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Swiss medieval objects exhibited in New York

The glittering "Sunday Cross" is one of the ecclesiastical objects being exhibited in New York

(Keystone Archive)

New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art is staging an exhibition of "The Treasury of the Basel Cathedral", which includes over 70 ecclesiastical and secular objects dating back to the 11th century.

Most of the works are of gold and silver - many encrusted with precious stones, antique gems or translucent enamels - but there are also textiles and objects of rock crystal, bronze and wood, including the doors of the cathedral's original storage cupboards.

The medieval "treasury" has had a colourful history. Over the centuries it survived earthquakes, wars, the plague, iconoclasm and the Reformation, only to be dispersed in the early 19th century for political reasons.

"Although many churches in Europe were once adorned with precious objects," says Metropolitan director, Philippe de Montebello, "the survival of liturgical treasuries to the present day is extremely rare.

"The Basel Cathedral treasury offers an exceptional insight into the devotional and liturgical practices in the Middle Ages and includes some of the greatest masterpieces of Romanesque and Gothic goldsmiths' work from Central Europe."

Most of the objects - which have never before been seen in the United States - are part of the permanent collection in Basel's history museum, while the remainder belong to museums throughout the world.

After the New York exhibition ends in May, all of the works will be transported back to Switzerland and prepared for a second exhibition - in Basel - which is part of celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of the city becoming part of the Swiss Confederation.

by Richard Dawson


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