The Early Modern City, 1450-1750

By Christopher R. Friedrichs | Go to book overview
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CHAPTER FIVE
Life and Death

Lienhard Romig was a tanner in the German city of Schwäbisch Hall. Born in Ansbach in 1504, Romig had settled in Schwäbisch Hall in 1529, presumably after spending some years on the road as a journeyman. Romig did well in his adopted city, eventually becoming one of the twenty-five richest citizens. When he died in 1589, his heirs commissioned a memorial painting for the city's main church, showing Romig and his entire family posed devoutly in prayer. Here one can see the venerable tanner with his 5 wives, his 16 children, and -- kneeling gingerly on the branches of a great family tree -- his 125 grandchildren and 30 great-grandchildren. Nearby in the church hangs a similar tablet for Marie Firnhaber, who died in 1647. It shows Marie and her deceased husband Peter with their 15 children and 105 grandchildren.1

It was a point of pride in Schwäbisch Hall to produce a large number of descendants. When the octogenarian Katharine Bratz, née Wagner, died in 1691, her pastor noted that 'by her fecundity, she added ninety-one people to the world' -- specifically sixteen children, thirty-six grandchildren, thirty-eight great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.2 What he neglected to mention, however, was how many of them were still living. Yet there is no doubt that a large number would have died by then. Indeed, if we look closely at the memorial tablet for Lienhard Romig, we would see in it not so much a celebration of life as a commemoration of death: about half of the portraits are embellished with a skull to show who had died before the aged patriarch. Lienhard's first wife, Amalia, had died in

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1
Wunder, Bürger, 53-4, 177, 204-5 (plates 7 and 8), 282, 285, 290.

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