On 24 November 2022, more than 70 participants discussed the Triegel- Cranach retable with renowned experts from science, monument conservation, church and culture in the Marienkirche am Dom as part of the colloquium: "Ecclesiastical use and monument conservation - 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 of 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. They were also able to provide evidence of 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 11 September 1541. This fact is of utmost importance for the evaluation of the "Triegel-Cranach Project", as it definitively substantiates the Combined Cathedral Foundations' invocation of the Venice Charter, which, among other things, expressly welcomes the enshrinement and installation of objects and paintings created for a specific space.

Prof. Dr Karin von Welck opened the colloquium on 24.11.2022

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 makes the altar with the donor figures and the windows into an impressive unity. The Berlin art historian, Prof. Dr. Horst Bredekamp, also spoke in his lecture, among other things, about the bridging between actuality and history that the altar creates and that it is able to make the choir windows shine. He also emphasised that there is an enchanting relationship between the rood screen and the altar. He went into detail about the conflict of the altered visual relationships of the donor figures through the erection of the altar retable and presented various variants to minimise this. 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 puppet theatre of the founder's figures" (Horst Bredekamp) could be perceived unhindered.

Prayer in the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral before the colloquium

Regional Bishop Dr. Dr. h.c. Johann Schneider recalled in his contribution the consecration of the altar on 3 July 2022: "In the case of the altarpiece, there was a public consecration in a church service". He further emphasised "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.

Prof. Dr. Barbara Schock-Werner, the former master builder of Cologne Cathedral, spoke about changes and additions and decisions in the church space and put forward two theses: 1: "Every generation of people in charge, the congregation and the clergy have the right to change the liturgical space according to their ideas, if in doing so they do not interfere with the building itself. The next generation or the one after that must be able to change the same thing again according to their ideas." And 2: "If you give a sacred space listed status or World Heritage status, you have to accept that the liturgical centre will always change. The re-erection of an altar cannot jeopardise the monumental value of the building, nor its World Heritage status."

The Marian Retable in the West Choir of Naumburg Cathedral

"We thank all the speakers and participants of the colloquium" said the dean of the Combined 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 5 December 2022 in order to go on a temporary exhibition tour that will begin next year at the Diözesanmuseum in Paderborn.

During this time, the Combined 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.

Dr. Holger Kunde and Dr. Matthias Ludwig plan to publish their evaluation of the sources for the Marian reredos in the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral online shortly.

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