RESTORATION OF THE MURALS

Geschrieben von Christine Kenner   (7. Januar 2006)

THE RESTORATION OF THE MURALS IN THE CRYPT OF THE CHURCH OF ST. ANDREW IN THE NEUENBERG DISTRICT OF FULDA

Total view SUMMARY
 
The small crypt, which was completed around 1023 and features a vault supported by four columns, is partially below ground level beneath the choir of the Church of St. Andrew. Its current paintwork represents a rare example in Europe of an early medieval interior that has been preserved almost in its entirety.
Important elements are a cycle of 22 angels, framed by various ornamental strips, as well as scenes from the Old Testament in combination with a portrait of Christ in the window niches. By the scenes referencing Moses’ tabernacle and the temple in the heavenly Jerusalem described in the Old and New Testaments, the crypt becomes a symbol of increased hope for resurrection; fundamental contents of the history of Christian salvation are given architectural and pictorial form.

Having been discovered in 1931 and renovated in 1952, by around 1990 the murals were in poor condition, such that in places the scenes depicted were scarcely recognizable. Following extensive investigations between 1991 and 1994 damage to the paintwork resulted in restoration work that involved removing the coatings of paint applied during the previous two sets of renovation work, as well as exposing and repairing the early medieval paintwork. Given the highly problematic nature of the damage and the importance of the murals, the work on the painted areas of the vault, which covered a surface area of approx. 60 square meters, was conducted extremely carefully, using a procedure similar to that used in the restoration of paintings, and involving numerous experts from a wide range of disciplines.
The work was carried out from 1994 until the spring of 2006. It received enormous support from the State of Hesse Office for Monument Preservation and the building department of the Fulda Bishops’ Curacy, who together with the Neuenberg parish were responsible for the financing.

The costs totaled € 1,212,013. A national commission was also set up to monitor the work. In addition to representatives from the various specialist authorities its members included the relevant natural science experts, the restorers conducting the work, as well as art history and restoration experts.
The aim of the work was to employ the methods available today to ensure that an almost one thousand year-old cultural heritage was not simply allowed to go to rack and ruin but could be handed on to coming generations. Over the past ten years no new damage has been detected on the paintwork. During this period the process of decay has ground to a halt. The restoration work permits for the first time in 70 years an unimpeded view of medieval forms of portrayal.
This provided a basis for academic discourse with regard to classification of the murals.

The crypt is able to give observers a visual impression of the view of the world and what faith involved in medieval piousness in a manner quite different from the spoken word.

The history of its founding and the religious contents of the painting in St. Andrew’s enable the murals, on the basis of their numerous references to the spiritual centers of the time such as Rome, and the monasteries at Gorze, Cluny and Fleury, together with their sheer size and high quality, to become a work of art of national, indeed European importance.