The Cathedral of St Peter (Wormser Dom) is the principal church and most important building of Worms, Germany. Along with Speyer and Mainz, it ranks among the finest Romanesque churches along the
The cathedral rises on the highest hill of the urban district, about 100 meters over the sea level. It is 110m long, and 27m wide, or including the transepts, which are near the west end, 36m (interior measurements). The height in the nave is 26m; under the domes it is 40m. The plan is that of a modified Latin cross with slight projection of the transept. The entrance is through a southern porch. Above the crossing and at the western end are short octagonal towers. There are two taller towers flanking the building at either end. Each has a steeply pointed roof - a projectile, either conical or octagonal. The various sections of the building are massive, clearly-defined units, looking like they were built from a child with a set of building blocks. It creates the sense that the building could be disassembled and rearranged.
The origins of the Worm’s cathedral can be traced back to early Christian times during the late Roman era. The first officially appointed Worms bishop was Berthulf, appointed in 614AD. The first early Christian cathedral came out from a Roman Basilica, which lay in the midst of the forum, and was built by Dagobert I (625 -639), but much smaller than the existing one . The cathedral's north portal, one of the parts which were frequently changed, followed in a more Frankish style in Merovingian and in Carolingian times. It served as a burial place for the ancestors of the Salian royal family who had a castle in
Burchard’s cathedral was dedicated in 1018, in the presence of emperor Heinrich II. Unfortunately, two years after this event, the western part of the church unexpectedly collapsed: within two years it was rebuilt. The base range of the east choir as well as the bases of the two round east towers are preserved from that era, to be recognized by the relatively small and even sandstone ashlars masonry. This is also present on the south side in the base of the transept. Also the two round western towers are from Burchard's era, one of the northern towers, and three of the southern. The southern tower is called "donkey tower", because, instead of stairs, a ramp with a cobbled surface rises upwards. Burchard’s cathedral was a three-nave Basilica with a transept and a straight closed eastern choir. A semicircular western choir was dedicated to the martyr St. Laurentius, inserted between the towers. The church room had a flat timber ceiling. The wall arrangement corresponded to the Limburg Monastery at Bad Dürkheim or the Speyer cathedral.
The ground was laid out with a mosaic from white marble and dark slate. In the nave it lay only scarcely under today's level, as was also the transept and eastern choir. The western choir was even 30 cm higher than today. According to the description in Burchard's biography from around 1030/40, the church was splendidly decorated, mentioning columns with gilded capitals. Four Salian family members were already buried in the altar area of the Frankish cathedral and they were exhumed during Burchard's construction. They got to rest anew in the eastern nave; five more followed up to the year 1046. The sarcophagi stand since the beginning of the 20th Century in an accessible crypt created for them beneath the altar.
The model again - you can see the clean forms of the building very clearly.
Because the floor level of the transept and the eastern choir stands out over six meters from the soil, one must assume that a crypt (Unterkirche) was present at that particular site, however so far there is still no possibility for the appropriate search and excavations to begin. There are early references to the relic of St. Nicolas, which allegedly was brought over and donated by empress Theophano (niece of Byzantine emperor Ioannis Tzimiskes) from
In the year 1058 during the tenure of Bishop Arnold, a small St. Nicolas chapel was erected and dedicated to the southern side nave within the range of the 3rd and 4th bay. Between 1280 and 1315 today's substantially larger St. Nicolas chapel was made in Gothic style. The dedicating inscription of 1058 is still there, immured within the niche along with the new St. Nicolas reliquary, procured at the end of the 20th century. The original reliquary was lost because of the destruction during the Palatinate succession war. The chapel serves now as the Baptistery of the cathedral. The outstanding late Gothic Baptism stone (around 1480) comes from the Johanneskirche, the ten-sided Roman original Baptistery and since the Middle Ages parish church on the area south of the cathedral (formerly a cemetery). The building was auctioneered after the abolition of the diocese in the course of the secularization during the French occupation and cleared away completely.
The cathedral of the 12th century was built on the existing plans from the east to the west, in three sections. After the results of carbon-14 dating, which do not contradict any stylistic comparisons or written documents, the eastern parts (thus choir, transept with the cupola at the crossing, eastern towers up to the next to last projectile and beginning of the nave) were established approximately in the period of 1125/30 and 1144. The next section of the nave followed between 1160 and 1170. The third and last section followed directly afterwards. It contained the increased western choir with dome tower and the completion of the towers. Into this building phase belong the new building of the Johanneskirche and the completion of the cathedral cloister, which was already begun together with the southern side nave. More buildings were also built in the three storied cloister complex. In the first third of the 19th century, the threadbare remains of the cloister could be reconstructed at the external wall of the southern side of the nave.
St. Juliana, who hauls off a bound devil. In the nave the portals with their tympana are also important.
The southern portal was changed around 1300 in the Gothic style influenced by the recently finished Strasbourg Cathedral, but the Romanesque tympanum was preserved and placed at the interior. Christ is surrounded by saints and bishops. Also at this portal are the lion sculptures: in the St. Anne Chapel there is a representation of Daniel in the lion pit. The portal, which led from the side of the nave into the Roman St. Nicolas Chapel, shows a portrait of Bishop Nicolas in the tympanum as a teacher, surrounded by his pupils. The writings in his opened up book are puzzling. Also at the northern portal, the bishop and emperor portal, the tympanum was turned inwards, when in 1184 the privileges given by Friedrich I Barbarossa to the citizens of the city were attached to the exterior. In the western choir, predominantly outside of the colonnaded gallery, monstrous figures like fire demons emerge again.
The Gothic southern portal. The women statues decorating it are particularly interesting as they are sculpted from the back (invisible to the passers-by) to show demons - a sign of the low place women held in medieval Europe and in church in particular.
The cathedral was richly painted inside: meagre remainders of these murals are still preserved. The oversize large representation of St. Christopher is most important at the east wall of the northern transept, from around 1200 A.D. Later additions enriched the appearance of the cathedral. Under Bishop Johann von Dalberg (1482 - 1503) the cathedral cloister was again established in late Gothic forms and decorated with sandstone relief, which show scenes from the life of Jesus. In early 19th Century the cloister was eliminated, the relief decorating now the northern side of the nave of the cathedral
A better view of the southern portal. This is used as the main entrance of the church.
The most important religious event however had little to do with the architecture of the cathedral: In April 1521 Martin Luther, appeared before emperor Charles V at the Diet of Worms, in the bishop's palace (the area of today's Heylshof garden), and had to answer for his new teachings. He refused to recall his writings, and of course we all know that this led to the Reformation and changed the course of Western civilization.
The next centuries left visible traces to the cathedral. It was strongly damaged during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) by the Swedish troops. Forty years later, in the course of the city devastation during the Palatinate succession war, the cathedral interior was totally destroyed by fire after a failed attempt to blow up the building; the buildings in the surrounding area were also heavily damaged. The bishop residence, which had also served as accommodation for the kings and emperors of the Middle Ages coming to Worms, was obliterated.
In the following decades, new interior decoration with a baroque altar and quire were made. The altar was made by Balthasar Neumann, from 1738 to 1742 and implemented by Johann Wolfgang of the Auwera. It ranks among the highest quality altars of this time. The side altars of Johann Peter Jäger were developed between 1751 and 1759, and from 1755 - 1759 the Quire was remade by Franz Anton Hermann in the Rococo style. In 1792 Worms was conquered by the French revolution troops. The cathedral served them as stables and barracks. One can only imagine the damages suffered. Only in 1886 a first thorough renovation of the cathedral began. The western choir had to be renewed down to the foundation walls. The process was considered finished in 1935. But the additions were not finished yet.
The interestingly coloured stained glass windows come from the second half of the 20th Century. Of special interest are the 1992 windows finished by Heinz Hindorf (1986-1988), the windows of the Mary Chapel, formerly St. Ägidien Chapel, with the life of Mary. In 20 scenes based on persons and important personalities, the diocese of Worms and its urban history are represented, from the earliest mentioned Bishop Victor at 345A.D. up to the destruction of the city at the end of World War II in 1945. And the process of restoration of course never ends.
Together with Mainz and Speyer, the three Roman emperor cathedrals on the northern upper Rhine form a unique constellation of medieval sacred buildings. For the city of Worms, the cathedral has been for over 1000 years its landmark. The cathedral is the work of many generations. A joint work, which cannot at first sight be understood completely. Bishops, emperors and kings, workers, building people and stone-cutters, financial backers - and also the faithful - contributed to its building. They created a singular church from Roman and Gothic architectural styles.
Close up of the organ, perched high in the church nave - the oldest recorded organ was installed here in 1259 A.D.
P.S I. For every one to follow easily the architectural terms used in this and previous posts , some simple plans to explain the layout of a cathedral:
First we see the Amiens cathedral plan with a very clear explanation of all major parts of it. Click on the image to enlarge it and see the details better.
Here is the nave:
Then the aisles:
I hope this helps!
P.S II. Apart from wikipedia, invaluable help was this site (only in German).