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The Rhine: The biography of a European river explored in exhibition at the Bundeskunsthalle
Carl Schütz, The Rolling Mill at Lendersdorf, 1838. Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren © Leopold-Hoesch-Museum & Papiermuseum Düren. Photo: Peter Hinschläger.


BONN.- The Rhine is one of the world’s busiest waterways. For thousands of years it has carried not only coal, metal ores, building material and people, but also luxury goods and art treasures, weapons, ideas, fairy tales and myths through half of Europe. Its course is lined by imposing cities, monasteries and cathedrals as well as by conurbations and industrial zones. Frontier and nexus in equal measure, it continues to mark the people that have settled on its banks.

«The whole history of Europe lies in this river (...)» Victor Hugo, The Rhine, (Letter XIV), 1838

Since Roman times, the Rhine has served Germania and Gaul, Switzerland and Burgundy, Germany and France, Belgium and Holland as gateway, stronghold, border, bridge and ford. It has been regulated, straightened, polluted, fought over, conquered and occupied.

The exhibition follows the course of the Rhine from its sources to the RhineMeuse-Scheldt delta. It looks at cities, sites and regions along the river to shed light on many of the momentous and often dramatic events that punctuate more than 2000 years of cultural history, among them the Roman period, the building of the great Gothic cathedrals, Rhine romanticism, wars as well as the Bonn Republic and the European Union, both of which were founded on the banks of the Rhine.

The river presents its biography as the history of European integration, and the exhibition heeds the cultural and political message of cross-border cooperation between the riparian states of Switzerland, Austria, Liechtenstein, Germany, France and the Netherlands. Never before has a biographical exhibition been devoted to the Rhine. Divided into thirteen thematic chapters, it traces the life of the river from prehistory to the present through more than three hundred exhibits.

An exhibition of the Bundeskunsthalle in cooperation with the LVRLandesMuseum Bonn





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