The four larger-than-life standing figures are characterised by pronounced gestures and facial expressions. They represent death, resurrection (also judgement), hell and heaven.

Library 4
Admont Abbey - The Four Last Things by Josef Stammel

(1) The death

Man has reached the end of his life. He is depicted as an old pilgrim with a pilgrim's cross, a pilgrim's staff and a scallop shell.

The winged bone man approaches him from behind as the personification of death. In his raised right hand, the gruesomely depicted Death holds the winged hourglass as a reference to the expired lifetime of the human being. With his left hand, he clutches a pointed dagger as an allusion to the sudden onset of death. The small angels at the feet of the dying man hold attributes in their hands. These vanitas symbols (soap bubble, empty shell, extinguished and broken candle) allude to the transience of all existence. The so-called "sodomitic grape" in turn disintegrates into dust when touched. This motif is reminiscent of the words spoken in church on Ash Wednesday: "Remember, O man, that you are dust and will return to dust!"


Covered by a shroud, a young man floats out of the grave accompanied by an angel.

A rainbow stretches above his head. Christ is enthroned on it as the Risen One and judge of the world. The individual judgement has not yet passed sentence.

The young man's gaze is fixed on the devil crouching at his feet. He acts as the accuser, wears a gusset on his nose and is pushed aside by the mighty book on his shoulders with the deeds of the one to be judged recorded in it.

On the right, opposite the legendary "Admont Library Devil", is the raised gravestone. It shows a skull, an extinguished candle, the year 1760 (probably the date of completion of the group of figures) and the initials ST (for Stammel).

Admont Abbey - The Four Last Things by Josef Stammel
Admont Abbey - The Four Last Things by Josef Stammel


Depending on the judgement, the path now leads to hell or heaven. The allegory of hell consists of two moving monumental main figures and several smaller assistant figures.

A naked mature man, meaning the damned soul, rides on the shoulders of a hybrid creature. It is half animal, half human, half man, half woman. Both figures are torn down into the dragon-headed hellish dragon by the flames rising from it. The facial features of the damned soul are distorted by anger and fear. His upraised right hand holds a ring-shaped snake that is biting its own tail - a symbol of eternity. His left hand holds a defensive dagger in a clenched fist. A worm has bitten into the region of his heart.

In the lower part of the depiction, bust-like allegories, each depicted as heads, are arranged as a warning justification for the descent into hell: vanity with a peacock cap and peacock feathers; sloth as a sleeping child with a nightcap and a hippopotamus on its head; avarice with a cap made of coins and a devil peering over its shoulder; intemperance with a bottle of schnapps and sausages.

"Hell" is one of Stammel's strongest, most narrative, but also most idiosyncratic and condensed works. Models such as Albrecht Dürer's devil in the engraving "Knight, Death and the Devil" (1513) or Bernini's marble bust "Anima Damnata" (1616) are fused here with Stammel's own imagination to form a high-ranking artistic entity.

(4) The sky

The crowning glory of the "Four Last Things" is the allegory of heaven. She is symbolised by a splendidly robed and adorned beauty and several assisting figures. As an androgynous crowned bride of God in the dress of heavenly glory, she is lifted into the sky by a slender angel. Her transfigured gaze is directed upwards beyond the earthly observer into a higher sphere. She holds a heart in her raised left hand as a sign of her unshakeable, flaming faith. The symbol of the Holy Trinity is emblazoned in a halo above her head. A flaming star and a richly decorated cross are emblazoned on her chest. Below the crown, the Greek TAU (Ez 9, 3-4) is written on her forehead, identifying her as righteous. As in Bernini's work, the "Anima beata" functions here as the counterpart to the "Anima damnata" in hell. Three little angels sit on a cloud bank at the feet of the figure. These allegories of the three virtues (fasting, praying, giving alms) justify the decision made in the divine judgement. They form the counterparts to the vices depicted in hell. In the opposite, positive sense, one encounters the ring-shaped snake here as in hell. As a symbol of eternal bliss, it is held by the little angel sitting in the centre of the cloud bank.

Admont Abbey - The Four Last Things by Josef Stammel