Fortunate circumstances led to the survival of the late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century high altar furnishings from the former Premonstratensian monastery in Altenberg on the Lahn. This special exhibition at the Städel Museum reunites various elements of this unique ensemble – now at home in notable museums and collections from St. Petersburg to New York – for the very first time since the dissolution of the convent in 1803.
The religious and artistic nucleus of the monastery was the retable, a variable construction consisting of a shrine cabinet, Madonna statue, and painted wings, which adorned the high altar from 1330. This Gothic gem is one of the earliest surviving altarpieces of the German-speaking regions. In conjunction with outstanding examples of contemporary stained glass painting, sculpture, textile art, and goldwork it offered many-faceted thematic references for contemplative viewing. This exhibition catalogue presents the fascinating harmony of the iconographic programme, and explains the function of the individual components and their meaning within this specific altarpiece design, which for the people of that time must truly have seemed like “Heaven on Display”.