Speyer Cathedral was founded by Konrad II in 1030, probably soon after his imperial coronation. It was rebuilt by Henry IV, following his reconciliation with the Pope in 1077, as the first and largest consistently vaulted church building in Europe. The Cathedral was the burial place of the German emperors for almost 300 years.
Speyer Cathedral is historically, artistically and architecturally one of the most significant examples of Romanesque architecture in Europe. Today – after the destruction of the Abbey of Cluny – Speyer Cathedral is the biggest Romanesque church in the world. Likewise its crypt, consecrated in 1041, is the biggest hall of the Romanesque era.
The Cathedral is an expression and self-portrayal of the abundance of imperial power during the Salian period (1024 - 1125) and was built in conscious competition to the Abbey of Cluny as the building representative of the papal opposition.
The Cathedral incorporates the general layout of St Michael of Hildesheim and brings to perfection a type of plan that was adopted generally throughout the Rhineland. This plan is characterized by the equilibrium of the eastern and western blocks and by the symmetrical and singular placement of the towers which frame the mass formed by the nave and the transept. Under Henry IV renovations and extensions were undertaken. Speyer Cathedral is the first known structure to be built with a gallery that encircles the whole building. The system of arcades added during these renovations was also a first in architectural history.
In its size and the richness of its sculptures, some created by Italian sculptors, it stands out among all contemporary and later Romanesque churches in Germany, and it had a profound influence on the pattern of their ground plans and vaulting.
No less than eight medieval emperors and kings of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation from Konrad II to Albrecht of Habsburg in 1309 were laid to rest in its vault. In 1689 the Cathedral was seriously damaged by fire. The reconstruction of the west bays of the nave from 1772 to 1778, as an almost archaeologically exact copy of the original structure, can be regarded as one of the first great achievements of monument preservation in Europe. The westwork, rebuilt from 1854 to 1858 by Heinrich Hübsch on the old foundations, is by contrast, a testimony to Romanticism’s interpretation of the Middle Ages, and as such an independent achievement of the 19th century.
Commissioned by the Bavarian King Ludwig I., the interior was painted in late Nazarene style by the school of Johannes Schraudolph and Josef Schwarzmann from 1846 to 1853.
In 1981, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites as 'a major monument of Romanesque art in the German Empire'.References:
The Cloth Hall in Kraków dates to the Renaissance and is one of the city's most recognizable icons. It is the central feature of the main market square in the Kraków Old Town (listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1978).
The hall was once a major centre of international trade. Traveling merchants met there to discuss business and to barter. During its golden age in the 15th century, the hall was the source of a variety of exotic imports from the east – spices, silk, leather and wax – while Kraków itself exported textiles, lead, and salt from the Wieliczka Salt Mine.
Kraków was Poland's capital city and was among the largest cities in Europe already from before the time of the Renaissance. However, its decline started with the move of the capital to Warsaw in the very end of the 16th century. The city's decline was hastened by wars and politics leading to the Partitions of Poland at the end of the 18th century. By the time of the architectural restoration proposed for the cloth hall in 1870 under Austrian rule, much of the historic city center was decrepit. A change in political and economic fortunes for the Kingdom of Galicia and Lodomeria ushered in a revival due to newly established Legislative Assembly or Sejm of the Land. The successful renovation of the Cloth Hall, based on design by Tomasz Pryliński and supervised by Mayor Mikołaj Zyblikiewicz, Sejm Marshal, was one of the most notable achievements of this period.
The hall has hosted many distinguished guests over the centuries and is still used to entertain monarchs and dignitaries, such as Charles, Prince of Wales and Emperor Akihito of Japan, who was welcomed here in 2002. In the past, balls were held here, most notably after Prince Józef Poniatowski had briefly liberated the city from the Austrians in 1809. Aside from its history and cultural value, the hall still is still used as a center of commerce.
On the upper floor of the hall is the Sukiennice Museum division of the National Museum, Kraków. It holds the largest permanent exhibit of the 19th-century Polish painting and sculpture, in four grand exhibition halls arranged by historical period and the theme extending into an entire artistic epoch. The museum was upgraded in 2010 with new technical equipment, storerooms, service spaces as well as improved thematic layout for the display.
The Gallery of 19th-Century Polish Art was a major cultural venue from the moment it opened on October 7, 1879. It features late Baroque, Rococo, and Classicist 18th-century portraits and battle scenes by Polish and foreign pre-Romantics.