St. Michael's Church

Hildesheim, Germany

The Church of St. Michael is an early-Romanesque church in Hildesheim. It has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985 together with near St. Mary's Cathedral.

Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (996-1022) built a Benedictine monastery from the ground up on a hill near the city walls. Bernward set the first stone for the new church in 1010 and dedicated the still unfinished building to Michael on the archangel's feast day, 29 September 1022, just a few weeks before his death. Construction, however, continued under his successor, Bishop Godehard (died 1038), who completed the work in 1031 and reconsecrated the church to Michael on September 29 of that year. The church has double choirs east and west, double tripartite transepts at either end of the nave, and six towers - two large ones over the crossings east and west, and four other tall and narrow ones attached to the small sides of the two transepts. The eastern choir featured three apses, and the west had a deep chapel with a huge single apse rising high over an elaborate cross-vaulted hall crypt with an ambulatory. Bishop Bernward's remains were placed in the western crypt.

The monastery comprised a church family and had two other sanctuaries dedicated to Martin and the Holy Cross lying in the cloister that extended northward from St. Michael's north flank. The monastery and church opened southward toward the city of Hildesheim, its south flank comprising a 'facade' of a sort. It seems likely that the monastery on the Hill of St. Michael was surrounded by a wall.

In 1186, after a reconstruction following a fire, Hildesheim's Bishop Adelog of Dorstedt - assisted by Tammo, Prince-Bishop of Verden - reconsecrated St. Michael's.

When the people of Hildesheim became Protestant in 1542, St. Michael's became Lutheran, but the Benedictine monastery operated here until it was secularized in 1803. Monks continued to use the church, especially its western choir and crypt, down to that moment.

St. Michael's Church was destroyed in an air raid during World War II on 22 March 1945, but reconstruction was begun in 1950 and completed in 1957. In 1985, the church became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, along with the Cathedral of Hildesheim, its collection of medieval treasures and its 1000-year-old rosebush.

The church is one of the most important churches of early Christian period Architecture. It is a double-choir basilica with two transepts and a square tower at each crossing. The west choir is emphasized by an ambulatory and a crypt. The ground plan of the building follows a geometrical conception, in which the square of the transept crossing in the ground plan constitutes the key measuring unit for the entire church. The square units are defined by the alternation of columns and piers.

The famous bronze doors of Bishop Bernward seem likely to have decorated the larger entryway on St. Michael's south aisle flank, that is, the entryway near the western transept. (A smaller entryway could be found in the same south aisle flank toward the eastern transept).

The painted wooden ceiling in the nave (around 1230) shows the genealogy of Christ.



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Founded: 1010-1022
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Ottonian Dynasty (Germany)


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User Reviews

Paulo Mendes (12 months ago)
St. Michael in Hildesheim, also known as St. Michael's Church, is an Ottonian, pre-Romanesque church. It was the abbey church of the eponymous Benedictine abbey until the Reformation. Today it is Evangelical Lutheran parish church. The bishop Bernwardskrypta belongs to the Catholic inner city parish and is used for weekday fairs. Since 1985, the church together with the Hildesheim Cathedral is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Bishop Bernward von Hildesheim, after assuming office in 993, had a chapel built on the hill north of the Domburg in Hildesheim. On September 10, 996, he consecrated this chapel to the Holy Cross, from which he received a particle from Otto III. had received as a gift. In an undated testament he gave for the living of the settled there clerics with their provost several estates, including his own church in Burgstemmen. In the course of his episcopate, Bernward expanded his foundation into a large Benedictine monastery, and in a second testament of November 1, 1019, bequeathed all his possessions to him. A block of stone from the southwestern stair tower with the year 1010 is seen as one of twelve foundations for the abbey church. Bernward determined the western crypt of this church to his burial place and the place of constant prayer for him and gave the plant the name of the "coroner" Michael. The crypt was consecrated by him on Michaelistag (September 29th) in 1015. On St. Michael's Day in 1022 the church was partially consecrated. Bernward died on 20 November 1022 in the Michaelis Monastery and was buried in the crypt. The consecration of the entire church took place on Michaelistag 1033 by Bernward's successor Godehard. Already in 1034 there was a fire in the church. After repair, the re-consecration took place in 1035, which was re-established in 1186 after another fire and rebuilding (including renewal of almost all the longhouse pillars) under Bishop Adelog. 1171 to 1190, the worth seeing capitals were created. An important liturgical testimony of this period is the Ratmann Sacramentary of 1159. With a miniature showing Bernward next to the Archangel Michael at the same height, it proves that the monks worshiped the founder of their monastery even before his canonization as saints revered. In 1192 Bernward was canonized. From 1194 to 1197, the stucco reliefs of the Engelschor barriers were created at the entrance to the crypt. The painted wooden ceiling of St. Michael in the nave was built around 1230. In 1250 the cloister (new) was built, which connected the church with the old monastery chapel of the abbey, which was used before the construction of St. Michael's Church. On November 12, 1542, after the introduction of the Reformation in Hildesheim, the St. Michael's Church became a Protestant-Lutheran parish church. The Benedictine convent, however, remained until secularization in 1803 and was allowed to use the "small Michaelis church" in the cloister and the Bernward crypt for worship. The crypt is still catholic. The Michaelis Church is one of the 65 simultaneous churches in Germany. During the Second World War, the Michaelis Church was first damaged during the air raids on Hildesheim on February 22, March 3 and March 14, 1945 and destroyed in the last air raid on the city on March 22, 1945 by blasting and incendiary bombs. The wooden ceiling and the other art treasures had been stored on the initiative of Provinzialkonservators Hermann Deckert and remained intact. The Engelschorschranke had been secured by a protective wall so that it was not damaged. After the war, the church was rebuilt in 1947 on the pre-Roman remains after the original plans. On August 20, 1950, the re-inauguration of the nave and the western transept took place. The church was finally completed and re-consecrated in 1960. In 1985 it was admitted to the UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Hema P (12 months ago)
A great monument well preserved and maintained in the city.
Pravin Yarolkar (2 years ago)
Great Architecture. One of the best place to visit. Peace of mind. Wonderful.
Richard Ashcroft (2 years ago)
The UNESCO-listed St Michael's Church was built in 1010-31 in Romanesque style. It was heavily damaged in an air raid in 1945 and restored during 1950-57.
S. Dheina (2 years ago)
Great architecture! I found is a pity as Unesco Herritage Site that they removed the old antique banquet seat and put modern furniture/chairs there..
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