Sunday, 22 March 2020

More medieval Vatican chess

The Vatican library hold an interesting medieval manuscript MS Reg. Lat. 430 that partly concerns chess, or to be more precise the morality of chess. It is a mid 15th century illustrated copy of the book 'De moribus hominum et de officiis nobilium super ludo scaccorum' (On the customs of men and their noble actions with regard to the game of chess). The book was written by the Dominican monk Jacobus (or Jacopo) Cessolis (1275-1322) and became a medieval bestseller. Many copies were made, and it was even translated into French, English, German, Dutch, and Middle Scots, among others. At the end of the middle ages and early renaissance the book was also printed, making it a true bestseller in the modern sense (For instance it was the second book to be printed in the English language; William Caxton printed an English translation of a French translation of the Ludus scaccorum in 1474).

The Ludus scaccorum is divided into books, and in turn in chapters. The first book touches on the origins of chess and the reasons for its invention; the next two books explain how the pieces represent different ranks of society. The different social classes are then made the subject of anecdotes and illustrations. The fourth book concerns the game mechanics with the actual moves of the chess pieces on the board. These rules are in turn allegorized to illustrate a moral. For example, when a pawn becomes a queen, the fact that many great rulers had humble origins is illustrated.

 
 The chess board with its pieces on the board and next to it. MS reg. Lat. 430, folio 95r, Vatican Library, Rome, Italy.

What makes this particular Vatican chess morale book intersting is that three (more or less) different sets of chess pieces are depicted. I had been looking for examples of medieval chess sets which I could reproduce for a fellow re-enactment group (het woud der verwachting). They currently have borrowed one of our chess sets, but wanted to have their own (courier) chess set. I found a reference to this particular book on a chess website that discussed the position of the pieces on the chess board depicted in this manuscript. One of the chess sets also shows the people they represent in their period clothing - precisely in the style of the period of het woud der verwachting, the early 15th century. This made one of these sets the obvious choice to reconstruct.


The first set


The first set is found in the second and third book and describes the different chess pieces and their social ranks. It starts with the five chess pieces on the first row: the king, the queen, the alphinus (originally 'elephant' or bishop, now judge in the Ludus scaccorum), the knight, and the rook (representing vicars and legates). In the book, each piece is described in terms of its clothing, its symbols of power, the moral significance of those symbols, and the way they must behave in society.


Left: King, folio 74v,  Right:  Queen,  folio 75v. Both chess pieces have a characteristic ring and a crown at the top of a long stalk.

Left: Judge sitting in a chair with a fixed canopy, folio 77v. The chess piece itself looks very strange, as if it is warped. However, considering that this judge used to be an alfil or elephant, which was represented as a game piece with two tusks, this chess piece makes sense. Right: If you create 2 tusks by removing a part of a turned chess piece, and display you chess piece like the dark one, it will look similar to the one depicted in the manuscript.

Left:  Knight, folio 78v. Right: Rook, represented as a legate on a horse, folio 81v.

The third book follows with the eight pawns, each representing a particular group of commoners depicted with their different associated crafts. The second pawn described is of particular interest. At first, he is called a blacksmith (shown by the thongs), however his two other tools are a bit unlogical for a smith: an axe and a trowel. These belong to a carpenter/woodworker and a mason, respectively, as is also explained later in the text of the book. All three crafts together are involved in building. And the patron saint of architects and builders is of course our Apostle Thomas.

On this second pawn from the printed English edition of 1474 by William Caxton:

The second pawn that stondeth tofore the knyght on the right syde of the kyng hath the forme and fygure of a man as a smyth and that is reson. For hit apperteyneth to the knyghtes to have bridellys, sadellis, spores, and many other thynges maad by the handes of smythes, and ought to holde an hamer in his right hond, and in his lift hande a squyer. And he ought to have on his gyrdel a trowel, for by this is signefyed alle maner of werkmen as goldsmythes, marchallis, smythes of alle forges, forgers and makers of money. And al maner of smythes ben signefyed by the martel or hamer. The carpenters ben signefyed by the dolabre or squyer. And by the trowel we understonde al masons and kervers of stones, tylers, and al those that make howses, castels, and towres.

   And unto al thyse crafty men hit aperteyneth that they be trewe, wyse, and stronge. And hit is nede that they have in hemself fayth and loyaulté. For unto the goldsmythes behoveth golde and sylver, and alle other metallys, yren and steel, to other. And unto the carpentiers and masons ben put to theyr edefyces the bodyes and goodes of the peple. And also men put in the handes of the maroners body and goodes of the peple. And in the garde and sewerté of them, men put body and sowle in the parilles of the see. And therfore ought they to be trewe unto whom men commytte suche grete charge and so grete thynges upon her fayth and truste.


(The full text on the smith/carpenter/mason is given at the end of this post)

Pawns. Left: Labourer folio 84v and Right: member of the Builders (Thomas) guild, folio 85v.

Pawns. Left: Pawn with attributes of notaries, advocates, scribes, and drapers or clothmakers, folio 86v. Right: pawn with attributes of merchants and money-changers, folio  88r.

Pawns. Left: pawn with attributes of  physicians and apothecaries, folio 89v. Right: pawn with attributes of a taverner, hosteller or wine master, folio 91r.

Pawns. Left: Pawn as a tower, town or cellar keeper, folio 92v. Right: Pawn as a ribault, gambler and courier, folio  93v.

The second set

The second set is shown on a chess board (see image above) and resembles those of the first set. However, as the pieces are much smaller, any details are lacking and it is not always clear at first sight which chess piece is which. Also the people from the chess site had some problems identifying the pieces, but actually it is quite simple. They already found out that the pieces on the board resembled those shown later in the manuscript. What they neglected were the pieces present next to the board, as well as the chess rules for medieval chess. This way one can eliminate the possibilities for those that are unclear. The fact that indeed there is an actual chess game shown on the board, and the chess pieces of second set are correctly depicted (even if they look strange at first), makes it likely that the illustrator made the illuminations after a real chess set (his own or that from the person who ordered the book) and/or was a chess player himself.
The player on the right is moving a pawn. I have shown the most likely positions of the pieces on (and next of) the board, but there are also other possibilities for the pawn that is played.

 
Left: a closer detail of the board on folio 95r. Right: My interpretation on the situation on the board, the arrow shows the movement of the pawn.

The third set


The third chess set in the manuscript is found in the forth book. It is different and does not resemble the previous two. The chess pieces shown are flattened, a bit like the modern chess schemes, although they are well decorated with lines, curves and dots.

 
King, folio 96r, Queen folio 97r.

Bishop, folio 98r, Knight, folio 98v.


Rook, folio 98v, Pawn, folio 99r.

A next post will continue with the construction of the 'Vatican' Cessolis courier chess set, based on the second chess set, as this is the most detailed one. The courier set does of course have three other chess pieces: the fool, the counsellor and the courier. I had to design these pieces myself, so that they would fit in with the rest.  

Another Cessolis chess book


Most Cessolis chess morale books do not contain actual chess pieces. Also this French translation of the Cessolis book 'Jeu des échecs moralisé', made between 1350-1360 in France does not contain actual chess pieces (The manuscript now resides in the Morgan Library, New York, NY, USA as MS G. 52). However,  it has very beautifully brownish-grisaille illustrations of the chess society classes in their contemporary clothing (the clothing of the St. Thomasguild period).

Folio 1r shows all the people depicting the chess pieces. Jean de Vignay, wearing a cross-inscribed garment of a Hospitaler, seated on bench, holding a knife in his left hand and a pen in his right hand to open book on lectern (judge/elephant chess piece). Seated around him in a circle are a crowned queen seated on a sella curulis decorated with animal heads and feet, and with a dog seated on her lap (queen chess piece); a crowned king, holding a sceptre (queen chess piece); a cardinal, holding the ties of his hat in right hand; a bishop, wearing mitre and holding a crozier held in right hand (rook/legate chess piece), seated beside two men, including one holding gloves in right hand; a falconer with a falcon cap in his right wrist; a man with a sword sheathed at waist, facing away; a goldsmith seated on a round chair with a hammer raised in right hand above an object held on anvil; a hooded man digging with spade; and two men, wearing loin cloths, gnawing on bones, with one holding another bone and the other an animal head (all pawns). Only the knight chess piece seems to be missing.












 

Folio 27r, showing a knight sitting on a bench and pointing with his right hand. Before him stands the smith annex mason annex carpenter, holding a hammer in his right hand and an axe in his left. A trowel is tucked in his belt.



Sources:

Carolus chesswebsite. 1273 De Ludus Scaccorum - Cessolis. Available at: 
https://sites.google.com/site/caroluschess/medieval-european-literature/my-reading-list/cessolis 
Williams Caxton, 1474. The Game and Playe of the Chesse. Available at: 
https://d.lib.rochester.edu/teams/publication/adams-caxton-game-and-playe-of-the-chesse 





Complete Caxton text on the second pawn


The second chappytre of the thyrd tractate treteth of the forme and maner of the second pawne and of the maner of a smyth.     

The second pawn that stondeth tofore the knyght on the right syde of the kyng hath the forme and fygure of a man as a smyth and that is reson. For hit apperteyneth to the knyghtes to have bridellys, sadellis, spores, and many other thynges maad by the handes of smythes, and ought to holde an hamer in his right hond, and in his lift hande a squyer. And he ought to have on his gyrdel a trowel, for by this is signefyed alle maner of werkmen as goldsmythes, marchallis, smythes of alle forges, forgers and makers of money. And al maner of smythes ben signefyed by the martel or hamer. The carpenters ben signefyed by the dolabre or squyer. And by the trowel we understonde al masons and kervers of stones, tylers, and al those that make howses, castels, and towres.
   And unto al thyse crafty men hit aperteyneth that they be trewe, wyse, and stronge. And hit is nede that they have in hemself fayth and loyaulté. For unto the goldsmythes behoveth golde and sylver, and alle other metallys, yren and steel, to other. And unto the carpentiers and masons ben put to theyr edefyces the bodyes and goodes of the peple. And also men put in the handes of the maroners body and goodes of the peple. And in the garde and sewerté of them, men put body and sowle in the parilles of the see. And therfore ought they to be trewe unto whom men commytte suche grete charge and so grete thynges upon her fayth and truste.

   And therfore sayth the phylosopher: “He that leseth his fayth and beleve may lose no gretter ne more thynge." And fayth is a soverayn good and cometh of the good wylle of the herte and of his mynde, and for no necessyté wyl deceyve no man, and is not corrupt for no mede.
   Valerius rehercith that Fabius had receyved of Hanybal certeyn prysoners that he helde of the Romayns for a certeyn somme of money, whiche he promysed to paye to the sayd Hanybal. And whan he cam unto the senatours of Rome and desyred to have the money lente for hem, they answerd that they wold not paye nor lene. And than Fabius sent his sone to Rome and made hym to selle hys heritage and patrymonye, and sent the money that he receyvyd therof unto Hanybal, and had lever and lovyd better to be poure in his contréy of heritage than of beleve and fayth. But in thyse dayes it were grete folye to have suche affyaunce in moche peple but yf they had ben prevyd afore. For oftentymes men truste in them by whom they ben deceyvyd at theyr nede.
   And it is to wete that these crafty men and werkmen ben soveraynly proffytable unto the world. And wythout artificers and werkmen, the world myght not be governed. And knowe thou verily that alle tho thynges that ben engendrid on the erthe and on the see ben maad and formed for to do proffyt unto the lignage of man, for man was formed for to have generacion that the men myght helpe and proffyt eche other. And here in ought we to folowe nature, for she sheweth to us that we shold do comyn proffyt, one to another. And the first fondement of justyce is that no man shold noye ne greve other, but that they ought do the comen proffyt. For men say in reproche, “That I see of thyn, I hope hit shal be myn." But who is he in thyse dayes that entendeth more to the comyn proffyt than to his owne? Certeynly none. But alwey a man ought to have drede and fere of his owne hows whan he seeth his neyghbour’s hows afyre. And therfore ought men gladly helpe the comyn prouffyt, for men otherwhyle sette not by a lytyl fyre and myght quenche hit in the begynnyng that afterward maketh a grete blasygng fire. 

   And fortune hath of nothyng so grete plesure as for to torne and werke alwey. And nature is so noble a thyng that whereas she is, she wyl susteyne and kepe. But thys rewle of nature hath faylled longe tyme.
   How wel that the decree saith that alle the thynges that been ayenst the lawe of nature ought to be taken awey and put aparte. And he sayth tofore in the eighth distinccion that the ryght lawe of nature defferenceth ofte tymes fro custom and statutes establisshyd. For by lawe of nature al thyng ought to be comyn to every man. And thys lawe was of olde tyme. And men wene yet specially that the Trojans kept this lawe, and we rede that the multitude of the Trojans was one herte and one sowle. And verayly we fynde that in tyme passid the philosophres dide the same.
   And also, it is to be supposid that suche as have theyr goodes comune and not propre is most acceptable to God. For ellis wold not thyse religyous men as monkes, freres, chanons, observauntes, and al other avowe hem and kepe the wylful poverté that they ben professyd to? For in trouth I have myself ben conversaunt in a religious hows of Whyt Freres at Gaunt, whiche have al thyng in comyn among them, and not one richer than another, insomoche that yf a man gaf to a frere three pence or four pence to praye for hym in his masse, as sone as the masse is don, he delyveryeth hit to his overest or procuratour, in whiche hows ben many vertuous and devout freris. And yf that lyf were not the best and the most holyest, Holy Chirche wold never suffre hit in religyon.
   And accordyng therto, we rede in Plato, whiche sayth that the cyté is wel and justly governed and ordeyned in the which no man may say by right, by custome, ne by ordenaunce, “Thys is myn." But I say to thee certeynly that sythen this custome came forth to say “This is myn, and this is thyn," no man thought to preferre the comyn prouffyt so moche as his owne.
   And al werkmen ought to be wyse and wel advysed so that they have none envye ne none evyll suspecion one to another. For God wyl that our humayn nature be covetous of two thynges, that is of religyon and of wysedom. But in this caas ben somme often tymes deceyved. For they take often tymes religyon and leve wysedom, and they take wysedom and refuse religion. And none may be veray and trewe wythout other. For it apperteyneth not to a wyse man to do onythyng that he may repente hym of hit, and he ought to do nothyng ayenst his wylle but to do al thyng nobly, meurely, fermely, and honestly. And yf he have envye upon ony, hit is folye, for he on whom he hath envye is more honest and of more havoyr than he whiche is so envyous. For a man may have none envye on another, but bycause he is more fortunat and hath more grace than hymself. For envye is a sorowe of corage that cometh of this ordenaunce of the prouffyt of another man.
   And knowe thou verily that he that is ful of bounté shal never have envye of another. But the envyous man seeth and thynketh alwey that every man is more noble and more fortunat that hymself, and saith alwey to hymself, “That man wynneth more than I!" and “Myn neyghbours have more plenté of bestes!" and “Her thynges multeplye more than myn!" And therfore thou oughtest knowe that envye is the most grettest dedely synne that is, for she tormenteth hym that hath her within hym wythout tormentyng or doyng ony harme to hym on whom he hath envye.
   And an envyous man hath no vertu in hymself, for he corrumpeth hymself, for as moche as he hateth alwey the welthe and vertues of other. And thus ought they to kepe them that they take none evyl suspecion. For a man naturelly, whan his affeccion hath suspecion in ony man that he weneth that he doth, hit semeth to hym veryly that it is don.
   And it is an evyl thyng for a man to have suspecion on hymself. For we rede that Dyonyse of Zecyle, a tyraunt, was so suspecious that he had so grete fere and drede. For as moche as he was hated of alle men, that he put his frendes out of theyr offyces that they had and put other straungers in their places for to kepe his body, and chese suche as were right cruel and felons. And for fere and doubte of the barbours, he made his doughters to lerne shave and kembe. And whan they were grete, he wold not they shold use ony yron to be occupyed by them but to brenne and senge his heeris, and menaced them and durst not truste in them. And in like wyse they had none affyaunce in hym. And also, he did do envyronne the place where he lay wyth grete dyches and brode lyke a castel. And he entrid by a drawe bridge, whiche closid after hym. And his knyghtes laye wythout wyth his gardes, whiche watched and kept straytly thys forteresse. And whan Plato sawe thys said Dionyse, Kyng of Zecille, thus envyroned and sette about wyth gardes and watchemen for the cause of his suspescion, sayd to hym openly tofore alle men, “Kynge, why hast thou don so moche evyl and harme that thee behoveth to be kept wyth so moche peple? And therfore I say that it apperteyneth not to ony man that wylle truly behave hymself in his werkes to be suspecious."
   And also, they ought to be stronge and seure in theyr werkys. And specially they that ben maysters and maronners on the see. For yf they be tumerous and ferdful, they shold make aferde them that ben in theyr shippis that knowe not the parilles. And so hit myght happen that by that drede and fere, al men shold leve theyr labour, and so they myght be perisshed and dispeyrid in theyr corages. For a shyppe is soon perisshed and lost by a litil tempest whan the governour faylleth to governe his shyppe for drede and can geve no counceyl to other. Thenne it is no mervaylle though they be aferde that ben in his governaunce. And therfore ought to be in them strengthe, force, and corage, and [they] ought to considere the paryls that myght falle. And the governour specially ought not to doubte. And yf hyt happyn that ony parril falle, he ought to promyse to the other good hoop. And hit aperteyneth wel that a man of good and hardy corage be sette in that office, in suche wyse that he have ferme and seure mynde ayenst the parylles that oft tymes happen in the see. And wyth this ought the maronners have good and ferme creaunce and beleve in God, and to be of good recomforte and of fayr langage unto them that he governeth in suche parellys.
   And thys suffyseth to you as touchyng the labourers.

 

Sunday, 8 March 2020

Medieval Vatican chess pieces

The Vatican musea in Rome are in my opinion a bit overrated as a place that you must see; it is rather overcrowded. One of the surprizing things that were on display were a few medieval chess pieces made from bone. These chess pieces were excavated from the catacombs of San Sebastiano at the Via Appia Antica. The catacombs were in use since the second century AD. The chess pieces were dated between 7th-10th century, which would make them one of the earliest European chess pieces known. However, comparing these chess pieces which similar archeological chess finds, make it more likely that they are from the 11th-12th century (see the comprehensive list by Goret et al., 2009). All pieces are made from bone with carved decorations. Some of the chess pieces were misnamed in my opinion.




The catacombs of San Sebastiano at the Via Appia.

From left to right: King, Queen, Queen, Rook and part of the Knight. 
In the background a part of an 16th century games box can be seen.

 From left to right: Rook, Knight, Elephant, Elephant and small Elephant

Left: King, measures 4.8 x 4.5 cm, inv. nr. MV_62179_0_0. Right: Rook, measures 3.8 x 4.6 cm, inv. nr. MV_62182_0_0. Images from Vactican musea online collection.

Left: Queen, measures 4.2 x 4.6 cm, inv. nr. MV_62180_0_0. Right: Queen (though the vatican says rook), measures 4.0 x 3.9 cm, inv. nr. MV_62181_0_0. Images from Vactican musea online collection.

Left: Knight, measures 4.5 x 3.4 cm, inv. nr. MV_62183_0_0. Right: Knight (though the vatican says pawn), measures 4.4 x 3.5 cm, inv. nr. MV_62184_0_0. Images from Vactican musea online collection.

Left: Elephant (bishop), measures 4.0 x 4.5 cm, inv. nr. MV_62185_0_0. Right: Elephant (though the vatican says pawn), measures 3.8 x 2.3 cm, inv. nr. MV_62186_0_0. Images from Vactican musea online collection.

Left: King or Pawn (the vatican says pawn), measures 2.6 x 2.3 cm, inv. nr. MV_62623_0_0. It is not clear if this is from the same site as the chess pieces shown above. Right: Bishop, chess piece of UK origin, made from ivory, end of 12th-start13th century, 9.5 x 5.9 x 3.6 cm. Images from Vactican musea online collection.

Left: small King or pawn. Right: King, Queen, Queen and Rook.

Left: Queen and Rook. Right: Knight and three Elephants.

 
From left to right: Queen, Rook, Knight, and Elephant (3x).

Also on display a 16th century games box from Germany or the Netherlands. The boards are fro backgammon, chess and nine-men-morris. The engraved edges show various characters, ideal and caricatured heads, and hunting scenes. Closed measures: 38.3 x 38.9 x 2.8 cm; open: 38.3 x 77.7 x 5.1 cm. Image from Vactican musea online collection.

Sources used:

  • J-F. Goret, M. Talon and J-H. Ivinec, 2009. Le jeu d'echecs de Noyon dans sons contexte archeologique et historique. Revue Archeologique de Picardie 2009: 79-119.
  • M. Grandet and J-F. Goret, 2012. Echecs et trictrac. Fabrication et usages des jeux de tables au moyen age. Exhibition catalogue Chateau de Mayenne, 23 June - 18 November 2012. Edition Errance, Paris, France. 160 pp. ISBN 978-2-87772-503-3. 

Saturday, 22 February 2020

The romanesque chests in Sion, Switzerland

The medieval chests room at Musée d'histoire du Valais , Sion
A few things make the collection of chests at the Musèe d'histoire du Valais, in Sion, Switzerland, quite exceptional. Very old and very well preserved, these  "coffres" were made in XII-XIII centuries (the age has been determined mainly by dendrochronology and radiocarbon methods) and, since the construction of the Valère Basilica (XIV-XVth), they have been used as church furnishing.
The six chests on display are part of a much larger group (about twenty, including a few dug out from logs), most of which built for the same purpose: storage of liturgical objects, cloths, books, documents, valuables. Their history is well described in the book "Coffres et coffrets du moyen age", by Claude Veuillet and Corinne Charles,2012 (two volumes), published by Musées cantonaux du Valais, Sion, ISBN 978-2-88426-070-1.




We are going to examine here some details showing how these chests are made, how the parts are joined together,  and take a look to the ironware.

First, the so called "Coffre Ave Maria", shown in foreground at the top of this page, and in detail below.

A rich architectural ornamentation and high-relief carving are distinctive of this chest.

The four sides and the lid are made of single walnut boards.
Measurements : cm 102(H)x206(W)x67(D).
The 25mm thick front (horizontal) board is pinned into the legs by a tenon/tongue (single rabbet) and mortise/groove (in the leg). This is possible because the leg is much thicker than the front board, as the drawing below shows :

The front-left corner viewn in section from above. Outside, the leg and the panels are flush each other. Note that the big nails are just "covers".




The bottom is housed in a groove, all around the perimeter :

Bottom. View from below. Looks like a one-piece board. The groove runs all around the perimeter; legs are also grooved. The iron strap is a later addition. Two reinforcement straps were also added in the front, and removed during the restoration in recent years. 


  
The beautifully carved legs are left unfinished in the back side.


View from the back. Two hinges are present.
The lid and the locking system.





















A frame is nailed all around the lid.
"AVE MARIA GRACIA PLENA" - The purpose of the other letters (AB-CD-O(?)E) is unknown.

Chisels, knives and gouges. These toolmarks (after 800 years !) help figure out how the chip carving has been made.


The second chest is totally different :




This is made from softwood. Very long, 331 cm x 104(H) x 89,5(D), it'a double chest, with two separate lids and six legs. The ornamentation is similar in style to the "coffre Ave Maria" (arches and columns), but it is obtained by a second layer superimposed on the one below. The joinery is similar to all the other chests: tongue and groove.


The bottom is nailed to the sides. Only the end grain sides (short sides of the bottom) are housed in grooves .


One of the four hinges and, below, a view of the back.



Third: the "Coffre aux gueules de félin". Cat's (or feline's) heads are sculpded in the columns at the base of the legs, hence the name. Unfortunately this picture suffers from bad lighting (and other defects), but gives you the idea:


This chest is taller than the others: 121(H) x 212(L) x 99(D).

Made of larch (legs)  and spruce (the rest). All the four legs are sculpted in this case, and carved decorations can be seen in the four sides. No side is left rough. The lid is a totally different type, compared to the previous two:

Two strong side-battens (carved) hold together the planks of the lid...



... and provide hinging by two wooden pins. Note that the back, pictured here, is also carved, and colored.


The four perimetral panels are joined to the legs, but this time in recessed position, not flush.

Fourth: "Coffre aux graffiti":
 
A mixture of experimental/imaginative carving has been carried out here. The wood is swiss pine (Pinus cembra), a favourite of sculptors of all ages for its fine texture and its nice natural shine.

Some more photos and mixed details:

A few small boxes (coffrets) are also on display (Through a glass). Above : XV century, northern France .

A different type of strap hinges, and a broad walnut board used for the back (no cheap second-choice wood).
Coffre Saint Sébastien.
Taking a close look to all the artifacts in exibition, what is surprising is the state of conservation of most of them. Aside from some worm holes and some worn or burnt parts, they look impressively "clean". No sign of improper treatment though, like sanding or similar.
All the chests have been restored by Claude Veuillet not many years ago. Unfortunately in his book, full of informations as it is (and really worth having), no description is given about the process of restoration. It would have been very interesting to see them taken apart, and compare these almost millenial pieces of wood before and after.
Sion is a small town in the middle of a valley. Surrouned by mountains it's not as easy to reach as Zurich or Bern, but, for those who are fascinated by romanesque style, and medieval woodwork in general, the content of this small museum is a treasure.