Hans Walter, Conrad Giger, Franz Pergo, Basle
height 814 cm, width 850 cm, depth 196 cm
In appearance this monumental masterpiece of the art of woodworking in late Renaissance Basle follows the tradition of choir stalls. Functionally, however, it derives from household and council seats or thrones. It is the earliest and largest such work created in the aftermath of the Reformation in Switzerland, overshadowing the choir stalls in Wettlingen, Beromünster and Luceme. The inscription on the top of the middle section bears a dedication honouring the Basle government as the protector of the true religion and defender of the law and of justice. On the 18 seats of the 'cathedra magistratus' or 'Hauptergestühl' sat the mayor or 'Bürgermeister and the chief of the guild masters ('Oberstzunftmeister'), flanked by their predecessors in office and the town council and court clerks. Members of the inner council ('Kleiner Rat') and the servants of the council ('Ratsdiener) divided amongst themselves the rest of the seats. The 'Hauptergestühl' stood on the left side of the nave of the Munster near the main entrance until 1854. Its installation in the church in 1598 had provoked controversy, as the clergy feared that with its overwhelming sculptural decoration with purely secular motifs dominated by grotesques, there would be a pagan idol publicly displayed in their church.