A Quick Look at The Basel Historical Museum
Origins of the Basel Historical Museum
The origins of the Basel Historical Museum dates back to the 16th century with the “Wunderkammer”, also called the Cabinet of Curiosities. Owned by the Amerbach family, they had a large collection of extraordinary items. In the 17th century, the City of Basel decided to purchase the collection, and opened it up to the public in 1671. Together with objects from other collections, the Basel Historical Museum officially opened in 1894, and became one of the largest and most important museums in Switzerland, and a national heritage.
The Historical Museum covers an area of 6,200 square meters and is located at four different sites: the Barfüsserkirche, the Haus zum Kirschgarten, the Musikmuseum, the Coach and Carriage. The main building is the Barfüsserkirche, otherwise known as the Barefoot Church. Built between 1253 and 1256, this Late Gothic church belonged to, as the name suggests, to the Franciscan Order, who walked around the church without any shoes. It was the first monastery church, which unfortunately burned down in 1298.
With the support of the Bishop of Basel, the Late Gothic Barfüsserkirche was rebuilt in the style of a mendicant church. Old parts from the previous Barfüsserkirche were integrated into the new building.
During the Reformation in 1529, the church was looted and partially demolished. This resulted in the stained-glass windows and the rood screen being destroyed and abandonment of the church. In 1882, the church was supposed to be demolished, but the Grand Council decided to preserve and to renew it.
Today, the museum hosts the largest and most complete collection of the Upper Rhine. This collection includes items from the Late Middle Ages, the Renaissance, and the Baroque Period, as well as testaments of culture and religion from the Roman Empire. This collection also includes handcrafted items, as well as everyday objects and figurative art from those times.
The main attractions of the museum include the Schatzkammer of the Basel Cathedral, the original decorative pillars of Basel’s fountains, tapestries from Basel and Strasbourg (Allegories of Love, noblemen and ladies, and “wild men” out hunting), and the fragments of Basel’s Dance of Death. The golden vessels and crosses are highly impressive, along with the altars and the ecclesiastical graphic works, the estate of Erasmus of Rotterdam, and many glass paintings. In some of the cabinets, ancient coin collections and curiosities from the Amerbach and Faesch family collections that date back to the 16th and 17th centuries are available for viewing.