Essen Minster was formerly the collegiate church of Essen Abbey, founded in about 845 by Altfrid, Bishop of Hildesheim. The present building, which was reconstructed after its destruction in World War II, is a Gothic hall church, built after 1275 in light-coloured sandstone. The octagonal westwork and the crypt are survivors of the Ottonian pre-Romanesque building that once stood here. The separate Church of St. Johann Baptist stands at the west end of the minster, connected to the westwork by a short atrium – it was formerly the parish church of the abbey's subjects.
Essen Minster is noted for its treasury, which among other treasures contains the Golden Madonna, the oldest fully sculptural figure of Mary north of the Alps.
The modern Essen Minster is the third church building on this site. The first church on this site was erected by the founders of the Essen Abbey, Bishop Altfrid and Gerswid, according to tradition the first abbess of the order, between 845 and 870. It was destroyed in a fire in 946, which is recorded in the Cologne Annals.
The individual stages of next construction are uncertain. The new parts, presumably built at the order of the abbesses Agana and Hathwig, were an outer crypt, a westwork and a narthex and an external chapel of St John the Baptist. This building can be reconstructed from archaeological finds and did not have a long existence, because a new church was erected, perhaps under the art loving Abbess Mathilde, but maybe only under Abbess Theophanu (r. 1039–1058). Possibly, a new building was begun under Mathilde and completed under Theophanu. Significant portions survive from the new Ottonian building.
The next extension of the church complex was an attachment to the southern transept in the 12th century. The upper floor of this very large building contained the sectarium, where the order's papers and acts were kept and which also served as the treasury chamber. Underneath it was the open hall, which was closed at a later time and was used for judicial purposes by the court.
In 1275, the Ottonian church burnt down, with only the westwork and the crypt surviving. In the rebuild the architect combined aspects of the old church with the new Gothic style. The whole new building was consecrated on the 8th of July, probably of 1316.
In the 18th century, the church was transforme in the Baroque style. In the interior a large part of the old interior decoration was removed and replaced, so that only a few pieces of the gothic decoration have survived, which are no longer in their proper context. In 1880 the fashionable view of the gothic as the uniquely German architectural style reached Essen and the baroque additions were undone, as far as possible.
The Minster caught fire and suffered heavy damage in the bombing raid of Royal Air Force in 1943. The rebuilding was begun in 1951.
The Minster possesses a Cathedral Treasury, which is open to the public. The most important treasure of the church, the Golden Madonna, has been found in the northern side chapel since 1959. This is the oldest fully sculptured statue of Mary, the patron saint of the diocese, in the world. The 74 cm high figure of gilded poplar, dates from the period of the abbess Mathilde and depicts Mary as a heavenly queen, holding power over the Earth on behalf of her son. The figure, which was originally carried in processions, was probably placed in Essen because of Mathilde's relationship to the Ottonian dynasty. The figure, which is more than a thousand years old, was comprehensively restored in 2004.
In the centre of the westwork the monumental Seven-arm candelabrum now stands, which the Abbess Mathilde had made between 973 and 1011. The candelabrum, 2.26 metres high with a span of 1.88 metres is composed of 46 individual cast bronze pieces. The candelabrum symbolises the unity of the Trinity and the Earth with its four cardinal points and the idea of Christ as the light of the World, which will lead the believers home at the Last Judgement (Book of Revelation).
Other remarkable items in the Cathedral treasury include the so-called Childhood Crown of Otto III, four Ottonian processional crosses, the long-revered Sword of Saints Cosmas and Damian, the cover of the Theophanu Gospels, several gothic arm-reliquaries, the largest surviving collection of Burgundian fibulae in the world and the Great Carolingian Gospels.References:
The Kalozha church of Saints Boris and Gleb is the oldest extant structure in Hrodna. It is the only surviving monument of ancient Black Ruthenian architecture, distinguished from other Orthodox churches by prolific use of polychrome faceted stones of blue, green or red tint which could be arranged to form crosses or other figures on the wall.
The church is a cross-domed building supported by six circular pillars. The outside is articulated with projecting pilasters, which have rounded corners, as does the building itself. The ante-nave contains the choir loft, accessed by a narrow gradatory in the western wall. Two other stairs were discovered in the walls of the side apses; their purpose is not clear. The floor is lined with ceramic tiles forming decorative patterns. The interior was lined with innumerable built-in pitchers, which usually serve in Eastern Orthodox churches as resonators but in this case were scored to produce decorative effects. For this reason, the central nave has never been painted.
The church was built before 1183 and survived intact, depicted in the 1840s by Michał Kulesza, until 1853, when the south wall collapsed, due to its perilous location on the high bank of the Neman. During restoration works, some fragments of 12th-century frescoes were discovered in the apses. Remains of four other churches in the same style, decorated with pitchers and coloured stones instead of frescoes, were discovered in Hrodna and Vaŭkavysk. They all date back to the turn of the 13th century, as do remains of the first stone palace in the Old Hrodna Castle.
In 2004, the church was included in the Tentative List of UNESCO"s World Heritage Sites.