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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Details

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

Rating

4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Steen Hansen (6 months ago)
A different and cool chuch ( its on the Unesco list). A must see. The city is nothing special.
Patrona Bavariae (7 months ago)
If it would be Catholic, nice, sadly they overtook the probably once even more beautiful place. But the crypt is still catholic, and also really beautiful. Protestants even today gladly could not erase Mary completely outside of the history.
Martin Lawson (12 months ago)
Wonderful building with superb ceiling, worth a visit!
Sigrid Vidar (Siggie) (2 years ago)
This Church is entrance free. Very impressive paintings inside. The Woman in the information is very friendly. It feels so empty inside but in every corner are medieval art works. They have brochure, for each important Artwork, very good description.
Pauline Roberts (2 years ago)
Rarely do you find Byzantine style architecture in Europe north of Bulgaria or Italy. This is just as magnificent as what can be seen in Trier. The splendid painted wood ceiling was removed for safekeeping before the building was heavily damaged in the Second World War and rebuilt.
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