Tomb of Regine Luther

In the plain entrance in the south tower, a wooden crucifix dating from the eighteenth century and, on the left by the porch screen, the tombstone of Regine Luther (died 8 October 1653), wife of Johann Martin Luther, are worth noting.

The most important works of art from the late Middle Ages are the three stone figures, carved in the round with a plinth and canopy, on the north side of the nave. According to written records, these sculptures were placed in the west choir, built in 1503; they were moved to their present position at a later date. The stone figures are life-sized, with somewhat squat proportions. The two patron saints of the diocese, Bishop Donatus of Arezzo (west) and John the Evangelist (east) flank the founder of the bishopric of Meissen, Emperor Otto I. Expressive faces, lively drapery and dramatic three-dimensionality lend a strong effect to this group of figures in a space that is otherwise unadorned.

A fine surviving example of a tombstone of the late Middle Ages, showing the widow of Bruno von der Pforte (died in 1503) in low relief, has been placed on the north wall of the chancel.

Wappen Bischof Johann VI. von Saalhausen
Arms of Bishop Johann VI von Saalhausen

Works made before the Reformation can be found in some places inside the church. Among these are the coat of arms of Bishop Johann VI von Sahlhausen, as a sandstone relief on the north wall of the east choir and also as a bronze plaque on the south wall of the south aisle. This bishop was outstandingly important in the period around 1500 for his construction work on the collegiate church and on Schloss Wurzen, the bishops’ residence.

From 1559 to 1576 the mortal remains of Bishop Benno von Meissen were temporarily kept in the tomb of Johann VI. The tomb was opened in 1931 when heating was installed, and the remains of Bishop von Sahlhausen were transferred to a crypt in the east choir.

A funeral plaque for the brother of Johann VI, Georg von Sahlhausen, a painted relief with a surrounding inscription, is also on the south wall of the aisle.

The coat of arms of the church dating from around 1500 depicting the annunciation of the angel to Mary, placed on the south wall of the east choir, was stolen in summer 2008.

At the Reformation the furnishings of the church underwent considerable change, and much was destroyed. Since 1542 Protestant services have been held in the church. The need for more space in a church used for preaching necessitated the installation of galleries. The north gallery was built in 1555, the south gallery (later removed) in 1593.

In 1817 the church interior was redesigned in Gothic Revival style. It was the very first neo-Gothic furnishing of a church in Saxony. The work was commissioned by the provost and architect Christian Ludwig Stieglitz and by the dean, Immanuel Christian Leberecht von Ampach. The altarpiece, the baptism of Christ in the Jordan, is now on the west wall of the south aisle. It was painted by Friedrich Matthäi from Dresden and came to its present position in 1932 at the most recent alteration of the church interior.

n 1931-32 a radical redesign of the interior, in a purifying and historical style, was carried out by Georg Wrba. This work concluded with the installation of the organ in 1932. The organ was made by Jehmlich in Dresden. It originally possessed three manuals, 44 stops, pedals and electro-pneumatic operation. Following thorough restoration of the instrument by the organ workshop of Christian Reinhold in Bernsdorf between 1998 and 2001, the organ now has 49 stops.

Further remodelling in 1932 affected, among other features, the former main door of the church, which was transferred to the south tower, and the arrangement of the pews, whose backrests can be rotated by 180°; for church services, they allow the usual view to the east to the altar and pulpit, and can be converted for musical events to give a “concert axis” with a view to the west choir.

An outstanding measure of conservation carried out from 1985 to 1990 revealed the secco painting in the first storey of the north tower. It dates from the second half of the fifteenth century and is characterised by the High Gothic style in the forms of the figures. Biblical scenes are shown in several fields. The representation of the Virgin and Child with St Anne is especially well preserved. The scenes were painted on the walls of what was once an east window, later filled in, with old seating niches. This space was probably used as a private chapel for the bishops. Beneath the very large window in the north wall, remains of an extremely ancient, now walled-up fireplace were found.

Remarkable Features

Kanzel - Foto: A. Baumgärtel
Pulpit – photo: A. Baumgärtel

The Dresden sculptor Professor Georg Wrba achieved an expressive redesign of elements of the interior fittings in 1931-32. His cycle of late Expressionist works cast in bronze includes the crucifixion group in the chancel, the pulpit, the choir stalls of the canons in the east choir, the balustrade of the singers’ gallery with a portrait of Martin Luther, and a memorial plaque for Hermann Ilgen, whose financial donation made possible the remodelling of the church and who was awarded honorary citizenship of Wurzen. The impressive naturalistic heads of apostles on the pulpit, carved in the round, are portraits of the canons of the time, of the artist and of the donor.

The crucifixion group of Jesus and the two thieves has a dramatic effect, backlit by the choir windows. The body language extending into the space and the expressive features of the two thieves contrast with the dignified bearing of the crucified Christ, whose posture expresses firmness and spiritual mastery. The thief who turns away from Jesus has negroid features, a reference to the ethnic mix in the Roman province of Judaea which may perhaps also be a sign of the racial attitude of the artist’s time and cannot be viewed uncritically by present-day standards.

Kreuzigungsgruppe - Foto: Der Niederrheiner
Crucifixion group – photo: Der Niederrheiner