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Freiburg Cathedral: Reconstructing Melting Faces

by • July 3, 2016 • No Comments

The Freiburg ‘Maulaufreisser’ (mouth gaping gargoyle) and his 3D twins

The figure of speech, “carved in stone” implies eternal and indestructible, sadly, this does not apply to the one-of-a-kind architectural decoration showcases of the Freiburg Cathedral in Germost. In fact, quite real ravages of time are chipping away especially at the exterior masonry. Weathering and increasing air pollution are bringing their toll on the variously shaped reliefs and sculptures, transforming the medieval assembling into an extensive continuous construction site of melting faces.


Since 1890, the Münsterbauverein (Cathedral Construction Association) has been responsible for the stone exterior and the assembling conservation of the Freiburg Cathedral. Because of this, the association has been looking after Münsterbauhütte (Cathedral Builders’ Hut) which is additional than 800 years old. This is where stone masons and stone carvers apply traditional craftsmanship to maintain and protect the Freiburg Cathedral. In addition, the versatile 3D data of the SmartScan makes its quite own contribution to the conservation of this church monument.

A stony data backup

The Freiburg Münsterbauverein is in the possession of a quite special treasure: The collection of over 4000 copies of sculptures and assembling fragments of the Freiburg Cathedral. These pieces are of inestimable value for both restoration projects as well as for the purpose of scientific documentation. At the begin of the quite extensive gypsum collection of the Münsterbauverein, nobody idea of photographs or three-dimensional scan data. Even in our day, stone cutters are yet via this archive of patterns and forms in order to reconstruct any damaged shapes.


Among the numerous plaster casts is a gargoyle known under the names of ‘Maulaufreisser’ (gaping mouth gargoyle), ‘Akrobat’ (acrobat) and ‘Zanner’ (mascaron). The purpose of its 3D scan data is to assist the work of the Münsterbauverein in a special way — for the creation of souvenirs made of various materials.

3D scanning for a digital archive

For the three-dimensional capture of the ‘Maulaufreisser’, the SmartScan of AICON 3D Systems with a field of view of 600 mm and a camera resolution of 2 megapixels, is called into action. This scanner is specifically made for the high demands of the scanning of works of art and cultural artefacts as it not just generates exact, high-resolution 3D versions but in addition allows for for the texturing of the object surface in its true colors.


Thanks to the SmartScan’s modular configuration, the cameras (color or black and white) and the measuring fields are individually modified to the client’s needs. In the case of this project, the scanner was moved around the ‘Maulaufreisser’ in order to capture it of all sides. As an alternative version for a partially automated capture, the turnTABLE-300 can be utilized. It is specifically made for scanning heavy objects, such as a gargoyle with a mass of 250 kg.

First, the SmartScan captures the gargoyle of all sides. Thanks to the flexible sensor configuration enabling for simultaneous scanning processes at angles of 30°, 20° and 10°, actually object areas which are hard to access can be scanned swiftly and precisely.

The AICON Software OptoCat and so aligns the individual images based on the contour of the gargoyle and combines them into a coherent triangle mesh. This 3D data set can subsequently be made in the desired dimensions for any additional processing, e.g. for version building, or in this project, for the creation of customized silver jewelry.

3D replica in any dimensions

Making use of the 3D data of the SmartScan, a modern archive of digitized sculptures and construction components can be made, thus growing the application possibilities in connection with the original or plaster replicas. The third dimension of a figure or a relief provides a detailed basis for scientific analysis and documentations. The data serves as a important assist for pro restoration or reconstruction tasks.


The virtual copy of the gargoyle can be modified to any scale and serves as basis for version and mold building or rapid prototyping. Making use of the digital templates, true to original replica in any desired dimensions can be made with the assist of milling templates, casting molds or 3D printing equipment. These replicas can be utilized in most ways, e.g. in exhibitions, in study collections or as souvenirs.

The Freiburg Münsterbauverein uses the SmartScan data of the ‘Maulaufreisser‘ to turn it into 1:1 replicas made of concrete, more compact copies made of stone repair mortar and jewelry figurines made of silver. The ‘Maulaufreisser’ donates his ‘salary’ to a great cause, all sales proceeds go back into the conservation of the Freiburg Cathedral.

Click here for additional information of 3D applications in arts and culture.

About AICON 3D Systems GmbH

AICON 3D Systems is one of the world’s major providers of optical camera-based 3D measuring systems. The company, founded in 1990, develops and distributes systems for the business areas of inspection and testing which include car safety and tube inspection. Since gaining Breuckmann GmbH in August 2012, the product range in addition comes with scanners for 3D measurement of hard geometries. On 1 April 2016, the AICON 3D Systems GmbH has joined Hexagon Manufacturing Intelligence, a major global provider of information technologies which drive productivity and high end across geospatial and industrial enterprise applications.

The digital acquisition and documentation of cultural masterpieces is increasingly gaining importance, be it in architecture, satisfactory arts, archaeology or paleontology. The contact-free 3D scanning innovation of Breuckmann Scanners works in museums as well as at archaeological sites. It allows for handling delicate objects with the utmost care and provides detailed 3D data with high-resolution color textures for thorough studies without via the original. Breuckmann Scanners are not 3D measuring systems bought “off the rack”, but pretty are characterized by their high degree of flexibility. The scanner configuration is modified precisely to the customer’s requirements.

For additional information, please visit www.aicon3d.com

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