Struggle over the library of a monastery of the Order of St. Bridget
January 20, 2017 4:31 AM   Subscribe

The struggle between an international band of medievalists and the Catholic Church over the fate of a mostly unknown Birgittine convent library established in 1491 has the outlines of a Dan Brownian thriller. Add in Vicar General Monseigneur Peter Beer, prioress Sister Apollonia Buchinger, musicologist Viveca Servatius, and exclamations like "Altomünster is the holy grail", and you would be forgiven for assuming you're reading fiction. But this is all to real. After an academic conference at the Altomünster Abbey (blogpost about it by Bevin Butler) in late 2015, the Münich Diocese forbade access to the library. Medieval Histories has more, and Anita Sauckel of Mittelalter interviewed Prof. Volker Schier about his campaign to gain access to the library and preserve it intact.
posted by Kattullus (25 comments total) 30 users marked this as a favorite
 
The AP story is written by David Rising. The AP photos are quite interesting and the captions have some additional information.
posted by Kattullus at 4:32 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


The struggle between an international band of medievalists and the Catholic Church over the fate of a mostly unknown Birgittine convent library established in 1491 has the outlines of a Dan Brownian thrilleran Umberto Eco detective novel.

FTFY
posted by sukeban at 4:39 AM on January 20, 2017 [36 favorites]


Although to be honest, after reading the links I still can't make an opinion of this. Mainly because despite understanding how you would want to keep the collection whole (and the scholars who would rather buy the "gems" rather than have access to a digitized version do look a bit mercenary), in my corner of the world there have been recent scandals dealing with works of art belonging to a closing convent that were sold away by the nuns despite being catalogued cultural items. So, yeah, it happens.
posted by sukeban at 4:48 AM on January 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


There is no collection of writings in the US Americas that is as old as this library.
posted by hippybear at 4:50 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


has the outlines of a Dan Brownian thriller

What, badly written, badly edited and highly derivative?
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:56 AM on January 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


written by random motion?
posted by thelonius at 5:00 AM on January 20, 2017 [12 favorites]


hippybear: There is no collection of writings in the US Americas that is as old as this library.

To be fair to the Americas, that's because Europeans burned most of the books produced before 1492.
posted by Kattullus at 5:07 AM on January 20, 2017 [32 favorites]


Is it wrong that the first solution I thought of was for two female art historians to take holy orders, thus preserving the nunnery AND getting to study all the material?
posted by corb at 5:46 AM on January 20, 2017 [9 favorites]


Mainly because despite understanding how you would want to keep the collection whole

It's not just the collection as a whole, any manuscripts that are sold off are at risk of being broken apart and sold off page by page by unscrupulous dealers.
posted by Hypatia at 5:58 AM on January 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


corb, there are already nuns who are art historians. One just needs to find them.
posted by Mogur at 6:07 AM on January 20, 2017 [6 favorites]


> there are already nuns who are art historians

Sister Wendy being a famous example, although she’s in her late 80s now, & mightn’t relish taking on a task like this.
posted by misteraitch at 6:15 AM on January 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Do something, Cadfael!
posted by drezdn at 6:50 AM on January 20, 2017 [8 favorites]


I'm familiar with music historians who work with materials like these antiphonaries. So, not just art historians! (ditto book historians, etc.)
posted by billcicletta at 7:16 AM on January 20, 2017


If I wasn't Jewish and in my 40's, I would be searching on how to change my name to prioress Sister Apollonia Buchinger immediately.
posted by Sophie1 at 7:41 AM on January 20, 2017 [7 favorites]


I have a small manuscript page, under preservation glass even. It's a single folio from a 15th century psalter, an 16mo, with a single, beautiful, colored initial. It was a gift, and my heart sank when I got it. I had to weigh the options: be a dick and explain why this beautiful (and no doubt expensive) gift was actually a freakin' tragedy, or accept it graciously and find something to do with it. I optioned for the latter because, honestly, the damage was done. But I probably should have went for the former because, about three years after that, I got a mounted collection of Roman coins as another gift.

Yeah, if you want to break your heart, look on ebay at antiquities for sale.
posted by eclectist at 7:58 AM on January 20, 2017 [10 favorites]


my heart aches.
posted by Annika Cicada at 9:14 AM on January 20, 2017 [1 favorite]


"You can be assured that we do not need any help from the U.S.A. to understand how to treat cultural assets of significance for Europe. We have a slightly longer history and slightly longer experience," Beer said.

Resting books with the spine upward is going to ruin the binding.
posted by BWA at 10:55 AM on January 20, 2017 [4 favorites]


Is buying Roman coins a problem? I have to admit I've kind of lusted after those myself.
posted by corb at 10:57 AM on January 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


Yeah, it kind of is
posted by Blasdelb at 2:42 PM on January 20, 2017 [3 favorites]


"Is it wrong that the first solution I thought of was for two female art historians to take holy orders, thus preserving the nunnery AND getting to study all the material?"

If this was a novel, that would be the twist ending.

I guess in the end this comes down to a dispute over trust. The scholars don't trust the Munich dioceses, and the dioceses (or at least their Vicar General) seem quite offended that the scholars think they won't take care of historical artifacts. Meanwhile, Sister Apollonia doesn't seem to trust Munich either, so she's fanned the flames (please forgive me for that) by letting everyone have a look at the stakes involved.
posted by Kevin Street at 4:02 PM on January 20, 2017 [2 favorites]


"You can be assured that we do not need any help from the U.S.A. to understand how to treat cultural assets of significance for Europe. We have a slightly longer history and slightly longer experience,"

Damn the Eurocentric asses that burned our histories then mock us for our loss. Fun fact: due to the ice ages, most of North America's human occupation is older than Sweden's.
posted by traveler_ at 7:57 PM on January 20, 2017 [5 favorites]


To be fair to the Americas, that's because Europeans burned most of the books produced before 1492.

Even if they hadn't burned the books, it would literally be impossible for there to be a collection of books in the Americas before 1492. Unless there are books written by natives to the Americas that I'm not aware of.
posted by hippybear at 8:20 AM on January 21, 2017


hippybear: the keyword here is codex, where pre-Columbian cultures are concerned. And yes, all but a precious few were destroyed by the invading Spanish.
posted by The demon that lives in the air at 8:57 AM on January 21, 2017 [10 favorites]


hippybear, it is my honest pleasure to facilitate your learning this super cool thing today!
EDIT: Jinx!
posted by Krawczak at 8:58 AM on January 21, 2017 [3 favorites]


Hey, I learned a new thing today! Thank you!
posted by hippybear at 9:11 AM on January 21, 2017 [5 favorites]


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