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History of Worms Cathedral

The origins of Worms Cathedral go back 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. The cathedral was a burial place for the Salian royal
family, who had a castle in Worms well into the 11th century. These can still be seen in
the crypt.

A century later, Burchard's building was replaced by the present cathedral, an even
more splendid High Romanesque structure. The east section was the first part to be
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.

During the Middle Ages, numerous visits from the Emperor and many important events,
some with serious political consequences, took place in the cathedral and it
surroundings.

Around 1300, the Nikolaus Chapel in the cathedral was replaced with a Gothic chapel
and the south portal was re-carved in an impressive Gothic style. A Late Gothic cloister
was carved with scenes from the life of Jesus around the end of the 15th century; these
now stand in the north nave.

In the late 17th century, after the town was badly damaged during wars against the
French, a Baroque high altar by Balthasar Neumann was added to the cathedral.

What to See at Worms Cathedral

Worms Cathedral has a highly distinctive appearance from the outside, with its two
domed choirs and four corner towers. It is also quite unified in its architecture: only a
few Gothic additions were made to the original Romanesque structure.
One notable Gothic addition is the main entrance, the Sdportal, which is a veritable
Bible in stone. Unusually, and thankfuily, the sculptures from the former Romanesque
portal were preserved on the wall immediately inside.

On the north side is the Kaiserportal, where, according to the German


epic Nibelungenlied, Kriemhild and her sister-in-law Brunnhild had a quarrel about who
had the right to enter the portal first - leading eventually to the murder of Siegfried and
the collapse of Burgundy.

Inside, the oldest section (1132) is the east choir, which became the prototype for a
distinctive trick of local architecture: the walls are straight on the outside but rounded
inside. The arcades are decorated with fearsome lion statues to frighten off the devil.
Look for the figure of a workman with a monkey on his shoulder this is probably a
self-portrait of the master mason (the workman, not the monkey).

The highly decorative west choir is the culmination of the building program towards the
end of the 12th century. It includes splendid examples of typical Romanesque features,
including rose windows, zigzag arcades and rich moldings.

The high altar is a Baroque extravaganza by the famous 18th-century architect


Balthasar Neumann. This opulent work of gilded wood and marble was so large that
there was no place for a proper transept. It features awe-inspired Saints Peter and Paul
with two angels pointing at the Madonna and Child, who seem to be coming right at you.

Worth a look is the highly decorated 14th-century Niklauskapelle (Chapel of St.


Nicholas), off the south aisle, with its Gothic font, relief of three virgin martyrs, and new
stained-glass windows. It is divided down the middle by pillars like a monastic refectory.

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 cathedral crypt is austere, dark and eerie. It serves as the resting place of five
generations of the Salian dynasty.