Gothic Museum

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Mayer Collection - Close to heaven 

Kuno and Helga Mayer from Götzis in Vorarlberg have entrusted the Admont Benedictines with a significant part of their collection of medieval art in the form of a donation and permanent loans. This rescued cultural heritage was entrusted to ensure its permanent accessibility for the public and future generations. Implemented as a permanent exhibition titled "CLOSE TO HEAVEN - Mayer Collection" on the ground floor of the museum complex at Admont Abbey. A collection of 85 exhibits ranging from the late 14th to the early 16th century. Officially opened on May 1, 2017, the presentation of the Mayer Collection in the Abbey Museum is a reflection of a private collection of art-historical relevance and a manifestation of the thoughts, feelings, and actions of an extraordinary collector couple with a focus on Gothic art treasures.

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In Admont Abbey, the Mayer couple found a partner who provided the financial, spatial and personnel framework and generously gave them the freedom to realise their exhibition concept, which had been thought through in many layers and put down on paper in detail, in a way that could be experienced and explored by visitors. Their overall concept included the conversion of the hall on the ground floor, which is divided by 12 pillars, the production of structural style elements, the purchase of special display cases, the compositional and visual communication of the content and the overall text, including audio guides and printed works such as the richly illustrated catalogue for the permanent exhibition. 

On the occasion of the opening of the permanent exhibition in 2017, Abbot Gerhard Hafner formulated memorable words for the future: "With this generous and magnanimous donation, Mr and Mrs Mayer will inscribe themselves in the long-term historical memory of Admont Abbey. Both of them have collected these Gothic works of art with great love and dedication - we will honour this immeasurable treasure with great care and responsibility". The decision in favour of this value partnership was made in 2014 and proved to be a "fortunate coincidence", as it was possible to close the historical Gothic gap in the abbey's treasury, which had suffered severe losses due to two drastic events: the so-called "great abbey fire" in 1856 and the emergency sales from the precious collection due to the economic crisis in the late 1920s and 1930s.

Digital experience

In a jointly written letter to visitors to the permanent exhibition, Kuno and Helga Mayer postulated their personal "connection with the forms of expression and the expressive power" of the predominantly sacred sculptures, reliefs and panel paintings as "lovely and delicate" and "comforting and uplifting". "Beautiful Madonnas" from around 1400, depictions of saints and scenes from the Bible reveal the different styles and working methods of the sculptors and the respective workshops, depending on the region and time. In 2019, "Österreichische Post AG" honoured the cultural and art-historical significance of the permanent exhibition with a special stamp entitled "Mayer Gothic Collection at Admont Abbey Museum" (issue of 360,000, face value 135 cents). Moreover, on behalf of Pope Francis, Kuno Mayer was awarded the Order of the Knights of St Sylvester in April 2018. This honour also highlights the significance of the Mayer Collection for cultural memory - significantly in the spirit of Pope Francis. This "Gothic hotspot" is sought out and appreciated by numerous visitors to the Abbey Museum every year.

Briefly after the opening of the Gothic permanent exhibition in 2017, Helga Mayer fell seriously ill and passed away on October 10 of the same year. On July 12, 2022, Kuno Mayer passed away after a prolonged illness, reuniting his wife Helga with the assurance that the artworks they held dear had found a home in the Abbey Museum Admont and were made permanently accessible to the public. Additional details about their shared journey for Gothic art "eternally" can be read in the museum newsletter for 2023, titled "In Memoriam Kuno and Helga Mayer," on pages 14-17 (available for download in PDF format, see the website 

Also documented is their initial spark for a Habsburg exhibition at the Abbey Museum, focusing on Maximilian I. This expanded during the planning phases in 2021 into the special exhibition "WE FRIEDRICH III. & MAXIMILIAN I. – Their World and Their Time", incorporating loans from the secular part of the Mayer Collection in the context of 46 lending institutions. In 2022, a transformation of this special exhibition took place with the subtitle "CULTURAL HERITAGE IN MOTION!" (Refer to Museum Newsletter 2021: "Friedrich III. and His Son Maximilian I. – Special Exhibition 2021", pp. 10-15 | Museum Newsletter 2022: "We Friedrich III. & Maximilian I. – Cultural Heritage in Motion!" pp. 22-25 | Museum Newsletter 2023: "Friedrich III. & Maximilian I. – 2021/2022 in Review", pp. 18-21.)

We at Admont Abbey are very grateful that Mr Kuno Mayer has made the "Mayer Gothic Collection" possible: He is now not only close to heaven, but as our Christian faith promises, in heaven! We will honour the memory of DI Kuno Mayer. RIP


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The Gothic exhibition catalogue is available at the museum shop for €12.90