Stauferfries

The entry of Konradin of Staufen into the town of Gamundia in the year 1266

Konradin, the 14-year-old Duke of Swabia, grandson of Emperor Frederick II, son of King Konrad IV and Duchess Elisabeth of Bavaria, visited Schwäbisch Gmünd during the Christmas season of 1266. The Staufer was considered a contender for the Roman-German royal and imperial throne. Eight months later, he set out for Italy with a large army of knights to wrest the illegally appropriated Hohenstaufen kingdom of Sicily from Charles of Anjou. On 23 August 1268, the French defeated him at Tagliacozzo in the Abruzzi. He was taken prisoner and beheaded in Naples on 29 October.

The Staufer frieze cannot and does not intend to be a realistic reproduction of Conradin’s entry into Gamundia. Rather, the artist Ballehr has emblematically composed the event by staging the historical event in an exemplary manner according to the structure of rulers‘ processions. While Konradin rides towards Gmünd with his retinue from left to right, a procession, led by the Schultheiss, moves towards the young duke, consisting of secular dignitaries, representatives of the guilds and the town clergy.

The flags carried by the procession underline the majesty of the citizens of Gmünd. Since Konradin, like his grandfather and father, held the title of „King of Jerusalem“, a flag with the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Jerusalem flies directly in front of him. The banner with the three lions points to Konradin’s Swabian duchy. At the end of the procession, the four banners with the coats of arms of the crusading orders recall the crusades of Konradin’s ancestors, Konrad III, Friedrich Barbarossa and Friedrich II. Since Konradin was a Wittelsbach on his mother’s side, the Bavarian banner with its slanted diamonds also appears in this procession.

At the head of the municipal reception committee, next to the unicorn flag and in front of the flag with the eagle of the imperial city, the sheriff of Gmünd awaits the king’s son with a key in his hand. At the end of the municipal procession, the Wheel of the Seven Liberal Arts illustrates Konradin’s much-vaunted education.

The Staufers were dukes of Swabia from 1079 to 1268. A keystone in the choir gallery of the Heilig-Kreuz-Münster shows the ducal coat of arms with the three golden lions on a red background. The powerful Swabian imperial dynasty, named after its ancestral castle, the Hohenstaufen, ruled the Holy Roman Empire from 1138. Their rulers were King Conrad III, Emperor Frederick I Barbarossa, King Philip of Swabia, Emperor Henry VI, Emperor Frederick II and King Conrad IV. With Conradin, the Hohenstaufen dynasty came to an end in 1268. Photo: einhorn-Verlag.
Konradin hunting a falcon with his friend Frederick of Baden (from the Manessian Song Manuscript). Like his great-grandfather Henry VI and his grandfather Frederick II, Conradin also wrote love poems. Image source: Heidelberg University Library.
Schwäbisch Gmünd, stalking map by Balthasar Riecker, 1572. The map still shows the towers of the inner, Staufer city wall through which Konradin entered. Image source: zeno.org – Henricus – Edition Deutsche Klassik GmbH.

The artwork and its creation

Photo: Volker Klei

The performance of the Staufer saga by Stephan Kirchenbauer-Arnold in 2012, in which more than 2,000 Gmünd citizens participated in front of and behind the stage, inspired the artist Ballehr to design a „Staufer frieze“. A large work of art in the middle of Schwäbisch Gmünd is intended to recall the history of the city during the time of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. In his studio in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Ballehr experimented with proportions, perspectives and materials (see photos). Finally, the concept was in place: the figures of the Staufer procession were to be cut from stainless steel plates. As in all his works, Ballehr focused on the effect of light and shadow. The diagram below shows the four stages of the creative process: on the left, the sketchy drawing, followed by the fine pencil drawing and the vectorised CAD file. On the right, the production template with the surface representation for the implementation of the steel cut.

Dr. Helmut Maximilian Gruber-Ballehr (artist’s name Ballehr) was born in Munich in 1939. As a painter and art historian, he lives and works in Schwäbisch Gmünd.

Realisation with the help of donations and sponsorships

Help to ensure that this great art project can be completed! Take over one of the sponsorships for a figure or support the Staufer Frieze with a donation! See donation details.