Summarizing Documentation and Research of all Excavation Finds
Of the choir screen, richly decorated with figural and floral motifs, only the north screen still stands in St Michael's today: but around 200 medieval stucco fragments have been preserved in four different storage facilities in Hildesheim and Hanover, either from the choir screen from the end of the 12th century or from the figures of the so-called Beatitudes and the arcade arches in the south aisle from 1160/70. Historical drawings and photographs bear witness to further fragments.
The state of preservation of the fragments varies greatly: many surfaces are still intact and are based on remnants of polychrome mounting, others are more or less reduced and not easy to interpret formally and iconographically.
The UNESCO World Heritage Site in Hildesheim
Despite their damage, the stucco fragments as a whole are a very important inventory of the UNESCO World Heritage of Hildesheim Cathedral and St. Michael's, in terms of art and cultural history, and are of great interest for the study of medieval stucco sculpture.
The State of Research
The documentation and research of the fragments still have considerable gaps.
On the one hand, they have never all been brought together, as they were recovered in excavations by different institutions from the 19th to the early 21st century and as a consequence are now in the possession of three institutions.
On the other hand, the first restoration of the older finds took place about 30 years ago. Since then, more refined restorative and scientific examinations have been developed in the conservation sciences and have become common practice.
About the Project
The aim of the planned project is to bring together all the fragments for research purposes, and to first evaluate and then complete the current state of research. A systematic documentation and research of the stucco fragments is planned, in correlation with historical sources, restorative findings on the object and scientific analyses. Particular attention will be paid to the material composition and the traces of workmanship, which can provide information on the work technique and original affiliation.
The existing photographic documentation is to be supplemented by photos, IR/UV images, 3D scans and drawings.
In particular, the original colour of the choir screen is a major research desideratum, not only for Hildesheim. Based on the use of non-invasive examination techniques and the resulting questions, the smallest samples are to be taken for the analysis of stucco, pigments and binding materials.
Subsequently, the results of the investigations on the Hildesheim stucco fragments will be compared with those of other current research projects on High Medieval stucco, especially in Central Germany.
Duration and Publication
The project is scheduled to start in 2022 and last for a maximum of two years, including a final publication in the Hornemann Institute's publication series, which is not only aimed at experts, but also at the interested public thanks to many good illustrations and clear language.
The project is funded by the Beate and Hans Peter Autenrieth Foundation and is carried out in memory of the late colleague Dr. Matthias Exner.
At HAWK, the main people involved are:
- Dr. Angela Weyer, Head of the Hornemann Institute
- Prof. Dr. Barbara Beckett, Full Professor for the conservation-restoration of stone objects and architectural surfaces since 1 September 2021
- Dr. Max Rahrig, Lecturer at the HAWK for digital documentation.
- In addition, an academic conservator is to be employed for the project.
- Prof. Dr. Dipl. Rest. Ursula Schädler-Saub, Full Professor at HAWK until September 2021, will work as a scientific project partner.