Conservation of the wall paintings in the Church of St. George

Deducing the acceptable room climate range from measuring data and data simulations.

32712_Südwand, St. Georg, Reichenau © MPA Universität Stuttgart, Zöldföldi
Investigation of pigment changes by X-ray fluorescence analysis in St. Georg, Reichenau.

The Church of St. George on Reichenau Island in Lake Constance is home to some of the most important wall paintings of the Early Middle Ages north of the Alps. The upper walls of the central nave feature a unique wall painting cycle dating back to the second half of the 10th century.

As part of a research project funded by the German Federal Environmental Foundation, the Materials Testing Institute of the University of Stuttgart and the Baden-Württemberg State Office for the Preservation of Historic Monuments together with other partners investigated the impact of the indoor climate on the wall paintings while taking the specific architectural characteristics of the church itself into account. The aim of this research was to achieve a specific level of climate stability for the long-term conservation of the wall paintings.

An analysis of the existing data revealed that the damage to the wall paintings was caused by chemical and climatic conditions as well as the physics of the building itself. Alongside mould growth and salt crystallization issues, the damage was also due in large part to the constantly recurring changes in climate as a result of weather as well as the use of the church and activities held therein.

With the help of suitable climate parameters, the project was able to successfully introduce an acceptable climate range that was optimally adapted to the respective room. This made it possible to achieve an optimum in the Church of St. George for the conservation of the church and its paintings while also minimising the risk of further damage to these priceless works of art. The group was also able to adapt these findings in order to find individualised solutions for comparable situations.

Project implementation:

MPA – Materialprüfungsanstalt Universität Stuttgart
Am Pfaffenwaldring 4
70569 Stuttgart
Telefon: 0711 | 6856 3323

Cooperation partner:
Regierungspräsidium Stuttgart
Landesamt für Denkmalpflege
Berliner Straße 12
73728 Esslingen am Neckar
Telefon: 0711 | 904 45 429

AZ 32712