Frankfurt Cathedral (Kaiserdom Sankt Bartholomäus, St. Bartholomew's Imperial Cathedral) is the largest religious building in Frankfurt and a former collegiate church. As former election and coronation church of the Holy Roman Empire, the cathedral is one of the major buildings of the Empire history and was mainly in the 19th century a symbol of national unity.
The present church building is the third church in the same place. Since the late 19th excavated century buildings can be traced back to the 7th century. The history is closely linked with the General history of Frankfurt and the Frankfurt old town because the cathedral had an associated role as religious counterpart of the Royal Palace Frankfurt. The St. Bartholomew's is the main church of Frankfurt and was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time.
From 1356 onwards, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were elected in this collegiate church as kings in Germany, and from 1562 to 1792, emperors-elect were crowned here. The imperial elections were held in the Wahlkapelle, a chapel on the south side of the choir built for this purpose in 1425 and the anointing and crowning of the emperors-elect as kings in Germany took place before the central altar–believed to enshrine part of the head of St. Bartholomew – in the crossing of the church, at the entrance to the choir.
In the course of the German Mediatisation the city of Frankfurt finally secularised and appropriated the remaining Catholic churches and their endowments of earning assets, however, leaving the usage of the church buildings to the existing Catholic parishes. Thus St. Bartholomew's became of the city's dotation churches, owned and maintained by the city but used by Catholic or Lutheran congregations.
St. Bartholomew's was seen as symbol for national unity in Germany, especially during the 19th century. Although it had never been a bishop's seat, it was the largest church in Frankfurt and its role in imperial politics, including crowning of medieval German emperors, made the church one of the most important buildings of Imperial history.
In 1867, St. Bartholomew's was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in its present style. During World War II, between October 1943 and March 1944, the old town of Frankfurt, the biggest old Gothic town in Central Europe, was devastated by six bombardments of the Allied Air Forces. The greatest losses occurred in an attack by the Royal Air Force on March 22, 1944, when more than a thousand buildings of the old town, most of them half-timbered houses, were destroyed. St. Bartholomew's suffered severe damage; the interior was burned out completely. The building was reconstructed in the 1950s.References:
The Abbey of Saint-Etienne, also known as Abbaye aux Hommes ('Men"s Abbey'), is a former monastery dedicated to Saint Stephen (Saint Étienne). It is considered, along with the neighbouring Abbaye aux Dames ('Ladies" Abbey'), to be one of the most notable Romanesque buildings in Normandy. Like all the major abbeys in Normandy, it was Benedictine.
Lanfranc, before being an Archbishop of Canterbury, was abbot of Saint-Etienne. Built in Caen stone during the 11th century, the two semi-completed churches stood for many decades in competition. An important feature added to both churches in about 1120 was the ribbed vault, used for the first time in France. The two abbey churches are considered forerunners of the Gothic architecture. The original Romanesque apse was replaced in 1166 by an early Gothic chevet, complete with rosette windows and flying buttresses. Nine towers and spires were added in the 13th century. The interior vaulting shows a similar progression, beginning with early sexpartite vaulting (using circular ribs) in the nave and progressing to quadipartite vaults (using pointed ribs) in the sanctuary.
The two monasteries were finally donated by William the Conqueror and his wife, Matilda of Flanders, as penalty for their marriage against the Pope"s ruling. William was buried here; Matilda was buried in the Abbaye aux Dames. Unfortunately William"s original tombstone of black marble, the same kind as Matilda"s in the Abbaye aux Dames, was destroyed by the Calvinist iconoclasts in the 16th century and his bones scattered.
As a consequence of the Wars of Religion, the high lantern tower in the middle of the church collapsed and was never rebuilt. The Benedictine abbey was suppressed during the French Revolution and the abbey church became a parish church. From 1804 to 1961, the abbey buildings accommodated a prestigious high school, the Lycée Malherbe. During the Normandy Landings in 1944, inhabitants of Caen found refuge in the church; on the rooftop there was a red cross, made with blood on a sheet, to show that it was a hospital (to avoid bombings).