Station: [32] Niklas van Leyden: Madonna

It may be hard to believe – but this sculpture of the Virgin Mary was actually carved from a single block of sandstone! Just look at the fine detail on the crown. At how delicately the fingers have been carved! How sumptuous and realistic the drapery appears!

This Gothic sculpture of the Madonna is attributed to the workshop of Nicolaus van Leyden, one of the most successful artists of the late 15th century. Originally from Leyden in the Netherlands, he settled in Strasbourg around 1460 and supplied naturalistic sculptures, reliefs and altars to clients throughout southern Germany and Austria.

What’s known as the "Strasbourg School" also found favour at Schuttern Abbey, which is known to have had links to van Leyden's workshop. That was probably where the Madonna figure originated. It stood in a Gothic side wing reserved for novices, and was later moved to the corner of the rectory facing the garden. At times, it was even painted. But today, its simple beauty once again adorns the church.

Incidentally—have you noticed that the baby Jesus is holding an apple? That’s no coincidence. The apple is a symbol of sin and death, but also of redemption and love.

All depictions: © Historischer Verein Schuttern 603 e.V. / Gemeinde Friesenheim