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Anna selbdritt (1507). Painting on the predella of the Coronation Altar in the Bishop's Chapel of the Basilica of the Assumption of Mary in Seckau

A predella is a mostly wooden flat base that stands on the altar table, the cafeteria , in Christian churches and carries the actual altarpiece, the reredos . Sometimes the box-like predella also had the function of a reliquary .

Depiction of the Lamentation of Christ on the predella of the Isenheim Altarpiece .

The borrowed word also means 'step, step' in Italian and probably goes back to a Germanic word predel or pretel in Longobard , meaning 'wooden plinth of a piece of furniture made of boards'.

First wall painting in the retable of the Isenheim Altarpiece with a predella underneath

Predellas are often provided with paintings or carvings that are related in terms of design and theme to the representations of the altarpiece to which they belong. The Passion story shown in the reredos can correspond to the entombment of Christ on the predella below. A common motif is the last supper of Jesus with his twelve apostles because of the wide, low format and the proximity to the altar table . Due to the lower iconographic tasks and requirements in contrast to the pictures on the main panels, there is often more scope for artistic design freedom within the framework of the predella. Some predelles have achieved fame of their own due to their particularly significant design.

Examples of famous predels

The painting The Body of Christ in the Grave (1521/1522) by Hans Holbein the Elder, executed in the horizontal format of a predella . As a result of the iconoclasm in Basel, J. was never set up in the planned location (today in the Kunstmuseum Basel ). Dix 'Predella Der Krieg refers to this picture (picture below) ; and Dostoevsky discusses it in his novel The Idiot (1868).

Oil and tempera on linden wood, dimensions 30.5 cm × 200 cm

Web links

Commons : Predella  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Predella  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations


  1. The Death of Saint Benedict
  2. ^ Esther, and Life of Saint Jerome