St. Stephen's Cathedral

Passau, Germany

St. Stephen's Cathedral is a baroque church built in 1688. Since 730, there have been many churches built on the site of the current cathedral. The current church, a baroque building around 100 metres long, was built from 1668 to 1693 after a fire in 1662 destroyed its predecessor, of which only the late gothic eastern side remains. The cathedral's overall plan was made by Carlo Lurago, its interior decoration by Giovanni Battista Carlone, and its frescos by Carpoforo Tencalla.

Over time, the Passau Cathedral has acquired the largest organ outside of the United States. It is also the largest cathedral organ in the world. The organ currently has 17,774 pipes and 233 registers, all of which can be played with the five-manual general console in the gallery. Portions of the organ have their own mechanical-action or electric-action consoles, for a total of six consoles.

The cathedral has eight large bells in the bell rooms in the north and south towers. The heaviest, Pummerin at 7550 kg cast in 1952 and Sturmerin weighing 5300 kg cast in 1733 hang in the south tower. The other six bells hang in the north tower.

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Address

Zengergasse, Passau, Germany
See all sites in Passau

Details

Founded: 1688
Category: Religious sites in Germany
Historical period: Thirty Years War & Rise of Prussia (Germany)

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Derek Smith (2 years ago)
Very impressive, but can get quite crowded. Best to visit before cruise tours start!
Christian Germany (2 years ago)
Probably the biggest baroque cathedral outside Italy, and for sure one of the most beautiful cathedrals worldwide - on par with the finest basilicas of Rome. Highly elegant, hugely impressive, breathtaking, magic- even after the 1000th visit! Not to mention the majestic organ, the largest church organ worldwide until some years ago
Martin Domiter (2 years ago)
Great place where you can find probably the best I'm restaurant. Do not hesitate to find it personally.
Linda Roe (2 years ago)
St. Stephens Cathedral in Passau is not to be missed. Passau was a stop on our Viking Grand European Tour. What a lovely little village! St. Stephan’s is a must-see and a must-hear. The Cathedral is magnificent inside. This Cathedral has the largest organ in Europe. We not only attended mass there but heard an organ recital.
David Sherwood (3 years ago)
Our visit to St. Stephan's Cathedral was excellent! This is a beautiful baroque cathedral built in the 1600's with much gilding inside and famous frescos. The highlight though is the church organ system which actually incorporates five organs (with one in the dome!) all played by a single organist. This provides truly incredible surround sound! There are daily noon-time concerts in the late summer/early fall. Admission is just a few Euros. There are no assigned seats so come early. Try to sit as close to the middle as possible. The concert lasts about one hour. We were told that the baroque concept was to make one feel as if one were in heaven already. That certainly came true during the organ concert!
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.