Hildesheim Cathedral

Hildesheim Cathedral – St. Mariä Himmelfahrtis currently being restored.

Hildesheim Cathedral near Hanover in Germany is a medieval catholic cathedral. Although the building de facto is a reconstruction dating from 1950 – 1957, it has – together with the nearby St. Michael’s Church  and the treasures of the diocese – been listed as World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO since 1985. Both churches were totally destroyed in an air raid in 1945.

One of the reasons behind this designation is the famous Bernward bronze doors and the corresponding bronze column, both dated from the beginning of the 11th century. The doors, which are close to five meters high and a meter wide, were cast in one piece and show beautiful reliefs from both the Old and the New Testament. While the church is being restored the doors – the porta salutis – may be seen in the Roemer-und Pelizaeus Museum nearby. During this exhibition meditative concerts are given on the first Sunday of every month in the Museum.

Berward's Doors from 1015
Berward’s Doors from 1015

The doors were probably originally cast for the nearby Benedictine abbey church of St. Michael as was the corresponding column – the Christussäule. This was inspired by the Trajan Column in Rome and remained for a long time in its original position behind the altar until it was relocated to the Cathedral in the beginning of the 19th century. During the renovation of the Cathedral the column is back in its original position in St. Michaels and can be enjoyed there.

The Column and Chandelier at Hildesheim in the original position in St. Michael
The Column and Chandelier at Hildesheim in the original position in St. Michael

The “Heziloleuchter”, which used to hang above the column is unfortunately not restored to the St. Michaels church during the renovation. Instead this may be viewed in the nearby Basilika St. Godehard. The chandelier depicts the heavenly Jerusalem descending form the heaven as is foretold in the apocalypse of St. John. With 72 candles it radiates an etheral sensation, when the candles are lit on special occasions.

Another treasure, the baptismal font, has been lent to the Bode-Museum in Berlin, while the “Epiphaniusschrein”, a famous golden reliquary from the 11th century may be seen in the Diocesan Musum in Paderborn, where it is currently showcased as part of the “Credo-Exhibition”.

Other treasures are being restored, while some are exhibited as far away as Paris, Chicago, New York and Washington. These artefacts are the smaller gospel-book of Bishop Bernward, an ivory plaque with the crucifixion and a byzantine reliquary pendant. Until September 2013 these are on show at the Art Institute of Chicago. From September to January they are shown at the Met in New York.  A full list of the traveling treasures can be found at the website of the Dom-Museum, where a presentation of the new museum opening in 2015 may also be seen. The cathedral reopens in August 2014.

The Crypt in Hildesheim Cathedral
The Crypt in Hildesheim Cathedral

The First Chapel
While its matchless treasures are on show throughout the world, archaeological excavations in the crypt have revealed the foundations of the first church erected by Louis the Pious in 815.

According to legend told by Bernhard of Constance in 1075 in the “Fundatio ecclesiæ Hildensemensis“, Louis the Pious lost his private reliquary during a hunt; some time after it was found caught in the brambles of a rosebush. The emperor took this as a sign from heaven and ordered a chapel to be built on the exact spot. Archaeological excavations in the crypt of the present cathedral in 2011 revealed the foundation of exactly such a chapel, measuring 6 x 6 meters and ending in an apse. The foundations were made out of large broken sandstones, with clay mortar in the core of the walls. A fitted cavity in the east end showed where the first altar had been erected. Next to the present cathedral the archaeologists also found the remains of the monastery fromthe 11th century and a cemetery form the 9th – 10th century. Video of the excavations can be seen here 
In the garden next to the cathedral it is still possible to see a rosebush, claimed to be more than a 1000 years old. The current rose, however, is the result of shoots, which appeared after the devastation of WW2.


A dedicated homepage tells the story of the ongoing restoration of the Cathedral and its surroundings

The treasures are exhibited here:

Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum
Am Steine 1-2
31134 Hildesheim


Sct. Michaelskirche
Michaelisplatz 1
31134 Hildesheim


Baslika St. Godehard
31134 Hildesheim


Am Kupfergraben 1
10178 Berlin


Erzbishöfliches Diözesanmuseum u. Domschatskammer
Markt 17
33098 Paderborn

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