Edited by Marielle Martiniani-Reber
This is the first time an exhibition has gathered together 600 pieces of Byzantine art, covering a large proportion of public and private collections in Switzerland, reminding us of the strong link between this country and the huge empire of the East. Remarkably, a large number of coins and objects have been found on Swiss soil by chance or as a result of archaeological excavations. Moreover, since the Middle Ages, the churches in the cantons that remained Catholic have preserved in their treasuries a large number of Byzantine remains often associated with reliquaries, whereas reformed cantons collected important manuscripts on scientific topics. Jean de Raguse (1395—1443) amassed a considerable collection of manuscripts before the Reformation when he was sent to Constantinople to prepare the ground for the Council of Basel (1431). The Book of the Prefect, compiled by Emperor Leo VI the Wise (866—912), of which the only Byzantine manuscript to have survived is one of the exhibits, provides details of all the crafts and professions followed in Byzantium and lists the regulations concerning the various guilds.
Byzance en Suisse outlines the involvement of the Swiss in Byzantine matters, covering the Fossati brothers, architects who worked on St. Sophia, the photographer Fred Boissonnas, who took pictures of St. Demetrius in Salonika, and the scholars Jules Nicole, Max van Berchem, and his daughter Marguerite. A number of topics (religious affairs, the relationship between the various communities, spiritual matters, etc.) are addressed and illustrated. An array of works, manuscripts, and incunabula show how much the preservation and editing of Byzantine manuscripts and even the promotion of the Greek language in Switzerland owe to the great humanists of the past, such as Erasmus, as a well as to the Reformation.
Marielle Martiniani-Reber obtained her doctorate in the History of Art at the University of Lyon II and is an expert in Byzantine textiles. She is head curator of Byzantine and post-Byzantine collections in the Musées d’Art et d’Histoire, Geneva.