After the successful auctions at Kunsthaus Lempertz, this Monday was more about the sentimental value of some paintings or crosses. So about 1.000 pieces in St. Amption of the Virgin Mary in exchange for a donation.
The interest was great – and so was the curiosity. Early in the morning – even before Monsignor Markus Bosbach opened the doors of St. Peter's in time for the announced opening time – the couple had a special gift. By the time the church of the Amption of the Blessed Virgin Mary opened its doors, dense crowds had already formed in front of the entrance to Cologne's inner-city church on Marzellenstrabe.
The invitation of the executor of Cardinal Meisner's will to all pastoral services, the employees of the General Vicariate, but – because of the scope of the collection – ultimately also to the faithful in the parishes had ensured a surprisingly large crowd of visitors. And so the individual rows of benches quickly filled up, on which the approximately 1.000 paintings, figurines, graphics, icons, porcelain, glass and folk art objects of very different sizes were on display. After all, after just over an hour, three-quarters of all exhibits had already changed hands.
Something for the meeting room?
District Dean Guido Zimmermann wants to find a place of honor for a painting of Our Lady of Czestochowa in one of his 26 parishes. He is also very fond of a representation of the "Prague Jesulein. "I know that Cardinal Meisner revered it very much," says the pastor, explaining his choice, which is above all intended as a personal memento of the longtime archbishop of Cologne.
Pastor Michael Berning from Meerbusch chose three paintings that he simply liked, as he says: a naive painting entitled "Leichengang" (corpse walk), which reminds him of Flemish painting in the tradition of Pieter Brueghel, a church view of Greifswald, which the artist Alexander Dettmar dates to 2009, and a church interior depiction that has something of a Renaissance interior. "I don't know if that's worth anything," he says with satisfaction.
But his taste would meet these pictures. And they would also fit in a meeting room or two. They also reminded him that he had been ordained to the priesthood by Cardinal Meisner. That is the most important thing to him.
Parish priest Hans-Gunther Korr has a drawing of his Neuss parish church of St. Peter. Josef discovers and is happy about this unexpected chance find. "I wouldn't be surprised if this was given to Cardinal Meisner during one of his visits to Neuss. Now she's coming back to us," he laughs, and also takes along a small but fine woodcut depicting the Virgin Mary, which he wants to pass on to his Indian confrere, a devotee of the Virgin Mary.
Dr. Vera Wahrmann now calls a rather sweet image of Christ with a radiant wreath her own and holds an expansively large flower vase in her hand, which would fit the style of the large devotional image. The Mexican-born saint and her husband knew the deceased from a visit in 2014 to St. Pantaleon, where he celebrated a service on the occasion of the feast of St. Mary of Guadalupe. Now the couple wants to build a small home altar with their purchased treasure.
Thomas Schuld acquires a painting of the saint Sister Benedicta a cruce for the Edith Stein Archive in the Carmel in Cologne. "It is a fitting reminder. After all, Cardinal Meisner was a frequent visitor. He shared the same birthplace, Wroclaw, with the religious saint."And while a young mother with a baby carriage carries a rather childlike-looking likeness of Meisner to the cash register, which she wants to give to a priest friend – an admirer of Meisner, as she points out – an almost life-size image of the Cologne archbishop will soon find its place in the parsonage of Kurten – even if it is somewhat oversized for a corner of the Lord God's house.
It is not traded
Some choose carefully and need more time to think before deciding. Others take advantage of the opportunity, which was deliberately created for little money, and leave the church hall fully packed. Among them were representatives of the Upper Silesian Regional Museum in Ratingen and the Breslau Collection in Cologne, especially since large parts of the estate have a homeland connection to Breslau, Thuringia and Silesia. Nevertheless, the many interested parties are not interested in bargain hunting. After all, this charity flea market takes place in a sacred space. No action is taken, at best Bosbach is asked for a guideline for an appropriate donation. So it is agreed.
In general, Meisner's estate administrator is a man in demand this morning. For he knows the inventory of this campaign better than anyone else and also the quality of the individual objects, which are often of more sentimental value. After all, Bosbach had previously worked meticulously with Elke Bohme-Barz, the managing director of the Cardinal Meisner Foundation, taking piece after piece in hand, registering it, numbering it and cataloging it. For Meisner had decreed that his entire estate would benefit his foundation.
No great profit sought
"After the successful auctions in the Kunsthaus Lempertz, it is now no longer about a big profit here; rather, I am happy about every donation that is used for the heart's desire of our late former Archbishop, namely the missionary pastoral care in the Archdiocese of Cologne, but also in Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe," says Bosbach. Nevertheless, it is taking care that valuable relics are not misappropriated, but continue to find a worthy and meaningful purpose in churches, chapels or religious congregations.
"Many pieces are related to his origins and his stations in life, many others he received as gifts – especially on his pastoral journeys. Or he collected them as an art lover and connoisseur," says Bosbach, explaining the rather diverse range of works on offer.
One thing is certain at the end of this unique event: it can be considered a great success. Together with the previous auctions, some of which involved very valuable works of art that went under the hammer at Lempertz, the proceeds from the estate of Joachim Cardinal Meisner have so far generated around 1.2 million euros for the foundation named after him.