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Bonn cathedral renovations: The Münster is to reopen earlier than originally planned

Bonn cathedral renovations : The Münster is to reopen earlier than originally planned

The renovation of Bonn Münster, which has been closed for three years, is proving more difficult and extensive than planned. Nevertheless, city dean Wolfgang Picken wants to reopen the basilica next year. He also has a surprise in store for future visitors.

The Bonn Münster has been closed for about three years. The basilica, which was built from the 11th century onwards on a burial ground of Christian martyrs, has had to be extensively renovated and upgraded both inside and out. The weight of the vault is driving the walls apart more and more and since the earthquake in Bonn in 1991, the pressure on the stones has increased. During an inspection of the construction site on Friday, city dean Wolfgang Picken announced that although the work was more extensive than originally expected, it is anticipated that the church will reopen for services and visits as early as next autumn. Picken will then have a surprise in store for the visitors.

For this, the plans had to be changed extensively: Whereas it was originally planned to first work on the façade stone by stone with the help of a moving scaffold and then to continue plastering and painting the walls inside, the work is now to be carried out in parallel.

Costs rise to 21 million euros

For this work, the exterior and interior of the former collegiate church will have to be completely scaffolded, which will cause additional costs, Picken concedes. "If we were to stick to the plan of only bringing the interior of the cathedral up to date once the exterior work has been completed, we would have to do without church services, baptisms or even communion celebrations in the basilica for a very long time to come". The Bonn landmark should also be ready for visits by visitors to the city as soon as possible. But before work can begin on the interior, the workers are currently strengthening the statics of the basilica with so-called anchors. The longest of these measures about 25 meters.

Picken is extremely happy that the Archbishopric of Cologne has now released an additional 800,000 euros. This would bring the construction costs to around 21 million euros. However, the additional funds are not only being used for the changed planning: the renovation of the façade is proving more difficult and extensive than initially assumed. "Previous renovation of the joints with an unsuitable mortar damaged both the joints and the façade stones much more than was initially apparent," explains Monika Skudelny from the Ägidius Strack project management office. As a result, a large number of the façade stones – mainly the original ones from the rather coarse-pored Roman tuff – have to be replaced or supplemented. The jointing of the façade will be almost completely renewed.

Restoration of the works of art more extensive than expected

In addition, the conservation and restoration of the cathedral's furnishings, including works of art and altars, is also more extensive than expected. For example, the altar of the patron saint of the city, which is now placed next to the main entrance, has to be moved. "There is no alternative to this," says Picken. The altar will be relocated to opposite the entrance. However, because it weighs between eight and ten tonnes, it is essential to anchor a steel mat into the basilica wall to which its weight will be attached. To cover the additional costs, however, the community will also receive support from the Münster Construction Association, the city dean is pleased to report.

As a surprise for visitors to the cathedral, Picken has announced the almost completed restoration of the extraordinary mosaic and wall paintings in the apse. These date from 1892/93 and overlay a painting from the Middle Ages, which is unknown today, but was probably also a mosaic. Soot from the candles and briquette stoves, with which the apse was heated in earlier times, had affected the mosaic and the paintings over the decades, Picken reports. The mosaic, which can now be admired again in radiant colours, was once made in Italy and transported to Bonn on sheets of paper; some of the paper scraps are still in existence. In the centre of the mosaic, Christ is depicted as the absolute ruler. (Original text, Lisa Inhoffen, translation John Chandler)