Funeral Ceremony at the Dome-Church — Interior of the Dome-Church — Legend of the Dome-Church — Novel Institution for Cripples — The Rampart — Annual Festivities

Lübeck, 4th July 1820.
MY DEAR J****,
LÜBECK comprises so many interesting objects, that I find myself under the necessity of writing every day, — in order to communicate to you whatever may have attracted my notice, without extending my letters to an inordinate length.

The early part of this day we devoted to visiting. About an hour before dinner we went to see the Dome-Church, the exterior of which had impressed me with feelings of so much awe. Shortly after we reached it, a funeral procession entered the burial-ground, which afforded me an opportunity of witnessing the ceremonies of interment observed in this country. The order of the train was as follows: — first, a number of boys singing, preceded by their directors; secondly, the body; thirdly, three clergymen with black cloaks, powdered hair, and stiff ruffs about the neck; fourthly, several attendants with black cloaks and cocked hats; fifthly, the relatives of the deceased, and the trade — walking two and two. The coffin was irregularly hexagonal, and of very great size. When the procession had entered the church the clergymen immediately disappeared, and returned no more. The bier was lowered in the middle of the aisle, after which the chanting continued for some time. The coffin was then conveyed to the grave, the pall removed, and the body consigned to the earth with all the levity so common on such occasions. The top of the grave was made level with the sandy area of the cemetery.

After the interment was completed, we reentered the cathedral to take a more accurate view. There is in it a fine brazen statue of Henry Von Bockholt — one of the early bishops, who built the greater part of the edifice — lying horizontally on his monument; and also a picture of Casper Kobrinck, the first Lutheran minister of the church, which is preserved with reverential care. But a painting on wood, in three compartments, by Albert Durer —representing the history of Christ — struck me as being one of the finest specimens of the art I had ever seen. In the first compartment are depicted the various circumstances that intervened between the apprehension of our Saviour and his crucifixion, which latter subject occupies the middle compartment. In this I was sorry to observe what I must consider an extreme error of judgment — the figure of a monkey squatting on the back of a horse, and cracking a nut. This blemish too is introduced in the most solemn part of the entire composition. I have always admired the exquisite effect produced in Rubens’ picture of The Cup found in Benjamins Sack (one of the collection at Russborough, county of Wicklow), by the introduction of an ass’s head in the very centre of the piece — the stupid unconcern of the face contrasting admirably with the various passions, which characterise the countenances of the human figures: but such levities should never be admitted into subjects of so sacred a nature as that I have been describing. The third compartment, containing the Resurrection and Ascension, is much inferior to the other two. That deplorable inattention to costume, which often pervades the productions of the ablest masters, is here very striking — Roman soldiers being arrayed in the garb of old German warriors. On the leaves of the case which contains this picture are portraits of St. Samplasimus, St. John, St. Jerome, and St. Philip. Two statues of the Virgin Mary — the one of clay, the other of wood — still remain to attest the original form of worship to which this structure was devoted. Two recesses, used as places of interment, are named the “Old” and the “New Bishop’s Chapel:” the latter of these contains some splendid marhle tombs.

The entrance to the nave is occupied by a crucifix of huge dimensions, curiously adorned with carved figures of ecclesiastics in various habits. The clock is an extraordinary object. The dial-plate represents the face of the sun, — the eyes of which, turning alternately to the right and left with the oscillation of the pendulum, produce a most hideous effect. Above are two figures, — one of which personifies Faith, and beats the quarters: the other, a skeleton said to represent Time, exhibits rather the lineaments of Death. In the left hand it holds an hourglass, and in the right a hammer, with which it strikes the hours — slowly moving the head to the right and left during the process. Behind the altar is the sepulchre of the celebrated Rabundus, who — as the legend saith — used to announce the approaching deaths of theDomherrn, or “canons,” by a knocking within his coffin. Fortunately for the repose of the holy man, this church became secularised with the others in 1803, and the superintendence of it was consequently transferred from the chapter to the civil authorities of the city. Several stone coffins of great size, supported on four feet, add to the interest of the venerable structure.

This cathedral, which is built of brick, stands on the site of an old wooden edifice, — founded in 1170 by Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria, in conjunction with Henry, bishop of Liibeck. Legendary lore ascribes its foundation to the following circumstance. The duke, who was addicted to the pleasures of the chase, one day hunted down a stag, — which bore a rich collar around the neck, and a cross between the horns. In commemoration of this exploit, he resolved to erect a church upon the spot where the animal had been taken. A painting of the stag, which is still to be seen in the body of the building, attests the truth of this adventure. The pulpit is supported by a full-length figure of Moses in stone (on which credulity has founded many a marvellous recital), and surrounded by a handsome iron railing. There are several old buildings attached to the cathedral, which are employed as charity-schools, hospitals, &c.

We have this afternoon visited an institution of a very novel and interesting description, which owed its origin to the following circumstance: Dr. Leithof, an eminent physician, having a child born a cripple, was induced to direct his researches towards remedying the defect, — and, by dint of much study assisted by unremitted patience and attention, succeeded completely in six years. This success induced him to commence an establishment for the reception of females and male infants similarly affected, which at present contains twenty patients. The dormitories, which are on thegroundfloor — to admit, I suppose, of immediate communication with the spacious court in the rear — are elegantly fitted up. Indeed they are the only handsomely papered rooms I have seen in Germany, the walls being usually painted; which — added to the absence of carpets, and the great size of the apartments — gives them a cold and uncomfortable appearance. Several of the patients had been carried into the court for the benefit of the fresh air, as the evening was very fine. I was unable to ascertain exactly the mode of treatment, but was informed that pressure applied to the diseased part is of prime importance. The beds are of a curious and commodious construction: at the head of each there is a system of pulleys on which a catgut string is wound, — which is passed through two holes in the wood, and communicates with the body of the patient. This string admits of different degrees of tension, like those of a musical instrument, and regulates the pressure of the bandages with which the part affected is swathed. The hands of the cripples were free, and they were employed — some with toys, others with books or work. They receive instruction two hours every evening from a master, who goes the rounds of the several dormitories. None of them ever leave their beds or change their posture, but lie continually on the back until the cure be nearly completed. There is a bath for the use of those convalescents, for whom bathing is considered beneficial. This institution is particularly serviceable to children who have contracted some deformity while at nurse. The treatment is sometimes commenced with adult patients;— and I have seldom seen a more interesting, and at the same time affecting sight than these exhibited — many of them being young girls of seventeen or eighteen, apparently in the bloom of health and excellent spirits notwithstanding their pitiable situation.

Dr. Leithof is connected by marriage with the Overbecks, one of the most distinguished families in Liibeck both for rank and genius. The head of the family has attained considerable celebrity as a poet, and has frequently visited foreign courts in a diplomatic character. One of his sons is the Overbeck at present so much distinguished in Italy as an artist, whose name you may have met with in the London periodicals.

After visiting this establishment, I had a delightful stroll on the rampart — in company with a gentleman possessed of considerable local information, from whom I learned many interesting particulars relative to the town. The rampart contains a variety of handsome promenades-y and the beauty of the scene is much enhanced by the meandering of the Trave, which flows between two of the embankments. The heights are crowned with trees—in some parts planted so thinly as to admit the rays of the sun, — in others so closely and regularly as to form vistas, from which the light is almost excluded by the overarching branches. Emerging from these dark avenues, one meets with every variety of hill and valley in a small compass, — so numerous are the walks which, intersecting the upper parts of the rampart, command an extensive view both of town and country; or, sloping down its sides, follow the course of the river, and lead to sylvan and secluded retreats. Much of the planting which renders a walk on the rampart so agreeable dates no farther back than the year 1806, in which various parts of the fortifications — especially those adjacent to the gates — were removed, and their sites converted into promenades for the recreation of the citizens.

As the festival to which I alluded in my former letter from this town is not entirely over, we left the rampart, and went to visit the principal scene. This was a large field about a furlong from the town, in the centre of which the artificial bird — by this time nearly shot away — was elevated on a pole to a considerable height. Round this pole, and at the distance of a few paces, wooden stages were erected, — from the tops of which competitors for the honour of shooting the popinjay took aim. There was also a target on the ground, perforated by numerous bullets, with the names of the several marksmen written beside the holes. At the entrance of the grassy area are two buildings: the one a house of entertainment, which resounded with merriment, and about which numerous pennons were waving. The opposite fabric was a sort of obsolete corporation-hall. In the upper apartments were several old paintings, chiefly of warriors, — the Lübeck arms emblazoned, — and two ancient presentation swords.

While returning, we made a circuit by another house of entertainment called the Lachswehr, which is pleasantly situated on the Trave. It is surrounded by a spacious garden, containing long avenues of lofty trees. In the high hedges doors and windows are barbarously scooped. I remain
Yours, &c. &c.