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Hermann, 1386, & Otto von Oertzen, 1449,

Bad Doberan, Mecklenburg, Germany

 This month’s contribution is an incised slab of Gotland stone commemorating Hermann von Oertzen II d. 1386 and Siegfried von Oertzen 1 d. 1449. It is located on the south wall of the south ambulatory of the former Cistercian Abbey of Doberan Minster in Mecklenburg, in what was the von Oertzen chapel until the mid- 1970’s. This chapel contains another slab to “Frau Helena” c. 1400 also considered to be a von Oertzen. All of the incised slabs in the Minster have been conserved and desalinated, and stand proud of the walls on metal stanchions with the slabs held by clamps, enabling air to circulate. The work on this one was carried out in 2005. The slab’s dimensions are 2502 x 1490 mm. It is likely that the slab, in common with the others in the Minster, was engraved in nearby Rostock, a Baltic port where the requisite stone could easily be imported from Scandinavia, and the finished product brought to Doberan. It depicts two almost identical figures turning towards each other in plate armour with bascinets and mail aventails. The bascinets incorporate visors with ceremonial plumes of  feathers. Each figure grips a ceremonial sword in one hand and a shield in the other. These shields, in common with the roundels in the four corners of the slab - which would normally  depict the evangelical symbols - display the von Oertzen coat of arms; A field Gules charged with an annulet Or, grasped by two arms in armour in pale proper.

A double canopy, with side and centre shafts surrounds the figures, with the ogee- arched canopy crockets and finials juxta-positioned with foliage. The marginal inscription in Gothic Miniscule reads;

 A(n)no d(omi)ni Mccc˚xxx/vi˚ o(biit) herma(n)nus de· ortzen armig(er) A(n)no d(omi)ni M˚ cccc˚/xii xi k(a)l(endas) Julii i(n) t(er)ra s(an)c(t)a / o(biit) sifrid(us) de ortzen sepult(us) in mo(n)te syo(n) apud mi(n)or


This states that Siegfried died on 11th July 1449 whilst on a pilgrimage to the Holy Land and was buried on Mount Zion.

 It is known that Siegfried had decided to undertake a pilgrimage in 1431 but it did not take place until at least ten years later, probably on account of his young age. By that time he had married Abele von Buchwald, who bore him a son (Siegfried II). He made a Will on  21st

December 1431 prior to his departure, a usual precaution for pilgrims. When he died he was buried in a Franciscan Monastery on Mount Zion. German sources have speculated as to whether he was simply a guest at he Monastery at that time or whether he had become a Franciscan friar - he had been in the Holy Land at least eight years when he died at the relatively young age of 25. Lisch records that in his Will he bequeathed a large sum of money to the Nuns of the Convent and for the saying of mass for his departed soul, as well as the procurement of an Eternal Light for the Monastery cloisters. A 19th Century stained glass window in the von Oertzen chapel at Doberan Minster shows him on his pilgrimage. Siegfried’s grandfather Hermann II predeceased him by more than 60 years and was born c.1339, the son of Dietrich von Oertzen 11 and ? Storm. He married twice, firstly in 1335 to a member of the von Bülow family, and then to a member of the von Bere family who bore him a son - Hermann III. Hermann II was buried in Doberan Minster.

Oertzen is a well- established Mecklenburg family with Slavic origins. Lisch traces it back to 1192, to one Uritz in the court of Prince Borwin I of Mecklenburg. Uritz witnessed the confirmation of rights and goods in favour of Doberan Minster. The family is documented from 1260 – Thidericus (Dietrich) de Ordessen. It held numerous estates in Mecklenburg including those at Roggow near Doberan, the home of Siegfried and Hermann, as well as Gerdeshagen near Satow. By the time of the Soviet land reforms after the Second World War there were 23 estates comprising 21,500 hectares of land, all of which were confiscated. The family produced dukes, military commanders, administrators, land regents and marshalls. Hans-Ulrich Von Oertzen, a Major in the Wehrmacht in the Second World War, was involved in the attempted coup against Adolf Hitler on 20th July 1944, helping Claus von Stauffenberg to develop Operation Valkyrie. He committed suicide prior to interrogation by the Gestapo the following day.

 By 1945, the residential castle at Roggow had had an association with the family for over 600 years. It has recently been rescued from dereliction and restored by Peter von Oertzen for use as holiday apartments and for conferences. Today, as well as in Mecklenburg, the family has branches in Saxony and Denmark.

The von Oertzens in common with the families of Moltke and Axekow were major patrons and benefactors of Doberan Minster. There are two incised slabs to members of the Moltke family and four to the Axekows in the Minster, as recorded in detail by Magin. All of these slabs depict military figures, with three of the latter family showing two relatives on each, in a similar format to the Oertzen slab – in full armour, canopied, with bold marginal inscriptions, and prominent heraldic displays.

The Minster, now a Lutheran church, is seen as the most important Medieval Brick-Gothic building in Mecklenburg- Vorpommern. No other church in Northern Germany has such complete and historically important liturgical furnishings, many surviving from its Cistercian period in the 14th C. It has also survived the ravages of war and is still the subject of on-going restoration. An application has recently been made for it to receive UNESCO World Heritage status

 Sources

1. Wichert, Sven: Das Zisterziekloster Doberan Im Mittelalter. Lukas Verlag 2000. ISBN 3-931836-34-7.


2. Erdmann , Wolfgang: Zisterzienser-Abtei Doberan – Die Blauen Bücher 1995. ISBN 3-7845-0411-6.


3. Voss, Johannes & Brüdern,Jutta: Das Münster zu Bad Doberan. Deutscher Kunstverlag 2008. ISBN 978-3-422-02048-1.


4. Magin, Dr. Christine: Zwischen Kloster und Welt: Die Mittelalterlichen Grabplatten des Klosters Doberan. Presentation at Bad Doberan on 2nd August 2012. www.inschriften.info


5. Lisch, Georg Christian Friedrich: Urkundliche Geschichte des Geschlechts von Oertzen. Vol. 1, Schwerin 1847 & Vol. 2b, Schwerin 1860.

 © Kevin Herring – Article & Photos