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Mendicant Magnificence
The stained glass windows from the Franciscan church

The Franciscans came to Esslingen in 1237. The so-called "Barfüßer" (barefeet, commonly known in England as the Greyfriars) soon made themselves popular in the city. Both the rich and the poor flocked to their church to hear them preaching, and some Esslingen citizens became Franciscan friars themselves. The friary was also a centre of learning; in 1290 the friars began to write the Flores Temporum, a history of the world. Around this time the church was completed. As stipulated by the Rule of the Order, it was simple in form and decoration, with only a small wooden tower, impressing instead through its height and elegant proportions.

After the Reformation the friary complex was used as a weapons depot, and as a residence and school by the University of Tübingen. Unfortunately, in 1840 an over-enthusiastic Building Inspector ordered the demolition of the nave, leaving only the choir and "Lettner" (Pulpitum, Choir Screen) standing. This torso was then renovated in 1912, a new hall in place of the nave was added by Rudolf Lempp in 1930 for the use of the Evangelical community in Esslingen.

A tripartite typological window in the choir apse depicts the life of Christ, surrounded by scenes from the Old Testament. It has no less than 45 panes, making it the largest biblical window in the German-speaking lands.

Adoration of the Kings, now in the Esslingen City Museum, Esslingen 1320
The Three Wise Men from the East present the child Jesus with gifts. The men are all the same age, though at this time it was more usual to depict them as of differing age, and with one of them a negro. Mary's hair is stained silver-gold. The repairs can be clearly made out against the patterned blue background, nevertheless this scene still manages to fascinate the onlooker, with its wonderful glowing colours.
Adoration of the Kings The Scourging of Christ
The Scourging of Christ, Esslingen 1320
Because Jesus' head is somewhat obscured by the stocks, whereas in the Pendant showing the "Scourging of a Maccabean" the whole head can be seen, it has been assumed that the original designs and titles were mixed up; however the copiers of this design for the Frauenkirche windows made no attempt to rectify this "mistake".
The other four bipartite windows are purely ornamental, as laid down in the Franciscan's Rule. They are very colourful compared to the ornamental windows in other friary churches. During the time that the church was not used for worship, some of the window panes were used as "spares" to mend the stained glass windows in the Parish/City church. This is the reason that so few remain. Two of the apse windows are now kept in the City Museum. The ornamental panes were moved to the Parish/City church St.Dionysus.

The lasting artistic influence of the Mendicant Orders can be seen in the fact that one of the windows in the Esslingen "Frauenkirche" (Church of Our Lady) is a copy of the Franciscan design. The glass workshop which produced these windows around 1330 was technically advanced for the time. The panes are stained silver-yellow, a colour first used in Paris around 1300. The stained glass in the Franciscan church windows also stand out because of the intensity of the portrayals.

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