The Conservator

After Schinkel, the responsibility for the survey of the treatment of historic buildings was given to a Conservator, nominated in 1843 by Friedrich Wilhelm IV, who was enthusiastic about the restoration of historic buildings. The first Konservator der Kunstdenkmäler (conservator of monuments of art) was Ferdinand von Quast (1807-77), an architect and historian who had studied under Schinkel. Von Quast had travelled extensively, studied classical monuments in Italy in 1838-39 and prepared a German edition of H. W. Inwood's study on the Erechtheum (1834). He defended the old town of Athens, and was shocked that old sites were used for new buildings without any consideration of their historic values. He agreed with the removal of the Venetian and

Turkish walls from the Acropolis, and supported Schinkel's plans for the royal residence as this would further enhance the value of the ancient masterpieces (von Quast, 1837/1977). Von Quast developed an early interest in historic buildings and conservation; in 1837, he drafted a 'Pro Memoria' concerning the conservation of antiquities in Prussia (von Quast, 1837/1977). He regretted the lack of proper knowledge and appreciation of historic buildings and traditional technology. He referred to England as a country where conservation of historic buildings was met with broader understanding by the public, and where historic monuments were taken care of. As Conservator he travelled extensively to report on monuments and their condition, but he also participated in international meetings to discuss questions related to architectural history and archaeology. He was involved in some restorations, e.g., the collegiate church of Gernrode, and wrote the history of Marienburg.

The tasks of the Conservator, similar to those established in France in 1830, were defined in a ministerial circular dated 24 January 1844. This aimed at improving the basis for the conservation of 'monuments of art' in public ownership, broadening knowledge of their value, as well as providing principles for their conservation and restoration. It was considered important to stop damage to historic monuments, and in this regard the concept of a monument was very broad:

There is no difference here, whatever type of construction is concerned, as long as these have some artistic or monumental significance, be they pictures, paintings, works of art, or similar; or, in the case of objects, these be royal or municipal property, or in the ownership of corporations, or given to the care of private persons under the responsibility of maintaining their status quo?2

This left out only free private property. In his task, the Conservator had to rely on local and provincial authorities when there was any need for intervention; he had to develop 'friendly relationships' with local associations, teachers, priests and other people who could influence preservation, and awaken their inter

Figure 5.13 Interior of the Stiftskirche of Gernrode restored by F. von Quast, who rediscovered earlier clerestory windows under eighteenth-century wall plaster

est in this matter. It was his responsibility to travel annually to all parts of the country, to keep himself well informed of cultural properties, to work for the completion of precise inventories according to fixed format, to report on the state of historic buildings, and to advise and comment on restorations. In special cases, the Conservator had the power to interfere with immediate effect to restrain the local authority until the decision was followed up by the ministry. He also had the responsibility of keeping the most valuable monuments, as well as those most in need of care, under special observation; once the inventory was completed, his task was to prepare a systematic plan for the execution of necessary restoration works.

Von Quast was called to Gernrode in 1858, when the repairs of the roof of the Ottonian abbey church were about to start. He made careful historical, archaeological and structural surveys of the building, prepared measured drawings, and presented a proposal for its restoration, which was approved in 1859. The abbey had been subject to changes, especially in the twelfth and sixteenth centuries, resulting in a three-nave limestone structure with apses at the east and west. The eastern choir was separated from the nave by a transept. After the Reformation, part of the convent was destroyed, and the church became a parish church with various modifications: painted decorations were removed or covered with whitewash, and windows were enlarged. The south aisle wall was modified for structural reasons, and the nave roof had a false ceiling.

The idea was to consolidate the building, and to display and restore the Ottonian structures, so far as this was possible. Changes were limited, however, and the general aspect of the building was maintained. Some criticism has been made of its having become too 'regular' (Voigtländer, 1980:26). Von Quast used the original type of limestone while it was available, then sandstone, and, in smaller repairs, cement. One of the key issues was the transept crossing, where he decided to rebuild the longitudinal arches, as well as to reopen the triforium arches. The western apse was taken down and rebuilt due to its poor condition; the south wall was freed from later reinforcements, and built to the original height; roofs were rebuilt to the Ottonian form with the oak beams exposed, and a new ceiling with decorative paintings. It was known from documents that the Ottonian building had had wall paintings although they were lost; von Quast decided to design new paintings for the main features, holding them back in a discreet manner, and giving other surfaces a 'stone grey' appearance. He also designed stained-glass windows. The 'Holy

Tomb' in the crypt, an eleventh-century imitation of Christ's tomb in the rock, was rediscovered but left exactly as found due to its religious value (Siebigk, 1867:616).33

Von Quast's purpose was to avoid 'artistic' or 'archaeological' restorations, and so-called 'purifications', which he considered destructive. Instead, he wanted to restore the building with respect for all parts of the structure and monuments of any age with artistic or historic value. Where later structures covered older material, critical judgement had to be used to decide when the older part could be restored, losing the later. Only faulty and poor parts could be removed. Improvements should be limited to the minimum and necessary, insofar as the building's safety and characteristic appearance permitted. The master builder needed, above all, respect for the original, and caution towards so-called improvements.

To work as a conservator for the whole country without proper personnel was a heavy task. Although a commission was appointed in 1853 for the investigation and safeguarding of monuments, and local correspondents were established in 1854, the commission soon came to an end due to lack of funds. Von Quast complained later that he had done all he could under the circumstances. One of the 'problems' he faced may have been his respect for historic structures, and his refusal to accept 'artistic and archaeological' restorations, which were only too common in his time. The work on inventories was continued by Georg Dehio, who produced an impressive series of volumes.

It was not until 1891 that Provincial Commissions and Provincial Conservators were appointed in Prussia to assist the Chief Conservator. Of the other German states, Bavaria had a General Inspector for Fine Arts since 1835, and a General Conservator was appointed for Monuments of Art and Antiquity in 1868. In Wurtemberg an inventory was started in 1841, and a General Conservator of Monuments was appointed in 1858. Baden had an edict regarding Roman antiquities as early as 1749, but a Conservator was appointed only in 1853, in Saxony as late as 1894. Instead, the decree of 22 January 1818 by the Grand Duke of Hesse-Darmstadt was conceptually quite advanced compared with other European legislations; historic monuments were to be protected as an expression of the former customs and the intellectual and social condition of the people.34 In most Germanic countries, protective legislation was generally formulated only in the early twentieth century.

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