Bremen Cathedral

Bremen Cathedral

Bremen Cathedral (German: Bremer Dom or St. Petri Dom zu Bremen), dedicated to St. Peter, is a church situated in the market square in the center of Bremen, in northern Germany. The cathedral belongs to the Evangelical Church in Germany.


The first church structure which can be verified on the site of St Peter's Cathedral in Bremen was a timber church on on a high point overlooking the Weser River built by St. Willehad, an early missionary to the Frisians. The church was built about 789 in conjunction with the creation of the Diocese of Bremen with Willehad as the first bishop. Willehad died the same year."Ancient See of Hamburg-Bremen." "The Catholic Encyclopedia", 1913.]

Just three years later Saxons attacked and burned Bremen and its tiny timber cathedral. No trace of it remains. The see remained vacant for thirteen years until it was reestablished under Bishop Willerich in 805. St Peter's was built as the cathedral church of local sandstone in several stages by Bishop Willerich.

After the sack of Hamburg by the Danes in 845, Bremen became the seat of the combined Bremen and Hamburg Archdiocese under Archbishop St Ansgar who held the see from 848 to his death in 865. He was one of the most prominent missionaries to northern Europe and is credited with the beginnings of the conversion of the Danes and Swedes to Christianity. He was succeeded by Archbishop Rimbert.

It is believed that during Ansgar's time the cathedral had a central nave and two side aisles with a choir at each end of the nave, a typical Carolingian church form. There was a cathedral school and cloister.

Early in the tenure of Archbishop Adalbrand(1035-1043) the church was in the process of being rebuilt and enlarged, but in 1041 most of Bremen including the cathedral was destroyed by a terrible fire. The fire also destroyed much of the cathedral library. Bishop Adalbrand ordered the building rebuilt in 1042, but died before it could be completed.

Most of the rebuilding fell to Bishop Adalbert (1043-1072). The cathedral was rebuilt as a pillared basilica with rounded Romanesque style arches and a flat timber ceiling. Two stubby, flat-topped towers were added to the west front. A crypt was built under the west part of the nave. The building plan was based on cruciform shape of the cathedral at Benevento in Campania, Italy with which Adalbert was familiar. He also brought craftsmen from Lombardy to make repairs and embellish the cathedral, much to the consternation of local builders and artists. Adalbert ignored the criticism and forced his vision for the cathedral on the local townspeople. On Adalbert's orders parts of the city walls were torn down to provide low-cost stone for the cathedral. Adalbert's short-sightedness resulted in Saxons sacking the city and the cathedral in 1064.

Adalbert also wanted to improve the reputation of the cathedral school and invited Magister Adam of the Magdeburg Cathedral School to come to Bremen and eventually become its director. After 1072 Adam wrote "The Deeds of the Bishops of the Hamburg Church", a history of the missionary efforts in northern Germany and Scandinavia in four volumes. Adam of Bremen, as he became known, used the earlier works of others available to him at what was left of the Bremen cathedral library to describe the events and people in the Christianization of north Germany, Frisia, and Scandinavia for which Hamburg had authority to send missionaries. Adam of Bremem continued to revise and update his writing until his death in 1080. His fourth book was mainly written, it is believed, as a guide to the geography and customs of the peoples of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden for future missionaries in the conversion of the pagans of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. In his work is found the first reference to Vinland.

Under Bishop Gebhard II (1219-1258) the church was remodeled to reflect the new Gothic architecture that swept across Europe. Because of the scarcity of building stone, the church was constructed in baked brick as were many other large ecclesiastic and public buildings in northern Europe. The flat basilica ceiling was changed to ribbed vaulting that was the hallmark of Gothic church architecture. The towers and front wall of the west front were blended together and a rose window was added. The towers were raised above the roof of the nave although left with flat tops. St Peter's is one of the largest historic brick structures in Europe. More transformation of the basilica style church into German "High Gothic" took place between 1497 and 1511. Several chapels were added and even more ambitious plans were made for the church. The cathedral was used mainly for religious celebrations and special events, but not on a daily basis. Parish church functions were handled by other nearby churches.

When the Protestant Reformation swept through northern Germany, St Peter's church was closed in 1532. The church was condemned as a symbol of the abuses of a long Catholic past by most local citizens and the building fell into disuse and then disrepair. The church was variously opened and closed by the prevailing opinion of the day. In 1638 St Peter's was open once again, but on January 27 the same year, the south tower collapsed causing severe damage to surrounding buildings and killing eight people. In 1642 a Lutheran Latin School opened at St Peter's. Just eighteen years later, lightning struck the north tower and burned the roof which collapsed into the nave destroying the roof. The north tower was quickly rebuilt as a stubby, flat-roofed structure. The south tower remained in its ruined form. The church remained closed for 77 years.

In the early 1800s St Peter's became property of the city, but the citizens saw no reason to waste money by restoring the dilapidated cathedral. By the 1880s the citizens of Bremen decided that the cathedral should be restored to its medieval glory. Money was raised for the restoration of the building and work began in 1888. Reconstruction continued off and on until 1901 when the church reopened. The restoration was done according to the Romanesque Revival style, a then modern interpretation of the ancient style as created by Max Salzman. The towers were raised to their present height and completed in 1892. The interior of the church was restored in the Gothic style making it difficult to see the changes in style that occurred over time.

The West Front of the cathedral reflects the Romanesque origins of the building, however the modern front including the west window was part of the 1880s reconstruction of the cathedral. The lower sections were restored to show the sandstone origins of the building, but the rest of the cathedral is built in the characteristic Hanseatic Brick style of north Germany. It is believed that the west facade once had a two story "porch" with an upper and lower gallery. Twos interesting traditions with a connection to the cathedral is that when a man reaches the age of 30 and is not married, he must sweep the cathedral steps until a young lady gives him a kiss and then he is released from his duty. Women who reach their thirtieth birthday unmarried go to polish the cathedral doorknobs in the company of friends and family until they are released by the kiss of a young man.Fact|date=February 2007

The church was struck by a fire bomb during an Allied air raid in 1943 and damaged repeatedly until 1945 when a high explosive bomb caused the collapse of the roof vaulting. The structure was so severely damaged that it was feared that the building would totally collapse. However the ruins were stabilized and the church was reconstructed by 1950. From 1972 to 1981 the church was once again restored to the High Gothic form of the 1901 restoration.

Interior Contents

The remaining beautifully hand-carved choir stalls from 1365 may still be found in one of the chapels.

The stone baptismal font dates back to 1229 and has been moved to all parts of the cathedral over the years and now rests near the entrance.

The pulpit installed in 1638 was a gift from Queen Christina of Sweden to the people of Bremen. The pulpit has survived the many catastrophes that plagued St Peter's history and remains in its original location

Two crypts reveal the lower portions of the original walls and columns of the original cathedral. The crypt of the cathedral contains the bodies of almost ninety graves of bishops, archbishops, and others notables.

St Peter's was the original resting place of St Emma of Lesum, a wealthy benefactress of the church, who lived in outside the city in the early 11th century. When her tomb was opened, her body had crumbled to dust except for her right hand; the one that gave aid to the poor. The relic was moved to the church at Werden.

An unusual "Bleikeller" or lead basement is located beneath the nave which even before the Reformation had a reputation as an excellent place to preserve the bodies of the dead in amazing form. Eight mummies in glass-topped coffins can be seen there. The displays lists among those on display: two Swedish officers from the Thirty Years' War, and English countess, a murdered student, and a local pauper. The crypt has become the cathedral's most visited attraction for more than 300 years. The cathedral museum was constructed in one of the side chapels in the 1970s cathedral restoration.

St Peter's has several fine examples of artistic epitaphs for individuals that have survived the many restorations of the cathedral. The three finest are for Segebade von Hude (1578), Dr. Gerhard Brandis(1518), and Cathedral Provost Sigebade Cluver(1547).


The cathedral has twin 99 meter towers referred to as the north tower and the south tower. The towers were constructed flanking the main entrance portal on the west front of the church between 1215 and 1253. In 1346 the towers were strengthened and given pyramidal tops of uneven heights. When the towers were restored and raised in the 1890s they were given Rhenish "helmets" which still cap the towers today. It is possible to climb the south tower for a view of the city. The north tower remains closed. The crossing tower is a reminder of the original style of the west front towers with a pyramidal cap.

During the Middle Ages the towers had eight bells. Today the towers house the cathedral's four bells. The north tower has three bells. The oldest surviving bell is the "Maria Gloriosa cast in 1433 by the famous bell maker Ghert Klinghe. The other bells were removed and melted down for the war effort in World War II. In 1951 two bells, "Hansa" and "Felicitas", were donated to the cathedral by former residents living abroad. In 1962 a prominent Bremen family donated a fourth bell, the "Brema" which hangs in the south tower. The Brema weighs 7000 kg.


Bremen has a long-standing tradition of fine organ music since 1526. From 1698 to 1843 the famous organ built by Arp Schnitger, one of the Baroque period's best known organ makers was the main organ. Its replacements, the Schulze organ and then the William Sour organ which is one of the largest in northwest Germany. The cathedral today has five organs in different parts of the cathedral and continues the long tradition of great organs and organists.


External links

* [ St. Petri Dom] de icon
* [ Bremen official website] de icon

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Игры ⚽ Нужно сделать НИР?

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Bremen — • Formerly the seat of an archdiocese situated in the north western part of the present German Empire Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Bremen     Bremen      …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • Bremen TV tower — Bremen Walle Telecommunication Tower (official designation of Bremen TV tower), which is not accessible for the public, is, just like the telecommunication tower at Münster and the Friedrich Clemens Gerke Tower in Cuxhaven, a reproduction of the… …   Wikipedia

  • Bremen Roland — The Bremen Roland is a statue ( Rathausplatz ) of the city s protector, Roland, erected in 1404, which stands in the market square of Bremen, facing the cathedral. Charlemagne s knight Roland bears Durendart , the sword of justice and a shield… …   Wikipedia

  • Bremen-Verden — Duchies of Bremen and Verden Herzogtümer Bremen und Verden (de) Hertigdömet Bremen och Hertigdömet Verden (sv) States of the Holy Roman Empire, enfeoffed to 1) the Swedish Crown in 1648 2) the Hanoverian Crown in 1733 …   Wikipedia

  • Cathedral of Magdeburg — View of Magdeburg with the cathedral on the right Winter view of Magdeburg Cathedral …   Wikipedia

  • Bremen — /brem euhn/; Ger. /brdday meuhn/, n. 1. a state in NW Germany. 654,000; 156 sq. mi. (405 sq. km). 2. a port in and the capital of this state, on the Weser River: formerly a member of the Hanseatic League. 522,000. * * * I City (pop., 2002 est.:… …   Universalium

  • St. Mary's Cathedral, Hamburg — This article is about the ancient cathedral in Hamburg. For the modern cathedral, see New St. Mary s Cathedral (Hamburg). For the funfayre named after this cathedral, see Hamburger Dom. Cathedral of St. Mary s Sankt Mariendom Dom St. Marien zu… …   Wikipedia

  • Archbishopric of Bremen — Prince Archbishopric of Bremen Erzstift Bremen State of the Holy Roman Empire ← …   Wikipedia

  • Adam Of Bremen — ▪ German historian flourished 11th century       German historian whose work on the archbishops of Hamburg Bremen provides valuable information on German politics under the Salian emperors and is also one of the great books of medieval geography …   Universalium

  • Evangelical Church of Bremen — The Evangelical Church of Bremen is the most important protestant denomination in the German state of Bremen. The seat of the church is in Bremen.It is a full member of the Evangelical Church in Germany EKD, and is a united Church combining… …   Wikipedia

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”