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Monday: Lucerne

Published on 03 April 2014
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Monday, September 24th: Old Books, Modern Art, Baroque Ceilings, and Wonderful Music


In the Congress Programme, the Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of Switzerland (VEBUKU) promised real “Swissness”. What does it mean? Where we going to discover it today?

In the morning we saw amazing books. The Central & University Library of Lucerne owns marvellous collections of manuscripts and early printings as well as the estates of scholars, artists, printers and politicians who played an important role in the cultural history of Switzerland. Library director Ulrich Niederer and Peter Kamber, curator of the department of early printing and manuscripts, prepared three exhibitions in which they gave an overview over the rich history of printing in Switzerland. 

After a lovely promenade to the River Reuss across its wooden bridge we had lunch at a Baroque guildhouse. These guildhouses or “Zunfthäuser” are typical for Switzerland as they show a special part of Swiss history. All professions had their own guilds and guildhouses, which today have very often turned into restaurants with typical Swiss food. We had lunch at the Zunftrestaurant Pfistern, Lucerne’s only guildhouse, where the millers, bakers and confectioners once congregated.

Modern art in the afternoon: The Rosengart Collection was the private property of the art dealer Siegfried Rosengart and his daughter Angela who opened the museum to the public in 1992. We were honoured with a charming welcome speech by Angela Rosengart who told us how her father met Pablo Picasso in 1914, how she built up the famous gallery together with her father and how she finally turned her private collection into a public museum. “All these pictures are my children”, she said. We saw paintings and drawings by Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, Chagall, Kandinsky, Léger, Matisse, Miró, Modigliani, Monet, Pissarro, Renoir, Signac, and Vuillard. The focus of the collection lies on Picasso and Paul Klee. The Rosengart Foundation owns more than 300 works by these two artists alone.

Finally a church in the mountains: The pilgrimage church in Hergiswald is a fine example of early baroque ecclesiastic architecture. It was consecrated in 1662 and is the best known Loreto shrine in Switzerland. The ceiling of the church and so-called “Bilderhimmel von Hergiswald” is decorated with 324 Marian emblems; the altars are staged in a rather theatrical way and the chapel hosts the beautiful black Loreto Madonna. The small church, beautifully located in the loneliness of the Swiss mountains, is an amazing place. We walked around looking at the ceiling and admiring the wonderful emblems, figures and altars. Our visit was crowned by a “Concert Spirituel” with music from around the year 1650, the time in which the church was constructed. Truly, a magic moment.

It was wonderful day, we saw magnificent books and manuscripts, the crème de la crème of modern art, and one of the most beautiful churches in a magnificent landscape. It was a real taste of “Swissness”, and we were eager to see more of it tomorrow.

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