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Press release

FHP student discovers oldest choir stalls in Germany

Photo of the wooden stall of the church in Gängelow
Choir stalls of the village church in Gägelow © Lea Morath

The choir stalls of the village church in Gägelow are the oldest choir stalls in Germany, according to research by Lea Morath, a Master's student of conservation and restoration at Potsdam University of Applied Sciences, and building historian and dendrologist Tilo Schöfbek. The sensational find opens up new perspectives on medieval church architecture.

For a long time, it was assumed that the choir stalls in the village church date back to the 14th century. However, new scientific research has revealed that it is a much older treasure - a unique work of art that is rewriting the history of Mecklenburg.

Restorer Lea Morath undertook the planning for urgently needed conservation and restoration work on the choir stalls as part of her master's thesis at the Potsdam University of Applied Sciences. As part of this work, a dendrological sample of the stalls was taken by the building historian and dendrologist Tilo Schöfbek. The results were astounding: contrary to previous assumptions, it was discovered that the choir stalls were made from local oak in the winter of 1247/48 - a finding that dates its creation to the year 1248.

This discovery sheds new light on the history of Central Mecklenburg around 1250, a period during which the region underwent intense landscape changes. Central Mecklenburg underwent landscape reorganisation and new villages were purposefully built on former forest areas. The choir stalls of Gägelow are thus an important testimony to this era of medieval church architecture.

In terms of art history, the Gägelow choir stalls are the oldest known complete work of art of its kind in Germany. Its masterly craftsmanship and ultra-modern design, such as the recently discovered sculptural trefoil design on the back wall, represent a significant find for medieval art history, the importance of which extends far beyond the borders of Germany.

Lea Johanna Morath
Conservation and Restoration - Wood study programme