Main altar

Lower Saxony, c. 1500
Oak, tempera, gold and silver leaf

Rousingly dramatic images with a host of figures cover the altar panels, set against a continuous gold background. The central image, the crucifixion of Jesus on the hill of Golgotha, densely packs in several scenes. The mourners can be seen beneath the cross, alongside the Miracle of Lanciano, the deaths of the Penitent and Impenitent Thieves and their souls entering heaven and hell. Stephaton, dressed in a golden mantle and turban, recognises the true Son of God; soldiers fight over Christ’s robes.

The depictions on the wings of the altar show, on one side, Mary with the Holy Kinship on the exterior and, on the interior, Joachim and Anne meeting at the Golden Gate and the Presentation of Mary. The other side depicts events from the life of St. George. With late mediaeval drama, the images vividly convey the cruelty of the saints’ adversaries, their mourning and their exemplary behaviour.

The altarpiece originally came from a side altar in the cathedral dedicated to St. George, replacing a holy shrine with relics which is today preserved in the Cathedral treasures.