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11 October 2019 – 19 January 2020

Gold & Glory – Gifts for Eternity

The Basel Historical Museum is currently preparing a major loan exhibition to celebrate the millennium of Basel cathedral «GOLD & GLORY – Gifts for Eternity», which is to be the key event among numerous festivities planned for the cathedral jubilee.

Based on the consecration of Basel Cathedral, which according to later sources took place on 11 October 1019 in the presence of Emperor Henry II, this extraordinary project will combine latest research on this crucial moment in European history with medieval masterpieces that are all linked to the reign of Henry II (r. 1002–1024). At the time, the German emperor invested the bishop of Basel with important privileges and territories, as a result of which both bishop and city swiftly gained power and prosperity. The flourishing of Basel, and indeed the whole of what is now the border region of Switzerland, Germany, and France, can be traced back to this period.

The major international loan exhibition, organized by the Basel Historical Museum and held in the Kunstmuseum Basel’s new building from 11 October 2019 to 19 January 2020, will focus on the period of Henry II. By bringing together exquisite works on loan from all over the world, it will unfurl a panoramic view of the reign and splendour of Henry II in all its many facets. It will recount the eventful history of Basel Cathedral during its creation, and will present several sections devoted to specific materials and themes.

Thanks to the international symposium held by the University of Basel’s History Department in cooperation with the Basel Historical Museum from 7 to 9 June 2018, both the exhibition itself and the scholarly catalogue will draw on the most recent research findings. The project will also be supported by the expertise of an international advisory committee made up of distinguished historians, art historians, and theologians.

Thursday, 10 October 2019, 6.30 pm

Exclusive vernissage

Photography and title image: (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Michel Urtado

We cordially invite you to the vernissage.

The program will be announced shortly.

Place: Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau, St. Alban-Graben 20, 4051 Basel


Patrons and Advisory Committee

The exhibition is under the patronage of:

Bundesrat Dr. Alain Berset
Member of the Swiss Federal Council, Head of the Federal Department of Home Affairs

Anne Paugam
French Ambassador to Switzerland

Dr. Norbert Riedel
German Ambassador to Switzerland and Liechtenstein

Bischof Dr. Felix Gmür
Bishop of Basel

Pfarrerin Dr. Caroline Schröder Field
Pastor of Basel Cathedral

Elisabeth Ackermann
President of the Executive Council of Basel-Stadt

Andreas Hindemann
Master Builder of Basel Cathedral

The advisory committee:

Prof. Dr. Jürgen Dendorfer
University of Freiburg

Dr. Holger Kempkens
Director of the Diözesanmuseum Bamberg

Dr. Reto Marti
Head of the Archaeology Unit of Canton Baselland

Prof. Dr. Rebecca Müller
University of Munich

Prof. Dr. Jan Rüdiger
University of Basel

Prof. Dr. Barbara Schellewald
University of Basel

Dr. Regula Schorta
Director of the Abegg-Stiftung, Riggisberg

Prof. Dr. Stefan Weinfurter (†)
University of Heidelberg



Photography and title image: (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Michel Urtado

The exhibition is supported by:
Verein für das Historische Museum Basel
Stiftung für das Historische Museum Basel
Peter und Simone Forcart-Staehelin
Willy A. und Hedwig Bachofen-Henn-Stiftung
Ulrich und Klara Huber-Reber-Stiftung
Lucius & Annemarie Burckhardt Stiftung
Isaac Dreyfuss Bernheim Stiftung Isaac Dreyfus-Bernheim Stiftung
Sophie und Karl Binding Stiftung
Walter Senft / Gustav und Annetta Grisard Stiftung
E. E. Zunft zu Hausgenossen
Ulrich Stamm-Wohltätigkeitsstiftung
Meyvaert Bruxelles
Prof. Dr. Hartmut Raguse
Naturalsponsoring Hotel Au Violon
and other patrons who do not wish to be named

Basel Historical Museum

Exhibition catalogue

The exhibition catalogue, like the exhibition itself, will break new ground by analysing a hitherto little known period of Swiss history: the turn of the first millennium 1000 years ago. A preparatory international symposium held in collaboration with the University of Basel’s History Department on 7–9 June 2018 will play a key role here and delivered findings that can be worked into the background texts

Each section will be prefaced by a brief introductory text.The lavishly illustrated catalogue, ca. 320 pages long (hard cover), is to be published by Hirmer Verlag.


Gifts for Eternity

© RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Michel Urtado

Basel Cathedral was consecrated on 11 October 1019 in the presence of Emperor Henry II (r. 1002–1024). That ceremonial act concluded a process that shaped the Upper Rhine region with enduring effect, namely the Kingdom of Burgundy’s ceding of Basel to East Francia and the Holy Roman Empire in 1006.

Henry II and his successors endowed the bishop of Basel with countless rights and properties, making him the most powerful prince in the region. This in turn transformed what had been an essentially rural settlement on a bend in the River Rhine into a major urban centre. Basel’s new status is evident in its building of a city wall in the second half of the 11th century and in the much richer archaeological finds dating from this period. The structure, development and florescence of the trinational region on the Upper Rhine can thus be traced back to these events.

The emperor’s lavish gifts – the “Gifts of Henry” – formed the foundation stone for the Cathedral Treasury, which over the centuries became one of the most important church treasuries in Switzerland. Politically, the events of 1019 paved the way for the rule of the bishops and the consolidation of their power base on the Upper Rhine and in the Jura, from which the city itself also profited. As patrons of the city, Henry II and his wife Kunigunde became enshrined in Basel’s collective memory, especially following their canonization in 1146 and 1200 respectively. The growth of the cult of Henry in Basel and its political role in the life of the city are the subject of the final section of this spectacular show.

New Building of the Kunstmuseum Basel

A Tour of the Exhibition

The exhibition will occupy ten rooms of the Kunstmuseum Basel’s new building, which opened in 2016. Designed by the architects Christ & Gantenbein, this extension has the infrastructure needed to meet the highest conservational requirements.

The climax of the presentation, with numerous tours de force of goldsmithing and manuscript illumination, will be the act of consecration of 11 October 1019 itself, to which the account of Basel’s Burgundian «backstory» and an exploration of the city as it was politically, economically, and culturally in the year 1000 will serve as a lead-in.

The changes that took place under Henry II (1002–1024) and their political, social, and cultural consequences both for Basel and the surrounding region will be examined in sections devoted to specific periods and/or themes. Key objects such as the Basel Antependium, the Cross of Henry II, the Regensburg Sacramentary of Henry II, the Willigis Chasuble, and the Henry and Kunigunde Monstrance from Basel Cathedral Treasury will be staged as thematic anchors in their larger context and their historical significance explained.The themes to be presented in each room are outlined in brief in what follows along with selected exhibits.

Photography: Macrobius Map, early 11th century, München, Bayerische Staatsbibliothek

Theme 1

Introduction – Europe 1000 Yeas Ago

The Old Continent was on the cusp of a new era in the year 1000. This was the age that saw the Christianization of northern and eastern central Europe as well as the crystallization and consolidation of distinct realms in the West. Commerce and farming were both flourishing, paving the way for the emergence and institutionalization of cities and trades in the centuries to come.

Henry II (1002–1024) ruled over an empire in the heart of Europe extending from the North Sea in the north to Rome in the south. This was the empire into which he incorporated the city of Basel with its advantageous location on a bend in the Rhine. The exemplary works and maps on show in this first room will enable visitors to imagine what life was like in that faraway time a thousand years ago.

Photography: Replica of the Holy Lance, 18th century, Ochsenfurt, Katholisches Pfarramt St. Andreas

Theme 2

Basel and Burgundy

Until just recently, the Kingdom of Burgundy was the great unknown among the empires of the West. Only within the past few years have historians been able to identify its specific structures and reach. This exhibition will therefore be the first to shed light on Basel’s place in the Burgundian kingdom. Exhibits of political significance along with archaeological finds and archival evidence will bring this exciting period to life.

The key object in this room is a replica of the Holy Lance, which according to Liutprand of Cremona was given to Rudolph II (912–937), King of Burgundy, as a pledge for his rule in Italy in 922. Four years later, Rudolph himself presented it to the East Frankish king, Henry I (919–936), in exchange for the Alemannic territories, including the episcopal city of Basel. Besides being associated with the cult of Saint Maurice, patron saint of Burgundy, the lance also symbolized the claims of the East Frankish-German kings to both Italy and Burgundy and became one of the main imperial insignia.

Archaeological finds from the Petersberg in Basel (1937, 2018), which coming from a waterlogged site are in an excellent state of preservation, along with the treasures of the Martinskirche in Liestal (2006) will provide vivid evidence of the – actually quite modest – lifestyle of the Burgundian kings and their assertions of power on the kingdom’s northern periphery.

Photography: Reliquary busts of St. Heinrich and Kunigunde, Böhmen (?), around 1430/40, Paderborn, Archbishop's Diocesan Museum and Cathedral Treasury

Theme 3

Heinrich II. and Kunigunde

Henry II and his politics along with his wife Kunigunde will be characterized on the basis of some outstanding examples of Ottonian courtly culture. These will include both objects and information on Henry’s origins and qualities as a sovereign lord, as well as his assertion of his kingship over East Francia, Italy and the Roman Empire.

The depiction of Henry’s coronation on one of the most magnificent manuscripts of the Late Ottonian period, the Regensburg Sacramentary produced in Regensburg in the early days of Henry’s reign and later gifted by him to Bamberg Cathedral, will serve as a link – via the Holy Lance – to his policies in Burgundy.

The objects attributed to Kunigunde, first and fore- most her crown, will shed light on the woman at his side. What was her share in Henry’s exercise of power? How was she personally connected to the empire’s ruling dynasties and what did her marriage and her coronation mean to her?

Photography: Plaque with Christ and Saints Victor and Gereon, Köln, around 1000, Museum Schnütgen
© Rheinisches Bildarchiv Köln, Mennicken, Marion

Theme 4

A Tour of the Realm in the Kings Retinue

This section’s spectacular treasures and virtual «royal tour through the realm» will show how art and culture were placed in the service of secular and sacred power.

Following in the footsteps of the itinerant kings of the Middle Ages, visitors will join a royal progress through Henry’s realm, pausing at a series of important centres of production. They will learn not only about the function of the various objects, but also about their place of origin and the materials and methods used to make them.

In addition to aspects of relevance to art history, such as the cultural exchange with Byzantium and use of spolia, the key themes here will include medieval manufacturing processes and techniques. The Egbert Workshop in Trier, for example, will provide the context for a discussion of Ottonian gold-smithing.

There will be further stops in Cologne (ivory carving), the Harz Mountains (bronze casting and metalworking), Reichenau (manuscript and book illumination), and St. Gallen (scholarly treatises).

Photography: Crozier of Abbot Erkanbald, Hildesheim, about 1010, Dommuseum

Theme 5

King and Church

Here, speaking ecclesiastical treasures will explain the bond between king and church and the models by which each was legitimated. The aim is to provide the larger context of Henry’s gifts to Basel and his participation of the consecration of the cathedral.

The discussion of the objects will therefore turn on their use in the liturgy as well as the outstanding craftsmanship they exemplify. The imperial ceremonial, certain aspects of which were presumably included in the consecration of the cathedral, will play a central role here. The emperor’s high-calibre gifts and their liturgical significance will be presented as evidence of the close ties that existed between secular rulers and religion.

Photography: Basel Antependium, Bamberg (?), before 1019, Paris, Musée National du Moyen Âge, Thermes et Hôtel de Cluny
© RMN-Grand Palais (musée de Cluny - musée national du Moyen-Âge) / Michel Urtado

Theme 6

1019 – The Consecration of Basel Cathedral

This room’s dazzling display will enable visitors to imagine the religious «act of state» of 1019 and the sequence of events that it entailed. The central exhibit here will be the Basel Antependium from Paris, which will be staged as one of the great treasures of the diocese that was presented in front of the altar of Basel Cathedral only on the highest feast days.

The section will thus shed new light on the hitherto unanswered – and controversially discussed – question of the Golden Altar Frontal’s place of origin as well as its function in the cathedral.

Another highlight will be the Cross of Henry II from Berlin, which together with the Antependium belongs to Henry’s original endowment. These two magnificent gifts will be staged in a way that underscores both their high calibre and their long-term significance as a factor in Basel’s development and in the wealth and prosperity it would later attain.

Photography: Bust Reliquary of Saint Pantalus, Basel (?), after 1270, Basel, Historisches Museum Basel

Theme 7

The Bishop as Lord of the City and Region

Henry’s gifts to both cathedral and bishop sparked a period of growth and prosperity for Basel. The demographic data bear this out, as do various archaeological finds, maps and comparisons with other episcopal cities on the Rhine.

The prince-bishop now played the role of the emperor’s secular governor in Basel. He thus became lord of the city and the most powerful prince in the region. His importance manifested itself in the building of the cathedral and in the acquisition of numerous domains. Alongside possessions both in Basel and the Jura, he had rights and properties in Breisgau on the right bank of the Rhine, including some silver mines, the abbeys of Sulzburg and St. Blaise, and the old ducal court of Breisach am Rhein. Basel’s elevated status as the seat of a bishop is most vividly apparent in its richly endowed Cathedral Treasury.

The reliquaries and monstrances belonging to the Treasury will be restaged to visualize the role of these objects in the liturgy. Among other things, visitors will be able to experience the processions through Basel with the Cross of Henry at their head known to us from fifteenth-century sources.

Photography: Henry and Kunigunde Monstrance, Basel Cathedral Treasury, 1347/1356, Basel, Historisches Museum Basel

Theme 8

From Bamberg to Basel – The Cult of the Imperial Couple

The cult of Henry and Kunigunde began in Bamberg. Having received lavish gifts from Henry II, the bishops there petitioned to have both the deceased emperor himself and his wife canonized, which was done in 1146 and 1200 respectively. The imperial couple’s generous endowments that enabled both Bamberg and Basel to flourish resulted in their veneration. The cult of Henry and Kunigunde was closely bound up with the cult of the Virgin as the original patron saint of Basel Cathedral, and even rivalled it at times.

In addition to the deeds of canonization and several cultic objects, this room will reunite the wings of the cathedral organ bearing Hans Holbein’s monumental depiction of the imperial couple from the collection of the Kunstmuseum Basel with fragments of the relief ornaments that originally adorned them, which now belong to the collection of the Historisches Museum Base. Other objects that have been attributed to Henry and Kunigunde but cannot possibly have come from them will also be examined here.

Such attributions to the imperial couple were motivated in part by the fact that until 2015, they were the only married couple in history to have been canonized. Once they had become saints, moreover, various objects that they were known or thought to have worn or touched acquired the status of relics.

Special exhibition at Kunstmuseum Basel | Neubau

Opening times:
Tuesday, Thursday–Sunday 10 AM–6 PM
Wednesday 10 AM–8 PM
Monday closed

Adults CHF 26.–
Reduced CHF 18.–


Basel Historical Museum
Management & administration
Steinenberg 4
PO box
CH – 4001 Basel

Reception: +41 61 205 86 00
Message: +41 61 205 86 02

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