Church of the Week: Worms Cathedral, Worms, Germany

One of the many highlights of my recent sojourn in Germany with the lovely Robin was our visit to the Worms Cathedral in (where else?) Worms.

Worms Cathedral (known variously in German as the Dom, Kaiserdom, Wormser Dom or Dom St. Peter) is one of the finest examples of High Romanesque architecture in Germany. For nearly 1000 years, this unique church has dominated the central part of this historic city.

The origins of Worms Cathedral date to early Christian times. The first Bishop of Worms was Berthulf, in 614 AD; his cathedral was much smaller than the present one. Under Burchard (1000-25), the most notable Bishop of Worms, a new Romanesque cathedral was built on the site. It had similar measurements to today's cathedral and some of the original parts survive. A century later, Burchard's building was replaced by the present cathedral. The east section was built in 1125-44, the nave was constructed 1160-70, and the chancel was mostly completed by 1181, when the cathedral was consecrated. The west end was the last to be built, at the end of the 12th century. The Baroque high altar by Balthasar Neumann was added in the eighteenth century.

The north aisle contains five late Gothic tympana — a Tree of Jesse and four scenes from the life of Christ — which once adorned the now-demolished cloister. The piece pictured above depicts the removal of Jesus' body from the cross.

The highly decorative west choir (above) is the culmination of the building program toward the end of the twelfth century. It includes majestic rose windows.

The grounds of the cathedral include a sheltered garden. On the north side of the cathedral, a small park (Heylshofgarten) is the site of the former imperial palace where Martin Luther stood before the Diet of Worms in 1521 and refused to recant his views with the famous words, "Here I stand, I can do no other."

Among the cathedral's treasures is this nativity tryptych (above), rescued from a fire that destroyed parts of the cathedral.

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