commissioned by generous donors.

Convent building

The convent buildings of the mendicant orders were mostly based on their local, often cramped conditions. Most of the cloister buildings were arranged in the conventional scheme around a rectangular cloister , structurally connected to the monastery church. The friars lived in individual cells. Farm buildings could be dispensed with because the mendicant orders did not operate any agriculture.


  1. Todenhöfer 2007, pp. 49–62.
  2. ^ Jaeger, Falk: The Dominican monastery in Esslingen. Building monograph of church and monastery , Sigmaringen 1994, p. 93
  3. Todenhöfer 2010, p. 226f.


  • Leopold Giese: Bettelordenskirchen, churches of the mendicant orders (ordines mendicantium) , in: Reallexikon zur Deutschen Kunstgeschichte , Vol. 2, Stuttgart 1939, 394–444.
  • Roland Pieper: The churches of the mendicant orders in Westphalia. Architecture in the field of tension between state politics, city and order in the 13th and early 14th centuries Dietrich-Coelde-Verlag, Werl / Westphalia 1993, ISBN 3-87163-199-X (Franziskanische Forschungen Vol. 39).
  • Wolfgang Schenkluhn : Architecture of the mendicant orders: the architecture of the Dominicans and Franciscans in Europe . Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2000.
  • Achim Todenhöfer: Apostolic ideal in a social context. On the genesis of the architecture of the beggar order in the 13th century. In: Marburg Yearbook for Art History . 34, 2007, ISBN 978-3-87375-173-9 , pp. 43-75.
  • Achim Todenhöfer: Churches of the mendicant orders. The architecture of the Dominicans and Franciscans in Saxony-Anhalt . Dietrich Reimer Verlag, Berlin 2010, ISBN 978-3-496-01396-9 .

See also