By Carole Rawcliffe
The Library, Vol.3:2 (2002)
Introduction: Mindful of the fate awaiting them at the Last Judgement, the patrons of medieval hospitals and almshouses were understandably anxious that their good deeds should provide eloquent testimony on their behalf. The desire for salvation, to be achieved through the grateful prayers of the sick poor and the intercessionary offices of the Church, proved a powerful incentive for charity. The transaction was often blatant. At the north-east end of the church of the Heiligen Geist hospital in Lubeck stands a recently restored wall painting of about 1320, which depicts Christ in majesty with the ‘four beasts’ of Revelation (4. 6-8) about his throne. The book of life lies open in his left hand, and in a semicircle around him are named portraits of twelve leading benefactors and clergy, each requesting prayers for his immortal soul. The priests who served the high altar below probably used the mural as an aide-memoire when calling upon the congregation to remember the Christian departed.