Colloquium: New insights into the altar project "Triegel meets Cranach

On November 24, 2022, more than 70 participants discussed the Triegel- Cranach retable with renowned experts from science, monument preservation, church and culture in the Marienkirche am Dom as part of the colloquium: "Ecclesiastical use and monument preservation - a contradiction?".

The extremely exciting conference yielded numerous new findings and insights that were lively discussed. While cathedral master builder Prof. Hartkopf presented the non-invasive and at any time reversible installation of the retable, the explanations of Dr. Markus Hörsch (Bamberg) yielded highly interesting clues about the original altar block in the west choir. Dr. Matthias Ludwig and Dr. Holger Kunde were able to provide evidence for the location of the altar of the Virgin Mary in the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral on the basis of the account books of the church factory from the 15th and 16th centuries preserved in the cathedral archives of Naumburg and also prove the erection of a Marian retable in the early 16th century associated with the outstanding artist Lukas Cranach, which stood there until the targeted iconoclasm on September 11, 1541. This fact is of utmost importance for the evaluation of the "Triegel-Cranach-Project", since the appeal of the United Cathedral Foundations to the Charter of Venice, in which, among other things, the anchoring and installation of objects and paintings created for a specific space is expressly welcomed, is finally substantiated.

Before the colloquium, an ecumenical devotion took place in the west choir, during which the new lighting of the altar could also be examined. The new lighting concept allows the altar with the donor figures and the windows to become an impressive unity. The Berlin art historian, Prof. Dr. Horst Bredekamp, also spoke in his lecture, among other things, about the bridge between the actuality and the history that the altar creates and that it is able to make the choir windows shine. He also emphasized that there was a captivating relationship between the rood screen and the altar. He went into detail about the conflict of the altered visual relationships of the donor figures due to the placement of the altar retable and submitted various variants for minimizing the same. In the resulting discussion it was suggested to change the retable in the sense of the liturgical times, i.e. that the open retable would only be visible on fixed days, while it would otherwise remain closed, so that "the figure theater of the founder figures" (Horst Bredekamp) could be perceived unhindered.

Regional bishop Dr. Dr. h.c.. Johann Schneider recalled in his speech the consecration of the altar on July 3, 2022: "In the case of the altarpiece, there was a public consecration in a church service." He further emphasized "that he is committed to the altar and that, from an ecclesiastical point of view, there must be no removal of the altar", although he excluded the planned temporary "journey of the retable" from this.

The former master builder of the Cologne Cathedral, Prof. Dr. Barbara Schock-Werner, spoke about changes and additions and decisions in the church space and put forward two theses: 1: "Every generation of responsible persons, the congregation and the clergy have the right to change the liturgical space according to their ideas, if they do not interfere with the building itself by doing so. The next generation or the one after that must be able to change the same thing again according to their ideas." And 2: "When a sacred space is listed or given World Heritage status, it must be accepted that the liturgical center will always be transformed. The re-erection of an altar cannot jeopardize the monument value of the building, nor its World Heritage status."

"We thank all speakers and participants of the colloquium" said the dean of the United Cathedral Foundations, Prof. Dr. Karin von Welck, at the end of the conference, "it was a lively exchange for a living church and has given us valuable ideas for the coming discussions and decisions around the altar."

As agreed with the state of Saxony-Anhalt, the Marian Retable will initially be dismantled from December 5, 2022, in order to go on a temporary exhibition tour that will begin next year at the Diözesanmuseum in Paderborn.

During this time, the United Cathedral Foundations want to continue discussions with all parties involved about the fate of the altar in Naumburg Cathedral. The dean, Prof. Dr. Karin von Welck, pleaded to move away from conflict towards reconciliation and to enter into a constructive dialogue with the preservationists.

In the near future, Dr. Holger Kunde and Dr. Matthias Ludwig plan to publish online their evaluation of the sources concerning the Marian reredos in the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral.

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