Exhibit Review, March 2007
"Der Kardinal. Albrecht von Brandenburg, Renaissancefürst und Mäzen." Exhibition of the Stiftung Moritzburg on the occasion of the 1200th anniversary of the city of Halle an der Saale. September 9- November 26, 2006. Displayed at the Museum in the Stiftung Moritzburg, Halle cathedral, the Halle Residenz, and the Haus "Zum kühlen Brunnen," Halle.
Reviewed for H-German by Susan R. Boettcher, Department of History, University of Texas at Austin
In the rush to commemorate the various Holy Roman Empire anniversaries of 2006 in German museums, another anniversary was noted with much less frequency in the German national media: the 1200th anniversary of the first documented reference to the city of Halle. Anyone who tuned in to MDR on the evening of November 16 saw the Großer Zapfenstreich in honor of the event, but the celebration as a whole was primarily local and regional. One of its highlights was an excellent exhibit treating the life, times and activities of Albrecht of Brandenburg (1490-1545), whose tenure as archbishop of Magdeburg after 1513 led to a flowering of Renaissance art, architecture and culture in Halle, where he established his archiepiscopal residence. Albrecht himself had nothing to do with Halle before that, but his activities in another area tied him intimately to both city and regional memory: it was his proclamation of an indulgence that aroused Luther's ire in 1517, giving occasion to a movement that was to transform not only Halle but Europe as well. The contradictions generated by this situation drove Albrecht away in 1541; he died, disillusioned, only four years later. Maybe the Hallenser were happy to see him go in 1541, but they appear to have been happy to get him back in 2006. The exhibit attracted approximately 45,000 visitors in the ten weeks of its availability. 
By every indication, the planners of this exhibit and their spiritus rector, Andreas Tacke of the University of Trier, not only began their planning several years in advance, they decided to re-work the current scholarly literature of the art on Albrecht fundamentally. Albrecht has apparently frightened away every potential modern biographer, and the goal here, too, was not a full portrait or a discussion of his relevance for the Reformation or art history per se, but rather a snapshot of his significance for Halle, a neglected perspective on Albrecht's activities.  The exhibit's curator, Thomas Schauerte, though still developing his scholarly reputation, is also well-known in the field for his careful and exacting work.  The planners’ efforts led to three narrowly-themed conferences that spawned conference volumes with unusually useful results that are in turn noticeably reflected in the exhibit, as well as exhibit catalog volumes that clearly represent state-of-the art scholarship. 
Moreover, the relatively compact topography of the Halle historic center combined with the focused nature of the exhibit meant a successful concentration on the city itself as the canvas for Albrecht's activities, even if architectural traces of the Renaissance in the street scene are relatively scarce. A single admission to the exhibit entitled the visitor to entry at the four different display sites; visitors were also directed by the brochure to look at the Marktkirche (and were offered free entry to the Lutherhaus if they wanted to make their way to Wittenberg). 
The most extensive part of exhibit was housed in the Moritzburg, the residence of the Magdeburg archbishops constructed by Albrecht's predecessor, Ernst von Wettin, after 1479. (The smallish inner rooms of the fortress have spectacular ceiling paintings, but the exhibit scarcely offered the visitor occasion to look up and see them). After climbing a staircase, the visitor was confronted by a large poster with the most important moments of Albrecht's stay in Halle, but the exhibit made clear quickly that chronology or comprehensiveness was not going to be the major concern. Instead, the exhibitors concentrated on Renaissance princes and their art patronage, and more specifically on two themes -- the various guises and genres of Albrecht's self-representation and the objects related to this activity as they were used in Halle. Thus the exhibit opened with staffs, processional crosses and ornate liturgical garb in an initial room before turning to the project that most effectively united these two themes in an intriguing reunion project: the drawing together of the extent identifiable objects from Albrecht's relic collection as recorded upon his commission in one of the most gorgeous surviving sixteenth-century illustrated manuscripts, Aschaffenburg Hofbibliothek Ms. 14, entitled Liber ostensionis and more commonly known as the Hallesches Heiltumsbuch. 
Though more remains to be said about this project below, something about museum reunion projects simply fascinates.  The Heiltumsbuch itself was exhibited, opened to the reliquary of St Maurice, the patron saint of the archdiocese as reflected in the eponymous Moritzburg. The Maurice reliquary was said to be the most impressive of Albrecht's collection, and while I am sure that the Hallenser all know the story of his significance to this city, this is one of few themes that I felt might have been explored in more depth given the focus of the exhibit.  The next portion of the exhibit concerned the confluence between the courtly and pious aspects of Albrecht's self-presentation, ingeniously focused on just one of the artisans Albrecht employed, his "pearl-embroiderer" Hans Plock. This section included not only more liturgical garments, but also bills for services rendered and objects of Plock's that reveal his connection to the princely courts of the period. One of the entries in his family Bible claimed he prepared a miter for Albrecht that cost 100,000 gulden.
Next, the exhibitors took us to a rich display of the liturgical manuscripts in use in Halle. It's important for us to see these items not only because they also belong to Albrecht's art patronage, but because they witness to his interest in fulfilling his role as a spiritual shepherd of the Christian flock -- an understanding of Albrecht that usually fades in comparison to depictions of him as a perpetually impecunious searcher after wealth, an imperial politician and a self-promoter. This portion of the exhibit is particularly skillful in showing the often poignant cusp between two periods on which Albrecht stood. While the archbishop was commissioning the traditional manuscripts for his various liturgies, Luther was translating his Bible -- and though Albrecht's sponsorship of the competing translation by Johann Dietenburger appeared in 1534 (the same year as the first complete Lutherbibel) and although it was one of the most frequently distributed books on the Catholic side (as was a printed version of the Halle missal that Albrecht prepared, also shown here), it was impossible to turn back time, either for manuscripts or for Catholic Bible translation. Manuscripts were on their way out and German Catholics had missed the decisive moment: Luther's translation was already on its way to its later status as deutsches Kulturgut. A short section on Albrecht's humanist patronage, one of the sentiments that grounded his university foundings, precedes the real highlight of the exhibit, the Kuppelsaal and its contents.
The objects shown in Halle, while sumptuous in their execution, were not particularly numerous, especially in comparison to the conspicuous consumption on offer this year in Magdeburg, Frankfurt and Paderborn. A distinct difference, however, could be felt in the extraordinary extent to which the exhibitors went to make their display approachable to viewers. I stress this point because, somewhat unexpectedly, on my way to the exhibit I met a good friend with her seven-year-old daughter in the train; it turned out they were on their way to the exhibit in Magdeburg but had seen the Halle exhibit a few weeks earlier. Seeking to include my friend's daughter in the conversation, I asked her what she would recommend as her favorite parts of the exhibit. "Definitely the Kuppelsaal," she said, "and the relic calendar." I assume she remembered these areas not merely because of the striking objects, but also because of the convenient but stunning manner of their exhibition: the relics and pieces of the Heiltum displayed in the Moritzburg were placed in user-friendly cabinets that included fixtures an observer could use to lean or rest himself while looking. I can't underline enough the pleasure of contemplating a tiny miniature or a manuscript for a long period without developing back pain from bending or being snapped at by a docent for putting my hands on a cabinet. I have seldom spent as much time in close observation of the objects themselves as I did in Halle, since museum display conditions often resign one to a closer look in the catalog.
The Kuppelsaal in particular exemplified the exhibitors' obvious conviction that responding to both scholarly interests and lay participation was not a zero-sum game. The scholarly attraction here was another reunion project: the first-ever reunification of the different parts of the Cranach Magdalenenaltar, last seen assembled in Aschaffenburg in the 1540s, where it landed after Albrecht's move and which is the only one of Albrecht's commissions for the Dom (about which more later) for which all of the components are still extant. The popular attraction was that the pieces of the altar were displayed in an installation that not only allowed the visitor to see all of the different pictures of the altar (which is usually difficult, because museums and churches don't like it when random people start moving wings of a retable) from their different sides, and not only from benches arranged at different distances from the installation, but also from extremely close proximity. The Kuppelsaal was the fullest room of the exhibit while I was there, a number of children were viewing the exhibit with their parents and giving special attention to the striking depiction of Jonah and the whale on the altarpiece's predella, and a number of other people were talking excitedly, perhaps because the room also included a number of recently restored Cranach workshop pieces. The exhibitors realized that typically the joy of looking at a Cranach piece -- not less for the layman than for the scholar -- comes from the close examination of its details, and they made every effort to facilitate this sort of engagement with their displays. (The exhibit included several more sections before it concluded, on portraits and other depictions of Albrecht, on his sponsorship of secular art, on other contemporary pieces from Halle, and on the planning for the Neue Stift, which did a good job of preparing the visitor for the next station of the exhibit. None of it was as exciting as the Kuppelsaal, however).
The Moritzburg exhibit thus made clear that Albrecht's collection of relics was one of his most important activities as an art patron and with its installations, gave the visitor an opportunity to imitate, albeit briefly, a chief early modern usage of such objects -- the curious or pious gaze. The second installment of the exhibit, which extended this impression for the visitor, was positioned nearby in the Hallescher Dom.  This church, located near the fortress, was originally the Dominican cloister church before Albrecht renovated it beginning in 1520, when he made it the center of his Neue Stift. He moved the mendicants, replacing them with his own generously endowed staff of fifty-nine individuals drawn from the secular clergy: priests, canons, vicars; a cantor, a schoolmaster and choirboys. Then he renovated the church, adding the striking Renaissance gables it bears today, as well as a splendid new portal, an eighteen-figure cycle of the saints by Peter Schroh, a magnificent chancel and sixteen multi-winged altarpieces from the Cranach workshop (of which the re-assembled Magdalenenaltar in the Moritzburg was one). He ripped out everything he could when he abandoned Halle in 1541; the surviving items scattered to the winds after his death, and the church became Calvinist in 1680.  But in its heyday, with all of its art in place, the Dom housed the annual display of Albrecht's collection that took place on September 8th of every year (although the exhibit made clear that it is impossible to know how many years Albrecht actually showed his collection, since he appears to have sympathized with Luther in some regards about the soteriological value of such displays). Scholarly consensus has long held that Albrecht's display of his collection reflected a self-representational ambition to compete with the prestige of Frederick the Wise in Wittenberg, and as with Friedrich's collection, the benefits to be gained from viewing the objects was colossal: 8,133 particles and 41 entire bodies of the saints granted their viewers an indulgence of 39,240,120 years and 22 days plus 6,540,000 Quadragenen (forty-day fasts like the Lenten or Advent fasts) -- a benefit that easily surpassed the paltry 13,219,000 years of reprieve from the tortures of Purgatory one could amass in Wittenberg.
In this portion of the exhibit, the planners went one better even than their reunion project in the Moritzburg by attempting to make the visitors themselves part of the staging--putting us as viewers in the location where an ordinary person would have observed these objects, so that we could also observe each other observing the objects.  In some ways the modern visitor is at a disadvantage compared to the early modern visitor, who could benefit from a much wider visual knowledge about Christianity than is typical today, even among the faithful: some relics could be recognized by the shape of their reliquaries, as that of St Bartholomew, always depicted with a knife because he was martyred by being skinned alive. Similarly, a cross reliquary always indicated a piece of the cross, and visitors would have been conversant with other imagery. Other objects impressed via their fascinating materials, such as those made of an ostrich egg or encrusted with many precious gems. But in other ways, we are in the same position, particularly when we look at those reliquaries that indicated their contents with actual labels, as it is doubtful that contemporaries would have deciphered all of their contents.
The exhibitors staged the visitor's experience in the Dom in a way that came as close as possible to a sensory reconstruction of the event. First, they placed multi-media reproductions of the missing altars at the base of the arches, where they would have been in the sixteenth century. Next, they placed a series of displays in the church that included pictures of the relics in a pattern following the divisions of items described in the Heiltumsbuch.
While they did not completely reproduce the number of these displays from the sixteenth century, the installations were grouped strategically at the point where the rood screen, which was probably removed during the sixteenth century, would have been -- so that the feeling of architectural space in the church was reproduced, particularly for visitors who moved into the space toward the rear of the nave. Finally, and perhaps most excitingly, the exhibit was taken as the occasion for reconstructing the liturgical practice of the Neue Stift based on its surviving Liber ordinarius in the Bamberg Staatsbibliothek and regional festival liturgies, and this music was playing in the church during the exhibit.  The only things missing were a procession and the accompanying incense. This approach impressed me deeply, and appears to have been derived directly from the multidisciplinary perspective of the second of the exhibition's preparatory conference volumes, with its particular interest in performativity, an approach with an intriguing future in Reformation studies.
The third station, on Albrecht's relationship with the city, was housed in the Halle Residenz or New Gebew, an early Renaissance building he erected beginning in 1531 to house his newly-privileged university -- the second one Albrecht founded, after the Viadrina (Frankfurt/Oder) in 1506 -- which had grown out of the scholarly activities of the Neue Stift. When the university collapsed, Albrecht moved in himself, though he moved on in 1541, when his debts were paid by the local Landtag in exchange for his agreement to renounce his claims to ecclesiastical privilege in his by then largely Lutheran archdiocese. After his victory over the Protestants in the Schmalkaldic War, Charles V stayed there; the great room of the palace was the scene for Philip of Hesse's forced homage to the victorious emperor. Unfortunately, subsequent years have not been kind to the building; it is practically falling apart and a preservation committee has formed to rescue it that appears to be raising money for running expenses and renovation with additional activities, which included both a Weihnachtsmarkt and a seasonal floral decorative exhibit on the weekend I was visiting. 
One of the larger rooms on an upper floor housed a visually unremarkable exhibit, executed in posters and reproductions, about Albrecht's relationship with the city (not surprisingly, given Albrecht's proactivity in shaping his surroundings and his directly proportional inability to pay, the relationship was often tense but not impossibly so). The exhibition brochure excited me with the announcement of a display of remains of frescoes that had recently been uncovered, but these were really just traces, as it seemed most of the restoration remained to be completed. Presumably the point of staging part of the exhibit here was to mobilize donors for the renovations, which will require at least €20 million to complete. Perhaps because the exhibit had so effectively used its facilities up until that point, this was the only part of it where I found myself disappointed. In walking out of the Renaissance courtyard, I set aside the exhibit publicity's suggestion to visit the adjoining Geiseltalmuseum,  housed in part of the residence, for an additional admission price.
At this point I moved on to the Marktkirche, which was actually supposed to be the final moment of the exhibition. Nothing additional to the church's own equipment was exhibited there, but the building itself is perhaps the most lasting testament to the dominance of the impression Albrecht left on Halle, as its towers are the primary distinguishing feature of the city's silhouette. Originally the site housed two separate churches, each with its own towers, but under Albrecht's encouragement the city took the initiative to break up the naves of both churches in 1528/9 and built a new connecting nave between the tower pairings, while elevating and renovating the towers on one of the churches with Renaissance additions. Also on view in the church is the spectacular Marienaltar (1529) that Albrecht appears to have commissioned for the Dom but donated to the Marktkirche in 1534, on which he is depicted in the innermost panel as venerating the Virgin and Child, flanked in adjoining panels by St Maurice (again depicted as a Moor) and St Alexander, and by the Fourteen Holy Helpers on the predella. Architecturally the church is a fascinating hybrid: classified as the last monumental construction of the German late Gothic style, its inside is thoroughly filled with Renaissance elements (such as the chancel and its decorative acoustical ceiling) typical of late medieval piety and church decoration, but most of them were completed after the Reformation had already been introduced in Halle in 1541. What the exhibitors intended as the visitor's final glance at Halle thus underlines perhaps more fully than they had realized not only Albrecht's influence on the city, but the fact that his fleeting but decisive presence in the city in many ways reflected a transitional but central moment of European history in a more general sense -- a moment that stood on a narrow bridge constituted by recycling the older heritage in the formulation of a new cultural language.
The constructed part of the exhibit finishes with a single room at the "Haus zum kühlen Brunnen," concerning the fate of Albrecht's chamberlain Hans von Schenitz (d. 1535), who built the Renaissance palace but was also accused of embezzling. As it appears now, he did it with Albrecht's tacit permission, although it was also Albrecht who pursued the punishment when the crime came to light, an affair that drew the Protestant Reformers into the fray as well. This portion of the exhibit was also visually unremarkable, but it was confined to an intimate space and it was crowded, perhaps because the verbal presentation suggested a "true crime" frame story while still admirably presenting the case according to the conventions of modern legal historical scholarship, without sensationalism. The only problem here from my perspective was the statement in the captions that retrospective judgments are inappropriate. The affair does not shed a good light on Albrecht, who appears to have encouraged Schenitz to steal on his behalf and then punished him to the greatest extent for doing so when the theft came to light. The marketing for the exhibit whispered in visitors' ears that part of the conflict related to jealousy between the two men over a woman, so the exhibit also speculates on the house as a location where Albrecht was able to meet with his concubines, unfortunately debunking the rumor that a subterranean tunnel extended from Schenitz's cellar to the rooms underneath the Neue Residenz.  Both the visitor's awareness that Schenitz once occupied the rooms in which one is standing, as well as the fact that the Hallesches Brauhaus occupies the renovated building now allowed the salacious stories of this part of the exhibit to be effectively framed. And the convivial murmur from downstairs invited the visitor to linger; this segment of the admission ticket entitled the visitor to a complementary beverage. I had a 0,2 l Hallsch and then a second and then a third along with my Braumeistergulasch and Knödel, all of which quickly helped me overcome my indignation about what Albrecht did to Schenitz. 
The Brauhaus was cheerful and warm but I have to say I wish the city had been a bit friendlier: it was their birthday, after all! There was no tourist information available in the main train station, the local transit information point couldn't give me a map of the city or an explanation of how to get to the Moritzburg using public transit, the taxi driver who took me there complained to me about the fare, and although I met a nice woman in the Brauhaus, a long chat revealed that she was actually from the Erzgebirge. Thus my visit confirmed Hans-Dietrich Genscher's famous statement about the Hallenser ("Hallenser -- das sind Menschen mit so unendlich viel Charme, den sie aber gut verstehen zu verbergen." ) None of the elusive charm of the people I encountered on the visit takes away from the fact, however, that this exhibit and the events the surrounded it prove that with a great deal of attention, it is indeed possible to create an event that attracts a number of different groups (from scholars to citizens to schoolchildren) and produces not only gratification for wider audiences but a significant scholarly result as well. 
In comparison to the "Heiliges Römisches Reich" exhibit in Magdeburg, which overwhelmed the visitor with more than could reasonably be absorbed, this exhibit used its scholarly perspective as the basis for choosing carefully among a multitude of objects to give the visitor the best selection, tell a series of stories and reproduce the early Reformation feel of certain common experiences in urban space. In comparison to the distances of the city tour and the lengthy museum elements involved in the extravagant "Kaisermacher" exhibit in Frankfurt, a visitor could traverse the Halle exhibit comfortably in a day with plenty of time left over for the creature comforts inherent in the German day excursion -- indeed, these were included in the exhibit. This was not the biggest exhibit I saw this year, but it was definitely the best.
. Compare this to the total of roughly 35,000 visitors to the much larger visit in Frankfurt before the end of the year, and it is an impressive number. Another interesting comparison: the combined Magdeburg/Berlin exhibit attracted an estimated 500,000, but at least half the visitors were school classes, or, as the Tagesspiegel charged, people who were not there voluntarily. Only approximately one-ninth of the visitors to Halle saw the exhibit via tours, which suggests a relatively small proportion of school classes.
. The last major exhibit devoted to him was held in Mainz in 1990 to commemorate his five-hundredth birthday. See the catalog: Horst Reber, ed., Albrecht von Brandenburg: Kürfurst, Erzkanzler, Kardinal (Mainz: von Zabern, 1990).
. For instance, the catalog he edited for the 2003 Dürer exhibit in Osnabrück and his published dissertation on the plans for Maximilian I's Ehrenpforte monument--Thomas Ulrich Schauerte, Die Ehrenpforte für Kaiser Maximilian I (Munich: Deutscher Kunstverlag, 2001), which was on display in Magdeburg this fall.
. The two conference volumes I have seen so far are of almost unparalleled quality for conference proceedings in the unification and execution of their themes: Andreas Tacke, ed., Kontinuität und Zäsur. Ernst von Wettin und Albrecht von Brandenburg (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2005) and Andreas Tacke, ed., "Ich armer sundiger mensch". Heiligen- und Reliquienkult am Übergang zum konfessionellen Zeitalter (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006). The latter in particular is so interdisciplinary in its focus on the display and perception of relics that not only is its relationship to the museum exhibit immediately apparent, its approach could serve as new methodology for the study of the cult of the saints. The catalog volumes are a well-illustrated, fantastic read; Schauerte prepared the catalog and Tacke edited the volume of essays: Der Kardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg. Renaissancefürst und Mäzen, 2 vols. ( Regensburg : Schnell and Steiner, 2006).
. A comparison of the strongly contrasting residences of these two rivals (Luther lived in the city's secularized Augustinian cloister) would have been worthwhile, but I had already reviewed that museum! Susan R. Boettcher, “Luther Year 2003? Thoughts on an off-season comeback,” Sixteenth Century Journal 35 (2004): pp. 795-809.
. Several years ago an excellent CD-ROM reproduction of the manuscript was produced combining images of the pages (browseable with QuickTime) with the transcription of the text produced for the twentieth-century critical edition: Haus der Bayerischen Geschichte, ed., Das Halle'sche Heiltum. Reliquienkult und Goldschmeidekunst der Frührenaissance in Deutschland, CD-ROM (Munich: Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Wissenschaft, Forschung und Kunst, 2002).
. I am reminded here of a similar project at the 1999 Johannes a Lasco anniversary exhibit at the Große Kirche, Emden, that reunited the surviving books from Erasmus's library, but both Berlin's reopening of the Bode Museum in 2006 and the Magdeburg Heiliges Römisches Reich exhibit involved reunions of single objects that had been separated by fate, war or politics. It makes for good newspaper copy. In the Halle exhibit, in light of the scarcity of surviving objects, the exhibitors included some items that bore strong similarity to the components of the Hallesches Heiltum.
. For the full details about Maurice, see the Catholic Encyclopedia s.v. " St. Maurice ," at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/10068c.htm . Maurice, by tradition a member of the Theban legion, was usually depicted as a Moor, a tradition that is drawn from the etymology of his name and which the illumination in the Hallesches Heiltumsbuch reflected, as did the famous painting, "Meeting of Saint Erasmus of Formiae and St Maurice" by Matthias Grünewald, now housed in Munich's Alte Pinakothek, which Albrecht commissioned for the Neue Stift and in which he appears as St. Erasmus. Moorish saints were often important in the early modern Mediterranean realm as cultural mechanisms of assimilation for Muslims who converted to Christianity, but Maurice was also venerated by the Ottonians (the origin of the Magdeburg patronage) and his most famous relic, a lance, sometimes said to be the spear that pierced Christ on the cross, was used in the coronation ritual of the Austro-Hungarian emperors, of whom he was also patron, until 1916.
. Since the foundation of the Neue Stift, this church was referred by locals as the "Dom" (cathedral), although technically this terminology is limited to the church that houses the seat of a bishop.
. At first this meant little change (and Georg Friedrich Händel fulfilled a stint as the Calvinist congregation's organist), but the nineteenth-century community toned down remaining signs of the Renaissance and Baroque, adding ornate calligraphies of Bible verses on the balconies.
. Schola Hungarica, conducted by László Dobszay, Der Kardinal Albrecht von Brandenburg. Liturgische Festprozessionen am Neuen Stift in Halle, Audio-CD (Naxos, 2006). This is not a perfect reconstruction, as the Bamberg manuscript (Bamberg Staatsbibliothek Msc. Lit. 119) includes only the liturgy for the regular festivals, but enough of the melody of the liturgy for the display of the relics was available to allow a reconstruction in combination with liturgical manuscripts now in Leipzig (Leipzig Thomaskirche 371) and Kassel (Landesbibliothek 2 ° Ms. Theol. 124).
. Neue Residenz gemeinnütziger e.V., which supports the residence's website at http://www.neue-residenz-halle.de/index.html .
. The third preparatory conference volume, which I have not yet seen, concerned concubinage; Andreas Tacke, ed., 'Wir wollen der Liebe Raum geben'. Konkubinate geistlicher und weltlicher Fürsten um 1500 (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2006).
. At the conclusion of my visit I was also able to verify the information given in this very important guide to the city of Halle : http://www.soko-rock.de/klo-guide/content/index.php?open=guide&action=anzeigen&klo=065 . I had a good experience there.
. The exhibit also included an extensive Rahmenprogramm with scholarly lectures, a symposium, ecumenical discussion, festive meals, a Renaissance festival and concerts.