Speyer Cathedral

Speyer, Germany

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'.



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Founded: 1030
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Salian Dynasty (Germany)


4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

David M (14 months ago)
Well worth visit to cathedral. Astronomical clock a bonus. Also walked up stairs for tower view. Nice and interesting town with nice selection of places to eat.
Io Lo (14 months ago)
Three dates (c. 1020–1030 beginning of construction, 1061 completed in first form, 1106 completed second final phase of construction after reconstruction began in 1080), three emperors (Conrad II - beginning, Henry III - first phase, Henry IV -final), three fires (1159 the first big fire, 1450 the cathedral was completely burned out, a big fire and the almost complete destruction of the building in 1689), one of the largest buildings of its time, one of the largest Romanesque churches of our time. All this is united by one name, one cathedral on the banks of the Rhine. Planned and fully built before the first crusade, it must have captured the imagination of contemporaries and still captures our imagination. Serves as a tomb for four kings and four emperors, serves as a place for the coronation of kings and emperors. It's all you, Speyer Cathedral! There are not many places in the world that have influenced the development of all mankind. And this place is definitely one of them.
Piotr Dabrowski (15 months ago)
Simply stunning and majestic. Great way of ending or beginning your visit in Speyer - right after or before going to Sea Life or Technik Museum (which I highly recommend!)
Thorben Köhne (2 years ago)
Speyer Cathedral, officially the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St Stephen, in Latin: Domus sanctae Mariae Spirae in Speyer, Germany, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Speyer and is suffragan to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg.
Wendi the Wanderer (2 years ago)
Comes to life at Christmas—the Christmas Market in the medieval city of Speyer. Speyer was established in 10 BCE, making it one of Germany's oldest cities. An ice rink is near the Altportel, or Old Gate, and the market is near Dom Speyer, or Speyer Cathedral.
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