The concept of the Bode museum, which was originally called the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, can be traced back to Crown Princess Victoria of Prussia, who published her ideas in a memorandum in 1883. It was Wilhelm von Bode who finally put these ground-breaking ideas into practice. In 1897, construction work began at the northern tip of the Museum Island on a museum that was to be devoted to the Renaissance, designed by Eberhard von Ihne.
Once completed, the museum would bear the name of Empress Victoria’s deceased husband, Kaiser (Emperor) Friedrich, who died in 1888. When the Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum opened in 1904, painting and sculpture, considered at the time as the ‘high arts’, were for the first time presented side by side on an equal footing with each other - a presentation strategy that differed radically from that of traditional museums.
The building was badly damaged in the Second World War and underwent several stages of restoration between 1948 and 1986. In 1956 it was renamed the Bode-Museum after its first director and spiritual founder. German reunification also brought with it the merging of the previously separated collections under the auspices of the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin, with the decision soon being taken for the museum to undergo an extensive overhaul to bring it up to date with modern museum and conservation requirements.
After extensive renovation work, the museum building reopened to the public in autumn 2006. Contrary to the original concept, it now principally houses the Sculpture Collection and the Museum of Byzantine Art. The display of sculptures is enriched by some 150 works from the collection of the Gemäldegalerie, which has been located at the Kulturforum near Potsdamer Platz since 1998. With its collection of coins and medals, the Münzkabinett is also housed at the Bode-Museum, where it presents its chronicle of human history forged in metal.
Sculpture Collection and Museum of Byzantine Art features an array of spell-binding masterpieces such as Donatello’s ‘Pazzi Madonna’ and Antonio Canova’s ‘Dancer’ and several examples of important German sculpture by Tilman Riemenschneider and Ignaz Günther. The collection of ancient sculpture is one of the largest in the world. It has its roots in the Brandenburg-Prussian royal Kunstkammer or ‘cabinet of art’. The efforts of two men, Gustav Friedrich Waagen and especially Wilhelm von Bode, resulted in the significant development of the collection in the 19th and early 20th century through the acquisition of great numbers of sculptures mainly of Italian and German origin. In the building that rises up from the Spree like a moated palace, the collection was presented in a startlingly innovative fashion that broke with traditional museum practice at the time. Combined with historical architectural elements, the works of art were displayed in surroundings that were supposed to convey the spirit of the age in which they were created and thus ‘heighten’ their visual impact.
The museum’s department of Byzantine art boasts first-class holdings of late-antique and Byzantine works of art ranging from the 3rd to 15th century. Nearly all the works originate from the ancient Mediterranean region, with particular emphasis on pre-Christian and Christian sarcophagi from Rome, figurative and ornamental sculpture from the Eastern Roman Empire, exquisite ivory carvings and mosaic icons, as well as everyday and religious objects from post-pharaonic Egypt.
With over half a million objects, Berlin’s Münzkabinett (Numismatic Collection) is one of the most important numismatic collections in the world. Alongside coins and medals, the collection also contains non-numismatic forms of money, seals, tokens, and jetons as well as minting tools. Spread over four large cabinets on the second floor containing 4000 coins and medals, the exhibition in the Bode-Museum presents a history of humankind in metal, from the beginnings of coinage in the 7th century BC to the euro coins of the present day. All exhibits can also be viewed in the online interactive catalogue, where they are described in more detail. Further treasures in the collection currently not on view in exhibitions are available for scientific research in the study room on the Bode-Museum’s lower floor, where the numismatic special library can also be used.References:
The Erfurt Synagogue was built c. 1094. It is thought to be the oldest synagogue building still standing in Europe. Thanks to the extensive preservation of the original structure, it has a special place in the history of art and architecture and is among the most impressive and highly rated architectural monuments in Erfurt and Thuringia. The synagogue was constructed during the Middle Ages on the via regia, one of the major European trade routes, at the heart of the historical old quarter very close to the Merchants Bridge and the town hall. Many parts of the structure still remain today, including all four thick outer walls, the Romanesque gemel window, the Gothic rose window and the entrance to the synagogue room.
After extensive restoration, the building was reopened in 2009. On display in the exhibition rooms is an collection of medieval treasures discovered during archaeological excavations. This includes 3,140 silver coins, 14 silver ingots, approx. 6,000 works of goldsmithery from the 13th and 14th centuries and an intricately worked wedding ring of the period, of which only two others are known to exist anywhere in the world. A mikveh (Jewish bath) has been excavated close by (13th/14th century). The Old Synagogue, the Small Synagogue and two Jewish cemeteries together form a network of historical buildings and sites which vividly portray the role of Jewish life in the history of Erfurt.