On the pedestal: the coat of arms of the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, Marquard Sebastian Schenk von Stauffenberg (1644 Eichstätt–1693 Bamberg; prince-bishop from 1683). On both banderoles to the left and right of the imperial crown – which is a symbol for the diocese of Bamberg as an imperial prince-bishopric –are the inscription ‘Vorch’ and the date 1689.
Saint Sebastian is shown in a marked contrapposto against the tree where he suffered as a martyr after being shot with arrows. His right hand is bound above him to a fork in a branch. The anatomy of the figure – unclothed except for a loincloth – is depicted in detail and the body language expressively heightened.
The coat of arms on the pedestal refers to the person who commissioned the work – the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, Marquard Sebastian Schenk von Stauffenberg (1644 Eichstätt–1693 Bamberg) who held this office from 1683 onwards.
At the age of nine Marquard Sebastian Schenk von Stauffenberg was already in receipt of a canon’s stipend in Bamberg and Würzburg. He started his studies in Ingolstadt in 1658 and took his vows as a subdeacon in 1672. In 1665 he inherited the so-called ‘Echterhaus’ in Judengasse in Bamberg that has since been known as the ‘Stauffenberghaus’. After his father’s death in 1679 he took on the Amerdingen manorial estate near Nördlingen, together with his two brothers, that had been in the ownership of the Schenk von Stauffenberg family since 1566.
Marquard was elected prince-bishop in 1683 but was not ordained as a priest until 1687. He was considered an able diplomat and a benefactor of the order of which he was head. He also successfully managed the family’s estates. By increasing revenue he considerably reduced the debts incurred by his predecessor, Prince-Bishop Peter Philipp von Dernbach and reformed the administrative structure of the bishopric. The improved financial situation put him in a position to be able to commission a number of works of art. He had St Martin’s church in Bamburg built as well as the Franciscan monastery in Forchheim. Plans were drafted in 1685 to convert Seehof Palace into a summer residence for the prince-bishops that, revealingly, has gone down in history as the ‘Marquardsburg’. He contracted the Italian architect Antonio Petrini to carry out the work together with a number of other artists and sought the advice of the Dientzenhofer family of builders and architects from Upper Bavaria.
The inscription ‘Vorch’ that can be seen on the coat of arms is an abbreviation of the name of the town Forchheim – the most important fortified settlement within the prince-bishopric of Bamberg. As Bamberg did not offer sufficient protection from enemy attacks, the prince-bishops of Bamberg withdrew to Forchheim in unsettled times together with the cathedral treasure.
Erected as an imperial stronghold, Forchheim became a seat of the prince-bishops in the late 14th century. Prince-Bishop Marquard’s sister, Katharina Sophie von Eyb, had a large residence built there in 1685 with her brother’s help that, from 1694 onwards, was used as an official seat of the prince-bishops.
The foundation stone for the Franciscan monastery in Forchheim was laid in 1684 on behalf of the Prince-Bishop of Bamberg, Marquard Sebastian Schenk von Stauffenberg. On 6 April the following year, building work on the monastery church began in the presence of the prince-bishop himself. Marquard Sebastian was also the benefactor of the Sebastiani Chapel that was dedicated to his namesake. The completed monastery church and the chapel were inaugurated on 9 October 1693, five months before the prince-bishop’s death. On his death-bed Marquard Sebastian stipulated that his heart be interred in the monastery church.
Above the portal of the monastery church that is dedicated to St. Anthony of Padua, the founder’s coat of arms can be seen and the Latin form of his name read in the inscription ‘Marquardo Sebastiano’ on the frieze behind. The coat of arms shows the two lions from the Stauffenberg family crest as well as a single lion for the bishopric of Bamberg in keeping with the arms of alliance at Schloss Seehof.
As already mentioned, the coat of arms of the Schenk von Stauffenberg family, with an imperial crown above, decorates the pedestal on which our figure of Sebastian stands. This symbolises the diocese of Bamberg as an imperial prince-bishopric. By reason of the inclusion of the family coat of arms, this figure of the prince-bishop’s namesake was probably intended for Marquard’s private apartments although a place on an altar in the Sebastian Chapel would also be plausible.
The name of the artist who carved this figure of the saint with such masterly skill is unknown. Prince-Bishop Marquard would certainly not have commissioned artists from Bamberg or Forchheim alone. He maintained close contact with his family’s roots in Swabia, so it is equally possible that it was made by an unknown sculptor from that region.