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:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.