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The Carmelite Monestary

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In the Late Middle Ages a new order of mendicant friars, the Carmelites enter the country. It was part of Erik of Pomerania´s development of the market towns, where they were supposed to assist in the spreading of learning and education.

The Church of St. Mary in Elsinore, still exists.

The Foundation

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In the late Middle Ages a new mendication order came to the country, namely the Karmelites. The Karmelite monks were educated and with the founding of the monastery of Erik of Pommern intended to improve education and learning in the towns. Karmelite monasteries were founded in Landskrona in 1410 and in Elsinore in 1430. The Elsinore Monastery building is the best preserved in the North.

The Karmelite Monastery
The first monasteries were placed in the country and it was not until the emergence of the mendicant orders that monasteries were placed in towns. This development continued in the 15th century, when Karmelite monasteries were founded in the Sound region. The Karmelites had their origin among hermits in the mountain Karmel in the holy land and in 1226 the pope approved the Karmelite order. The Karmelite order was one of the strictest in the Catholic Church and they started early with monastery schools. Gradually the severe monastery rules were lessened, but in the 16th century they were tightened again.
The Karmelite monks were well educated and their monasteries were to contribute to increased knowledge and education in the town. Karmelite monasteries were founded in Landskrona in 1410 and in Elsinore in 1430.
Monasteries in the Towns
Monasteries in the Towns
Karmelite Monk
Karmelite Monk

The Elsinore Monastery
The late medieval monastery building in Elsinore is the best preserved and worth a closer study.
It was Erik of Pommern, who donated the land to the monastery and the pole approved of the plans in 1431. After a fire in 1450 they had to rebuild the monastery, which was a time-consuming and expensive undertaking. A large monastery building like that was expensive to run, but the royal power supported the activities and it was also a common with soul gifts.

Poul Laxmand
The vassal in Krogen in Elsinore, Poul Laxmand, donated 100 Lübeck mark to the monastery.
Poul Laxmand was at the time the richest landowner in the country and he made several donations. 10 year after the first donation you could read in a letter that Lawmand had donated nine hundred Lubeck mark Danish money, ”for which a monastery’s church and cloister was built with the help of many good people”.

The Chancellor
He also possessed the most prominent position in the kingdom. He was chancellor, which meant that he functioned as liaison between the king and the parliament. He was murdered in the street in Copenhagen in 1497. The king, Hans, felt that Laxmand in fact had been a traitor and confiscated all his property.
Poul Laxmand was buried in the Our Lady Church in Elsinore and you can see his family’s coat of arms in the monastery. The chapter hall has been named after him; it is simply called ”The Laxmand Hall”.
Poul Laxmand
Poul Laxmand

Poul Helgesen
Poul Helgesen was born in Varberg in Halland and in time became one of the most important persons in the Karmelite monastery. He was attached to the monastery in 1517 and in 1519 became the principal of the college in Copenhagen. He taught at the university and form 1522-44 he was the leader of the Karmelites in the North. Poul Helgesen was a defender of the Catholic Church until the Reformation in 1536. But he also fought for the internal reformation and development.

After the Reformation
After the Reformation in 1536 the Karmelite monastery stopped functioning as a monastery and became a hospital for the old and sick. It is said that the monks had to get tithe and handouts to run the hospital. The old monks were allowed to stay on and adapt to the new situation.
The Skibby Chronicle
The Skibby Chronicle

Architecture

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Our Lady Monastery in Elsinore was built during the second half of the 15th century. It is very well preserved and is thus unique in Europe. It is a fine example of the Baltic Gothic.
The Our Lady Monastery in Elsinore is unusually well preserved. It was built and rebuilt in the latter half of the 15th century.
Oversæt
Oversæt

The Ground Plan
The ground plan was typical for the monastery buildings of southern Europe. The different wings in the almost square building had different functions. The economy department with cooking facilities was in the north wing and the monastery church (The Mary Church) in the south. Inside is a roofed cloister, which goes all the way round the square inner yard.
Ground Plan
Ground Plan
Administration
Administration
The Karmelite Monastery
The Karmelite Monastery
The Cloisters
The Cloisters
The Frater Hall
The Frater Hall

Baltic Gothic
The building material is brick, which is typical of the north European or Baltic Gothic. The three naves in the church are also typical of the north European style, where the middle nave does not let in the light. This half basilica style testifies to the influence of the Wend Hanseatic towns and is also present in the Mary Church in Helsingborg, which was built at the same time as the Our Lady Monastery.
Gothic pointed arches can be seen everywhere in doors, windows, house ends and in the cloister. The ends of the church are a display of brick Gothic’s architecture. The east and west end have stair formed edges with four vertical dims on each side of the 11 metres tall middle window. Above this window and above the side windows there are broader dimmers with varying patterns (circular, pear shaped and pointed arches).
Inside the monastery the gothic vaults and columns are richly varied. Most common are the simple cross vaults, which are in the church and in the cloister, but in the chapter hall (Laxmand hall) there are sophisticated net vaults with inlaid symbols and coat of arms. Some ornaments, done by the sculptor Adam van Düren, are in the chapter hall. He built Glimmingehus and he also restored Lund´s Cathedral. With this artist we are brought nearer a new age and in the monastery there are many things, which testifies to the dawning age of the Renaissance. One example is the stone building opposite the entrance of the monastery church, and which was attached to the monastery from the start. The building is interesteing as it contains elements from the Gothic as well as the Renaissance. On the house end there are horizontal profile bands and vaulted sides, which are typical of the renaissance style.
The west house
The west house
The West House End
The West House End
The West House End
The West House End
The East House End
The East House End
The Monastery from the west
The Monastery from the west

The Chapter Hall
In the inner rooms of the monastery there is an abundant variation in Gothic vaults and pillars. The simple cross vault is predominant in the church and corridors, while the chapter hall or the Laxmand hall has sophisticated net vaults with engraved symbols and coats of arms.

Ornamental figures in the corners remind the noble karmelite monks of the temptations of earthly life. The originator of these figures and the other sandstone work is probably the sculptor and architect Adam van Düren, who also is in charge of the building of the late medieval castle Glimmingehus in Østerlen in Scania and later the restoration of Lund Cathedral.
The Laxmand Hall
The Laxmand Hall
Memento Mori
Memento Mori
Madonna Figure
Madonna Figure

Dawning Renaissance
Adam van Düren portends another age. The Karmelite monastery is a traditional medieval building, but many traits in the ornamentation point towards the dawning Renaissance.
Not only the monastery points toward a new age. Diagonally opposite the monastery church there is a stone building, which originally is associated with the activities of the monastery. When you walk around in the building you enter the Renaissance from the Middle Ages. On the western gable end, which faces St. Annægade, and represents a later addition you will see the horizontal profile bands, which is typical of the Renaissance. The northern gable facing the monastery complex is ornamented with the fluctuating gable ends typical of the Renaissance. These can also be found in mansions and royal castles later in time.
The Carmelite House
The Carmelite House
The Carmelite House, the north end
The Carmelite House, the north end

Murals

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In the Our Lady Monastery there is a large number of murals. They are from late Gothic times close to the Reniassance. Good and evil deeds were illustrated and man´s morals were the focus.

The Mary-motif
There are not many Mary motifs in the murals in the monastery. The apocalyptic Madonna is portrayed in a medallion in the vault in the chapter hall, the Annunciation can be seen close to the entrance to the church and Mary with the halo is portrayed in a mural in the dining hall.
Annunciation
Annunciation
Reading Mary
Reading Mary
Mary in Refulgence
Mary in Refulgence

The Lazarus Hall
In the dining hall (The Lazarus Hall) you can see a picture of Jesus and the Samaritan woman. In a text band it says in Latin: ”Give me something to drink”. Another picture depicts how Jesus is tempted by the devil in the desert. Satan tries to lure Jesus into using his divinity to make bread out of stones.
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The Lazarus Frieze
The dining hall is situated in the north wing of the monastery and is also called the Lazarus hall. This is due to the frieze, which dominates the room and represents the parable of the rich man and Lazarus.
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Rich Man and Lazarus
The Rich Man
The Rich Man
Lazarus
Lazarus
The Rich Man Goes to Hell
The Rich Man Goes to Hell
Lazarus Goes to Heaven
Lazarus Goes to Heaven

The Table Scene
The picture shows the rich man in the place of honour and presents as unusual insight into the customs around the year 1500. The shoes are the latest fashion at the time and the cut of the dress points toward Italian fashion in the period 1450-70. It has also been suggested that the artist may be Italian, perhaps a monastery friar, who has been summoned to carry out this job?
You also notice the details around the table manners of the time: The flat wooden plates, or perhaps slices of bread used as plates and the smaller loaves, which was used to spoon up the food. A knife could be used, but the fork hasn´t been invented yet.
The scene with the rich man has been interpreted differently. He is without a doubt a fashion devotee, but who is at his side? Two women, but is one of them his wife? That should be the one on the left and why is he holding the other one´s hand? There is no final answer to this, but there is a hint of carnal lust here. The somewhat primitive and perspective reproduction points toward the Renaissance.

Rich and Poor
The perspective reproduction can also be seen in the second picture in the frieze, where Lazarus is in agony outside the rich man´s door. A servant throws him crumbs from the rich man´s table, while another with his hand over his facet ries to hold off the stench from the open wounds.
In picture three the rich man´s death is depicted. The picture illustrates how difficult it is for him to get into heaven. He lies in his bed surrounded by friends, but also devils, who try to take possession of his soul.
The poor Lazarus in picture four on the other hand, is almost automatically granted access to Heaven.
The fifth and sixth picture in the series are like pictures three and four placed over each other, but are badly preserved. The probably depict the poor man resting in Abraham´s lap and below the rich man in Hell.

Interpretation
The frieze has also been interpreted as an eternal reminder to the Karmelite monks to be moderate, but also as a reminder of how difficult it is to enter the kingdom of God. Perhaps it is only God´s absolution, which can save you. The Lazarus motif was well liked around the 16th century, when they stressed the inadequacy of deeds for salvation. The vault in the south nave of the church are decorated with an extensive collection of murals, which show scenes from the life of Jesus and they have probably been painted in connection with the rebuilding in the end of the 15th century.

In the Church
The vault in the south nave of the church are decorated with an extensive collection of murals, which show scenes from the life of Jesus and they have probably been painted in connection with the rebuilding in the end of the 15th century.
Hans Pothorst
Hans Pothorst
Delff; a painter
Delff; a painter

The Music Hall
The Garden of Eden is depicted in the so-called music hall, which is more like an emergency church, from where you could attend the service through a hole in the wall. The room is decorated from the floor to the ceiling like a paradisiacal bower with angels making music and grotesque figures around the leaves.
Harp Sound
Harp Sound
Music Motif
Music Motif
Music Motif
Music Motif

Grotesques
The nave also holds a number of characteristic masks as a part of the ornamentation of the church. These can be interpreted as profane everyday comments, which contrast the deeds of the pious Karmelites.
Grotesque Figures
Grotesque Figures

©  Øresundstid 2009