Earlier this year, the Getty Conservation Institute coorganized an international symposium dedicated to advances in art historical and art conservation research related to the newly conserved and restored Last Judgment mosaic of St. Vitus Cathedral in Prague. The symposium—held June 12-15, 2001, and attended by almost 100 conservators, art historians, cultural heritage specialists, and conservation scientists—was hosted by the partners of the mosaic conservation project: the Office of the President of the Czech Republic, the Prague Castle Administration, and the GCI.

conservation image

The symposium took place in the Renaissance ballroom of Prague Castle, with participants from Austria, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Switzerland, and the United States. The main goal of the symposium was to review the art conservation, scientific, and art historical research conducted during the mosaic's conservation and restoration (which lasted from 1992 to 2000), as well as research related to The Last Judgment mosaic conducted independently around the world. The symposium program provided an opportunity for a vigorous exchange of information between art historians and art conservation specialists.

The art historical lectures covered a broad spectrum of topics, including the iconography of The Last Judgment mosaic; the architectural concept of the Golden Gate of St. Vitus Cathedral; the relationship between the mosaic and Bohemian illuminated manuscripts and panel paintings; and a comparison of The Last Judgment mosaic with other medieval mosaics and objects in Europe.

Art conservation and scientific lectures focused on the history of past conservation treatments of the mosaic; scientific research conducted during the conservation project; environmental studies in the vicinity of the mosaic; development and testing of the protective coating for the mosaic; cleaning of surface corrosion products prior to protective coating application; the conservation treatment itself; conservation documentation during the project; the post-treatment monitoring of the conservation treatment; and maintenance of the mosaic.

The symposium participants also had a chance to inspect and study the painted copy of the mosaic produced prior to the detachment of the mosaic in the 1880s. The electronic form of the conservation documentation was also demonstrated.

During a summary session of the symposium, the discussion covered the current state of knowledge on different aspects of the mosaic, as well as existing gaps in crucial knowledge and the directions for the future research needed to fill these gaps.

A field trip during the symposium introduced participants to St. Vitus Cathedral and its treasures, as well as to other major conservation efforts at Prague Castle.