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The Upper Rhine Valley in Germany’s south-west, straddling the borders of France and Switzerland, constitutes one of Europe’s most vibrant cultural and artistic arteries since the Middle Ages. The cathedrals of Basel, Freiburg and Strasbourg bear witness to the Upper Rhine Valley as an architectural melting pot absorbing both German and French influences. During the 15th and 16th-centuries the Upper Rhine region experienced a true Golden Age. Powerful civic communities created an intellectual atmosphere in which artistry, ingenuity, and craftsmanship could thrive: Martin Schongauer, who raised engraving from a minor craft to a major art form, ran his workshop in Colmar. One of the most influential sculptors in the late 15th-century, Nicolas Gerhaert, was a citizen of Strasbourg. Hans Baldung Grien, an eccentric artist fascinated with witchcraft and superstition, pursued his craft in Strasbourg and Freiburg, and not to forget, Hans Holbein the Younger, who spent his formative early years in Basel. Graphic arts and book printing flourished in the spiritual centres of humanist learning along the Rhine. At the waning of the Middle Ages these techniques become catalytic for the reformation that transforms the Upper Rhine region into a hotbed of religious turmoil and anxiety. This new study sour will explore the blossoming culture of the Upper Rhine region from Romanesque to Renaissance, embedded in the landscape between the Black Forest and the River Plain.
Take a morning train from London St. Pancras to Strasbourg via Paris. Transfer by coach to Freiburg and our four-star Hotel Victoria followed by a communal dinner.
In the morning we enjoy a leisurely walk through the historic centre of Freiburg including an extended visit to the minster and its many treasures, including altarpieces by Hans Holbein the Younger and Hans Baldung Grien. The nearby Augustine Museum allows detailed studies of the minster’s sculpture and stained glass. In the afternoon the coach takes us to Breisach and Niederrotweil where the ecstatic sculptures of two magnificent wooden carved altarpieces by the Master HL whose ecstatic sculptures let us feel something of the turmoil and turbulence of the early 16th century.
Today takes us on a full-day coach excursion to Basel. The Kunstmuseum offers an amazing wealth of 16th-century painting including, of course, seminal works by Hans Holbein the Younger, but also by Mattis Grünewald. A private view of some extraordinary prints will intensify this experience. The minster in Basel is one of the three grand cathedrals in this programme. The study of its architecture and sculpture illuminates the close contacts between the Upper Rhenish and French stone masons.
Today we have a full-day coach excursion to Colmar. The day is dedicated to the painters Martin Schongauer and Mattis Grünewald. The Isenheim altarpiece is spectacularly presented in the Musée d’Unterlinden after recent cleaning as well as paintings and prints by Schongauer. His Madonna of the Rose Garden in the Dominican Church is a particular highlight in this master’s career.
In the morning we return to Strasbourg for an extended visit to the cathedral, an influential building for the development of Gothic architecture in the German-speaking lands. Together with stained glass in the cathedral of Freiburg, the Strasbourg windows are among the most important in this region. Special access is also granted to some chapels where sculptures, by Nikolaus Gerhaerts of Leyden, for example, can be studied. On our way back to Freiburg, we stop by the pilgrimage church of Lautenbach in Renchtal where stained glass windows by the local star glass maker, Peter Hemmel von Andlau, and another wooden carved altarpiece, this time fully polychromed, are lesser-known highlight on the Upper Rhine.
For our final day, we transfer to Strasbourg, where we will visit the Musée l’Œuvre Notre-Dame to study the seminal early Gothic sculpture of Strasbourg cathedral and to deepen our understanding of the late Gothic sculptor Nikolaus Gerhaerts of Leyden. After lunch, the coach will take us to the train station for a mid-afternoon train back to London St Pancras (via Paris).