Augsburg Cathedral is an 11th-century Romanesque cathedral with 14th-century Gothic additions in Bavaria, Germany. It contains many notable artworks, including the oldest stained glass windows in the country.
It is possible a church has stood here since the 4th century: foundations from this date have been found beneath the cathedral, but it is not clear the building was a church. The first known cathedral on this site was built in the late 8th century and the first written mention of it is in 822.
The cathedral was damaged during the Hungarian invasions and restored under Bishop Ulrich in 923. The west end collapsed in 994 and was rebuilt with the help of Empress Adelaide, who claimed to have foreseen the destruction in a vision.
Construction on the present Romanesque cathedral began under Bishop Henry IIin 1043 and was completed under his successor in 1065. This building still forms the core of the cathedral, although much of it was given a Gothic makeover from 1331 to 1431. The east choir is a fully Gothic addition of 1356-1431.
Iconoclasts seized and destroyed most of the cathedral's religious art during the Protestant Reformation (1537-48), some of which was restored later. The north tower was heightened in 1565.
The interior was given the Baroque treatment in 1655-58, then reversed in in 1852-63 to restore it to a romanticized vision of its medieval appearance. More medieval artworks were brought in to complete the effect. The Neo-Gothic elements were removed in 1934.
Augsburg Cathedral was fairly lucky in World War II; only the Lady Chapel and cloister were damaged. Extensive restorations of the interior were undertaken in 1983-84.
What to See
Augsburg Cathedral is a three-aisled basilica with a Romanesque nave and west choir and a Gothic east choir. Two square towers near the east end are topped with copper spires. The cathedral is made primarily of red brick.
In the plaza south of the cathedral are the extensive foundations of the 10th-century St. John's Church. Displayed at the west end of these are some Roman artifacts found nearby.
The south portal (1356) into the east choir is elaborately carved with sculptures, depicting scenes from the life of the Virgin Mary on the tympanum, figures of apostles on the jambs, and the Virgin Mary on the central column.
The tympanum of the north portal (1343) is simpler and has been moved inside the cathedral. It depicts the Annunciation, Birth of Christ, Adoration of the Magi, and Death and Coronation of the Virgin. Standing figures from the north portal are also displayed inside.
The south portal into the west choir contains modern bronze doors by Max Faller installed in 2000. These replace Romanesque bronze doors (1065), which are now protected in Augsburg's Diocesan Museum (since 2002). Quite different from those at Hildesheim Cathedral (1015), the 35 panels are relatively plain with just a single figure occupying the space, making it somewhat difficult to identify the scenes.
One side depicts Old Testament stories: the creation of Eve and her presentation to Adam; the Garden of Eden with the Serpent; Moses seizing his rod transformed into a serpent; the miracle wrought by Aaron upon the rods of the Egyptians; Samson rending the lion and Samson slaying the Philistines.
The other side seems to depict New Testament parables - the woman who lost a piece of silver; the birds of heaven; a vineyard - and Old Testament predecessors of Christ including Melchizedek, Moses, Aaron, David, Judas Maccabaeus and the Prophets. Lions and centaurs represent evil.
The interior is not very harmonious due to its combination of styles and various additions, but is interesting in its details. The wide Romanesque nave (11th century) is whitewashed and painted with brick outlines except for a faded 11th-century frieze painted along the top of the wall. The nave has a ribbed Gothic vault.
The east choir is Gothic (1356-1431), with an ambulatory and many side chapels. There is also a west choir, raised higher than the nave. Under the west choir is a crypt dating from the 10th century.
The Lady Chapel is a Baroque addition of 1720-21, badly damaged in World War II and restored in 1987-88. The dome frescoes are replicas of the originals by Johann Georg Bergmüller.
The south clerestory contains the oldest stained glass windows in Germany: portraits of the prophets Jonah, Daniel, Hosea, Moses and David from the late 11th or early 12th century. There is more medieval stained glass, of later date, in the south aisle.
Other notable sights inside Augsburg Cathedral include:
Quick Facts on Augsburg Cathedral
|Feat:||Medieval Stained Glass|
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|Coordinates:||48.372779° N, 10.896721° E (view on Google Maps)|
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Map of Augsburg Cathedral
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- Personal visit (March 22, 2008).
- James Bentley, Blue Guide Western Germany, 2nd ed. (London: A&C Black, 1995), 85.
- Franz von Reber, History of Medieval Art (1886), 450-51.
- Dom Unserer Lieben Frau (Augsburg) - German Wikipedia
- Cathedral (Dom) - City of Augsburg
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