Brass of the month

July 2004: Poznan, Poland 1475

One of the most spectacular brasses in Europe spent fifty years hidden in a cellar in Leningrad, generally believed to be destroyed.  It disappeared from Poznan Cathedral at the beginning of the Second World War, and only reappeared when the administration of the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg rather sheepishly produced it in 1990, along with half a dozen other Polish brasses, and restored it to its place.  It is now fastened to the wall - rather high up - in the north east ambulatory, and not very well lit.

On the heroic scale, the brass consists of eight plates making a total area of 2.64 x 1.43 metres, the figure being slightly over life size. Lucasz de Gorka, who died in 1475, is dressed in the full armour of a Knight of Nuremberg - for it was in Nuremberg that the brass was made, at the famous Vischer workshop.  He stands against a damask curtain, in a richly decorated gateway, its niches filled with the apostles.  Only the lion at his feet reminds us that the design of this brass derives from those depicting a horizontal figure lying on its back with head on cushion and beast at feet.  That, and the fact that the inscription runs all the way round, easy to read if the brass were in its original horizontal position on the floor, but distinctly difficult to read as it is now.


It does, actually, read thus: Hoc iacet in tumulo magnificus dominus Lucas de Gorka Palatinus poznan(iensis)mposition magno et excellenti ingenio vir, Qui anno domini M CCCC lxxv, xi aprilis suum obijt diem, et xviii sepultus.


             Preca(n)dus deus est ut regnet sede superna.

             Cur? quia iust(us) erat p(at)riam & iura tuendo,

             Co(n)silio fulsit & cu(n)ctis iure micabat

             Plangite hunc, proceres, nobiles, et concio plebis,

             Et genus omne suum quod tanto orbare parente.


"There lies in this tomb the magnificent lord Lukasz Gorka, Governor of Poznan, a great man of outstanding intelligence.  He ended his days in 1475, on the 11th of April, and was buried on the 18th. We should pray to God that he might govern on a throne in heaven. Why?  Because he was just, in safeguarding his country and its laws.  He was brilliant in giving counsel, and rightly shone in all matters.  Weep for him, you leading men, you nobles, and you, assembly of the people, and all his family, for you have lost such a great connection."   



Poznan brass

 Lukasz Gorka, of an influential local family, became Sheriff of Koscian, a town some 40 km south of Poznan, in 1434, and was promoted to be governor of the province of Poznan in 1441.  Another colossal brass, with the same history, depicts his son Uriel who was Bishop of Poznan and died in 1498.  The canopies of both brasses are copied from details of the Sebaldus shrine which Peter Vischer made for his native Nuremberg, and that both brasses were ordered by Bishop Uriel when he visited Nuremberg in 1488.

Jerome Bertram.

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Page last updated 14 June 2004