The three paintings on the high altar and the two side altars are among the last surviving elements of the abbey church’s Baroque interior decoration.
They’re by the artist Joseph Melling from Lorraine, who was active in Schuttern in 1767. Seven of originally 14 altars featured paintings by Melling, and he also created a ceiling painting. The crossing – that is, the intersection of the nave and the aisles – was once crowned by a stately dome.
The high altar shows the Assumption of Mary, and the baroque frames hanging next to it on either side contain relics. Schuttern's most important relic, dating back to 1268, was a capsule containing a few drops of the Blood of Christ. In monastic times, the anniversary of its arrival from Strasbourg was celebrated annually on the 15th of November with a great feast.
Anyone who visited the "Holy Blood" in the abbey church received an indulgence of 100 days for mortal sins, or of a year for venial sins. People believed that their soul would be spared that time in purgatory after they died. In fact, an indulgence of a further 40 days was granted to anyone who made confession in Schuttern during the two weeks surrounding the Assumption of Mary, the Feast of St. Peter and St. Paul (that is, the 29th of June) or the anniversary of the church’s consecration. As a result, the abbey became an important place of pilgrimage in the Upper Rhine region. Offo’s Day, on the 14th of January, always drew large crowds as well – and the abbey would provide food for up to 5,000 poor people on that day.
All depictions: © Historischer Verein Schuttern 603 e.V. / Gemeinde Friesenheim