The cathedral, built in the 11th century under Bishop Bernward, and the former Benedictine Abbey of St. Michaelis are exceptional examples of religious art from the early Middle Ages and Romanesque architecture. Inside the cathedral are valuable bronze casts and art treasures such as the Christ column from 1020 and the bronze Bernward door from 1015 in the west portal. The mighty pre-Gothic Michaeliskirche has a wooden ceiling from the 13th century, unique of its kind in Northern Europe, which represents the “Jessebaum”, the family tree of Christ.
Cathedral and Michaeliskirche in Hildesheim: facts
|Official title:||Cathedral and Michaeliskirche in Hildesheim|
|Cultural monument:||Mariendom and St. Michaelis Church, a double choir basilica; most important church treasures the 4.72 m high and 1.15 m wide door leaves of the Bernwardstür, the 3.80 m high bronze Christ column with rising spiral reliefs and the Hezilo wheel chandelier (around 1060) in the cathedral and the one around 1240 in Lower Saxony » Zackenstil «painted wooden ceiling, unique example of medieval panel painting, in St. Michaelis|
|Country:||Germany, Lower Saxony|
|Meaning:||extraordinary evidence of Ottonian architecture from the time of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, see programingplease|
Cathedral and Michaeliskirche in Hildesheim: history
|9th century||Construction of a cathedral|
|1010-20||Construction of St. Michaelis|
|1015||Bernward door with scenes from the Old and New Testaments in relief|
|around 1020||Bronze column with relief scenes from the life of Jesus|
|1022-38||Term of office of Bishop Godehard|
|1033||Consecration of St. Michaelis|
|1054-79||under Hezilo restoration of the cathedral after a fire|
|1131/32||Canonization of Bishop Godehard|
|around 1240||Bronze baptismal font in the cathedral|
|1943||Acceptance of the wooden ceiling, painted with the root of Jesse, consisting of 1,300 oak boards|
|1945||Destruction of the two churches by air raid|
|since 1972||in the crypt behind wrought iron bars the shrine of St. Godehard|
Ludwig lets a thousand roses bloom
Legend has it that Hildesheim owes its existence to the negligence of an emperor: Ludwig the Pious is said to have lost his cross reliquary while hunting and found it again in a rose bush. As a thank you, the monarch had a Lady Chapel built at this point – the rose bush received immortality. As is so often the case, however, the reality was much more mundane. The Diocese of Hildesheim was supposed to help consolidate the Frankish power in Saxony, which had only been subjected to hard wars a few years earlier. It was founded in 815 near an easily accessible merchant settlement on Hellweg, the important east-west trade route. And the “millennial rose bush” is also a legend. But at least the roses have been growing on the eastern apse of the church since 1629.
Today’s cathedral is essentially a reconstruction of the building erected after 1046, which was almost completely destroyed during an air raid in 1945. Since this reconstruction was guided by the principle of reviving the medieval structure, the changes that had been made over the centuries, some of which were baroque, were eliminated. The Mariendom appears today as a simple three-aisled building with a flat-roofed nave, chapels in the side aisles and smooth plastered, light-colored walls – a bleakness that the cathedral probably did not exude in the Middle Ages, which adorned its houses of worship with colorful paintings.
Nevertheless, the church houses important works of art from the 11th and 12th centuries, which were created under Bernward, who headed the diocese from 993 to 1022, and his successor Godehard. In artistically crafted bronze reliefs, the Bernward door contrasts the Old Testament event of the fall of man with redemption through Christ. The name of the holy bishop is also associated with a bronze column from around 1022, which shows scenes from the life of Jesus in a frieze in relief that winds upwards in a spiral. The fact that the column of the Roman emperor Trajan was used as a model proves the claim to power of the Hildesheim bishops, but also their knowledge of distant Rome. The huge wheel chandelier in the crossing with a diameter of six meters refers to the heavenly Jerusalem,
While St. Godehard found his final resting place in the crypt of the cathedral, his art-loving predecessor Bernward was buried in the Benedictine monastery church of St. Michaelis. Because of its clear structure in the ground and elevation, St. Michaelis is one of the most important Ottonian churches, even if the current building is also a post-war reconstruction. The dimension of the crossing, the intersection of the central and transept, forms the basic element of the entire building. As a significant liturgical space, it is emphasized by high arches, and also in the central nave, the size of which corresponds to three crossing squares, the corners of these squares are marked by a total of four pillars, between which twelve columns are placed – a religious number symbolism that refers to the four evangelists and refers to the twelve apostles.
The now bright, smooth walls emphasize the sparse color accentuation of the arcades and the capitals of the columns, some of which are extremely artistically reliefed. However, the main focus of the visitor to this church, elegant in its simplicity, is the flat wooden ceiling from the early 13th century, which shows the family tree and the ancestors of Christ, prophets and evangelists in strong, red tones on a blue background. The ceiling was removed during the Second World War and so – unlike the church itself – survived the devastating air raid of March 1945. The remains of the choir screen in the western transept, the stucco reliefs of saints and the bishop, are considered to be an important sculptural work of the 12th century Bernward show.
The clear structure also determines the exterior view of St. Michaelis: the various structures of the nave, transepts, apses and stair towers are assembled as if in a modular system and thus convey the image of a fortress of God enthroned on a hill.