Art and History Museum Fribourg

Permanent exhibition

Sculpture and painting in Fribourg, 12th–15th centuries

Because Fribourg chose to remain faithful to the Catholic Church throughout the Reformation, it managed to preserve intact more works of medieval art than many other Swiss regions. Unlike its sister cities of Berne, Zurich, Basel or Geneva, Fribourg was not a victim of iconoclasm.

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Sculpture and painting in Fribourg around 1500

The tanneries and cloth manufacturers had led the medieval city of Fribourg to an economic boom in the fifteenth century. But it is only at the turn of the century, by the time this golden age was over, that the city attained its full artistic bloom. The local painter Hans Fries created artworks that are found today in the most important European museums.

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Sculpture and painting in Fribourg – the masters of the 16th century

Late Gothic sculptures, inspired mainly by Swabia and southern Germany, are the pride of the Museum’s collection. Fribourg managed to save a great number of statues from the sixteenth century, either carved in wood or sculpted in stone, as it was unaffected by the Reformation and consequent iconoclasm.

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Enlightenment and comfort

In the eighteenth century, under the reign of Louis XV, the influence of French culture reached its highest point. Versailles and Paris set the tone throughout Europe. Fribourg also tried to keep up with the latest French trends and to copy the models, albeit with smaller means.

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Stained-glass gallery

After 1450/60, a fundamental change affected the formal conception of stained glass. Until then stained-glass windows were generally monumental and fully coloured, such as those in Romont Collegiate Church (the Annunciation and the Virgin in Glory, 1459/60) and in the choir at Berne Cathedral (1441/55).

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Baroque piety

While the Reformation was spreading in the 1520’s, the government of Fribourg decided to remain faithful to the Roman Catholic Church. From then on, the city and the state of Fribourg formed a Catholic enclave surrounded by Protestant territories. This religious quarrel, which lasted for more than a century, weighed heavily on Fribourg’s politics.

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Profession of arms

After the Middle Ages and until the fall of the French monarchy in 1792, soldiering was a major economic activity in Fribourg, absorbing a significant part of the male population who were unemployed in their home land through service abroad («mercenary service»).

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Guilds and Corporations

During the Ancien Régime, Fribourg’s urban economy was controlled by the guilds presented here. Their impact was less significant in the farming and cattle industry, where Gruyere cheese above all was significant as the main export product.

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Urban representation in a rural canton

The nineteenth century underwent great political, economic and cultural changes. During Napoleon’s Mediation period (1803–1815), Fribourg was twice recognized as the capital of Switzerland (1803, 1809), then progressively lost its influence in the Confederation.

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Images and emblems of a city-state

Both Gregor Sickinger’s and Martin Martini’s plans of the city have imprinted the image of Fribourg in the minds of the inhabitants of the city as surely as a seal stamped on wax or that of a die struck on a coin. These two images identify both the city and the state, and give shape and form to these two historically inseparable realities.

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Medieval and baroque stone sculpture

During the Middle Ages and at the beginning of the modern age, statues literally peopled public areas, streets, squares, churches and official buildings. Generally carved in stone, these works were placed outdoors or integrated into the architecture, also inside buildings. In Fribourg, sandstone provided the sculptors with a pleasant and fairly soft material, which was easy to work with.

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Archaeology in Fribourg – jewellery and devotional objects

Founded in 1828, the «Société des Antiques» initiated excavations on the territory of Fribourg during the nineteenth century. The canton’s collection was built through the donations of the society’s members who bequeathed a number of prehistoric objects and lacustrine artefacts, as well as objects from the Iron Age, Classical Rome and items from the early Middle Ages.

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The art of the goldsmith in Fribourg

Liturgical utensils or luxury items… The art of the goldsmith, or the art of working with precious metals, is traditionally divided into two main categories, sacred and secular.
Because Fribourg remained Catholic amid newly Protestant territories in the wake of the Reformation, it required a significant amount of sacral items to supply its churches, chapels and monasteries.

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Marcello (Adèle d’Affry, Duchess of Castiglione Colonna)

Adèle d’Affry was born in Fribourg in 1836. Following her childhood in southern France and in her family’s castle in Givisiez, she began her artistic career by taking lessons with the Swiss sculptor Heinrich Max Imhof in Rome. At the age of 19, she married Carlo Colonna, Duke of Castiglione, in Rome. Their union was short-lived for Carlo Colonna died in Paris only a few months after their wedding.

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19th- and 20th-century art in Fribourg

In the era of Georges Python (see p. 45) close to the end of the nineteenth century, Fribourg experienced a degree of cultural opening towards the outside world with the construction of the University (1889), and the «Technicum» (1895), but also the commission in 1895 for the cathedral’s new stained-glass windows by Józef Mehoffer, an as yet unknown young Polish artist.

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