The Isenheim Altarpiece
What’s this post about? On a lot of our tours we cycle to special places, visit special places, and sometimes we’re stood outside a museum, an Abbey or a Chateau and as a guide we’re asked the question “Is it worth seeing?”
On Friday afternoon on our Alsace tour, we finish in Colmar, and before heading to our hotel we go via the modest-looking Unterlinden Museum in Colmar town centre, which houses the Isenheim altarpiece. Guide books refer to it as ‘one of the three’ cultural jewels of Alsace, along with Strasbourg Cathedral and the Humanist Library in Selestat, so I think it’s worth having a look. But when people ask “Is it worth seeing?”, I don’t really know how to answer, except to repeat that its regarded as one of the 3 cultural jewels of Alsace.
From now on I can answer with a bit more conviction.
A friend of mine recommended a podcast called ‘Off Bike’. David Millar, one of Britain’s best ever cyclists, now retired, teamed up with Tim Marlow, the CEO of the Design Museum, and former Director of the Royal Academy of Arts in London, to create 4 episodes that looked at some of the cultural and artistic treasures that the Tour de France passes and ignores. In the introduction, Tim Marlow illustrates the theme of the podcast by referring to Colmar, and this is very close to home for The Chain Gang.
Tim Marlow refers to a conversation with David Millar to illustrate what the podcast is about. When David Millar was in Colmar, Tim Marlow got in touch to tell him that “One of the greatest works of art in the world, Grünewald’s Isenheim Altarpiece” is in Colmar.
Illustrating the point perfectly, David Millar, along with his Tour de France broadcasting buddy Ned Boulting, had already moved on. They never saw it.
So from now on, in Colmar on a Friday afternoon, I’ll be able to tell people that the former Director of the Royal Academy of Arts calls it “One of the greatest works of art in the world”. Pay your €8 and get in the queue!