The additional coats of arms relate to the female ancestors of the principal pair. On Achatz’s side his mother, Adelheid von Schwicheldt (c.1515-1545); his paternal and maternal grandmothers, Ilse von de Oberhusen (c.1450-1510) and Ilse von Rutenberg (1453-1515) and the same on Margreta’s side, her mother Jacobe von de Asseburg (1507-1570) and her paternal and maternal grandmothers, Jutta von Steinberg (1457-1520) and Eulia von de Westphal (?-1515).
Destedter Fideicommiss, engraved on the base refers to the entailed estate of Schloss Destedt a castle between Brunswick and Helmstedt, a Veltheim property since circa 1300.
The additional coats of arms inside the cover are those of Alvensleben and Rutenberg probably for Gerhard XXV Johann von Alvensleben who married Agnes von Rutenburg, granddaughter of Achatz and Margreta von Veltheim.
This concentration on the female ancestors seems curious, although devotional pictures of the time, show men and women formally separated, as they are depicted on the base of the epitaph to Achatz and Margreta in the Castle Chapel, at Harbke (Fig.1); perhaps originally there were two tankards respectively with the coats of arms of the male and female ancestors. There was no shortage of silver in the area. Achatz and Margreta’s ruling duke, Julius of Brunswick and Lüneburg, (1528-1589) was a princely entrepreneur who developed the great mining potential of the area. In 1572 for instance, the same year that Achatz Veltheim started to build the castle, and Protestant church of St Levin at Harbke, Duke Julius employed Erasmus Ebener of Nuremberg to 'report on all kind of mountains and metals and whatever else is useful which are found in (the mountain region of) the Harz and especially Rammelsberg…where ..all of the silver contains gold’1 (Rammelsberg is about 30 miles from Harbke). When Julius’s highly educated son Heinrich Julius (1564-1613) was made rector of Helmstedt University (next to Harbke) in 1576 at the age of 12, the senate and miners of the Harz presented him with cup of gold and a cake of worked silver.2
Achatz Veltheim was administrator for the local rulers including the Brunswick-Lüneburg Duke and the electoral family of Brandenburg; he is recorded as Fürstlich Magdeburgischer Landrat and Stiftshauptmann zu Halberstadt,3 (the Hochstift Halberstadt representing the territorial possessions of the Diocese of Halberstadt).
Both Magdeburg and Halberstadt were important Catholic prince Bishoprics until the Reformation, with a long collective history, the prince Archbishop of Magdeburg being a member of the Brandenburg family who ruled over the Prince Bishopric of Halberstadt. With the Reformation this began to change and by the 1540’s the Halberstadt congregation had become Lutheran, culminating in the 1566 election by the catholic Cathedral chapter of the two-year-old Heinrich Julius of Brunswick and Lüneburg as its first Lutheran Prince Bishop. Achatz’s wider family were also closely connected to the Brunswick Lüneburg dukes. Margreta’s brother, Heinrich von Saldern (1532-1588), worked as councillor from 1569 at the court of Duke Julius, prince of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and is recorded in a double portrait with his wife (Achatz’s sister, also called Margreta), on their silver wedding anniversary in 1578, painted by Adam Offinger the court artist, (Fig.2). Heinrich von Saldern was also councillor to Duke Erich II ruler of the principality of Calenberg from 1571; in the portrait of 1578 Heinrich is pointing at a letter from the latter duke who writes to him as `Dem Edlen und Erenuesten Heinrich/von Saldern meinem gungsten lieben/Junkern Dentslik geschrieben’ (Authority given to the noble and honourable Heinrich von Saldern, my dearest Junker).4
The date of 1578 engraved next to Achatz’s initials on the tankard is not necessarily the date that the tankard was made as the object could be earlier on stylistic grounds. It was quite possibly made in 1568 at the time of the Veltheim-Saldern marriage. Whatever event it commemorates, the year 1578 would have been of great significance to Achatz von Veltheim, 7th December 1578 was the day of enthronement of Veltheim’s prince, Heinrich Julius as religious and temporal ruler of the prince Bishopric of Halberstadt.
Heinrich Julius as a Lutheran was the first non-catholic to hold this position in the history of the bishopric. While the territories or citizens of Halberstadt, had moved towards Lutheranism from the 1540’s, the principality was still governed by the Catholic Sigismund of Brandenburg. On Sigismund’s death in 1566 the Catholic cathedral chapter or governing body, possibly for economic reasons and encouraged by the then Duke of Brunswick-Luneburg, Henry V, Heinrich Julius’s grandfather, elected the two-year-old as their first Lutheran Prince Bishop.
When Heinrich Julius came of age in 1578, in order not to offend canon law of the Holy Roman Empire, the service of his enthronement as spiritual leader had to be conducted with Catholic ritual, which included the shaved tonsure and many other elements offensive to Lutherans. Coinciding with this was a dispute about the frightening closeness to Catholicism that existed within certain elements of the Protestant Community. This enthronement, of a Lutheran prince with Catholic ritual, caused a storm, widely and within all levels of society; Heinrich Julius’s father, Julius of Brunswick-Lüneburg, one of the richest rulers of Northern Germany, whose political role has been compared to that of Prussia in the days of Frederick the Great,5 was accused of Papist idolatry. Some of his severest critics being the faculty of his own university of Helmstedt which he had founded two years earlier and of which Heinrich Julius was the Rector. As a Lutheran and as Stiftshauptmann zu Halberstadt such an event would have been profoundly significant to Veltheim as it was throughout Protestant Germany.
1. Tara Nummedale, Alchemy and Authority in the Holy Roman Empire, London, 2007, p.80
2. The Life and and Correspondence of George Calixtus, Lutheran Abbot of Konigslustter, Oxford, 1863, p.3.
3. Wolf Hobohm, Dorothea Schröder, Harmonie des Klanglichen und der Erscheinungsform – Die Bedeutung der Orgel bauerfamilien Beck und Compenius für die mittel deutsche Orgelkunst der Zeit vor Heinrich Schütz, in `Auftrag der Internationalen Heinrich-Schütz-Gesellschaft e.V.’ 32, Kassel, 2011, p. 89.
4. Inschriftenkatalog: Landkreis Holzminden Katalogartikel in Chronologischer Reihenfolge-Nr 86 Hannover Landsgalerie 1578: http://www.inschriften.net/landkreis-holzminden/inschrift/nr/di083-0086.html#content
5. Thomas Scheliga, A Renaissance Garden in Wolfenbuttel, North Germany,`Garden History’. The Garden’s Trust, 1997, p.1.
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