St. Mary's Cathedral, Hildesheim

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St. Mary's Cathedral, Hildesheim

St. Mary's Cathedral (Dom St. Maria) in Hildesheim, Germany, is an important medieval Catholic cathedral, that has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985.

The cathedral church was built between 1010 and 1020 in Romanesque style. It follows a symmetrical plan with two apses, that is characteristic of Ottonic Romanesque architecture in Old Saxony. After renovations and extensions in the 11th, 12th and 14th centuries, the cathedral was completely destroyed during an air raid on 22 March 1945, and rebuilt from 1950 to 1960.

The cathedral is famous for its many works of art. These include:

  • The bronze doors, commissioned by Bishop Bernward (1015), with reliefs from the history of Adam and of Jesus Christ.
  • A bronze column 15 feet high (dating from 1020), adorned with reliefs from the life of Christ.
  • Two large wheel-shaped candelabra of the 11th century.
  • The sarcophagus of St Godehard.
  • St. Epiphanius’ Shrine (12th century).
  • A Baptismal Font, dating from 1225.

In the middle of the cathedral's courtyard stands the Gothic Anne's chapel (Annenkapelle), erected in 1321, which remained nearly undamaged during World War II. Also, climbing the wall of the cathedral's apse is the legendary 1000-year-old rosebush, which symbolizes the prosperity of the city of Hildesheim. According to the legend, as long as the bush flourishes, Hildesheim will not decline. In 1945 allied bombers destroyed the cathedral, yet the bush survived. Its roots remained unscathed beneath the rubble, and soon the bush was growing strong again.

The Cathedral Museum owns one of the most extensive collections of medieval treasures in Europe.

In 2010, a renovation was started which will be finished in 2014. In May 2011, the foundation of the first cathedral building dating from 815 was found under the floor of the crypt. The first cathedral building was a small church measuring 6 x 6 m with an apse in the east. The remains of the first altar were found in the apse. A grave was discovered under the foundation, possibly the first bishop of Hildesheim was buried here. The foundation of the first cathedral building consists of sandstone and it is extraordinarily thick.

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