Monument of the Month

October 2014
A Fool’s Monument?
The Tomb Slab of Hans Has at Wertheim, Germany
The town of Wertheim, which is located about 40 kilometers to the west of Würzburg on the confluence of the rivers Main and Tauber in Baden-Württemberg, Germany, is well-known for its many splendid funeral monuments and epitaphs of the counts of Wertheim and their successors, the counts of Löwenstein, in the Stiftskirche.[1] Further monuments and tomb slabs of citizens, clerics, and others have been preserved vis-à-vis in the delightful late gothic Kilianskapelle, and among them there is one of the most intriguing late medieval monuments of the region: The tomb slab commemorating a man called Hans Has in the guise of a court jester by an unknown local sculptor (fig. 1).[2]

Fig. 1: Tomb Slab of Hans Has, Kilianskapelle Wertheim (Photo by Gertrud K.:
Measuring 182 by 102 centimeters, the sandstone slab shows Has’s less than lifesize effigy, which is carved in high relief and retains some of its original paint. Standing on a dog, he wears a robe that is partly buttoned down his chest, belted at the waist, and ends in what appears to be a broad ornamental border covering his knees and thus most of his hosed legs, which are stuck in heavy thigh boots; the ample sleeves are gathered at the wrists and reveal the cuffs of his shirt, which can also be seen on his upper chest where some of the buttons are left open. What marks this outfit as a fool’s or jester’s costume, however, is the pocket in the righthand sleeve with its two rather damaged flutes and of course the hood emerging from the robe’s collar with its two ass’s ears with bells and a coxcomb down the centre.[3] This style of fool’s attire is typical for the time around 1500 as a number of Netherlandish paintings of laughing fools show, which in their turn inspired Heinrich Vogtherr the Younger’s woodcut of a fool of c. 1540 (fig. 2).[4] Unlike these merry fools, however, the finely sculpted face of Hans Has looks worried, if not downright distressed: his brow is furrowed, his crudely repainted wide-open eyes are directed heavenwards, and the corners of his mouth beneath the chipped-off nose point downwards. All merriment is gone as Has prepares to meet his maker, and it is certainly no coincidence that his haggard features are reminiscent of the suffering faces that feature in many of Tilman Riemenschneider’s masterly altarpieces and crucifixes carved in nearby Würzburg, which had a great influence on the development of sculpture throughout the region. The religious component is furthermore stressed by the badly damaged rosary in his right hand, of which only a few beads survive though its outline is still traceable.[5] The monument also documents Hans’s social standing as a member of a family which had prospered by its close contacts to the court as the shield with his canting arms of a running hare (“Hase”) in his left hand demonstrates

Fig. 2: Heinrich Vogtherr the Younger: Der Schalksnarr. Woodcut, c. 1540 (Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig:
The effigy is framed by an insciption which reads: “Anno / d[omi]ni / mo / cccco / lxxx / xi / jar / an aller / sellen / tag / starb / hans / has / geborn / von / remling / reuter / hans ge[ann]nt / der / gewesen / ist / ein / getrewer / diner / der / herschaft / d[em] / g[ott] / g[nade]” (In the year of the Lord 1491 on All Souls’ Day died Hans Has, born at Remlingen, called Hans the rider, who was a faithful servant of the sovereignty, on whom God may have mercy).[6] Archival records confirm that Hans Has, whose parents are unkown, was born in the nearby village of Remlingen into a family with connections to the county’s administration. It is uncertain when Has entered the counts’ employ, but it is assumed that he may already have worked for count Georg I (+1454), the father of Has’s master of many years, count Johann III (+1497). Interestingly, the slab’s inscription does not identify him as court jester but as “reuter” (i.e. a rider running errands and acting as messenger for his master). This is corroborated by other sources which furthermore identify Has as a juryman and judge in Dertingen, a village about halfway between his birthplace and Wertheim. Again, there is no hint whatsoever that he might also have been employed as court jester.[7]
In his article on a tomb slab featuring, among other things, an ass playing a bagpipe, Heimo Reintzer has convincigly refuted the assumption that because of his attire Hans Has must have been a jester even though he is not identified as such in the slab’s inscription and the archival records. Instead, Reintzer argues that depictions of animals making music and ass-eared fools with musical instruments (Has, as we have seen, carries two flutes in his sleeve pocket) often appear as symbols of mundus reversus, the world turned upside down, which imply a critique of the present times and, especially in the case of a funerary monument, an awareness of the folly and the futility of all worldly longings and aspirations.[8] This interpretation also explains the haunted look on Has’s face as he realizes that his only hope rests in God on high, whence he has turned his gaze. Consequently he abjures the gaudy and foolish vanities of his earthly existence, which are symbolised by his apparel.
Though in the end Hans Has was in all likelyhood not a jester in real life, his exceptional tomb slab just across the street from the magnificent monuments of the counts of Wertheim and Löwenstein in the Stiftskirche deserves more attention than it has hitherto garnerd. Late medieval and early modern monuments with depictions of the deceased in jester’s or fool’s attire are extremely rare, and the one dedicated to the memory of Hans Has is one of the earliest, if not the earliest. Later examples, this time of real jesters, include the memorial for the famous fourteenth-century fool Till Eulenspiegel at Mölln, Schleswig-Hollstein, which was however only errected in 1536, and the tomb slab of Hans Gerl, the bishop of Passau’s jester, of 1565.[9]


[1] For an amply illustrated introduction to the most important monuments, cf. Jörg Paczkowski (2012). Die evangelische Stiftskirche zu Wertheim. Gerchsheim: Kunstschätzeverlag. An in-depth discussion is offered by Judith Wipfler (1996). “Der Chor der Wertheimer Stiftskirche als herrschaftliche Grablege. Die Epitaphien der Regenten bis ins frühe 17. Jahrhundert.“ Wertheimer Jahrbuch , pp. 87-178.

[2] So far, Hans Has’s monument has received surprisingly little scholarly attention; cf. especially Ernst Cucuel, Hermann Eckert (1942). Die Inschriften des badischen Main- und Taubergrundes. Die Deutschen Inschriften 1. Stuttgart: Metzlersche Verlagsbuchhandlung, p. 177 (no. 180), Vital Huhn (1959). “Löwe und Hund als Gerichtssymbole auf zwei Wertheimer Denkmälern.” Wertheimer Jahrbuch, pp. 26-30, and Ernst Vollhardt (1964). “Zwei Grabdenkmäler für Narren. In Wertheim des Hofnarren Hans Has – in Mölln des Schalknarren Till Eulenspiegel.” Spessart, pp. 5-6

[3] The description of the effigy loosely follows Vollhardt, p. 5. Vollhardt also suggests that the curious object to the left of the head is a jester’s cup.

[4] Cf. e.g. the painting tentatively attributed to Jacob Cornelisz van Oostsanen of c. 1500 in the collection of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, Wellesley College, Wellesley, MA: (accessed 6 August 2014).

[5] Cucuel/Eckert and Vollhardt identify the rosary as a ring of bells but the comparison with some of the other nearly contemporary slabs in the Kilianskapelle of citizens and clerics with rosaries suggests that Hans also holds a rosary as a sign of his piety.

[6] My translation. Transcription based on Cucuel/Eckert. Vollhardt’s transcription (ibid.) is incomplete.

[7] All biographical information is based on Huhn, p. 30.

[8] Cf. Heimo Reinitzer (1980). “Asinus ad tibiam. Zur Ikonographie einer Hamburger Grabplatte.” Litteratura Laicorum: Beiträge zur christlichen Kunst, ed. idem. Vestigia Bibliae: Jahrbuch des Deutschen Bibel-Archivs Hamburg 2, pp. 89-125, here pp. 100-102.

[9] For the Eulenspiegel memorial, cf. Vollhardt, p. 5f.; for Gerl’s monument, cf. Lutz S. Malke, ed. (2001). Narren. Porträts, Feste, Sinnbilder, Schwankbücher und Spielkarten aus dem 15. bis 17. Jahrhundert. Leipzig: Faber & Faber, pp. 28 (fig. 30), 64. Cf. also Vincent Mayr (1975). “Zur Darstellung des Narren auf Grabsteinen.” Ars Bavarica. Archivalisches Jahrbuch für Bauforschung und Kunstgeschichte in Bayern 3. pp. 21-30.

Dr Martin Spies
        Monument of the Month - Contributions Wanted!
This page is designed for the general reader and is intended to feature monuments of all types and all ages: those to the famous and to the unknown, those by famous sculptors and those by unknown local craftsmen, the artistically spendid and the simple but beautiful or curious. So far mostly members of the Council have contributed but contibutions are welcome from everybody - members or non-members of the Society. We would welcome a photograph or two and a short text telling us why the monument interests you: it may be of an ancestor, of someone you admire, something you have discovered or just something you just like or find interesting.
Please send the text as a word document and the photographs as separate jpg files ; please do not send the photographs embedded in the text as I cannot then edit the document. However, it is always useful - but not essential - if an embedded version could be sent as well, as then I can lay out the document as you intended. Please send contributions to . We will feature the monument for a month and it will then be archived.

Some tips on the photographs:
1. It is always polite to ask the vicar or rector of the church for permission to take photographs, stressing they are not for profit or commercial purpose. It is important to confirm when the church is normally open. Don't forget to enclose a stamped addressed envelope for your reply.
2. Cathedrals and some other large churches have a visitors' desk and permission may often be obtained there on the day; sometimes there is a modest cost. Some of these churches do not normally allow photography although permission may be obtained if one writes before hand. To date the only place that I have been refused  is Durham Cathedral. Westminster Abbey and St Paul's Cathedral also do not allow photography.
3. Try to carefully remove items that block the view of the monument if you are able. Especially don't leave your camera case in the way as I have on occasions! Or alter the angle of the photograph to minimise this problem.
4. Try to avoid excessive contrast in taking the photographs - dark shadows and bright sunlight. In other words, try to see what the camera sees, not your eyes! Flash can be difficult to use as it creates harsh shadows and burned out highlights; this is especially difficult when a photograph is taken of a subject of some depth when the foreground becomes too bright and the background too dark, because of the rapid falling off of the brightness of the flash with distance.
5. Please send photographs as jpg or gif attachments; do not embed them in the text where they cannot be edited and require a lot of memory space. If you wish I can scan printed photographs if they are sent to me; they will always be returned.
Click on the link below to see earlier Monuments of the Month
January 2010 Thomas Moore (d. 1586) & his widow Marie at Adderbury (Oxfordshire) Sally Badham FSA
February 2010 The so-called ‘Stanley boy’ monument at Elford (Staffordshire) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
March 2010 William Shakespeare’s monument, HolyTrinity, Stratford upon Avon, Warwickshire Dr Adam White PhD
April 2010 The Lovell Tomb at Minster Lovell, Oxfordshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
May 2010 The chantry of Humphrey Duke of Gloucester 1391-1447 at the Cathedral and Abbey Church of St Alban Jane Kelsall
June 2010 Thomas Babington of Dethick (d. 1518) and his wife Edith at Ashover (Derbyshire) Dr Kelcey Wilson-Lee PhD
July 2010 Baptist Noel, Third Viscount Campden (c. 1612-1683) at Exton, Rutland C B Newham
August 2010 Isabelle of Angoulême at Fontevraud Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2010 The Monument to Thomas Strode at Beaminster, Dorset Dr Clive J Easter PhD
October 2010 The cadaver monument of Guillaume de Harcigny (d. 1393) at  Laon (France) Dr Sophie Oosterwijk FSA
November 2010 The John Donne Monument (d. 1631) by Nicholas Stone in St Paul's Cathedral, London Dr Philip Cottrell
December 2010 Walter Helyon (d. c. 1357) at Much Marcle (Herefordshire) Sally Badham FSA
January 2011 Hungerford, Berkshire Dr Ellie Pridgeon PhD
February 2011 The Schaw Monument Dumfermline Abbey Church Dr Jenny Alexander
March 2011 Two wooden Epitaphien from Königsberg Jerome Bertram
April 2011  Abbot Adam of Carmarthen, Neath Abbey South Wales Dr Rhianydd Biebrach Ph D
May 2011 Sir John Newdigate, 1610, Harefield, Middlesex Jon Bayliss
June 2011  The joint tomb of João I of Portugal (d.1433) and his queen, Philippa of Lancaster (d. 1415) Founder’s Chapel, monastery of Our Lady of Victory, in Batalha, Portugal  Joana Ramôa
Photographs by  José Custódio Vieira da Silva
July 2011 Today and not tomorrow’ Doctor James Vaulx and his two wives Editha and Philip   St Mary’s Church, Meysey Hampton Joan and Robert Tucker
August 2011 The Bourchier Monuments in St Andrew’s Church, Halstead (Essex) Mark Duffy
September 2011 Two Monuments in Bedfordshire Cameron Newham
October 2011 Floor slab of Joost Corneliszoon van Lodensteyn, burgomaster of Delft (d. 31 April 1660), his wife Maria van Voorburch, and their descendants, Oude Kerk (Old Church), Delft (Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 223 x 136 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
November 2011  Berengaria of Nevarre, Queen of Richard the Lionheart in L'Épau Abbey J K Bromilow MInstP
December 2011  The Watton Monument at Addington, Kent Dr Clive Easter
January 2012  The monument of Lady Margaret  Grey (d. 1330) at Cogges  Oxfordshire Sally Badham
February 2012 The Effigy of Walter Stewart, Earl of Menteith, at Inchmaholme Priory, Scotland Mark Downing FSA
March 2012  Thomas Walwyn (d. 1415) and his Wife  at Much Marcle (Herefordshire)   Sally Badham 
April 2012  Lady Barbara de Mauley, St Nicholas, Hatherop   Joan and Robert Tucker  
May 2012 The tomb of John Marshall in Llandaff Cathedral Dr Madeleine Gray PhD FRHistS
June 2012 The double tomb monument to Reinoud III van Brederode (d. 1556) and Philippote van der Marck (d. 1537) in Vianen (Netherlands) Trudi Brink
July 2012 Lowsley Family Tomb, Hampstead
Norris, Berkshire
Dr Andrew Sargent
August 2012 Oliver Cromwell's Coffin Plate J K Bromilow MInstP
September 2012 A Monument in Holy Trinity Church Hull Sally Badham FSA
October 2012 East Worldham (Hampshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2012 Floor slab of Cornelis Pietersze (d. 1532) and his wife Jozijne van Domburch (d. 1557), Sint-Maartenskerk, Sint Maartensdijk (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 254 x 141 cm. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA and Kees Knulst BA
December 2012 An exercise in white marble and whitewashing: Cenotaph of Lieutenant-Admiral Jacob van Wassenaer Obdam (d. 13 June 1665), by Bartholomeus Eggers, situated in the choir of the Jacobskerk, The Hague (Netherlands), white, red and black marble and wood. Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
January 2013 Martin Kistenmaker and his Parents
Heiligenkreuz, Rostock
Jerome Bertram
February 2013 The monument to Archbishop James Sharp (d.1679) in Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews (Fife) Phoebe Armstrong
March 2013 The Monument at Sheriff Hutton (Yorkshire).
Is this the tomb of Richard III’s son?
Dr Jane Crease
April 2013 Zacharias Johannes Szolc, 1682, and Stanisław Bużenski, 1697 Frombork Cathedral, Poland Jerome Bertram
May 2013 The monument to Dr Thomas Turner, died 1714. Stowe-Nine-Churches, Northamptonshire  Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
June 2013 'Left for dead' Major Thomas Price Robert Tucker
July 2013 An unusual saint: Floor slab of Jacopmine Huyghendochter, wife of Foert Christiaenszoon (d. 1553), Sint-Maartenskerk, Wemeldinge (province of Zeeland, Netherlands), Belgian hardstone, 185 x 114 cm Dr Sophie Oosterwijk  FSA
August 2013 Thomas and Mary Acton, erected 1581, Tenbury Wells, Worcestershire Jon Bayliss
September 2013 Cholmondeley Monument, St Peter ad Vincula, Tower of London  Dr George Roberts
October 2013 Revd Theophilus Pickering (d. 1710) and John Dryden, Poet Laureate (d. 1700), Titchmarsh (Northamptonshire) Sally Badham FSA
November 2013 Thomas Manners, 1st Earl of Rutland, 12th Baron de Ros of Helmsley (c.1492 – 1543) Bottesford, St Mary (Leicestershire)   Edward Higgins MA BSc (Hons)
December 2013 Maria Rebekka Schlegel, 1736, Stadtmuseum, Meissen, Germany Jon Bayliss
January 2014
Lady Elizabeth Clinton (d. 11 September 1423) Haversham (Buckinghamshire)
 Sally Badham
February 2014 LUGENS MŒRENSQUE Moira Ackers
March 2014 A son’s delayed memorial to his dead mother: The tomb of Catharine of Bourbon, Duchess of Guelders (d. 1469), Stevenskerk, Nijmegen (Netherlands). Sophie Oosterwijk and Trudi Brink
April 2014 Robert Crane (d. 1500), Chilton (Suffolk) Sally Badham
May 2014 A monument with a story
Double monument said to commemorate Lady Constantia and her son John, St Leonard’s church, Scarcliffe (Derbyshire).
Sophie Oosterwijk and Sally Badham
June 2014 A military effigy
St James's Church, Iddesleigh, Devon
John K Bromilow MInstP
July 2014 Brecon Cathedral: a post-Reformation cross slab Dr Maddy Gray PhD
August 2014 The monument to Lady Wolryche, 1678: the Lady with the Lute Dr Clive J Easter FSA  
September 2014 Row On Row (1) Robert Tucker