What is the formation of gargoyles

Donnersbergkreis Finkenbach-Gersweiler: Gargoyles on the fortified church are said to date from the 13th century

It was like so often in research - the experts were looking for something completely different. Quasi by the way, they noticed that the gargoyles on the fortified church are of European importance. You - and with it the defense tower - can probably be dated to the middle of the 13th century. A little sensation.

For months the Kaiserslautern historical researcher Christina Berns and the Finkenbach church chronicler and local history researcher Torsten Schlemmer from Waldgrehweiler have been searching intensively for connections and the last traces of the Templars in Mannweiler-Cölln, Finkenbach-Gersweiler and Schiersfeld. As a by-product, so to speak, they made a not insignificant discovery. In architectural comparison with dozens of other sacred buildings, they paid particular attention to the gargoyles on the Finkenbach defense tower. Similar towers are not uncommon, especially in the former rulership of those of Bolanden, Hohenfels and Leiningen. You can find them in Rockenhausen, Steinbach, Dannenfels, Kleinbockenheim, Rodenbach and Ebertsheim, among others. The fortified churches are also widespread from Alsace to Baden, the Palatinate, Rheinhessen and North Hesse to Thuringia.

Parallels only to Ebertsheim

However, the shape of the Finkenbach gargoyles seems quite unique: apart from the jealous heads on the tower of the Protestant church in the Ebertsheim district of Rodenbach, no stylistic matches have been found in the wider area. Most of the churches were redesigned several times or completely rebuilt in the baroque era; the castles in our area fell victim to almost all wars.

The few remaining medieval components usually only have drainage systems in the form of unadorned, purely functional half-pipes. On the other hand, there are two animal motifs on the former pilgrimage church in Finkenbach: boar and bear. Therefore, the expert on medieval gargoyles, Regina Schymiczek, was consulted. The art historian and author is enthusiastic about the North Palatinate Spiers and makes comparisons with famous cathedrals such as Rouen and Mont St. Michel in France or Regensburg Cathedral. In contrast to the world-famous gargoyles of large Gothic church buildings, the local figures lack bodies - they are pure "head spears" with a hollow neck and open mouth. This indicates an early work around the middle of the 13th century. The first imaginative spears are known from the cathedral in Laon, France, between 1220 and 1230.

"Protection" from storms and lightning

The Finkenbacher boar is badly damaged by the weather, but can be illustrated in comparison with spiers at the famous Scottish Melrose Abbey or the Santa Creu Cathedral in Barcelona. Much less often than pigs, bears are seen as a motif for gargoyles. The so-called Jewish sows in particular played a major role in defaming the Jewish population in the Middle Ages. Bear and boar belong to the ranks of storm and thunderstorm demons, which, according to the ideas of the time, were responsible for storms and lightning strikes in the form of animals. Allegedly they could only be stopped by their own reflection - that is why they were chosen as a spout motif and especially attached to the tower facing the sky.

It is unclear whether regional influences - for example from abbeys in Trier or near Mainz - were the inspiration for the bear motif. Just as open is the question of how such a skill and the Gothic style of formation came to be in a remote village church like Finkenbach within two decades of its origins in France. Presumably the sovereign and Templar Comtur Heinrich von Hohenfels played important roles as a liege-taker of the Archbishop of Mainz and the lords of Metz who later married into this line played important roles.

Alsatian-Baden influences

A closer look at the architectural style of the Finkenbacher church tower reveals the typical character of Staufer and imperial buildings as well as an architectural influence from the Alsatian-Baden region. There were more figurative representations, the Gothic style began much earlier.

On the other hand, using stonemasonry marks and structural style elements, it can be proven that the late Gothic stonemasonry at the Finkenbacher Church - such as those on churches in Meisenheim, Münsterappel and Zweibrücken, among others - can be traced back to the school of the famous Frankfurt builder and sculptor Philipp von Gmünd and through a collective patent in 1469 of Count Palatine Ludwig the Black, who had extensive contacts with the Order of St. John, have been made possible. The alpine monastery relationships are to be valued as the origin of the following artistic passion paintings.