Master of the Early Gothic

The 13th century Naumburg Cathedral is today world renowned above all for the work and sculptures of the so-called Naumburg Master. Unfortunately, we still know extremely little about this unnamed architect and sculptor who created the western choir, which counts as one of the most important works of the Early Gothic period. The vivid reliefs adorning the rood screen which depict the Passion of Christ and the twelve life-sized statues of the founders in the western choir, among them Reglindis and Uta, have fascinated beholders through the ages and continue to do so today by virtue of their incomparable expressiveness, individuality and lifelike appearance.

Old Questions – New Answers?

The western choir of Naumburg Cathedral has been object of scientific investigation since the 19th century. However, the central questions surrounding its origin, significance and function remain unanswered up to the present time. For instance, how was the prestigious and imposing construction financed? How did the creators of the western choir work, think and plan? What did the original paintwork on the sculptures look like? Or – of present-day interest – how can Naumburg Cathedral and the art works it contains be better integrated in a supraregional concept of environmentally-friendly tourism?

Eleven young members of the interdisciplinary Naumburg Research Group set up in July 2009 are busily investigating the building history of the western choir and its sculptures in an attempt to find answers to these questions. They are also using their research findings to develop concepts for conserving the art works as well as marketing strategies for these cultural goods.

The Naumburg Research Group is being funded in an amount of €1.5 million by the Volkswagen Foundation within the context of its “Off the Beaten Track” funding initiative.

Six Different Research Fields

The doctoral students working on the project come from five universities and represent six different disciplines: Art Technology and Conservation Science, as well as natural sciences (both from the Hochschule für Bildende Künste Dresden) Building History and Building Archaeology (Technische Universität München), Art History (University of Münster), Medieval History / Regional History (University of Leipzig) as well as Economic Geography and Tourism Research (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München).
Whereas, for instance, Bernadett Freysoldt and Daniela Karl in the subproject Art History and Conservation Sciences are investigating the original paintwork on the founder figures and the rood screen reliefs, Susanne Frank and Christina Hans working in the subproject Economic Geography and Tourism Research are inquiring into the tourism aspects of Naumburg Cathedrals.

Interdisciplinary Exchange Leads to New Insights

As different as the various avenues of research may be – the opportunity for interdisciplinary exchange is especially important for the members of the Naumburg Research Group and generates valuable synergies. Art restorers, building researchers and scientists are all working together within a common research framework where they can exchange ideas and discuss their individual findings. Collaboration between the scientists, restorers and building researchers, for example, leads to important findings with regard to clarifying the materials which were once used. Points of friction and possible interaction between tourism heritage conservation can be dealt with in an interdisciplinary forum.

The spatial conditions for interdisciplinary research in Naumburg are also ideal: The researchers live in accommodation directly adjoining the Cathedral which has been provided by the Vereinigte Domstifter. Members of the Naumburg Research Group therefore have quick access to the western choir as well as the Cathedral archives. And last but not least – they support each other with their research results and benefit from the intensive exchange within and beyond the Naumburg Research Group.

All Episodes


Experts in Choir

The western choir of Naumburger Cathedral is world famous. Nevertheless, researchers still know very little about the circumstances surrounding its creation, the function it fulfilled, or its significance at the time. A group of eleven young researchers have now taken it upon themselves to find out.

Experts in Choir

The western choir of Naumburger Cathedral is world famous. Nevertheless, researchers still know very little about the circumstances surrounding its creation, the function it fulfilled, or its significance at the time. A group of eleven young researchers have now taken it upon themselves to find out.

Clues in Stone

How did the master builders of Naumburger Cathedral work, think and live 800 years ago? The building researchers scrutinize every detail and come up with some surprising answers.

Human Gods, Godly Founders

Twelve benefactors, known as the founders, donated the funds to build the Naumburger Cathedral – that was in the 11th century, though. Why, then, did the builders put up such splendid statues to them some 200 years later?

Detective Work on the Stone Shield

Enigmatic letters on a golden background: Could the painted name of one of the founders be covering an inscription? An infrared test will reveal if this is the case.

Strong Walls

The town’s highest church spire was not built by the Naumburg Cathedral founders – but by its citizens. They wanted to demonstrate their growing claim to power. Historians are investigating the role the buildings of Naumburg played in the politics of the time.

Pioneer Work on Pigments

What sort of paints did the old masters use? Non-invasive methods using modern laser equipment are able to find this out.

The Mysterious Master

His name is unknown but his works are world famous: The artist who created the Naumburg sculptures and reliefs was the master of his epoch. But where did he come from? Art-historians search for clues.

An Old Outstanding Bill

Building Naumburg Cathedral must have cost a fortune. Where did the money come from? An historian stumbles across centuries-old account books.

Sacral Tourist Attraction

What do visitors already know about Naumburg Cathedral? Two tourism researchers analyze the image the church has – and develop concepts that will enable visitors to continue admiring the Cathedral in all its splendor, while at the same time protecting the building fabric.



Naumburg Kolleg

The founder figure Reglindis is used as an emblem by the eleven members of the Naumburg Research Group. The young researchers organized in the group are drawn from no less than six different disciplines: Art technology and conservation sciences, natural sciences, building history and building archaeology, art history, medieval history / regional history, as well as economic geography and tourism research. All for one and one for all, they are joined in investigating the secrets of Naumburg Cathedral.
The founder figure Reglindis stands for eleven young researchers of the Naumburg Kolleg, who investigate the secrets of Naumburg Cathedral.

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