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Bern exhibition revisits Medieval iconoclasm

Christian statues which were torn from Bern's cathedral during the reformation and buried, are the focus of the new exhibition on iconoclasm at the city's history museum.

The sculptures, never before seen by the public, were found 14 years ago by workers repairing a supporting wall in the cathedral. Their dismembered remains had been buried about 14 feet underground.

The exhibition organisers say the statues appeared to be part of the building's foundations, and were placed there by supporters of reformism in Bern, who decided to strip the building of its Christian status at the beginning of the 16th century.

The exhibition, which includes objects from German- and French-speaking Switzerland as well as France, Germany, the Netherlands and Italy, is a rich depiction of Christian art at the end of the Middle Ages.

It shows not only the piety of the people during that period but also the growing anger towards Catholicism, which characterised the reformist movement.

Iconoclasm, or "image-breaking", generally refers to the to the eighth and ninth century movement which opposed the use of religious images. However, the organisers of the exhibition in Bern have borrowed the concept to highlight iconoclastic expression in the Middle Ages.

The exposition runs until April 16 at the Museum of History, in Bern's Helvetiaplatz, before moving on to Strasbourg.

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