March 28th 1970 - Kirschbaum Engelbert
† in Rome
Father Kirschbaum came from a Cologne merchant family in which all kinds of the Rhenish Catholicism were represented (Oskar Köhler). In Cologne he was born on January 6th 1902. On April 11th 1921 he joined the Society of Jesus, which he loved with all his heart. He kept strictly to the constitutions, while the customs of the Order rather relaxed.
After the usual philosophical and theological studies in the Order, and a special study - his thesis with William Pinder in Munich got the predicate 'Summa cum laude' -, a Professorship for Christian Archaeology and History of Art was entrusted to him since 1929 in Sankt Georgen in Frankfurt, and since 1939 at the Gregoriana in Rome. In the meantime he had been ordained priest on August 28th 1931 and made in 1935 his Tertianship in Münster under the direction of Father Walter Sierp.
A considerable part of his scientific work was dedicated to the Grave of St Peter in the crypt of St Peter in Rome. 1940-1949 he was prominently concerned in the excavations. He was excluded from the excavations 1953-1957, but during the excavations in Montecassino and in Santiago de Compostela however his advisory assistance was in demand. The last years of his life Kirschbaum dedicated to the preparation of the 'Encyclopaedia of Christian Iconography'.
Father Kirschbaum got many honours. He was honorary doctor of the University of Dublin, member of the German Archaeological Institute and the Papal Archaeological Academy, whose director he was from 1949 to 1958. He got the Great Distinguished Service Cross of the Federal Republic of Germany. Most of all he was bound up with the Gregoriana in Rome, to the fame and sorrow of which he attached the greatest importance and which showed to him in his life and dying an unparalleled solidarity. Thus Oskar Köhler said in his commemoration speech in the Roman Institute of the Görres-Society on November 14th 1970.
Well, Father Kirschbaum was not a man of classical balance, but he was a harmonious one. Peculiar to him was an unusual serenity and an almost unreal confidence towards everybody. He had the gift of sympathetic understanding, but placed it under the control of his critical mind.
At Whit Saturday of the year 1967 a heavy shivering cold in Freiburg announced a deadly suffering. On Sunday he was brought to Munich into the hospital. With full knowledge he faithfully and discretely lived through his suffering for nearly three years. He died on March 28th 1970 in Rome and found his last resting-place in the Campo Santo Teutonico.
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