“Gardien”, Pulpit, cathedral of Strasbourg, 2011.

An handgonner guarding the door of the pulpit in the cathedral of Strasbourg.

The pulpit of the cathedral was erected between 1484 and 1485 for the famous preacher Johann Geiler von Kaysersberg. Until this moment Johann Geiler was preaching in the St-Martin’s chapel, but he was so popular that the chapel was too small to allow everyone to hear his preach. It was consequently decided to install a great pulpit in the nave of the cathedral.

The task was given to Hans Hammer, the new Parlier (foreman). He drew in 1484 a plan, still preserved, and lead the execution during the two following years of the abundantly sculpted pulpit. In 1486, in recognition of this master work, he became Werkmeister of the cathedral (it was a very important position, making him one of the most important person in the field of building in the whole Holy Roman Empire).

An interpretation is, that those handgonners guarding the door of the pulpit are here to protect Johann Geiler during his preach. The preacher had then serious problems with the Church, because he criticized heavily how the Church was directed (he was some kind of proto-Protestant). If you wonder why he was then authorized to preach in the cathedral, keep in mind that, in Strasbourg, it was since the end of the 13th century the citizen who administrated the cathedral, and the Church had little to say. It shows then a symbolic support from the people of Strasbourg to the preacher, probably as much because they liked what he said than to annoy the Church.

Concerning the handgonners of Strasbourg, the use of firearms came early in the city, with fire weaponry first used in 1392. In 1472, the city sent 300 of them to help the Swiss against the Duke of Burgundy and they contributed to the victory at the battle of Morat (Murten). The militia of the city trained to firearms in the city, near where sits today the train station, but after several deadly accidents it was moved outside in 1480, at the place where is today the gardens of Contades.

Every citizen between 20 and 60 was enrolled in the city’s militia and in case of war the students and workers were also called to arms. Every militiaman had  in turns to keep the watch on the city’s wall during the night, he had also to own his equipment and to equip the people of his house (if he hadn’t enough money, he could borrow weapons from the city).

The handgonner sculpted here is dressed in the 1480′ military fashion. A this time most of soldiers were wearing full suits of armour, as handgonnes weren’t neither powerful or widespread enough to make that kind of protection useless. It was also an important piece of equipment for handgonners, as they were intended to charge in fray after few shots, because they were then seen primarily as infantry before ranged troop.

Available as a print here!

Tools and exifs:

  • Canon EOS 50D + Canon 18-200mm
  • 170mm
  • 6 s.
  • f/8
  • ISO 100

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