This project was funded by the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), project no. P 34477-G (“Gates to Paradise: Creating metal doors for 11th-12th century churches”; head of project: Marianne Mödlinger). The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish (online and/or scientific papers). There has been no additional external funding received for this study. The project is located at the IMAREAL (Institut für Realienkunde des Mittelalters und der frühen Neuzeit) in Krems, Austria.

European bronze church doors from the 11th – 12th century.
 *Italian Byzantine doors; doors: no.s 1-22; door handles: no.s 23-24. Further doors are known from Germany (Augsburg, Mainz, Hildesheim), Poland (Gniezno) and Russia (Novgorod).

Aims and Objectives

The project will identify materials used and technologies applied for the construction of 11th-12th century metal doors of European churches and shed light on how these choices are connected to the iconography and semantic of specific scenes by using an interdisciplinary approach including history, art history, and archaeometry, and by creating new analytical data. The main objectives of the project are to:

  • Characterise techniques and material used in the construction of the metal doors;
  • Identify artists, and their alloys and techniques used;
  • Detect connections between the choice, semantic and iconology of material and techniques used.


The project utilises published historical and archaeological data and will produce new analytical data of metal doors of 11th-12th century European churches. On-site analyses comprise non-invasive, chemical analyses with a handheld XRF-device and a complete, high-resolution photographic documentation of the doors. Micro-samples of metal, inlay, and corrosion, studied by SEM-EDXS and optical microscopy, reveal further information about materials and treatment used. Lead isotope analyses provide information about the mineral source of the copper used. The wooden parts of the doors will be studied by dendrochronological and radiocarbon analyses. All analyses, combined with art historic evaluation, permit the visualisation of networks of material knowledge: properties, affordance and the material iconology in image systems.

Level of originality

For the first time, ecclesiastical metal doors from the 11th-12th century and their various components are fully chemically characterised and their manufacturing technique identified by non-invasive and micro-invasive analyses. This will make it possible to identify the traditions of the artists involved in the construction of the doors and will also facilitate the association of doors with specific artists. Furthermore, the date of construction will be verified by combined dendrochronological and radiocarbon analyses. These analyses will provide a holistic picture of the state of preservation of the doors and insights into historical conservation work. All new data obtained during the project will be made fully available to the public via open access publications and online repositories of the host institution.