Station:  The "Holy Sepulchre"
In the western part of the chapel, you’ll notice an area surrounded by metal fencing. Beneath it is an underground vault – a mock tomb, far too small to hold a real body. This is the "Holy Sepulchre" which gave the abbey its name. It’s also the subject of the founding legend. In the late Middle Ages, that legend was recorded on 15 wooden panels – an easily understandable story in pictures – though the content is dramatic and disturbing.
In 1287, a Jewish merchant is said to have illicitly entered the church in the village of Techow in order to steal the host. When divine intervention prevented the thief from leaving, and he panicked and attempted to bury the host, it started to bleed. He fled, but his crime was discovered and he was put to death. The bleeding host is said to have worked many miracles and thus gave rise to the founding of the abbey, in the very place where it had been buried.
It’s safe to assume that this supposed origin legend has nothing whatsoever to do with the historical truth. Unvarnished hatred of the Jews was taken for granted back then, something that is profoundly shocking to us today. The medieval pilgrims, on the other hand, venerated the host’s burial site here in the chapel. The host was, of course, seen as the true body of Christ following its transformation during Holy Mass. That was the body interred in the "Holy Sepulchre".
If you’d like to find out more about the abbey’s founding legend and the picture panels, you might like to know that the collegiate foundation has published several papers on the subject in recent years. And an entire room is dedicated to it in the foundation’s museum. To get to the museum, which is in the abbey’s east wing, you need to pass through the cloister.
All depictions © Kloster Stift zum Heiligengrabe