Fragments of Fragments:
The Nineteenth-Century Collection
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This section of the exhibition invites the viewer to experience fragments of the medieval world as a visitor to Alexander Schnütgen’s collection might have at the end of the nineteenth century.

During the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries, ecclesiastical buildings were destroyed, larger works of art, like altarpieces and choir stalls were dismantled, and many church treasuries dating back to the Middle Ages were dispersed. The displaced medieval fragments often became part of new collections. Either in domestic settings or in museum display cases, they awaited only the gazes of the curious. Until the third quarter of the nineteenth century medieval objects generally were seen as historically instructive, but not admired for their aesthetic value.

After the political upheavals of the French Revolution, many people began to feel that they lived in a godless and materialistic age. They reinvented the Middle Ages as an age of spirituality and faith, a symbol of everything that was lacking in their own time.

Colligite fragmenta ne pereant (‘gather the crumbs lest they perish’) was Schnütgen’s motto. Beginning in 1867, he gathered, preserved and presented medieval objects. Schnütgen grouped his metalwork according to particular forms and arranged them in chronological order so that the viewer could trace the development of their forms. In the photo below, you can see a group of chalices and a pair of crucifixes that illustrate Schnütgen's approach. However, this installation is much sparer than Schnütgen's was. He packed objects on shelves that lined the walls from floor to ceiling with a horror vaccui that overwhelms the modern viewer. This display is a potent vision of the history of Christianity that would reinforce traditional values for the Catholic viewer.
Model of the Cathedral of Ulm, Germany
This nineteenth-century wooden model, made to scale, has been in the possession of the Jesuit Community of Boston College from the time that the college was in the South End of Boston, before the community moved to St. Mary’s Hall in 1917. It is believed that the model was brought to America by German Jesuits in the middle of the nineteenth century to inspire neo-Gothic buildings in the new world, like those at Boston College. The model was restored by Peter Tucci in 1938, and cleaned in anticipation of this exhibition by Bruce Monteith with funds from the Jesuit Community of Boston College.
This delicately carved marble figure depicts Saint Barbara, who has lost her attribute-: a tower. The sculpture comes from the high altar of Cologne Cathedral. The sculptures on three sides of the high altar were removed in 1766 when a ciborium was built above it. Most of the displaced sculptures subsequently found their way into the SchnütgenMuseum. Beginning in 1899, the missing figures were replaced with copies carved by Alexander Iven. Viewers in Cologne would have immediately recognized and venerated these fragments as relics of their Cathedral's esteemed medieval past.
Saint Barbara from the High Altar of Cologne Cathedral
Cologne, c. 1310-1322
Continue to Museum Installation: The 1930's.