Images of the Middle Ages

Medieval sacred architecture in Germany and France as an example of image production in heritage conservation (DFG)

The image we have of medieval sacred architecture is largely defined by the varying models of heritage preservation, which influence a building’s design according to specific ideas. This research project focuses on the systematic and comparative investigation of this “image production” in the 20th century.

By focusing exclusively on the era of Modernism, the study breaks new ground. Regarding the field’s self-perception since 1900, scientific, solely preserving and findings-oriented procedures have taken over and replaced historicism and the “creative” heritage conservation. The thesis of this project, however, argues that the goals of restorations in the 20th century were rarely made explicit in accordance with the changed doctrine. Yet, an image policy of heritage studies was pursued in an altered form, and varying and very different images of medieval sacred architecture continued to be conveyed.

The research project aims to reconstruct the different models in France and Germany, whose approaches to heritage conservation have a comparatively long institutional history and have dominated the discourse on heritage conservation for a long time. First, different restoration campaigns regarding a sample of central buildings in both countries will be reconstructed and analyzed in relation to the image production which can be traced in them. Secondly, the relationship of the different restoration practices to the respective prevailing theorems of heritage preservation as well as to the modes of presentation in popular photographs for postcards, travel and architectural guides will be examined. Finally, a comparative investigation will clarify why very different medieval images were apparently developed for long time periods in the two investigated countries.

The broad perspective applied here places the knowledge of medieval reception in Modernism on a broader foundation. In the consistent and appropriate contextualization of the conservation campaigns both in contemporary theoretical debates as well as in the changing image productions of popular print media, the project also makes an important contribution to the research field’s history: contrary to their increasingly scientific self-image, heritage studies are consistently understood as a temporally-bound cultural technique, an approach that will give new impetus to the struggling discipline. 

The poster for this research project can be found here.

Project leads

Prof. Dr. Stephan Albrecht
Chair of Art History, particularly the history of medieval art

Am Kranen 10, Room 02.01
96047 Bamberg
+49 (0)951 863-2398
E-Mail: stephan.albrecht(at)

Prof. Dr. Gerhard Vinken
Chair of Heritage Sciences

Am Zwinger 4, Room 00.26
96047 Bamberg
+49 (0)951 863-2401
E-Mail: gerhard.vinken(at)