Wall fresco “The Last Judgement”, Chapel Cusanusstift Bernkastel-Kues
Moselle, river kilometre 129

“… a representation of the Last Judgement (secco technique) … The composition follows a familiar pattern: the heavenly judge as the dominant figure is accompanied in the upper field by Mary and John the Baptist as well as by angels. Below him is a crowd of kneelers; at their feet are several naked people in miniature, rising from their graves; at the bottom, on one side, the good and the righteous, to whom the New Jerusalem is open; on the other side, the damned, who disappear into a hellish abyss. The fresco, which was covered over in the 18th century and is undoubtedly a late Gothic work from the period of construction, was uncovered in 1905.”   (in the caption: after 1458) (Source: Das St. Nikolaus-Hospital/ Cusanusstift in Bernkastel-Kues, Rheinischer Verein, 2023)

“I have had a chapel built, with a cloister, a dining hall, houses and cells and other buildings necessary for the reception and shelter of poor and needy people according to the number of years that our Saviour Jesus Christ spent on earth, …”, writes Nicholas in the foundation charter (Source: Nikolaus von Kues (1401-1464 An eventful life, Kunstverlag Josef Fink, 2007).

Wikipedia writes: “The founder founded the complex on 3 December 1458 as a hospital for the poor for exactly 33 (according to the years of Jesus Christ’s life) single men from the nobility (six noblemen), the clergy (six priests) and the middle classes (21 commoners). Since the end of the 1960s, women have also been admitted to the old people’s home. To this day, the monastery fulfils its function as a home for the elderly. The facility owes its name to St. Nicholas, the patron saint of boatmen …”
Cusanus apparently commissioned this painting himself. The ecclesiastical dignitary (among others Bishop of Brixen/Tyrol), unlike his colleagues, did not come from the nobility. He was the son of a boatman on the Moselle, from Kues. The fresco shows ecclesiastical dignitaries among the “damned disappearing into a pit of hell”, along with other wealthy people.

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