Speyer Cathedral

Wednesday, 4 August 2021 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  5 minutes

© Sebastian Mierzwa/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Sebastian Mierzwa/cc-by-sa-4.0

Speyer Cathedral, officially the Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St Stephen, in Latin: Domus sanctae Mariae Spirae (German: Dom zu Unserer lieben Frau in Speyer) in Speyer, Germany, is the seat of the Roman Catholic Bishop of Speyer and is suffragan to the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Bamberg. The cathedral, which is dedicated to St. Mary, patron saint of Speyer (“Patrona Spirensis”) and St. Stephen is generally known as the Kaiserdom zu Speyer (Imperial Cathedral of Speyer). Pope Pius XI raised Speyer Cathedral to the rank of a minor basilica of the Roman Catholic Church in 1925. In 1981, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites as “a major monument of Romanesque art in the German Empire“.

Begun in 1030 under Konrad II, with the east end and high vault of 1090–1103, the imposing triple-aisled vaulted basilica of red sandstone is the “culmination of a design which was extremely influential in the subsequent development of Romanesque architecture during the 11th and 12th centuries”. As the burial site for Salian, Staufer and Habsburg emperors and kings the cathedral is regarded as a symbol of imperial power. With the Abbey of Cluny in ruins, it remains the largest Romanesque church. It is considered to be “a turning point in European architecture”, one of the most important architectural monuments of its time and one of the finest Romanesque monuments.

Speyer Cathedral Gardens and Heidentürmchen © Kmtextor/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Alfred Hutter © Joachim Köhler © Kai Scherrer © Roman Eisele/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Sebastian Mierzwa/cc-by-sa-4.0
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Speyer Cathedral Gardens and Heidentürmchen © Kmtextor/cc-by-sa-4.0
Speyer Cathedral has maintained the overall form and dimensions of the 11th-century structure and, despite substantial losses to the original fabric and successive restorations, presents a complete and unified Romanesque building. The design broadly follows the plan that was established at St. Michael’s Church in Hildesheim and set the standard that was to be generally adopted in the Rhineland. This comprised a high vaulted nave with aisles, with a domed crossing towards at the east which terminated in an apsidal chancel. The horizontal orientation already points to the development of the Gothic architecture.

The western end terminates in an elaborate structure known as a “Westwerk” including the main portal, a feature typical of many Romanesque churches. Other German Romanesque churches, such as Worms Cathedral have an apse at both ends. Externally, the silhouette of the building is balanced by two pairs of tall towers which frame the nave at the western end and the chancel to the east, and form a sculptural mass with the dome at each end, creating an “equilibrium between the eastern and western blocks”. The majority of its features are still the same exterior but the interior has undergone many renovations supporting the foundation but changing the interior greatly.

The exterior appearance of the cathedral is unified by the regularity of the size of its openings. Speyer has the earliest example in Germany of a colonnaded dwarf gallery that goes around the entire building, just below the roofline. The same type of gallery also adorns the eastern and western domes. The openings in the gallery match the size of the paired windows in the towers. The domes are both octagonal, the roof of the eastern one being slightly ovoid. The towers are surmounted by “Rhenish helm” spires. The nave, towers and domes are all roofed with copper, which has weathered to pale green, in contrast to the pinkish red of the building stone, and the polychrome of the Westwerk.

Internally, the nave is of two open stages with simple semi-circular Romanesque openings. The arcade has piers of a simple form, each with a wide attached shaft, the alternate shafts carrying a stone arch of the high vault. The square bays thus formed are groin vaulted and plastered. Although most of the plasterwork of the 19th century has been removed from wall surfaces, the wide expanse of masonry between the arcade and the clerestory contains a series of colourful murals depicting the Life of the Virgin.

The cathedral has recently undergone fundamental restorations, which cost around 26 million Euros. In addition the frescos by Johann Schraudolph, which were removed in the 1950s, were restored and are now displayed in the “Kaisersaal” of the cathedral.

Read more on Speyer Cathedral, UNESCO – Speyer Cathedral and Wikipedia Speyer Cathedral (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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