Part of the Merseburg Cathedral treasure has returned to the imperial cathedral

"The clippe is an exhibit that brings history to life," said Roland Trampe, an employee of the Künker auction house, when he handed over a silver cliff from 1547 today in the cloister of Merseburg Cathedral.

In the course of the reformatorial disputes between the Catholic emperor and imperial princes on the one side and the Protestant imperial princes on the other, it came to an open military confrontation in 1546/47. Duke Moritz of Saxony, himself a Protestant imperial prince, executed the imperial ban on his Protestant cousin, Elector Johann Friedrich of Saxony, on behalf of the Emperor.

In this danger of war, the Merseburg Cathedral Chapter, presided over by a Protestant bishop and an administrator, saw the cathedral treasure in danger. So they hurriedly had it transported to Leipzig, into the custody of the patron prince, Duke Moritz of Saxony. Leipzig was besieged by electoral troops during the war, but they withdrew after three weeks without success. Duke Moritz's troops in the city now had to be paid, and open mutinies broke out. Duke Moritz then had the Merseburg cathedral treasure stored in Leipzig melted down and minted in the cellar of the Leipzig town hall. For this purpose, the precious metals were separated and processed into plates. Rough, mostly diamond-shaped pieces were cut out of these plates with scissors and minted on one side. These coins are called cliffs. The original die, which was made by the die cutter Steffan Steinbehr, has been preserved. preserved in the Leipzig Museum of City History. The production of the coins took place under great time pressure. Nevertheless, precise information on the extent of the minted metal values has been preserved. Thus, about two and a half kilograms of fine gold could be recovered.

The Merseburg cathedral treasure was irretrievably lost, even though the cathedral chapter intervened several times with Duke Moritz. To make matters worse, most of the larger parts of the cathedral treasure remaining in Merseburg had also been looted. Electoral troops had occupied the bishop's town of Merseburg on their way to Leipzig and taken away parts of the treasure remaining here. These were also minted. After those warlike events, the Merseburg cathedral treasure was only a shadow of its former self. The minted cliffs were scattered far and wide in the empire by the motley composition of the mercenary army.

xTransfer of the cliff left Markus Cottin right Roland Trampe Merseburg Cathedral United Cathedral Foundations
(Markus Cottin, Head of the Merseburg Cathedral Archives and Library, and Roland Trampe, employee of the Künker auction house, at the handover of the cliff on 25 August 2022)

Thanks to a private tip, the United Cathedral Foundations were now able to purchase such a one-sided silver distressed cliff for a thaler from 1547 at an auction held by the Künker auction house in Osnabrück. The estimate of the object was 1,000 euros, but it was only knocked down after a small bidding war. The sum of 5250 EUR was raised with the help of donors, such as the Eißner family from Merseburg, but especially the auction house itself. Roland Trampe, employee of the Künker auction house: "Our senior partner Fritz Rudolf Künker was made aware of the importance of the silver Notklippe for the Merseburg cathedral treasure and immediately agreed to support the purchase of this piece for the Vereinigte Domstifter with € 2,500. This is in line with the traditions of our auction house, as we have supported many museums in the new federal states and Berlin in the past and see it as our task to get involved in the return of important coins to the respective museums."

"This gives Merseburg Cathedral an object for its collections that can impressively tell of the fate of the cathedral treasure in the age of the Reformation. Together with the preserved remains of the Merseburg Cathedral treasure, the cliff will from now on be on permanent display in the treasure chamber in Merseburg's southern cloister," emphasised the head of the cathedral archives of Merseburg Cathedral, Markus Cottin.

The Vereinigte Domstifter sincerely thank all those involved and are delighted about the cultural enrichment of the historical landscape in southern Saxony-Anhalt associated with the acquisition.

Skip to content