As an epitaph ( ancient Greek ἐπιτάφιον 'belonging to the grave' or Latin epitaphium , from ἐπί epí 'at', 'on' and τάφος táphos 'grave'; plural epitaphs ; in German also epitaphium , plural epitaphs ) is a funerary inscription or a grave memorial for denotes a deceased on a church wall or a pillar. Epitaphs can be artistically elaborate and, unlike tombs, are not necessarily located at the burial site, in this case it is a subspecies of a cenotaph .
The epitaph emerged from two different roots during the late Middle Ages:
- Devotional pictures that were donated for the deceased were increasingly given the character of memorial pictures through corresponding inscriptions.
- Elaborately designed grave slabs, especially in large churches, more and more often on walls and pillars and separated from the grave site.
In its simplest form, an epitaph is a board labeled with names and mostly with dates of life. In the 16th and 17th centuries the growing need for representation of the urban bourgeoisie and the nobility led to a rapid development of epitaphs. Especially since the introduction of the Reformation, there have been reworking and secondary uses of epitaphs. Pre-Baroque epitaphs are often modeled on late medieval grave slabs, with elaborate reliefs of the deceased. In the baroque era , the formal pattern of the grave slab became a design option among many, in addition to altars (often with retables ), coffins and many others. Baroque epitaphs are usually built architecturally and sculptured from stone, metal or wood, usually colored and often partially gilded. Another widespread type are memorial plaques bearing oil or tempera paintings. They are mostly made entirely of wood, but canvas is also used as a picture carrier. The frames of these picture panels are often built architecturally and decorated with plastic jewelry, sometimes made of stone, plaster or metal, for example angel heads or capitals and consoles.
The motifs of the sculptural or pictorial design of epitaphs can be divided into four areas:
- general symbols of the transience of everything earthly such as skulls , (crossed) bones, (winged) hourglasses, allegorical representations of death;
- biographical elements, for example depictions of the deceased, coats of arms and insignia;
- Christian elements, such as the so-called four last things : death , last judgment , heaven and hell and symbols of the resurrection
- Jewish elements, for example Aaronic Blessing , Pushke (Yiddish: Tzedaka Box).
Like the artistic design, the inscriptions represent the social rank of the deceased. The simplest form of names and dates of their lives mentioned above is therefore comparatively rare to find; People for whom an epitaph was donated at all were usually honored in greater detail. The first extension of the inscription , already taken epigraphically from the medieval tomb , is genealogical information: in the case of married persons, at least the spouse is listed, but often also the respective families of origin. For this purpose, the so-called corpse text has been widespread in the inscription since the Renaissance, usually the quotation from the Bible or song about which was preached at the burial. In the Baroque era in particular, the inscriptions increase in size, extensively honor the life of the deceased and praise their outstanding and pious way of life. Baroque grave or epitaph inscriptions address the reader directly as Memento Mori , depending on the local and individual requirements in the respective national language or in Latin and often in verse form. An example:
" ET MORTVVS EST? / QUID MIRARIS NEC TAMEN RIMARIS / FLORIS ET RORIS VANITATEM? / NOS QVOQVE FLOREMVS; SED FLOS EST ILLE / CADVCVS FORVIT; AST DEFLORUIT / QVI FLORVM ATQVE HERBARVM INDAGITAVIT VIRTUTEM / FILIVS PARENTVM UNICVS / IOHANNES CHRISTIANVS HARNISCH / ARTIS MEDICAE LICENTIATUS ET PRACTICVS FELICISSIMUS / ANNUM AGENS 34TVM. / FLOS AETATIS AC AETAS FLORIS / ALIIS INSERVIENDO MARCVIT. / NON ARCVIT / HERBA IN HORTIS / VIM VIOLENTAM MORTIS / QUAE FOLIVM DE TRIFOLIO / DECERPSIT THE 18th DECEMBRIS 1730 / EST COMMVNE MORI. / QVID HAESITAS LECTOR? / ET MORTVVS EST. "
“Did he die too? Why do you wonder and not instead explore the transience of the flower and the dew? We are blooming; but that flower is perishable. He was in bloom, but withered, who researched the power of flowers and herbs, the only son of his parents: Johann Christian Harnisch, a qualified physician and successfully practicing doctor, at the age of 34. He who served others was wearied with the bloom of age and the age of the bloom. The herbs in the gardens could not repel the boisterous force of death, who plucked a leaf from the clover on December 18, 1730. It is our common fate to die. What are you faltering, reader? He also died. "
- Joseph Bergmann : About the value of funerary monuments and their inscriptions, as well as the creation of a Corpus Epitaphiorum Vindobonensium. In: Mittheilungen der kk Central-Commission for the research and preservation of architectural monuments. Volume 2, No. 6, 1857, , pp. 141-146, 180-185, ( digitized ).
- Katarzyna Cieślak : Death and Remembrance. Danzig epitaphs from the 15th to the 20th century (= individual writings of the Historical Commission for East and West Prussian State Research. 14). Verlag Nordostdeutsches Kulturwerk, Lüneburg 1998, ISBN 3-922296-95-5 .
- W. Franke: Generic constants of the English verse epitaph from Ben Johnson to Alexander Pope. Philosophical dissertation, Erlangen 1864.
- Anne-Dore Ketelsen-Volkhardt: Schleswig-Holstein epitaphs of the 16th and 17th centuries (= studies on Schleswig-Holstein art history. 15). Wachholtz, Neumünster 1989, ISBN 3-529-02515-1 .
- Hans Körner: Grave monuments of the Middle Ages. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1997, ISBN 3-534-11233-4 .
- Bruno Langner: Evangelical painting epitaphs in Franconia. A contribution to the religious image in the Renaissance and Baroque periods (= writings and catalogs of the Franconian Open Air Museum. 73). Franconian Open Air Museum, Bad Windsheim 2015, ISBN 978-3-926834-92-8 .
- Helmut Stefan Milletich, Helmuth Furch, Kaisersteinbrucher Epitaphe , in: VOLK UND HEIMAT, magazine for culture and education. Eisenstadt, Volume 46, No. 2/1991.
- Paul Schoenen: Epitaph . In: Real Lexicon on German Art History . Volume 5: Email - Donkey Ride. Druckmüller, Stuttgart 1967, column 872-922.
- Helga Wäß: Form and Perception of Central German Memory Sculpture in the 14th Century. 2 volumes. Tenea, Bristol et al. 2006, ISBN 3-86504-159-0 (also: Göttingen, Universität, Dissertation, 2001);
- Volume 1: A contribution to medieval grave monuments, epitaphs and curiosities in Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia, North Hesse, East Westphalia and South Lower Saxony.
- Volume 2: Catalog of selected objects from the High Middle Ages to the beginning of the 15th century.
- Monumental script
- Death poem
- Death shield
- Epitaphs in Lübeck Cathedral
- Epitaphs of the Marienkirche in Lübeck
- S. for example the example of the "Flemendorfer family table", Burkhard Kunkel, Gerhard Weilandt: The family table in Flemendorf. A painting of the Dürer succession in Western Pomerania. In: Kunst-Chronik, Volume 64, Issue 8, Nuremberg 2011, pp. 435–440.
- The term “epitaph” is sometimes only used to refer to the inscription on a tomb or a memorial.
- Quoted from the inscription collection www.sepulcralia.de ( Memento from April 22, 2010 in the Internet Archive ). The inscription is in the old cemetery of Buttstädt .