Essential Architecture-  Bad Doberan

Charnel House (Ossuary)




Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany.


13th century


Hanseatic Brick Gothic




the building:
The slender, octagonal brick structure in the former monastic cemetery to the north of the Doberan Minster was used from the 13th century until the Reformation in 1552 as a final resting place for the monks. With trust in the resurrection of the body, disinterred bones were laid to rest in the underground vault. Requiem and soul masses were sung in the chapel surmounting the vault. The altar is dedicated to St. Michael, the rescuer and weigher of souls. Begun in about 1240/50 in the early Gothic style and built of alternating glazed and unglazed bricks, the charnel house shows clear evidence of late Romanesque influence in its ornamentation. The only other example in North Germany is to be found at Hardehausen near Paderborn. In 1883, a lantern of the dead that had been removed before 1830 was reconstructed under the direction of Gotthilf Ludwig Möckel, but once again removed for structural reasons in 1977/78. In the Middle Ages, lanterns of the dead were intended to ward off evil spirits and ensure peace for the souls of the departed. The exterior of the building is dominated by gently pointed, narrow, high windows framed by pronounced mouldings. A blind rosette above the entrance to the chapel indicates the origins of the design in ashlar ornamentation. The corners are crowned by massive columns and small pyramids bearing crosses. The late Romanesque frieze is composed of segments of a circle. The interior is decorated by remarkable murals from the late 13th century, which have been heavily restored on various occasions. The many figural depictions contrast with the decoration of the minster. At the lower level the five foolish virgins are represented, all with sad gestures, some with hand to bowed head. Next to them, refashioned in the 19th century, stands Gottschalk, Prince of the Obotrites (+1066). The figures are surmounted by episcopal dedicatory crosses. Above this come the five wise virgins, solemn and beautiful, holding round, antique lamps from which a great flame rises. Their breasts are decked with great rhombic jewels as nuptial adornment. On the sixth wall to the right stands a virgin with a sword in her hand, St. Catherine. Above one virgin a figure is kneeling with outspread arms to worship or to support the corbel. The vault shows seven apostles (probably Matthew, Peter, Philip, John, Paul, and Bartholomew) and Christ. Above the door, Christ Crucified, and alongside – since the 19th century – Church and Synagogue as female figures. The Charnel House was included in the list of nationally important monuments in February 2002. Since October of the same year, restoration work has begun that will take a number of years to complete.

Martin Heider
Klosterstraße 2
18209 Bad Doberan
Tel: (038203)779590
o. 62716
Fax: (038203)62528

opening hours:
advance reservation

Guided Tours:

entrance fees:


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