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'.

References:

Comments

Your name

Website (optional)



Details

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

User Reviews

Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Castle Rushen

Castle Rushen is located in the Isle of Man"s historic capital, Castletown. The castle is amongst the best examples of medieval castles in the British Isles, and is still in use as a court house, museum and educational centre.

The exact date of castle is unknown, although construction is thought to have taken place during the reigns of the late 12th century and early 13th century rulers of the Isle of Man – the Kings of Mann and the Isles. The original Castle Rushen consisted of a central square stone tower, or keep. The site was also fortified to guard the entrance to the Silver Burn. From its early beginnings, the castle was continually developed by successive rulers of Mann between the 13th and 16th century. The limestone walls dominated much of the surrounding landscape, serving as a point of dominance for the various rulers of the Isle of Man. By 1313, the original keep had been reinforced with towers to the west and south. In the 14th century, an east tower, gatehouses, and curtain wall were added.

After several more changes of hands the English and their supporters eventually prevailed. The English king Edward I Longshanks claimed that the island had belonged to the Kings of England for generations and he was merely reasserting their rightful claim to the Isle of Man.

The 18th century saw the castle in steady decay. By the end of the century it was converted into a prison. Even though the castle was in continuous use as a prison, the decline continued until the turn of the 20th century, when it was restored under the oversight of the Lieutenant Governor, George Somerset, 3rd Baron Raglan. Following the restoration work, and the completion of the purpose-built Victoria Road Prison in 1891, the castle was transferred from the British Crown to the Isle of Man Government in 1929.

Today it is run as a museum by Manx National Heritage, depicting the history of the Kings and Lords of Mann. Most rooms are open to the public during the opening season (March to October), and all open rooms have signs telling their stories. The exhibitions include a working medieval kitchen where authentic period food is prepared on special occasions and re-enactments of various aspects of medieval life are held on a regular basis, with particular emphasis on educating the local children about their history. Archaeological finds made during excavations in the 1980s are displayed and used as learning tools for visitors.