Already in the Middle Ages, liturgical vestments made of splendid materials, with their rich colours and valuable trimmings, were set apart from ordinary everyday clothing. Even the undergarments were frequently elaborately worked and expensively deco rated. Yet the particular significance of ceremonial attire goes beyond its ornamental function. In the mediaeval liturgy every individual item of attire was integrated into a ritual vesting process in preparation for the divine service.
By attiring themselves in liturgical vestments, accompanied by vesting prayers, priests and bishops would undergo a process of purification and thus a transition from the secular to the holy world. In so doing, the priests would put aside their everyday life with its sins and temptations. Thus purified, they could then celebrate the Sacrifice of the Mass at the altar as worthy office-bearers.
By means of a collection of soft liturgical under garments, impressive ceremonial vestments and art treasures, the exhibition traces the spiritual transformation of the mediaeval cleric through the process of changing his attire. Preparing oneself for a particular event or activity by putting on particular garments is not limited to the ecclesiastical field; it is often very personal and always of current interest. Based on the theme of the exhibition, the contemporary photographs of a bishop by Herlinde Koelbl open up a new perspective on the subject of changing clothes, and at the same time provide a stimulus for us to think more deeply about our own everyday enrobing rituals.
From left to right: Alb, Switzerland, circa 1300-1310, detail; Dalmatic, blue silk, velvet, Italy, circa 1450 and Cologne Orphreys, circa 1450; Pearl Ciborium, Hildesheim, circa 1250-1300. Photos: RBA Köln and Thomas Zwillinger
Niederlande, um 1430-40
Eiche, farbig gefasst, Inv.-Nr. 998, A 1101
Erworben 1965 aus der Sammlung Hermann Schwartz (Kreuzigung) und 2012 (Gruppe der trauernden Marien). Ankauf und Präsentation mit freundlicher Unterstützung von: Kulturstiftung der Länder, Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland, Freundeskreis Museum Schnütgen Pro Arte Medii Aevi
Foto© Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Köln/W. Meier
Netherlands, around 1430-40
Oak, painted, inv.no. A 998, A 1101
Acquired 1965 from the collection Hermann Schwartz (Crucifixion) and 2012 (group of mourning women). Acquisition and presentation with the kind support of: Kulturstiftung der Länder, Peter und Irene Ludwig Stiftung, Sparkassen-Kulturstiftung Rheinland, Freundeskreis Museum Schnütgen Pro Arte Medii Aevi
Photo: © Rheinisches Bildarchiv, Köln/W. Meier
A large crowd has come to see the crucifixion of Jesus and the two criminals. The people are witnesses to the historical event as it is described in the Gospels and later accounts of the Passion of Jesus. The second focal point of the composition is to be found immediately below Christ: the fainting figure of the Mother of God is flanked on either side by her two sisters Mary Salome and Mary of Cleophas. A further woman, in profile, is bending towards the Virgin Mary from the side. This is either Mary Magdalene or St. Veronica, who originally held the cloth which was imprinted with a likeness of the living Jesus on the Way of the Cross. St. John the Apostle quite probably stood behind the Mother of God, in order to support her, so that the three figures standing around the Virgin Mary formed a central group under the cross.
Whereas the crucifixion scene with the riders and soldiers has been in the possession of the Museum Schnütgen since 1965, the acquisition of the mourning women in 2012 has shed new light on the meaning of the composition. Originally, this relief was the central piece of an altar shrine. It is one of the highest quality examples of Burgundian Netherlandish sculpture from the first half of the 15th century. The piece is especially valuable due to the partially preserved, original polychrome colours. Dendochronological testing of the oak has confirmed its dating and revealed that the wood was imported from the Baltic Sea region.
Admission € 6
Reduced fee € 3,50
Daily 10 am to 6 pm
Thursday 10 am to 8 pm
Closed on Monday
Every first Thursday in the
month until 10 pm
Subway: Stop Neumarkt
KVB (tram) lines 1, 3, 4, 7,
9, 16, 18
bus lines 136, 146