Abbey Museum Musketeer stained glass

Musketeer Makeover

After completing the fundraising for the conservation of the medieval and Victorian Stained glass in the Abbey Church and a window of one of the Three Magi above the door to the Abbey Museum, focus has turned to fundraising for the conservation of smaller, but still significant, panels that are currently in the reserve collection.

The first of these is a small but beautifully made panel depicting a Musketeer. This panel dates to the 17th century and probably comes from southern Germany.  I am very happy to announce that funds have now been raised for this window’s conservation. Thank you to everyone who generously donated towards this project or attended one of our special fundraising Trivia Nights dedicated to the stained glass conservation program.

Of course, the most celebrated and romanticised musketeers in history were the famous quartet immortalised by French author Alexandre Dumas whose swashbuckling novel in 1844 was set in the dangerous times for the scheming Cardinal Richelieu and King Louis XIII.

Who were the Musketeers?

Technically, any soldiers armed with …

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Abbey Museum medieval lamentation

The ‘Lamentation of Christ’ sculpture is revealed

In July, the Museum celebrated a very special occasion with the addition of a spectacular piece to the Abbey Museum collection.  Now firmly in its final home, this sculpture of the Lamentation of Christ places the Abbey Museum as a world-leader in its collection exhibits, bringing Art that would normally only be found in much larger city-funded museums to regional Australia.   The magnificently carved limestone frieze depicting an episode from Christ’s Passion, the Lamentation, dates from the middle ages, weighs close to half a tonne and like all of the Abbey collection pieces, has an incredible story and journey to tell about how it came to it’s rightful resting place in the Abbey Museum’s Manuscript Gallery.

Rejoicing the Lamentation

From subject alone, this sculpture merits reverence as a magnificent art piece depicting the Passion of Christ.  We see the Three Marys anointing the body of the crucified Christ,  watched by two others,  Joseph of Arimathea – whose tomb Jesus’ body occupied – and Nicodemus –  a man who came down from the tree he was hiding in to follow Jesus …

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Donor King Window in Abbey Museum collection

The “Donor King” has a Name

Visitors to the Abbey Museum may have noticed a stained glass window that was once above the main door has been removed. I can assure you that this is not permanent but just part of the ongoing conservation program of our stained glass windows. This panel depicts a crowned figure holding a covered cup in one hand and a sceptre in the other.  These attributes indicate that it is a king although the identity of the figure was unknown; the catalogue simply records it as “The Donor King” .  However, during conservation of the window new evidence has come to light which is very exciting.  Research has revealed that it was probably part of a much larger window depicting the three Magi (the Three Wise Men or Kings as they are also known) from the Biblical story of the Nativity of Christ.  The window has been badly damaged and conserved a number of times during its history, and sadly the quality of the later work does no justice to the exquisite quality of the original window. Not only is …

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Union Jack flag

The Origin of the Union Jack Flag

The origin of the Union Jack flag

Whilst researching the March saints for a Tabula story, I was diverted into a story about the flag known as the Union Jack. The Union Jack consists of the flag devices of three of the four patron saints of the countries which comprise Great Britain. The feast days of two of these patron saints occur during the month of March and there is another in April. Not only is the Union Jack the official flag of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, it also appears included on 31 other flags around the world, including Australia, New Zealand and six flags of the Australian States.

The central feature of the flag is the cross of St George, patron saint of England; behind it is the cross of St Andrew representing Scotland and the cross of St Patrick representing Northern Ireland.  Unluckily for the Welsh, the fourth patron saint, St David of Wales, is not depicted on the Union Jack at all!

St David’s feast day is celebrated on 1st March.  This is considered to be …

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New Acquisition Roman Steelyard

New Addition to the Abbey Museum’s Collection

An Unusual Object in our Collection – The Roman Balance

One of the latest additions to our ever-growing collection is an unusual-looking metal device that one has to wonder about. Mind boggling – yes, but in fact this implement has a very practical application. Then, what does it do?  What we have here is a Roman Steelyard, or Roman Balance, dated between the late 2nd and 5th centuries. Although it looks like some sort of torture device, it had a very useful and celebrated function; namely for weighing trade goods.

“Is it some sort of torture device?” – Museum Staff Member.

You might now ask how people used this object.  Our balance is made of iron and features two lead weights that hang from iron bars. The balance would hang from the ceiling by the upper hook and trade goods suspended by the hooks. The large weight would slide up and down the balance bar until the bar became horizontal. The weight would be calculated by how far the weight was across the bar. Chiselled into the bar at …

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Stained Glass presentation in Abbey Church

Celebrating a Stained Glass Milestone

Invited guests – donors who had supported the program – gathered in the Abbey Church in early December to help celebrate the conclusion of a ten year project of conservation of the stained glass windows in the Church.

Stained Glass Thank You

Director of the Abbey Museum, Edith Cuffe OAM, explained the obstacles which had to be overcome in order for the conservation project to be undertaken, not least of which was the substantial fundraising effort required. The presentation was a ‘thank-you’ and acknowledgement of those who donated or assisted in other ways to raise the funds necessary for the conservation work to take place. Edith introduced guests to Gerry Cummins and Jill Stehn, the conservators who undertook this mammoth task.

Conservator’s stained glass presentation

Gerry’s presentation included a power-point showing before and after photographs of each window as it was subject to the conservator’s attention. He told how the removal of some windows was made very difficult because of the age of the glass and fragility of the …

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Favourite things of the Abbey Museum

These are a few of our favourite things

By Jan Nargar

Most of us know that the Abbey Museum has some special items in their collection – but what do you really know about it and do you have a favourite thing?

Have you ever walked through the museum and a special object has caught your eye?  What was it?  Where did it come from?  What story does it have to tell? As staff, it happens to us all the time! Not to mention the Collection Management Team that meets regularly to research and catalogue the Museum’s artefacts – there has been lots of discusion about favourite objects. Each member of the team has particular favourites. Having so many incredible artefacts in the collection we are spoiled for choice.  So, listed below are a few of our our favourite things!

Guess whose favourite thing?

A tiny Chinese snuff bottle with a painting on the inside!  Truly! A beautiful painting of a crane in a landscape scene delicately painted inside the bottle. It is in Museum Case 26. How was that …

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Cuneiform Tablet

Cuneiform Expert Visits Abbey Museum

A standing room only audience accepted the invitation to hear Professor Wayne Horowitz speak on the lost Jewish communities in ancient Babylonia on Tuesday 19 September . Professor Horowitz is a Professor of Assyriology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and was here working on the Cuneiform Project Australia and New Zealand. This project aims to identify and publish all the cuneiform artefacts in Australian and New Zealand collections. Dr Horowitz has been examining 10 such objects in the Abbey Museum’s Middle East collection.

In his presentation Professor Horowitz spoke of the commencement of the Jewish Diaspora when the population was transported to Babylonia following the sacking of Jerusalem. The Jewish people spent 2500 years in exile in Babylonia. His colleague and research assistant, Peter Zilberg, completed the evening with his talk titled “Ezekiel and the Grand Canal of Babylon”. Mr Zilberg explained how information gleaned from cuneiform tablets have added to our knowledge of the Jewish nation in captivity. In an enthusiastic and energetic presentation he showed how seemingly mundane items recorded on cuneiform tablets tied in to biblical …

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Cuneiform text

From Clay Tablets to Digital Tablets

The Reed Stylus and Clay Tablet

From clay tablets to digital tablets.  Today texting, typing, writing, memes, … there are so  many ways in which we communicate with others;  technology has opened a veritable Pandora’s box of possibilities. Communications have become shorter and more frequent, full of the expectation of an immediate response.  The result is our modern world seems to travel at break-neck speed.  It is hard to imagine what it was like at the beginning of recorded time when humankind first put pen to paper… well, actually not paper — or pen for that matter — but a reed stylus to clay tablet.

Clay Tablet with Cuneiform

As you may be aware, one of the earliest forms of writing is called Cuneiform. Cuneiform is thought to have been first developed by the Sumerians of ancient Mesopotamia c 3500 – 3000 BC. Mesopotamian scribes recorded everything from daily events such as trade records and sales dockets to astronomical happenings and political events. I was surprised to learn that some tablets inscribed with cuneiform were written in several different languages …

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Abbey Museum Collection Team

These are a few of my favourite things!

Some of our favourite things!

Ever walked through the Museum and a special object has caught your eye?  It happens with us too! The Collection Management Team meets regularly to research and catalogue the Museum’s artefacts. Each member of the team has particular favourites. Having so many incredible artefacts in the collection we are spoilt for choice, however, here are a few of our favourite things…

Museum Director, Edith Cuffe, likes the Chinese snuff bottle with an ‘inside painting’ of a crane in a landscape scene. It is in Museum Case 26. How did the artist manage to paint all that on the inside of such a small bottle?!

Also in Museum Case 26 is one of Michael Strong’s favourites, a Tang tomb model of a female flute player. Michael isn’t the only one for whom this is a favourite. Denise Crawley, who coordinates the shop, is also a fan of the lady with the flute.

Our team’s favourites!

Anne Bradley has spent countless hours investigating our collection of 43 jetons. When she needs a break from them she …

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