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BM Dürer

Albrecht Dürer’s 'Apocalypse'

Although referred to as 'The New Jerusalem' image from Dürer’s Apocalypse, it is unclear whether this image is really meant to represent the New Jerusalem. If so, it is notable for its rendering of Jerusalem as contemporary Nuremberg, the town in which Dürer himself lived. Heavily influenced by the Koberger Bible of 1483 CE, Dürer’s Apocalypse of 1498 was one of the first printed Apocalypses and one of the most successfully early printed illustrated books. Capitalising on the new medium of print, Dürer visualised the entire narrative of Revelation in just fifteen images. The condensed visual narrative has both a synchronicity and an immediacy that earlier book versions of Revelation often lacked. Throughout the series, the heavenly and earthly realms are clearly demarcated, by clever placement of clouds and dense hatching over the human portion of the sky to evoke the spiritual darkness that plagues it. However, in this final image the sky is clear save for a few birds: it is as if a new dawn has broken, ushering in the New Jerusalem. At the gates, of the city an angel stands ready to usher in the multitudes. Nevertheless, the placement of the ‘chaining of Satan’ at the foreground of the image (Revelaation 20:1–3), leaves the viewer unsure of what Dürer intends to depict: the 'chaining of Satan' is the prelude in Revelation to the ushering in of the Millennium that precedes Armageddon and the Last Judgement. It is thus unclear whether Dürer meant this as an evocation of the New Jerusalem, or of the Millennial Age that will precede the arrival of the eternal city. Either way, we see a return of the urban emphasis in Dürer’s depiction, in contrast to The Ghent Altarpiece, as well, perhaps, as a hint at the idea that the New Jerusalem cannot be satisfactorily visualised by the human imagination at all.

11 Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst.mp3

Rudolf Mauersberger's 'Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst'

Rudolf Mauersberger's motet 'Wie liegt die Stadt so wüst' was written on Good Friday and Holy Saturday in 1945 CE (see the composer's autograph manuscript here). The liturgy of Holy Week had gained a new meaning for Mauersberger in the aftermath of the firebombing and large scale destruction of Dresden, including the Kreuzkirche, where he was director of music. Among the many dead were eleven boys of Mauersberger's choir. Mauersberger's setting includes words from Lamentations 1:13: 'Er hat ein Feuer aus der Höhe in meine Gebeine gesandt und es lassen walten' ('From above he has sent fire into my bones, and let it rule'). The text differs from standard English translations—NRSV has 'From on high he sent fire; it went deep into my bones'—due to a different interpretion of the Hebrew, and is particularly striking here. This verse, originally written to describe God's destruction of Jerusalem, finds a poignant new home in a city destroyed by incendiary bombs. The setting is largely very quiet and expresses despair and sadness, but also hope for salvation. With the translation of the Bible into the spoken languages of Europe from the sixteenth century CE onwards, the biblical text became part of everyday experience. European Christians understood many of the texts to refer not only to the real city of Jerusalem and its environs, but also to their own homelands, as this setting illustrates. It may be troublesome to some to see a German composer use biblical texts to lament the destruction of his city during World War II, in which Germany destroyed so many cities and killed 6,000,000 Jews. Some have accused Mauersberger of not including a clear statement of German guilt in his selection of texts. The inclusion of the last few lines, however, requesting that God bring 'us' back to him, may be understood as a recognition that contemporary Germans were far from God (the Lutheran understanding of sinfulness). The setting also uses both the beginning and end of the text of Lamentations, indicating that the hearer is to understand the entire text as part of the work, including Lamentations 5:16b: 'Woe for us, for we have sinned!'.