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Restoration uncovers art treasure in Mariendom

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In addition to the magnificent stained glass windows, the artistic mosaics in the chapel wreath behind the main altar of the Mariendom in Linz are hardly noticeable. That will change in the coming weeks and months. “We were surprised ourselves how radiant the mosaics were after the test cleaning. They easily keep up with the windows,” says the new master builder Michael Hager.

After an evaluation of the condition in the previous year, work on the mosaic pictures started on Tuesday as part of the large-scale restoration of the magnificent neo-Gothic cathedral. A thick layer of dirt sticks to them. “On the one hand, there is dirt from inside the church, for example from candle smoke,” says Susanne Beseler, who is in charge of the mosaic restoration. But moisture and air pollution, which penetrates the cathedral from outside, have also attacked the artistic representations.

Brush stroke after brush stroke

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The result: a brownish layer that covers the mosaics and dulls the colors and radiance. Beseler tackles these impurities with a brush. Each individual tessera — as the glass mosaic stones are called in technical jargon — is neatly cleaned by hand with a few brush strokes. “Thank God the condition of the mosaics is very good, there are only a few flaws and no sections that have completely come off the wall,” says restorer Beseler.

After dry cleaning with a brush, the mosaics are carefully cleaned with a damp cloth. There are eight mosaic surfaces in total, and around 160 working hours are estimated for each restoration — so Beseler and her colleague need around two weeks per picture. At the same time, the altars and walls in the chapel niches are cleaned. “Now we are restoring the first chapel. It will take a while because we have to keep checking whether our methods are the right ones. After that it should be a little faster,” says master builder Hager.

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Restorer Susanne Beseler needs around 160 hours for a picture wall.
Image: VOLKER Weihbold

“The cathedral is a total work of art”

The artistic quality of the mosaics is impressive, says Susanne Beseler: “The motifs are repeated in the windows, in the mosaics and in the altars. The cathedral is a total work of art.” When working close up, it is often difficult to see what is actually shown. “The details only become apparent when you look at it from below,” says the restorer.

The first uncovered areas already reveal radiant blue, green, red and white instead of the monotonous beige that many visitors to the Mariendom are currently familiar with. “Here great artistic quality meets craftsmanship,” says Beseler. The mosaics in the Mariendom also have a special connection to the newly renovated Parliament in Vienna: They were probably designed by the Tyrolean company that was also responsible for the motifs in the Mariendom.

The restoration of Linz Cathedral is being financed by donations from the Pro Mariendom initiative. More about this here

Source: Nachrichten

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