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Swiss medieval objects go on display in Basel

Many of the treasures on display are on loan from foreign museums

(Keystone Archive)

An exhibition of rare ecclesiastical objects from Basel cathedral is returning to its native city after a successful run at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art.

The exhibition, entitled "Treasury of Basel Cathedral", includes over 70 ecclesiastical and secular objects dating back to the 11th century.

Many of the pieces on display at Basel's history museum were hidden in the cathedral's sacristy in 1529 and were only rediscovered during restoration work at the beginning of the 19th century.

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.

The works of art and religious objects have not been seen in Switzerland since 1956, when a small number were put on display in Basel.

The three-month-long exhibition in New York attracted more than 140,000 people and organisers hope an equal number of people will visit the museum in Basel.

The new exhibition, timed to coincide with celebrations marking the 500th anniversary of Basel joining the Swiss Confederation, boasts over 150 sacred objects, including gold and silver chalices and a selection of crucifixes.

The rarest pieces, some of which are on loan from museums around the world, are encrusted with precious stones, antique gems and translucent enamels.

Textiles and objects made of rock, crystal, bronze and wood have also been dusted off for the exhibition, as have the doors of the cathedral's original storage cupboards.

But the treasury's most celebrated work of art, a gold altar said to have been made in the year 1000, will not form part of the exhibition, since it was considered unsafe to transport it from its home inside the National Museum of the Middle Ages in Paris.

After its current run in Basel ends on October 21, the exhibition moves on to Munich in Germany, where it will continue until February 2002.

swissinfo with agencies


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