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Behold Behalt!

Behalt is a pictorial history of the Anabaptists from the time of European beginnings through their existence in America.  Not only is it educational, it has been dubbed “the most exciting cyclorama in America”.

Having only visited one cyclorama in America (the other–of the Battle of Raclawice in Poland being non-American and of a decidedly non-pacifist nature) I can’t say if the tagline is true or not, but on a visit a few years back I did feel at least a twinge of something which could be called excitement or maybe even exhilaration while observing the dramatic images of the painting and listening to the narration of the guide.
Behalt07.jpg.jpe
Located in the center of the Holmes County settlement, Behalt attracts tourist visitors from far and wide.  Amish, often keen on knowing their own history, show interest as well.

The father of an Amish entrepreneur friend works as a guide at the center one day a week, and on my visit a few years back a young Amishman with wife and children were among those in attendance for the half-hour tour and instructional film.  Segments of Behalt are also reproduced on the inside covers of the most recent Holmes County Amish directory.

However, I actually found the most interesting bit to be not the painting itself but what was located in the center of the room which contains it.

Pioneer Amishman ‘White’ Jonas Stutzman was considered peculiar among Amish, for a number of reasons.  One was the unusual chair he created to greet the coming of Christ, which he believed to be imminent.  On my visit the caretakers kindly gave me access to the chair, and if you like, you can read more about ‘White’ Jonas Stutzman and his famous chair, from a blog entry from that time.

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    8 Comments

    1. Hi Monica,

      I definitely found it to be very dynamic and the style of the artist Heinz Gaugel is an interesting one, where faces seem slightly grotesque yet almost alive. So it is captivating in its own way, I had just never thought of the term ‘exciting’ being used to characterize it. Though yes, I think that can fit, and I definitely enjoyed it.

    2. Monica O.

      When we visited Behalt, I thought the same thing about the chair! Not to detract from the cyclorama which is of course, very impressive. As for “exciting”, well, it was to us. But I noticed that the visitors who stayed and looked at it the longest were other Mennonites and some Amish visitors. So perhaps how exciting it is is relevant to one’s interest in the subject.

    3. Hi Erik,
      I just got your comment about the pictures I took in Wisconsin.
      That particular Amish school is located on Highway 21 between Northfield and Pigeon Falls. Northfield is located just off Interstate-94 between Eau Claire & Black River Falls.
      Only in the past decade or so have the Amish moved in and started farming in that area.
      linda t

    4. Great, thanks Linda. I saw ‘York school’, so thought PA, but then the buggy was the wrong color. Amish have started a lot of communities in WI over the past couple of decades, it has been one of the most popular states for new settlements.

    5. Gene Meier

      Heinz Gaugel is now represented in the AskArt website of artist biography. I am writing the first book from the American point of view about 19th century rotunda panoramas.These were the biggest paintings in the world, 50 x 400=20,000 square feet, housed in their own rotundas which were 16-sided polygons. Chicago in 1893 had 6 panorama companies and 6 panorama rotundas.

    6. Julie Jones

      I was happy to stumble upon your blog because I was starting to think I’d imagined that chair. My husband and I visited Behalt years ago and I couldn’t find information about it anywhere. Now I feel better.

    7. Mark Pedro

      My wife and I visited BEHALT a number of years ago and had the rare opportunity to spend the afternoon with the artist …he showed us many of his other paintings including those from American folklore..Johnny appleseed…Paul Bunyan ..ETC ..what became of these paintings after his death ?

    8. Rhonda Blair

      Amazing

      My husband and I just returned from Berlin, ohio. The Behalt was prob the most amazing artist piece I have ever seen. I is beautiful. the tour guide was wonderful, he really brought the painting to life. what a great memorial for the Amish people