Psalm 132, "Ecce quam bonum" by Unknown artist

Ludwig Mittermaier

Psalm 132 (133), 'Ecce quam bonum', 19th century, Stained glass, Evangelische Stadtkirche Ravensburg, Feld 1b, Photo: Andreas Praefcke

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A Plea for Peace

Commentary by

At the foot of Ludwig Mittermaier’s imposing stained glass portrait of the Lutheran reformer and clergyman Johannes Brenz there is an intriguing panel. It depicts a hen with its egg, surrounded, enigmatically, by an inscription of the first verse of Psalm 133 in an arc: Siehe, wie fein und lieblich ist es, daß Brüder einträchtig beieinander wohnen (‘See, how fine and delightful it is when brothers dwell peaceably together’).

Tradition has it that Brenz survived for fourteen days in an attic, hiding from the Spanish troops in Stuttgart, visited by a hen who laid an egg each day (Langsam 2019: 130). The chicken and its egg thus serve as a witness of divine provision for Brenz when he was in need, just as the prophet Elijah received provisions from ravens in the desert (1 Kings 17:1–6).

The inscription of Psalm 133:1, however, strikes a tragic note in the context of the Reformation. A testimony to the blessings that proceed from unity between believers, the psalm stands as a witness to Brenz’s advocacy for church unity at a time marked by division and violence (Whitford 2012: 377–8). In the portrait (not shown here), Brenz is depicted proudly armed with his creed, the Württemberg Confession, which he had prepared for the Council of Trent in 1552. Reading Psalm 133 through this window turns the psalm into a challenge and an ongoing plea for unity and peace in the Church.

The seven Reformation windows were created in the 1860s when the church of Ravensburg was renovated, and played a central part in shaping the identity of this evangelical community in a predominantly Catholic town (Langsam 2019: 130). In this context, the opening verse from Psalm 133 could be understood as a celebration of the fellowship of this particular community. As they gathered together to worship God, they were seeking the same blessings of God’s presence as were the ancient pilgrims to the Temple in Jerusalem who sang this psalm.

 

References

Langsam, Friedrich. 2019. ‘Das theologische Programm der Ravensburger Reformatorenfenster’, in Die Reformatorenfenster der Evangelischen Stadtkirche Ravensburg: Bericht zur Erforschung der Glasmalerei von Ludwig Mittermaier, ed. by Dunja Kielmann, Susann Seyfert, and Otto Wölbert, Arbeitsheft 37 (Esslingen am Neckar: Jan Thorbecke Verlag)

Whitford, David M. (ed.). 2012. T & T Clark Companion to Reformation Theology (London: T & T Clark), pp. 377–78