Current Exhibits

A selection of our current exhibits

  • Herrengrund receptacles - Rare treasures

    Several of the famous Herrengrund copper receptacles are on show in the cabinet of mountain curiosities at the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum.

    Made from cement copper, a by-product of copper extraction from copper-weak ore, these rare treasures are named after Špania Dolina (‘Herrengrund’ in German), a few kilometres north of Banská Bystrica in the Slovak Ore Mountains.

    It was rather by accident that the occurrence of cementation was discovered here in a local copper mine in 1605. If iron pieces are laid in mountain water rich in copper sulfate, basic copper can be removed thanks to ion exchange. At the time this was considered a miracle and the resulting cement copper was made into an array of receptacles by regional silver and coppersmiths before being fire-gilt, often engraved and sometimes decorated with little silver mining symbols.


    Today Herrengrund copper receptacles are rare and sought-after historic mining treasures.

  • Processional silver cross

    The cross shown here is silver with hallmarks from 1805 or 1809. Stamp marks on metalwork objects usually certified their precious metal content. Further stamps had to do with legal stipulations.

    The cross has an eight-piece foot with a double hallmark in the rhombus containing a large ‘C’s and another with an ‘8’, denoting 8-Lot silver. In addition, there is a stamp with crossed keys. At the foot of the cross is an inscription: ‘1470’ in Gothic numerals.

    On the front of the cross, the ends of the top half branch out into trefoils. Trefoils are a common element of the late Romanesque and Gothic style and consist of three, outward-pointing circular arcs with the same radii as inscribed in a circle.

    Left and right can be found the single letters ‘F’ and ‘H’ (probably the owner’s initials). At the top is the inscription ‘IH. CROS’, the abbreviation for ‘Jesus Christ’. The inscription ‘INRI’ (‘Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews’) can be found above a relic window in the shape of a Teutonic Order cross. The trefoil on the lower end is decorated with a black, wolf-like animal in a blazon. The ring at the top end once served to attach a securing tape to ensure the cross did not fall during prayer processions.

    The reverse shows an engraving of St. Christopher with the Infant Jesus and has a removable piece of the True Cross under clear quartz along with the coat of arms of an unknown bishop.

    The inscription ‘receptacle containing the confirmation from Rome of the authenticity of this piece of the True Cross’ can be found on the bottom plate. This was the certificate of authenticity of a relic issued by a bishop. The foot of the cross is hollow, presumably it once held the now-lost certificate. The processional cross comes from the Margarete Sperl collection. It was a gift from His Magnificence Günther Georg Bauer, privy councillor of Salzburg.

  • Cobalt and cobalt blue glass

    From the beginning of the 16th century until the end of the 18th century, Leogang was famous throughout Europe for its abundance of cobalt and nickel ores.

    From the mid-16th century, cobalt ores were of particular importance. In blue colouring works’, safflorite was first produced by heating cobalt ore. This served as the raw material for the production of smalt, a powdery blue glass pigment. Since both safflorite and smalt are fireproof, they were used for colouring glass, porcelain, ceramics and oil paints.

    Coloured Venetian glass was seen as a special luxury in the German-speaking countries of Europe from the mid-15th century. German merchants such as the Welser and Fugger families had already founded the Fondaco dei Tedeschi (‘the Germans’ warehouse’) in Venice in 1225. Situated on the Canale Grande right next to the famous Rialto Bridge, the building became the trading centre for luxury export goods from Venice to the German-speaking countries.

    As the use of safflorite and smalt for colouring glass increased, cobalt from Salzburg became an indispensable raw material for the production of luxury Venetian glass from the mid-16th century.

    Its extraction and use in glassware is mentioned in Georg Agricola’s De re metallica Libri XII from 1556, a masterpiece of mining literature which can also be admired at the Leogang Mining and Gothic Museum.

    There was an unprecedented increase in the use of blue in painting too. From as early as the 12th century, what was at first a dark and lacklustre colour was redefined as the symbol of Heaven and the virginity of the Blessed Mother. Glassmakers and illuminators strove to reconcile this new kind of blue with church architects’ altered perception of light adopted from theologians. The radiance of cobalt blue oil paint opened up a completely new set of possibilities in the visual arts.

    Today, smalt, or cobalt blue glass powder, is mostly used for restoring old masterpieces.

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