The Cathedral Museums, inside the UNESCO World Heritage Site in Modena are of fundamental importance as they are closely linked to the history of the cathedral. They are divided into two collections, made up of fragments of sculptures from the cathedral and earlier buildings, together with works and implements bearing witness to the vigour of the Modena church over the centuries.
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The Epigraphic Museum
The original nucleus of the Epigraphic Museum dates back to the end of the nineteenth century and comprising sculpted remains found during digging work and restoration of the cathedral. The collection includes sculptures and relief work from Roman times, mainly recycled during building of the cathedral, fragments of early medieval cathedrals, finds from the Romanesque period and ancient, medieval and modern inscriptions. The exhibition highlights the pluteuses from the early medieval cathedral, the Sarcophagus of San Geminiano, the fine series of metopes comprising eight sculptures by a maestro working in the workshop of Wiligelmo, depicting imaginary monstrous beings, together with one of the column-bearing lions from the Porta dei Principi doorway, whence it was removed and replaced with a copy after it was damaged during World War Two.
The Cathedral Museum
Inaugurated in 2000 for the Great Jubilee, it houses a valuable artistic and liturgical collection dating from the Romanesque period to the nineteenth century. This includes implements, sculptures, ancient reliquaries, clothes, paintings and codices, with which the city of Modena has, over the centuries, decorated the domus Clari Geminiani.
Among the oldest of the Cathedral’s treasures are the precious portable altar of San Geminiano (eleventh-twelfth century), the Book of the Gospels written in the scriptorium in Nonantola (late eleventh - early twelfth century) and characterised by a refined binding in silver and ivory, the Relatio, a text from the twelfth century that chronicles construction of the cathedral and the ninth-century Staurotheke with gold binding, probably from Constantinople.
One room is also dedicated to the rich heritage of the Capitular Archive, a collection of the oldest documents regarding the history of the cathedral. On display are the parchment, complete with seal, with the privilege granted to the bishop of Modena in 782 by Charlemagne, the so-called Leges salicae codex (late ninth - early tenth century), illuminated texts containing the legislative codices of five Germanic populations, among which the decrees of Charlemagne and other manuscripts, some of which finely decorated. The latter are periodically replaced by facsimiles to ensure optimum preservation of the originals).
Special mention must be made of the two large Flemish tapestries with Stories from the Genesis, part of an exceptional cycle numbering twenty pieces from the sixteenth century and used, until the 1960s, as decoration in the cathedral.