relief of the bread

Das Brot an der Stelle des historischen Prangersteins / a real bread instead of the historical pillory-stone
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At the Thuringian town of Neustadt/Orla, a little stone sculpture is mounted onto the outside of the town hall. Shaped like a toad sitting on a loaf of bread, this “Krötenstein” or toadstone is a famous historical sight and local tourist attraction.

There is a legend behind the stone: Once there was a farmer who worked hard all his life. When he got old, his children asked him to hand over his farm to them. He agreed, on the condition that they would care for him as long as he lived. So the deal was made, but over the years, his children grew tired of him. They neglected him more and more and eventually banned him from the dinner table, as he had become a messy eater in his old age. Finally he was put up in a little room and almost forgotten, not even fed regularly. The bread bin remained locked for him, and one day he died. From that day on, a big ugly toad appeared in the bread bin, crouched on every fresh loaf of bread, and could not be removed.

The situation in many East German towns and regions today can be compared in a way to this old legend: Due to the poor economic situation, young people are leaving to start a new life far away and don’t care much about their home. Only the elderly remain, so the relationships between the generations have become frayed and unbalanced.

For this art intervention, the toadstone was replaced by a real loaf of bread in lieu of the pillory stone. The original sculpture was eventually put back in place after five weeks.

In a sense, the intervention deals with traditional images of growing old in dignity. Although these images may never have been more than an illusion, the stories, be they negative or positive, refer to it in order to keep alive the awareness of what living is all about.