Hildesheim Cathedral has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985, together with the nearby St. Michael's Church. The cathedral church was built between 1010 and 1020 in the Romanesque style. It follows a symmetrical plan with two apses, that is characteristic of Ottonian Romanesque architecture in Old Saxony. The cathedral's treasures include world-famous artworks, bronzeworks from the time of Bishop Bernward, Bernward Doors and Bernward Column, as well as two of the four notable Romanesque wheel chandeliers: the Hezilo chandelier and the Azelin chandelier.
After renovations and extensions in the 11th, 12th and 14th centuries, the cathedral was completely destroyed during an air raid on 22 March 1945, and rebuilt from 1950 to 1960. A thorough renovation of the cathedral began in 2010, including technical and conservation measures. Some of the cathedral's treasures have been shown further afield, including at an exhibition at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. The cathedral was reopened in 2014.
After the establishment of the diocese of Hildesheim in 815 by Louis the Pious, a Chapel of St. Mary was built on the locations of the modern apse. Bishop Gunthar of Hildesheim, who was in office from 815 to 834, had a small basilica with two round towers built immediately to the south of the chapel, which he dedicated to Saint Cecilia. This served as the original cathedral. Only traces of the foundations of these two buildings remain.
The next cathedral was built in 872 under Bishop Altfrid as a cruciform three-aisled basilica with a two-story westwork. It is an example of Ottonian architecture, with alternating column support and semicircular apses completing the naves. The building suffered severe fire damage in 1046. Bishop Azelin planned to erect a new, larger building further to the west and to extend the nave. His successor, Hezilo of Hildesheim, abandoned this plan and instead built on the old foundations, incorporating the surviving walls into the new building. Further important renovations occurred up to the end of the 14th century, but did not deviate from the ground plan of Bishop Altfrid's basilica. The north and south side chapels date from the gothic period and the tower above the crossing from the baroque period. In the 19th century, the original westwork was replaced by a Neo-Romanesque two-tower facade, which stood until 1945.
The Hildesheim Cathedral School, which had rooms in the cloisters, was one of the most significant educational institutions of the Ottonian and Salian periods. Its library has served as the Hildesheim Cathedral library since 815; it is the oldest library in Northern Germany.
The cathedral building is widely known for the 'Thousand-year Rose' (Tausendjähriger Rosenstock) which grows outside the building on the outer wall of the apse in the courtyard of the cloisters. The exact age of the rose is no longer precisely known, but the legend of the rosebush claims that it dates to 815. It is an important symbol of Hildesheim - according to folklore, as long as the bush flourishes, Hildesheim will prosper. The existence of the rosebush has been attested for at least four hundred years. The aerial bombardment of 1945 killed the main growth of the rosebush above the ground; under the rubble, only the charred stump of the rose remained. It was thought that the end of the famous rose had come, but the roots were largely intact, and in the spring of 1945 it put out 25 new shoots. The first sparse flowers bloomed in 1947, and by 1948 there were 122 flowers. It is believed to be the oldest living rose in the world.
The cathedral houses numerous works of art. These include the world-famous cast-bronze doors, depicting scenes from the Gospels and the Book of Genesis; and a cast-bronze column depicting scenes from the life of Christ. These bronzeworks date from the early 11th century and were commissioned by Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim.
There are also four notable Romanesque wheel chandeliers, also called corona or circular chandeliers, the larger Hezilo chandelier, and the older Azelin chandelier. The Ringelheim Crucifix was made c. 1000 from linden wood for the body and oak for the arms.References:
Situated in the basement of Metropol Parasol, Antiquarium is a modern, well-presented archaeological museum with sections of ruins visible through glass partitions, and underfoot along walkways.
These Roman and Moorish remains, dating from the first century BC to the 12th century AD, were discovered when the area was being excavated to build a car park in 2003. It was decided to incorporate them into the new Metropol Parasol development, with huge mushroom-shaped shades covering a market, restaurants and concert space.
There are 11 areas of remains: seven houses with mosaic floors, columns and wells; fish salting vats; and various streets. The best is Casa de la Columna (5th century AD), a large house with pillared patio featuring marble pedestals, surrounded by a wonderful mosaic floor – look out for the laurel wreath (used by emperors to symbolise military victory and glory) and diadem (similar meaning, used by athletes), both popular designs in the latter part of the Roman Empire. You can make out where the triclinium (dining room) was, and its smaller, second patio, the Patio de Oceano.
The symbol of the Antiquarium, the kissing birds, can be seen at the centre of a large mosaic which has been reconstructed on the wall of the museum. The other major mosaic is of Medusa, the god with hair of snakes, laid out on the floor. Look out for the elaborate drinking vessel at the corners of the mosaic floor of Casa de Baco (Bacchus’ house, god of wine).