Prelates' room with decorated walls at Lorch Monastery

Mysticism and moralsThe prelates' room

The Protestant Abbot, Joachim Martini, commissioned a painter with painting the room in the prelature of Lorch at the end of the 17th century. What was created is a surprising rarity that demonstrates much about thought in the Baroque period.

Aerial view of Lorch Monastery with church and prelature

The prelature directly next to the church.

A wealth of Baroque

The corner room in the upper story of the prelature, at the west end of the dormitory, is paneled. The two preserved walls and the beam ceiling are painted in shades of blue, gray, and green. The wooden wall paneling is decorated with portrait medallions, lavish Baroque ornaments, and a kind of imitation marble. Each portrait medallion has a clever Latin axiom.

An art form with morals

What kind of images are depicted in the medallions? There are emblematic images, an art form that was very popular during the Baroque period, particularly in Germany. A motto and an instructive verse, generally in Latin, accompany a symbolic image. Books and engravings disseminated the models, which were often imitated and copied. People loved the encoded and moral messages and the rich interpretation of the emblems.

Murals in the prelates' room at Lorch Monastery

Paneling with symbolic images.

The models are well-known

It is well documented that Abbot Joachim Martini commissioned a traveling painter with the work in 1687: He was intended to paint the prelates' room and to use models for the images, namely a well-known collection of such emblems. The book was not new, but rather had been published in Strasbourg in 1615: the "Emblemata Moralia & Bellica" by Jacob von Bruck.

Moral teachings and an abbot with many interests

Most of these axioms are moral lessons, admonishments, and pieces of wisdom. For example: "LIBERA MENS SERVIRE NEGAT," or in English: "A free mind cannot be subjugated." The associated image depicts a lion in a cage, which remains proud even in captivity. However, three groups of images come from entirely different fields: alchemy and cosmology. They depict planetary symbols or a celestial globe—perhaps these were a passion of the abbot?

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