The United Cathedral Donors of Merseburg and Naumburg reacted with incomprehension to a possible withdrawal of the World Heritage title for Naumburg Cathedral. The Marian altar created by Lukas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) for the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral was created for the liturgical service of Naumburg Cathedral long before the emergence of monument preservation authorities, said a foundation spokeswoman on Friday in Naumburg.
The now restored altarpiece is used for worship, ecumenical devotions and numerous other liturgical activities.
At the same time, the foundation emphasized that decisions about the World Heritage title are made solely by the World Heritage Committee. In March, the foundation announced in writing to the UNESCO World Heritage Center in Paris that it was planning to erect the altarpiece for a limited period of three years. The foundation has only known about the report prepared by the International Council for the Preservation of Monuments (Icomos) for UNESCO since the beginning of July.
The object of the dispute is the re-erected Marian altar in the west choir of the cathedral, parts of which date from 1519. Almost 500 years after the loss of the depiction of the Virgin Mary in the middle of Cranach’s work of art in 1541, the two original altar wings have now been supplemented by a new middle section and a base.
The new picture comes from the Leipzig artist Michael Triegel. Last weekend the altar in the cathedral was inaugurated as part of an ecumenical vespers. The west choir of the cathedral has thus regained its liturgical center. According to the spokeswoman for the cathedral founders, it is the community that determines how the cathedral is used, and not the monument protection.
According to Icomos, the altar disturbs the visual axis of the donor figures. It is therefore said that the withdrawal of the title for the cathedral must be discussed.
Here, monument protection only focuses on tourism, but not on the lively church community, said the regional bishop of the Halle-Wittenberg provost district, Johann Schneider, on Friday. In addition, the debate would be based on a vote by Icomos, which was not even preceded by a decision by the Unesco Commission.
Schneider also emphasized that the western choir was the original site of the medieval work of art before its partial destruction in the 16th century. This means that the cathedral could not have received the title if the altar had not been destroyed 500 years ago, according to Schneider.
Schneider further pointed out that Icomos had already been against the award of the World Heritage title in 2018, but the World Heritage Committee had not followed the concerns. “It may also be about revenge,” said the regional bishop.