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Palmesel (Palm Sunday ass)

Key data

Lake Constance, ca. 1500

Limewood, painted, height 190 cm

Inv. 1898.275.


The Museum holds the astonishing number of five Late Gothic Palmesel, or wooden donkeys for the reenactment of Christ's entry into Jerusalem. Three originate from the Upper Rhine area, but this example, outstanding both for its artistic quality and for its survival intact, comes from Kreuzlingen on Lake Constance. The Rosgarten Museum in Constance preserves a comparable example originating either in the same workshop or under its influence. The figure of Christ blessing as he rides on the ass is detachable. Traces of painted palm branches can be distinguished on the base board. This is the only example of the five in the collection still to have its wheels. The tradition of commemorating the entry of Christ into Jerusalem on the Sunday before Easter by pulling a 'Palmesel' in procession is first recorded in the Vita of St Ulrich about 982-92. In pre Reformation Basle Palm Sunday processions without a 'Palmesel' were customary; however in Ammerschwihr in Alsace, for example, the C16th 'Palmesel' is still in use today.

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