Tilman Riemenschneider

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Tilman Riemenschneider
Presumed self-portrait, detail from Creglingen's Marian retable
Tilman Riemenschneider at the Frankonia Fountain in front of the Würzburg Residence

Tilman Riemenschneider (* around 1460 in Heiligenstadt ; † July 7, 1531 in Würzburg ) was a German carver and sculptor as well as mayor and freedom fighter . He is one of the most important artists at the transition from the late Gothic to the Renaissance around 1500.


The early years

Saint George fighting the dragon , around 1490/1495 ( Bode Museum , Berlin)
Mourning Women (around 1508)
Saint Barbara , around 1510, Bavarian National Museum

Tilman Riemenschneider was born between 1459 and 1462 in Heiligenstadt im Eichsfeld . When Riemenschneider was around five years old, his father had to leave Heiligenstadt due to previous involvement in the Mainz collegiate feud and also lost his property. The family moved to Osterode , where the father settled down as a mint master and Tilman spent his childhood and youth.

Around 1473, Tilman Riemenschneider learned the craft of sculpting and carving. Today it is assumed that Riemenschneider learned his trade in Strasbourg (with the successors of the style-defining Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden ) and Ulm . Because of the poor sources, almost nothing is known about this period in Riemenschneider's life. Tilman Riemenschneider, however, very likely came into contact with the art of Martin Schongauer during this time , whose copperplate engravings later served as models.

The Würzburg period

Tilman Riemenschneider was already in the city of Würzburg in 1478/79. But he turned down a job at the Haug Collegiate Foundation that his uncle had arranged for him, and he tried to find work outside of Würzburg.

1483 he finally reached finally to his adopted country, the bishop's residence city Würzburg , where he was on December 7, 1483 Painters servant in the St. Lucas - Guild was taken of painters, sculptors and glaziers.

After he married Anna Schmidt, the widow of a master goldsmith, on February 28, 1485 , his journeyman life ended. He was granted the Würzburg civil rights and received championship honors. This path of social advancement was quite common in the late Middle Ages . The rigid guild regulations often left strangers with no other option to join the ranks of the local master craftsmen. In addition to status and assets, including the “Hof zum Wolfmannszichlein” in Franziskanergasse, Tilman Riemenschneider's first wife brought three sons into the marriage. She died after almost ten years of marriage and left him a daughter. In 1497 Tilman Riemenschneider married for the second time. The second wife, Anna Rappolt, with whom he had another daughter and three sons - including the later South Tyrolean painter Bartlmä Dill Riemenschneider - died around 1506/07 in the ninth year of marriage. One year after the death of his second wife, Tilman Riemenschneider married Margarete Wurzbach for the third time in 1507. After she had died too, around 1520 he married Margarete, widow of Kilian Thurner, daughter of the quarter master Hans Schirmer, who survived him. While the wives always ran the large master household, Tilman Riemenschneider ran his trade with a lot of business acumen and artistry. Around 1500 he had an excellent reputation as an artist, he had become a wealthy citizen and head of his guild. He owned several houses in Würzburg, plenty of land with his own vineyards and a flourishing workshop in which he employed many, sometimes very talented journeymen.

The public offices

Würzburg has been ruled by the bishop, the cathedral chapter and the lower council and the upper council since the 13th century . In November 1504 Tilman Riemenschneider was appointed to the Lower Council of the City of Würzburg, to which he then belonged for over 20 years. In this function he held the offices of master builder and fishery master as well as carer and asset manager of the Würzburg Marienkapelle . Riemenschneider was sent four times to the superior episcopal council. Here he represented the interests of the city towards the bishop and the canons.

Through the public offices and privileges as councilor , he not only increased his social reputation, but also won many large, lucrative commissions. In 1520/21 he was elected mayor . He held this office until 1524. At this time the spirit of the Reformation was already blowing through the country and also winning over many Würzburg citizens.

The time of the peasant war

The city council had long had political disputes with the then powerful Prince-Bishop Konrad II von Thüngen , who resided as sovereign in the Marienberg fortress directly above the city. The dispute escalated in 1525 during the German Peasants' War , when rebellious farmers gathered in front of the city and the citizens of Würzburg allied with them against the bishop. However, Marienberg Fortress withstood the siege and attacks from the city. The bishop even threatened the city with destruction, which demoralized the citizens in their will to fight. The decisive battle took place outside the city on June 4, 1525, when the advancing mercenaries of Georg Truchsess von Waldburg-Zeil destroyed the peasant army. Since the farmers had been abandoned by their military leader Götz von Berlichingen the day before , they had to go into battle without a leader and had no chance. 8,000 farmers were killed within two hours. When the bishop's well-armed and battle-tested troops attacked the city, the uprising of the citizens ended in their utter defeat and submission.

The leaders of the uprising - including all of the Würzburg councilors - were imprisoned in the dungeons of the Marienberg Fortress, tortured and sometimes brutally punished. Tilman Riemenschneider was also imprisoned for two months, during which he was "weighed hard and tortured by the hencker". The legend persisted for a long time that the artist who got entangled in politics had his hands broken in dungeon and was never able to work again afterwards. But there is no evidence of this. He was only released on payment of half of his property. The resentful authorities ensured that Tilman Riemenschneider lost his political offices and his job and was soon forgotten. After his release, he never received another major assignment.

Orders and clients

On the left the epitaph of Prince-Bishop Rudolf von Scherenberg, on the right the epitaph of Prince-Bishop Lorenz von Bibra in the Würzburg Cathedral

In addition to some profane works, Riemenschneider mainly created sculptures with a religious content. His customers were the clergy , but also civil society . His early commissions included the work for the sculptures in the Marienkapelle (Würzburg) . These publicly visible works were probably just the foundation for his reputation and for his other work assignments. This was his only major order from the city of Würzburg. However, he received a special commission from the city for the council table. Gabriel von Eyb , the bishop of Eichstätt , had given the people of Würzburg a slab made of Solnhofen limestone . Riemenschneider was asked to make a table frame for this and to add the coat of arms of the city of Würzburg, that of Bishop Gabriel von Eyb and that of Prince-Bishop Lorenz von Bibra . The stipulation was that “how to get the disch kere, the coat of arms should be at the top” (however you turn the table, the coat of arms should be at the top). The artist solved the problem by inserting the coats of arms in a concentric arrangement in the center of the round plate.

The Würzburg prince-bishop Lorenz von Bibra became one of Riemenschneider's most important clients. Among other things, he worked on the tabernacle of the high altar in the Würzburg Cathedral, which was destroyed in the Second World War . He also created the grave monuments of Lorenz von Bibra and his predecessor, Prince Bishop Rudolf von Scherenberg , which can still be seen in the cathedral today.


Riemenschneider was strongly influenced by Niclas Gerhaert van Leyden's new space-filling and naturalistic style , which he had developed in his Strasbourg workshop in the 1460s, and the widespread acceptance among clients, including Emperor Friedrich III. found. This style was cultivated in Ulm by Michel Erhart , who may even have worked in the Strasbourg workshop.

The orders for Riemenschneider's altar shrines were usually precisely given in terms of form, theme, layout, program of figures and size and did not leave much room for artistic freedom. Often carpenters had already done the preparatory work. The wood and stone sculptures created by Riemenschneider are characterized by expressive faces (often with an "inward looking look") and detailed drapery with rich folds. Some of his works were never painted in color and, despite this lack of perfection, worked so masterfully that for a long time art history clung to the mistaken assumption that they were designed from the outset to be woody. The color versions of other of his works come in part from his contemporary Jakob Mülholzer , who is documented from 1490/91 to 1514/15 and who was in close contact with Riemenschneider at that time.

Successors or students of Riemenschneider were Peter Breuer , Peter Dell, Hans Fries v. Mergentheim, Hans Gottwalt, Philipp Koch and many who can no longer be identified by name.

Assignment of the works

Tilman Riemenschneider


Since Riemenschneider did not sign any of his works, it is very difficult to distinguish between work by Riemenschneider that was entirely by hand and the work of the employees in his workshop. Originally, that was not even wanted. Only in his early days, when the workshop still had little work, will the works have been made by the master himself. These include the figures of Adam and Eve on the south portal of the Würzburg Marienkapelle. The city council demanded that it be made “in a mischievous manner”, that is, by hand. The originals are now in the Mainfränkisches Museum on the Marienberg Fortress .

Riemenschneider and workshop

Saint Stephanus Riemenschneider and workshop (around 1520)

Later, when the demand for his works rose sharply and Riemenschneider himself was more and more called upon by his public offices, the execution of the work was increasingly the responsibility of his workshop. Twelve apprentices were employed here at times. Often, Riemenschneider only supplied the drafts and supervised the production. These works are now called "Tilman Riemenschneider and workshop".

Circle of Tilman Riemenschneider

Riemenschneider's workshop was subject to great fluctuation. Apprentices went on a journeyman hike . Journeyman acquired the master craftsman's certificate and founded their own workshops. This resulted in works that showed the clear influence of Riemenschneider, but produced their own styles. Imitators of his style who did not come from Riemenschneider's workshop but wanted to benefit from his name also made their own works. These are led by “Tilman Riemenschneider district”.

The end of life, remembering and commemorating

Grave and tombstone on the north side of St. Kilian's Cathedral in Würzburg

Riemenschneider and his fourth wife led a withdrawn life after their release from prison in Würzburg. He lived and worked in the Hof zum Wolfmannszichlein at Franziskanergasse 1, which his first wife brought into the marriage, and died there on July 7, 1531. He was buried in the cemetery between the Würzburg Cathedral and the Neumünster Collegiate Monastery. As Tilman's successor, his son from his second marriage, Georg Riemenschneider , also known as Jörg, took over the workshop. In 1822, Riemenschneider's grave slab, which his son Jörg is said to have made, was found during road works. A cast is now attached to the outer wall of the Würzburg Cathedral near the site of the find, opposite the entrance to the Cathedral Museum. The original is in the Mainfränkisches Museum on the Marienberg Fortress.

It was not until the 19th century that Tilman Riemenschneider's craftsmanship and works of art were rediscovered and appreciated.

A memorial plaque in Sterngasse commemorates him as a builder and mayor.

In 1960 the Riemenschneider-Gymnasium in Würzburg was named after him.

On May 7th, 1981, the work and life of Tilman Riemenschneider by the German Federal Post Office with a postage stamp with a face value of 60 Pfennig Michel no . 1099 (group from a crucifixion altar).

In March 1996 the asteroid (6145) Riemenschneider was named after him.

On August 25, 2005 , the former Latin school in Osterode am Harz, which was given municipal patronage in 1420, was renamed Tilman-Riemenschneider-Gymnasium.

The Evangelical Church in Germany commemorates Riemenschneider with a day of remembrance in the Evangelical Name Calendar on July 7th.

In Würzburg itself, the Tilman restaurant located in the old town at Bronnbachergasse 10 is named after Riemenschneider.

Works (selection)

Works in churches (selection)

The Riemenschneider plants are located within a radius of approx. 100 km from Würzburg.

Works in museums (selection)

  • Museum für Franken - State Museum for Art and Cultural History in Würzburg with the world's largest collection of his works
    • Mourning Maria , around 1510, comes from Acholshausen
    • Around 80 other works by Riemenschneider and those from his workshop or his environment


Reception in art

5 Mark commemorative coin of the GDR for the 450th anniversary of the death of Tilman Riemenschneider from 1981
  • Tilman Röhrig : Riemenschneider. Historical novel . Piper, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-492-05055-5 .
  • Karl Heinrich Stein : Tilman Riemenschneider in the German Peasants' War. Story of an attitude of mind . Vienna 1937, Zurich 1944 and 1953.
  • Leo Weismantel : Dill Riemenschneider. The novel of his life . Herder, Freiburg i. Br. 1936; 6-8 Edition Karl Alber, Munich 1940–1941; Kerle, Heidelberg 1958; Union Verlag, Berlin 1962, 1968, 1979.


Web links

Commons : Tilman Riemenschneider  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bruno Rottenbach: Würzburg street names. Volume 1, Franconian Society Printing House, Würzburg 1967, p. 102.
  2. Erika Kerestely: Würzburg. City guide with a colored city map. Stürtz city guide. Verlagshaus Würzburg GmbH & Co KG, Würzburg 2008, ISBN 978-3-8003-1929-9 , p. 51.
  3. Minor Planet Circ. 26764. March 5, 1996 (PDF; 1.4 MB)
  4. ^ Albrecht Schütze: The Tilman-Riemenschneider-Gymnasium Osterode am Harz. A contribution to the history of secondary education in the city of Osterode am Harz. Paul Krösing Verlag, Osterode am Harz, no year, p. 7.
  5. ^ Tilman Riemenschneider in the Ecumenical Lexicon of Saints
  6. ^ Tilman Inn: website .
  7. ^ List of the works by Tilman Riemenschneider on a map on the inside of the book cover by Tilman Röhrig: Riemenschneider. Historical novel . Piper, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-492-05055-5 .
  8. Welcome to the Würzburg Cathedral. Leaflet in the cathedral from around 2009
  9. Saint George fighting the dragon - figure. In: SMB Digital. Retrieved July 12, 2020 .
  10. Annette Meier: "Saint Anna with her three men" . In: Museumsportal Berlin , accessed on October 2, 2017.
  11. The Four Evangelists from the Münnerstädter Retabel - group of figures. In: SMB Digital. Retrieved July 12, 2020 .
  12. ^ Crescent moon Madonna in the Museum of Art and Industry Hamburg
  13. Landesmuseum Württemberg - "Mourning Women ..."
  14. Eichsfeldmuseum - Heilbad Heiligenstadt. Retrieved June 8, 2020 .