Horber Johannes Bowl – The main in shell

A visit to the hospital Horber Depot promoted a forgotten piece revealed. Impressively presents the life-size head of John the Baptist is held in Wood: The muscles are relaxed, the eyes and the mouth half open, the neck is open flesh; only the shell carries the precious commodity safely on a pillow. Even when John Schüssel announced the dramatic work of art to the viewer captures directly.

johannesschuesselHe “(…) was clothed with camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and he ate locusts and wild honey” (Mk 1,6). The man from the desert of Judea, to the Gospel of Mark describes here as abstemious preacher should once numerous people gather around and finally become the forerunner of Christ. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, Jesus recognized as the Lamb of God and donated the baptism in the Jordan as a sign of forgiveness of sin. In this way he received his famous nickname and today is as Johannes Baptista – the Baptist – known.

Despite the points of the ministry of Jesus, the biblical sources tell little about his life. So the son of Elizabeth and Zacharias’ in phenomenon occurs only around the year 28 as a preacher and Baptist of Jesus, as reported by the Roman scholar Josephus.

At length, however, the story of his violent death has been handed down, he suffered under Herod Antipas in Galilee. The preacher should have condemned the illegal connection of the ruler to his sister Herodias – an incident which also caused in the Jewish public resentment. As a result, bound and imprisoned, his life was initially spared because Herod knew that John “(…) was a righteous and holy man” (Mk 6:20). Therefore Herodias had wanted the death of John the Baptist and Herod deceived by means of their daughter Salome: At a banquet the girl should as a reward for dancing the head of John on a tray charge (Mk 6, 14-29).

The martyrdom that is described here, took place over the centuries many input in Christian art.Especially in the painting itself established the presentation of John head by Salome and Herodias as popular motif. One special feature, however, is the plastic representation in the shell, as it is known since the 13th century. It is thought that the type of picture iconography on the main saint of Amiens, the combined head relic of John the Baptist, dating back.

Despite its dissemination the original function of type of representation, however, remains in the dark;so also in Horb. Neither the use as a reliquary still the fixed liturgical involvement are occupied binding.Narrated is instead the laying on of John Head in head and neck disorders, as it is today practiced in individual parishes.

Likewise, find evidence of the involvement of the head of the religious drama of the Middle Ages and the special presentation of photographic work on Remembrance Day Johanni decapitation (August 29).Within the church year on the wall, as shown on the front door or on a pedestal, the image work was mostly placed here on the high altar. As a rule, the separation of head and shell was possible – a feature that may be related to the individual use of the photographic work.

The Horber Johannes bowl is said to have once belonged to the equipment of 1851 dialed John’s Church, whose altar was transferred to the local Church of Our Lady already 1845th Whether and in what form the image work was involved here, remains current to be clarified. The former John patronage makes a special presentation of the Head of the anniversary of the beheading but probable.The back cushion mounted on loop speaks furthermore a continuous presentation in the church.Despite – or perhaps because of – its mysteries reminds the lifelike sculpture today in an impressive way to the violent death of the holy man.



The commemoration of the Beheading of John the Baptist is the 29th of August. Is celebrated as the Solemnity of the Birth of John the Baptist on June 24, the St. John’s.

Picture information:
Johannes Bowl, 17th century. (?), Wood, painted in color, 22.5 x 37 x 35 cm, Horb, Depot Spitalstiftung.
Photo: Diocesan Museum Rottenburg

Christine Bozler