Abbot Saint

Bavaria (?)
between 1520 and 1530

Height 132 cm



One of the most impressive works in the Medieval collection of the Liebieghaus is the figure of an abbot saint in Benedictine garb. The fully three-dimensional statue of around 1520/30 exhibits enormous artistic quality, conveying lively movement and characterized by powerful expressiveness in the drapery and face. Medieval works of art are often difficult to categorize because the historical points of reference have been lost.

Often comparisons with other works can help. In this case, however, neither the artist, nor the figure’s origins, nor even the identity of the person depicted can be determined with certainty. All we know for sure is that it is a Benedictine abbot saint, perhaps the founder of the order himself – Benedict of Nursia, one of the central figures of monastic and church life in the Middle Ages. The functional context for the figure can also only be guessed. It is carved on all sides, though the rear is simpler and more planar. The console on which it stands exhibits ornamental elements on the underside. We can thus can entertain various possibilities for its placement: in an altar shrine with openwork in the back, or in an architectural structure above or flanking an altar shrine. It could also have appeared as a single figure outside a church, in a Benedictine or Cistercian monastery—for example in a refectory.

We know nothing about the artist. None of the attributions proposed thus far have been convincing. Critical examination, however, suggests connections to the sculptor Hans Leinberger and his circle, active in Landshut. Their work clearly had an impact on the artist responsible for this figure of an abbot saint.