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Exhibitions and Projects
10 October 2019 – 5 January 2020

The Great City of Ljubljana

and Its First Bishop Sigismund Lamberg (1420–1488)

With the bull which Pope Pius II, the famous humanist Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini, issued on September 6, 1462, Ljubljana was promoted to a bishopric city and the Church of St. Nicholas to a cathedral. The statement says the townspeople excel in looking with particular favour upon the Church and himself and therefore deserve that he, Pope Pius II, honours them with his fatherly affection and promotes the city by bestowing upon it an honourable title: “The town of Ljubljana … is a convenient place for believers, appropriate and excellent by virtue, knowledge, power and the like; therefore, we solemnly declare that Ljubljana is now and forever to be considered a city…” With this promotion the Pope gave the Canon Law validity to the Emperor’s foundation of Ljubljana Diocese.

Ljubljana had been a reputable town even earlier, and its geographical position in the centre of the territory between the border of Friuli, dominated by the Republic of Venice, and the external border of the Patriarchate of Aquileia on the Drava River made it a suitable place for the seat of a new diocese. When within the framework of his church policy in Inner Austria Emperor Frederick III founded Ljubljana Diocese on December 6, 1461, he appointed Sigismund Lamberg, court chaplain of the Emperor, as the first bishop, and Pius II announced his election as the first Bishop of Ljubljana on June 6, 1463. It should not be ignored that Pope Pius II, Emperor Frederick III and Sigismund Lamberg, Bishop of Ljubljana, had been friends for long years, so that both the Pope and the Emperor knew very well to whom they had entrusted the bishopric see. The image of the Pope and the Emperor seated together on the same throne is a symbolic illustration of this connection; this picture stands at the end of the description of the “Sixth Age” in the history of the world in the Book of Chronicles by Hartmann Schedel, published in 1493.

While the catalogue names some artists who lived in Ljubljana at the time, the exhibition points out Ljubljana as a city which lacked neither books nor eager readers. One of these was also the later Pope Pius II, who had enjoyed staying in Ljubljana because he had had access to good study libraries and the necessary peace. But more important and more lasting used to be the communitas litterarum, the community of the learned, which was possible in Ljubljana because of its connections with the monasteries that had their palaces in the city: Stična/Sittich had its palace at least from 1315 onwards, the Bistra/Freudenthal Chartherhouse at least from 1317 onwards, next to the Church of St. Nicholas stood the house of the Abbot of Gornji Grad/Obernburg from 1260 on; the one of the Cistercian monastery of Kostanjevica/Landstrass from 1344 on. Mention should also be made of the monastery of the Friars Minor of St. Francis, the city monasteries of the Augustinians and the Teutonic Knights who did not need their own palaces but were present in the cultural and intellectual life. These palaces had their role in political and cultural life, superiors of the monasteries brought with them to Ljubljana books from a variety of fields necessary for work and in-depth study. An idea of the libraries stock can be obtained from a receipt for fifty-five books borrowed by Sigismund Lamberg from the Ljubljana Chapter, but it is very likely these were not all from the shelves there.

Manuscripts and incunabula in the exhibition that represent monastery libraries of Stična, Kostanjevica, Bistra and Gornji Grad as well as those of Ljubljana – the diocesan library, the ones of the Teutonic Knights and the monastery of Friars Minor of St. Francis – illustrate the needs of the time. The contents are varied; on the one hand, there are the dialogues of the late-Antiquity philosopher Boethius, and on the other hand, the more humorous and naughty dialogues of Petrarca, then works on theology and law, biblical books, prayer books, liturgical books and the ones regulating the life of the respective Order. Selected have been the manuscripts that reveal different stylistic currents, from the Paris University milieu to the Court in Vienna, from the Avignon aesthetics to the south German Renaissance. In the surveys of 15th century Slovenia no mention has yet been made of the manuscripts originating from the monastery of the Teutonic Knights: they are important not because of outstanding artistic quality but because of the names of the copyists who lived in Ljubljana and wrote down fragments of the life of their time.

A rounded-up group consists of five incunabula whose illuminations represent north Italian works which do not lack Renaissance details with memories of Antiquity and contemporary Venetian art. The central place among the exhibits is held by an incunabulum printed on parchment: the personal Breviary of Sigismund Lamberg. It was printed in 1481 in Venice and was illuminated by one of the painters there, the Pico Master (the Master of the Pico Pliny) resp. Bartolomeo del Tintore. In the lower margin of the first page the Coronation of the Virgin is depicted in the centre, on the left kneels Sigismund Lamberg, on the right are his insignia. The kneeling Mary is turned towards Christ, asking him for benevolence towards Bishop Lamberg. Her hair is grey and as the Wisdom proper she is meaningfully related to God’s wisdom. The shape of the crown which God the Father and Christ are holding above her head corresponds to the crowns that can be seen on the heads of the Habsburg family rulers. The iconography of the tiny scene is very rich and suggests that the Breviary might have been a gift from Emperor Frederick III to his friend Sigismund Lamberg, Bishop of Ljubljana.

  • Exhibition opening (video)
    Exhibition opening (video)

Project partner
Narodna in univerzitetna knjižnica

Authors of the exhibition
France Martin Dolinar, Nataša Golob

Coordinators of the project
Katra Meke, Mateja Breščak

Exhibition set-up and graphic design
Ranko Novak

Conservation−restoration for the exhibition
Tina Buh (NG), Center za konzerviranje in restavriranje (NUK), Jasna Malešič (NUK), Miha Pirnat ml. (NG)

Works of art were loaned by
The Archives of the Republic of Slovenia
Franciscan Monastery Ljubljana Center
Archdiocese of Ljubljana
Archdiocesan Archive of Ljubljana
National Gallery of Slovenia
National and University Library
Slovenian Academy of Sciences and Arts
Private collection

10 October 2019 – 5 January 2020
National Gallery of Slovenia
Prešernova 24
1000 Ljubljana