The Survival of Medieval Furnishings in Lutheran Churches. Notes towards a Comparison between Germany and Scandinavia
Perhaps paradoxically, of all medieval churches in Europe, those that became Lutheran during the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation possess the greatest wealth of medieval interior elements. Compared to Puritan Britain and the Calvinist Low Countries, Lutheran churches were not as thoroughly stripped of their medieval furnishings, while on the other hand Baroque renewals were much less far-reaching here than in Catholic regions. Although Lutheranism in general exerted a preserving effect on medieval church interiors, there are important differences between regions, both within Germany and between Germany and Scandinavia (here to be understood as “the Nordic countries”, i.e. including Finland and Iceland). This article makes a first attempt towards a comparison of the survival rates of medieval church furnishings in Lutheran Germany and the European North. Both regions are more or less on a par with regard to several specific elements including high altars and their decorations, triumphal arch crosses and baptismal fonts. However, other elements, such as tabernacles, choir stalls, chancel screens, pulpits and side altars are much more often preserved in Germany than in Scandinavia. It may be concluded, therefore, that the Reformation generally had further-reaching implications on the material culture of Nordic church buildings than on German ones.