Alsace-Lorraine Sights

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Musée d'Unterlinden

Musée d'Unterlinden Review

The cultural highlight of Colmar is the Musée d'Unterlinden, once a medieval Dominican convent and hotbed of Rhenish mysticism. Its star attraction is one of the greatest altarpieces of the 16th century, the Retable d'Issenheim (1512–16), by Matthias Grünewald, which is majestically displayed in the convent's Gothic chapel. Originally painted for the convent at Issenheim, 22 km (14 mi) south of Colmar, the multi-panel work is either the last gasp of medievalism or a breathtaking preview of modernism and all its neuroses. Framed with two-sided wings that unfold to reveal the Crucifixion and Incarnation, the masterpiece includes depictions of the Annunciation, the Resurrection, and scenes from the life of St. Anthony, including a Temptation involving monsters that even outdo those of Hieronymous Bosch. Replete with raw realism (note the chamber pots, boil-covered bellies, and dirty linen), Grünewald's altarpiece was believed to have miraculous healing powers over ergotism: widespread in the Middle Ages, this malady was produced by the ingestion of fungus-ridden grains and caused its victims—many of whom were being nursed at the Issenheim convent—to experience delusional, nearly hallucinogenic fantasies. Other treasures can be found around the enchanting 13th-century cloister, including arms and armor. Upstairs are fine regional furnishings and a collection of Rhine Valley paintings from the Renaissance, including Martin Schongauer's opulent 1470 altarpiece painted for Jean d'Orlier. There is a collection of contemporary and modern art as well; however, it will be closed to the public until an ongoing renovation project is completed in mid 2014.

    Contact Information

  • Address: 1 rue Unterlinden, Colmar, 68000 | Map It
  • Phone: 03–89–20–15–50
  • Cost: €8
  • Hours: May–Oct., daily 9–6; Nov.–Apr., Wed.–Mon. 9–noon and 2–5
  • Website:
  • Location: Colmar
Updated: 02-22-2013

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