LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur

Mary and Ten Apostles from the West Portal of the So-called Überwasser Church in Münster

Mary and Ten Apostles from the West Portal of the So-called Überwasser Church in Münster, A Workshop from Flanders or the Maas Region (?), around 1370/74 © LWL-Museum für Kunst und Kultur, Münster

Mary and Ten Apostles from the West Portal of the So-called Überwasser Church in Münster, A Workshop from Flanders or the Maas Region (?), around 1370/74

The eleven sandstone figures display traces of obvious damage. Originally there were 13 sculptures decorating the west portal of the St Marien zu Überwasser church – the Madonna and the twelve apostles. In 1534/35 they were toppled from their consoles by the so-called Anabaptists, who used them to reinforce the city fortifications at the Kreuzschanze sconce. The iconoclasm of this radical Reformation movement destroyed much of Münster’s art from the Middle Ages. During excavations around 1900, ten statues were rediscovered and salvaged.

The group of figures, which were originally painted, are distinguished by their outstanding sculptural quality. The elegantly curved bodies, which far in advance of their time appear particularly life-like, are remarkable. Flowing robes with ebullient drapery suggest a movement heavenwards. The apostles’ heads, with their stern bearded faces, embody a courtly ideal of manhood. Paul is particular poignant, gazing under bushy eyebrows into the distance. Most of the statues have missing feet, arms or hands, increasing the impression of vulnerability.

This cycle represents the most important example of high Gothic sculpture in Westphalia, and therefore the LWL-Museum is displaying it within its architectural highlight – the pointed corner. In contrast to its original location on the portal, they are being exhibited in a spatial arrangement: the Mother of God is elevated, the apostles grouping around her as if they were in discussion. Visitors are able to walk between them and experience at first hand their dynamic interrelationships.