Life & Miracles of St. Nicholas

Altarpiece from Nicolaikirche, Grimma, in Saxony, Germany

The altarpiece of St. Nicholas, 1519, was originally installed in the Nicolaikirche in Grimma, Germany, and is the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder’s workshop. The altar is complex, with almost life-size saint statues in the center. The two sets of wing panels on the back feature eight scenes of St. Nicholas on one side and the Passion on the other. The Nicolaikirche in Grimma was demolished in 1888 and the altarpiece put into storage. It is now in the Grimma cemetery Church of the Holy Cross and German restoration specialists, Dörte Busch and Dirk Jacob, restored it from 2004-07.

Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) was one of the most important German Renaissance artists in the Danube school. He painted both religious and secular subjects and became a good friend of Martin Luther. After the Reformation he continued work for Protestant Lutheran churches.

The scenes in the top row illustrate events from Nicholas life: giving dowry gold, consecration as a bishop, saving sailors, and securing grain during famine.

Giving dowry money
Nicholas giving dowry gold
Consecrated bishop
Nicholas consecrated bishop
Saving sailors
Bishop Nicholas saving sailors in tempest
Securing grain
Bishop Nicholas secures grain during famine

The scenes below illustrate stories showing St. Nicholas protection and the importance of honesty and keeping one’s word. These took place after his death.

Saving pilgrims
St Nicholas saves pilgrims from devil’s explosive oil
Dishonest borrower
St Nicholas exposes deceit
Dishonest thief
St Nicholas holds the dishonest thief to his word
The Two Golden Cups
St Nicholas and two golden cups
St Nicholas alterpiece in Grimma
St. Nicholas altarpiece, Grimma, Germany
St Nicholas alterpiece in Grimma
St. Nicholas altarpiece, front with saint statues: Barbara, Margaret, Norbert, Nicholas of Myra, Erasmus, Christopher, and Deacon Lawrence

Stories

Story of the Dowries
How Nicholas Became a Bishop
Pilgrimage to the Holy Land
Famine Relief or the Miracle of the Grain
Oil and Water
The Deceitful Borrower
The Dishonest Man from Bavaria
One Cup or Two?

Photos and information courtesy of Gerardo Cioffari from St. Nicholas News, Basilica di San Nicola, Bari, Italy. Used by permission.

Source:
Dörte Busch and Dirk Jacob, “Der Nikolaialtar aus der ehemaligen Nikolaikirche zu Grimma,” Beiträge zur Erhaltung von Kunst- und Kulturgut, Heft 2, 2009, pp. 47-58.

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