Sunday, September 28, 2014


Münster in 1570, picture from Wikipedia

Today, Münster is best known for its medieval cathedral, for its large farmers' market, and for its even bigger annual Christmas market that draws thousands of tourists.  It is also known for its bicycle traffic and for its sky-high housing prices.  There's a reason why our hosts -- Andreas and Andrea Hellgermann together with their sons David and Jan -- live about 5 miles outside of town in the rural village of Westbevern, because you can still rent a good sized house for a family there with a small yard for roughly $600 a month.  Münster is an undeniably charming small city in Westphalia not far from the Dutch border.

Münster is also a city with a past, and a dark and violent past.  It turns out that this a very good place to find some historical perspective on current events in the Middle East, on the sectarian warfare between Sunnis and Shiites in the region, and especially the dramatic appearance of barbaric spectacles of violent fanaticism, especially by the new Islamic State whose megalomaniac leaders claim is the beginning of a new caliphate and of an Islamic apocalypse.

As Tobias Haller reminds us on his blog (here and here), if we want to understand the Muslim present, a good place to look is the Christian past, and there are few better places to look than Münster.

The Anabaptist Uprising of Münster was one of the darkest and most horrific episodes of the Reformation, and we can see a reminder of it looming high above the bicycles, expensive apartments, and farmers' market of the city.

All photos are mine made with my trusty little digital camera except where noted otherwise.

The tallest spire in the city is not the Cathedral, but the Lambertikirche, a singular institution.  It is the city church of Münster.  It belongs to the city and not to the Archbishop.  The Cathedral is his, but this church was for the burghers and the citizens.

If we look closely at the spire of the Lambertikirche, we begin to see something very odd just above the clock face.

When we look more closely we see three iron cages suspended from the tower .  The corpses of three of the leaders of the Anabaptist Uprising were displayed for decades in iron cages like these after their brutal executions.  The original cages still exist and can be seen in the municipal museum.  These hang from the steeple of Saint Lambert's Church as a kind of memorial to the Uprising.  I've heard differing accounts of how long the original cages with the corpses hung from the tower.  One Wikipedia account says about 50 years, but I've heard other reliable sources say that the bones were not taken down and buried until the current spire was built in the 19th century.  German language Wikipedia says that the cages, and presumably the corpses, were taken down in December of 1881 at the start of the building of the current spire. These replicas were made in 1888.

I would imagine that few people other than historians or seminarians these days have heard of the Münster Uprising.   It was a horrifically violent event that dramatically shaped how Catholics and Protestants saw each other, and how Anabaptists saw themselves.

Like today's Islamist extremists, the Anabaptist rebels of Münster were driven by a messianic sense of destiny, that Münster would be the New Jerusalem where the Apocalypse and the Second Coming would begin.  The Anabaptist vision of the New Jerusalem of the Saints was as compelling and unrealistic as the Islamist vision of the renewed Caliphate of All the Faithful.  Also like Islamist radicals, they were driven by a profound conviction that both society and its hierarchies had failed, that it was time for a radical and even bloody purging of the earth to prepare the Way of the Lord.  Like the radical Islamists who want to destroy both Sunni and Shiite establishments, so the Anabaptist rebels of Münster antagonized both Catholic and Protestant leaders.  They believed that Luther and Zwingli did not go far enough with their own teachings.  They remained very bitter over Luther's role in suppressing the Peasants' War a decade earlier.
Also like today's Islamists, the Anabaptists' methods were ruthless and violent.  They believed that all means were justified in the service of Christ's Kingdom.

Photo from Wikipedia of the Lambertikirche in the 1870s

Here is an old photo of the Lambertikirche before the current spire was built.  The resolution of the picture is not good enough to tell if the cages are hanging from the tower.

For centuries, Münster was ruled by a prince-bishop.  The local bishop ruled and governed the city since the early middle ages.  By the 1520s, the city's guilds began to chafe under the bishop's rule, especially since Münster was now a very wealthy city.  The people who made it wealthy began to demand a say in its governance.  In the 1530s, the burghers of the city began to turn to Lutheranism and eventually tossed out their prince bishop.

The Lutheran pastor Bernard Rothman came under the spell of the influential Anabaptist leader Melchior Hoffmann of Strasbourg who preached adult baptism and the Second Coming.  Rothman was an eloquent and charismatic preacher who, aided by a baker from Harlem Jan Matthys, another young Dutch tailor Jan Bockelson or Jan of Leiden, and a sympathetic wool merchant named Bernhard Knipperdolling, overthrew the city government in a coup d'etat and proceeded to remake Münster from a wealthy mercantile city into a radical theocracy.  The new regime immediately instituted adult baptism and "re-baptism."

It is hard for us to understand the passions surrounding the issue of infant baptism at the time, but we should keep in mind that women had only a 50% chance of surviving childbirth in those days, and children as often as not died before their tenth birthdays.  In a world where all the frames of reference were religious, where the spiritual seemed almost palpable, and where death was always present, Baptism was a matter of the safety of innocent souls.  The Anabaptists held that Baptism was a conscious decision suitable only for adults capable of making conscious decisions.  The Church according to the Anabaptists was the assembly of the Elect called by God and answering his appeal deliberately.  Catholic and Lutheran divines taught that the Church was for everyone including small children who were thus entitled to the sacrament of Baptism.

Millenialist passions drove much of the fervor and violence of the Münster Uprising.  Many people in the 16th century expected to see the Apocalypse and the Second Coming.  Such expectations were not unreasonable.  The world seemed to be falling apart all around people of that century.  Both Empire and Papacy appeared to be in retreat and on the verge of destruction.  Institutions that governed the lives of people for generations either disappeared or were in retreat.  The Turks were marching up the Danube river into central Europe as Western Christianity was at war with itself.

The Anabaptist regime that ruled Münster from 1534 to 1535 saw itself as the focal point for the millenialist yearnings of all of Christendom, that Münster was the New Jerusalem destined to prepare the world for Christ's triumphant return in glory.  The regime ordered all books in the city except the Bible to be burned.  Private property was abolished and all goods were held in common.  Polygamy was instituted with one leader, Jan of Leiden, taking 16 wives.  Women who were reluctant were frequently forced into such marriages.  Dissension was forbidden.  Dissent, defeatism, or even complaining was answered with swift summary execution, either by hanging or beheading.  Wealthy nobles and burghers, and later small shopkeepers, professionals, and craftsmen, fled the city.  The poor, especially from the surrounding countryside, flocked to the Anabaptist cause.

In 1534, the Prince Bishop of Münster Franz von Waldek returned with an army of Imperial troops, and with Lutheran princes and their armies as eager as the Catholics to stamp out the Anabaptist contagion.  This immense army laid siege to the city.  The self-appointed prophet of Münster Jan Massys lead a small army of 12 men, perhaps emulating Gideon or King David, to meet that besieging army.  They fully expected divine intervention to break the siege.  Instead, they were hacked to pieces and Massys' head stuck on top of a tall pole for the besieged city to see.
Jan of Leiden, a mere 25 years old, succeeded Massys as the ruler of the city.  He ruled with a combination of charisma, effective theater, and brutality.  On one occasion, he appeared naked in the market square and fell into a trance, not emerging for about 3 days; a very effective and dramatic way of establishing his rule by prophetic revelation.  Jan of Leiden, together with his 16 wives, lived in luxury from the plunder of the wealthy mercantile city's goods while the rest of the population of Münster starved during the siege. According to one account, starvation was so acute that people scraped the whitewash off of buildings, mixed it with water, and drank it as "milk."

In 1535, the city was betrayed and Imperial troops stormed into the city.  Unknown thousands of people died.  In 1536, Jan of Leiden, Bernhard Knipperdolling, and another follower  Bernhard Krechting were publicly executed.

From Wikipedia, here is a 16th century print of the execution of the leaders of the Münster Uprising.  The iron cages already hang from the tower of the Lambertikirche in the background.

The three men were publicly tortured to death by red hot pincers tearing their flesh.  Their corpses were placed in iron cages and left hanging for generations from the spire of the Lambertikirche.

In the wake of the violence of the Uprising, both Catholic and Lutheran leaders effectively used its horror as a deterrent to further armed uprisings of its kind.  Anabaptists themselves were horrified, and it is in part a legacy of the Uprising that they would later embrace pacifism.

For a fascinating account and discussion of the Münster Uprising, see this BBC4 program with Diarmaid MacCulloch, Lucy Wooding, and Charlotte Methuen together with host Melvyn Bragg.

Photo from a tourist info site maintained by the City of Münster.

Today, Saint Lambert's church is a beautiful medieval German hall church.  I was told that photography of the interior was forbidden since it disturbs worshippers.  So, I used this photo from a government tourist website.
Another legacy of the Uprising is that Münster remains a very Catholic city.

Another major historical event, and a better known one, that happened in Münster is the Treaty of Westphalia that ended the Thirty Years War, the most destructive in German history until World War II (some historians argue that it was more destructive than World War II).

At the end of the street on the right is the old Rathaus where the treaty was negotiated and ratified.

The Treaty of Westphalia was negotiated and ratified in this room in the old Rathaus in 1648.  The German government still uses this room for the formal signing of international treaties and trade agreements.  The portraits on the wall on the left are signatories to the Treaty.

A painting by Gerard Ter Borch of the signing of the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648.  The picture is from Wikipedia.

The long religious warfare on the European continent ended in a grinding stalemate.  It became clear to all combatants that there would be no military solution, that no Protestant or Catholic faction would emerge a clear winner.  After so many decades of brutal and destructive warfare, people were exhausted and tired of fighting.   One True Churches decided that enough was enough and that it was time to learn to live with each other.  Princes had the liberty to decide the religion of their realms, but their subjects who dissented now had the right to practice their faith unmolested.  International borders were established and made inviolable.  State piracy and privateering was outlawed.  Protestant states like the Dutch Republic now had Catholic recognition.  Protestants now recognized the legitimacy of Catholic sovereigns.  Mutual agreement created an early system of international law that minimized conflict and destruction.

I predict a similar end to the upheavals in the Middle East, but not any time soon.  People will eventually become exhausted from all the fighting and destruction and decide to live with each other.  The old colonial agreements that came out of World War I that shaped the modern map of the Middle East are coming undone.  That map, which is unsustainable, will eventually be redrawn.  Let us hope that sectarian passions will eventually be spent, and that reason and charity may once again prevail.

The Cathedral of Münster viewed from the midst of the large farmers' market in the square

Andreas Hellgermann and Jan shop for meats for dinner that night.  They know most of the farmers and vendors in the market personally.  Andreas once worked a booth together with a business partner and friend in the farmers' market for years.  All the Hellgermanns are serious cooks, but Jan seems to have inherited most of the culinary talent.  Over the summer, he apprenticed to a major local restaurant.  The proprietors said that he was the best apprentice that they ever had and hired him.  He is also a talented artist and showed me some of his work.

Inside the westwerk of the Cathedral of Saint Paul in Münster, an old cathedral by German standards, built from 1225 to 1263.

A view east in the nave of the Cathedral.  Jan and David Hellgermann in the foreground provide scale, especially for the very large statue of Saint Christopher on the left.

The wide and spacious bay arches supporting the domical vaults of the Cathedral

The Cathedral's astronomical clock from the 16th century with 17th century additions and modifications.  It is a clock that can tell you the hour, the date, the phase of the moon, the astrological sign, the planetary influence, the saint's day, the liturgical season, the planetary positions (according to the Ptolemaic model), etc.  It still works and is on time.

At noon, the clock strikes the hour and puts on a show.  The show begins with Death on the right ringing the bell.

Then a husband sounds a horn and a housewife rings a bell.

This is the crowd waiting for the clock to strike noon.

At noon, the Star of Bethlehem comes out while the Gaspar, Melchior, and Balthasar parade past the Virgin and Child and bow reverently while a glockenspiel plays old German hymn tunes.
Below is a Youtube of the clock striking noon.  It is very much as we experienced it, complete with the crowds humming along to the hymn tunes, but fortunately without the child throwing a tantrum in the video.

I just love these old clockwork gizmos, all done with weights, springs, and gears.

The tomb of the recently beatified Cardinal von Galen in one of the apsidal chapels in the Cathedral

Picture from Wikipedia

Cardinal Clemens August Graf von Galen (1878 - 1946) was a nobleman (a Count) in the tradition of Münster's former prince bishops.  He preached courageously against Nazi campaigns to make an "Aryan" Christianity, to purge the religion of its Jewish content, and to delete the Old Testament from the Christian Scripture.  Cardinal Von Galen preached against the arrests of priests and other clergy, against seizures of church property, against Alfred Rosenberg's program to modify Christianity to bring it in line with Nazi ideology, and against Nazi racial ideology.  Cardinal Von Galen is especially remembered for his passionate condemnation of Nazi euthanasia campaigns against the disabled.
Andreas Hellgermann doesn't think all that much of Cardinal von Galen.  He was silent on the question of the Jews.  Andreas much prefers Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said that any cleric who does not protest the destruction of the Jews has no right to say the Christian liturgy.
I find the Cardinal to be a courageous and good man, though a very unattractive character.

David Hellgermann walks down the cloister of the Cathedral.

 The Wise Virgins in the cloister; possibly 17th century sculptures

The Foolish Virgins

The cloister yard where past bishops and canons are buried.

A magnificent sculpture by Ernst Barlach, the early 20th century artist, The Beggar.

Detail of Barlach's The Beggar in the Cathedral cloister

The Bells of Münster Cathedral

Since Münster emerged from the Uprising and the Reformation as a Catholic city, there is a lot of Baroque architecture in the town.  This is a small palace on an awkward shaped plot of land by the renowned German Baroque architect and Münster native Johann Conrad Schlaun.  It was built for Adolf Heidenreich Freiherr von Drost zu Vischering.  How's that for a name and a title?

A small masterpiece by Schlaun, the Church of Saint Clement

The Wonder Tree of Telgte

Outside of Münster in the small town of Telgte is a 750 year old Linden tree, one of the oldest in Germany, that is the site of an old miracle.  At some date in the distant past according to pious legend, lightning struck this tree and revealed a miraculous sculpture of the Pieta or Sorrowful Virgin made out of the tree's wood.

This is the small chapel in Telgte housing the miraculous image.  It is the object of an annual pilgrimage that begins in Osnabrück, a long distance away, especially for walking.

Here is the the miraculous image from a prayer card I picked up in the chapel.  I took no photos of the interior.  The image, according to the card, is from 1307 and carved from poplar wood; definitely not linden.  It is possible that this statue replaced the original "miracle" sculpture.  That is very common among very old European "miracle" images.  What counted was not the image itself, but its subject.

In the niche below the image is a reliquary displaying a finger of Cardinal von Galen.   Ew.

There's nothing so wonderful as good friends ordering ice cream at the cafe across the street from the Chapel of the Sorrowful Virgin in Telgte.  From left to right: Andreas Hellgermann, his wife Andrea, David's girlfriend Nicola, Bill Paulsen, Jan Hellgermann, and David.

The Treaty of Westphalia was a great accomplishment of diplomacy, but it wasn't nearly as much fun as a backyard cookout with lots of wurst, steaks, home made bratkartoffeln, and beer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Book Is Published

The book about the Passion of Christ paintings that I painted almost 10 years ago is now published and on the market.
Thanks to Kittredge Cherry for her magnificent and insightful writing, and to John Mabry for his beautiful design for the book and for its publication.

Check out the book's Facebook page here.

The book is already available through Barnes and Noble, and should be available on Amazon soon.

Friday, September 19, 2014

The "Fabulous Gothic Monster:" Cologne Cathedral

While taking the train from Frankfurt to Münster, we stopped at Cologne briefly to take a look at what Günther Grass called "that fabulous Gothic monster," Cologne Cathedral, easily the largest cathedral I saw on the trip.  I didn't have to walk very far.  The Cathedral stands right next to the main train station, a huge and very busy station.

Unless otherwise noted, all of these are my photos and are freely available, especially to educators.

Construction on the present Cathedral began in 1248 and never really stopped.  The stresses of modernity (traffic vibrations, pollution, and age) require that some part of the Cathedral be under scaffolding at all times.  Cologne Cathedral is the largest in Germany and the largest in northern Europe.
The Cathedral was made to be so huge to hold a major religious relic, the remains of the Three Kings who visited the Infant Christ at Bethlehem guided by the Star.  Emperor Frederick Barbarossa gave the relics to the Archbishop of Cologne in 1160 after he took them (stole them?) from the Church of San Eustorgio in Milan.  Supposedly, part of the relics were returned to San Eustorgio in the last century.

Cologne Cathedral was begun in 1248, but not completed until 1880.  A lot of the Cathedral that we see today was built in the 19th century.

 Picture from Geopolicraticus

This is a detail from a painting by Hans Memling showing what Cologne Cathedral looked like through most of its history.  The east choir was finished in the 14th century and closed on the west side by a temporary wall so that it could be used.  At the end of the 13th century and the beginning of the 14th century work proceeded on the south tower and got as far as the base of the belfry.  Work came to a stop in 1473 shortly before Memling painted it here.  There was some sporadic work on the nave until work stopped altogether in the 16th century.  The old crane on top of the unfinished south tower became incorporated into the temporary roof, and became a landmark of the city.

Picture from DW

Construction resumed on Cologne Cathedral in 1842, this time driven by resurgent German nationalism.  The Protestant regime in Prussia actively supported and financed the construction of the Cathedral to cultivate Catholic loyalty.  The very Calvinist first Kaiser of the German Empire, Wilhelm I attended the consecration of the Cathedral in 1880, 632 years after construction began.

The enormous facade, so big I could not get it in one shot.

Red robed vergers wait to welcome us as we enter the crowded cathedral and get our first glimpse of the spectacular interior

The modern altar and the medieval choir looking east toward the old high altar.

The vaults of Cologne Cathedral, the second highest stone vaults in the world at 142 feet, just behind the 159 feet high stone vaults of Beauvais Cathedral which was never finished beyond the choir.  Indeed, the choir of Cologne Cathedral was modeled after the example of Beauvais.

Cologne Cathedral is not only the largest of German cathedrals, but also the most French borrowing liberally from not only Beauvais Cathedral, but Amiens as well.  Cologne has similar tall airy proportions with high windows as Amiens.

A window in the Cathedral designed in 2007 by Gerhard Richter, the contemporary artist, as a replacement for the south transept window destroyed in the Second World War.  He supposedly used a computer program to distribute the equally sized colors as randomly as possible.  Random patterns are indeed among the most difficult.  The window is controversial because it is not particularly religious.  The Archbishop of Cologne boycotted the dedication of the new window.

Cologne Cathedral houses the oldest surviving image of the suffering Christ on the Cross in the world, The Gero Cross, donated by Archbishop Gero sometime around 970.  This is the first Crucifix that we would recognize as such.  The Crucifix rarely appears in early Christian art or early Byzantine art, both of which are very triumphalist in their imagery.  The Crucifixion was considered a shameful subject, and when it appeared at all in early Christian art, it was thoroughly bowdlerized or rendered as otherworldly as possible.  For reasons that are not clear, the suffering Crucifix in its customary form emerged suddenly and fully formed in 10th century Germany and spread quickly to England where it appears in manuscript illustrations from the end of the 10th century and the beginning of the 11th.

The corpus and the cross of the Gero Cross are original.  The rest is a setting from the 17th century.  The Cross is 6 feet high and the oldest sculpted Crucifix north of the Alps.

The Gero Cross is a major masterpiece of Western art.  The face contorted by despair and suffering, the body with the fallen organs and stretched muscles set a standard for later Crucifixes.

The apsidal chapels of the Cathedral behind the high altar

In the ambulatory behind the high altar, visitors file past the spectacular heart of the Cathedral, the Shrine of the Three Kings.  Ambulatories were originally created to allow pilgrims access to shrines just like this without disturbing the Mass taking place at the altar.

The Shrine of the Three Kings is the largest medieval reliquary in the Western world and the masterpiece of the great metalsmith Nicholas of Verdun who designed a large three coffin shrine to house the alleged bones of Balthasar, Melchior, and Gaspar.   The shrine is older than the present Cathedral, begun about 1180 and completed around 1220.  The Cathedral was built to be a much larger shrine to contain this one.

Another view of the Shrine of the Three Kings in its place behind the high altar.  The shrine was originally placed in the crossing of the Cathedral.  Nicholas of Verdun supervised a small army of master craftsmen from all over northern Europe to create this immense shrine and to cover it with small sculptures and enamel panels of scenes from Salvation history, the lives of the Kings, various saints and prophets, and with gold, jewels, and ancient cameos.

Housed in the Lady Chapel in the Cathedral is a very famous painting, the Dombild by Stefan Lochner, a local master who influenced many other later artists.

In the early 15th century the Cologne city council commissioned Stefan Lochner to paint this large triptych for the altar of their chapel in the old Rathaus or city hall.  Albrecht Dürer made a special point of seeing this altarpiece, paying to have it opened for him to inspect, when he visited Cologne in 1520.  The painting features all of the local saints of Cologne.  The altarpiece was moved to the Cathedral about 1810 after being hidden from invading French Revolutionary troops in 1794.

Picture from Study Blue

The center panel shows the Visit of the Magi.  The left wing shows Saint Ursula and some of her 11,000 virgins who were all slaughtered with her by the Huns at Cologne according to pious legend.  On the right panel is Saint Gereon and his companions, supposedly beheaded by the Roman legions in Cologne.

My not very good photo of the center panel; it was very dark and I refuse to use flash.

My detail shot of the center panel showing one of Lochner's doll-like Madonnas and some of the rich color for which he was famous.  I have to admit that I thoroughly enjoyed those rich varied colors together with the gilding and the carved shrine-work at the top.  I also enjoyed the grand almost symmetrical composition of the magnificent throng around the Virgin and Child over three panels.

Another show-stopper in the Cathedral, this 16th century altarpiece dedicated to Saint Agilulfus.  It was originally made in Antwerp for the Church of Maria ad Gradus in Cologne and moved to the Cathedral in the early 19th century.

Next to the Altar of Saint Agilulfus is this 12th century shrine which I think I recognize, but cannot name.  It is not mentioned anywhere on the Cathedral's website.  I will hazard a guess that this is the Shrine of Saint Heribert (?) made for the Deutz Church in Cologne.  I could be wrong, since all the pictures of that shrine show it securely housed in the Deutz Church.

A couple of women admire the workmanship on the maybe Heribert Shrine.

*I'm now guessing that this shrine once formed part of the nearby altarpiece.  The Cathedral website says that the altarpiece has been greatly reduced and modified over time, but once contained a compartment for a shrine.  Maybe this was that shrine.

** It is the shrine to Saint Agilolfus.  Gerrit did what I should have done before posting this little identification problem; he took a close look at my photo of the end of the shrine above, and sure enough, there are the words OSSA S. AGILOLFIAM... inscribed on the base of the shrine.


I end with a little footnote, a painting that is not in Cologne, but is now in Munich and was painted by a Fleming.  It was made for a church in Cologne, and maybe shows some inspiration from Stefan Lochner.

My picture of visitors to the Alte Pinakothek in Munich gazing at my favorite painting by Rogier Van Der Weyden, the Columba Altarpiece made sometime around 1460 for the church of Saint Columba in Cologne.
I traveled to Munich on a day-trip from Nuremberg.  I was in that city for an afternoon.

The painting shows the Visit of the Magi in the center panel (appropriate for an altarpiece for a Cologne church), the Annunciation in the left panel, and the Presentation in the Temple on the right panel.  The colors really are that rich and that bright.
The composition here is far more complex and subtle than anything Stefan Lochner painted.  And yet in the Virgin and Child almost but not quite in the center, and the pyramidal group she forms with the kneeling Gaspar, there may be some slight nod here in the direction of Lochner's Dombild.

Picture from Wikimedia

A detail from the center panel.  This Virgin and Child by Rogier gets my vote for the most beautiful of all Flemish Madonnas.  She is noble without being haughty.  She is serious and yet graceful, warm, and approachable.  Apparently other artists of the time thought so too because you can see echoes of her in most subsequent Flemish painting, in the work of Dirk Bouts, of Hans Memling, and of Gerard David.
I also love the thoughtful looking cow behind her.

This is one of the few Renaissance paintings where the Christ Child is actually appealing.  He is the best example of the Flemish taste for frail newborns over the fat muscular one-year-olds favored by Italian artists.  The Baby's fingers and toes are wonderful.

This magnificent and noble figure I presume is Balthazar, traditionally the youngest of the Three Kings.  Showing the saint with a young man's mop of unkempt hair in contrast to his magnificent clothes is a real stroke of imagination.  Legend says that Rogier used the likeness of the young Duke of Burgundy, Charles the Bold.

Another stroke of imagination; showing the Star partially hidden behind the Stable as though it is very bright and high in the sky.

The 15th century Flemish countryside in the background.  Renaissance artists rarely cared about literal history.  What mattered was the importance of the story in the here and now.
Another striking anachronism is the small Crucifix above the Virgin's head.  Rogier was much more interested in human beings and how they revealed meaning through character and action than he was in symbolism.  When he does use symbols, they can sometimes be heavy handed.

My vote for the most beautiful Virgin Annunciate in all of Northern Renaissance art.


Each and every bell of Cologne Cathedral:

Goodbye to Cologne; the view from the train as we head out to Münster.