Friday, February 12, 2016

Hildesheim Churches and Museum

Hildesheim, a city about 30 miles from Wolfenbüttel, was heavily bombed in World War II during March 1945.  Several churches and other landmarks display photos of the buildings before the bombing, as rubble in the aftermath of World War II, and after being rebuilt.  Some note which portions of the buildings and sculptures are original, and which were re-created.  The photos of the destroyed church are difficult to fully appreciate.  It is hard to imagine a bustling, modern city like Hildesheim turned to piles of busted stone.  And of course it hurts the heart of a medieval art historian to see photos of sculptures and buildings from the Middle Ages lying about broken and destroyed!

Hildesheim Cathedral after Bombing on March 22, 1945
But the city has rebounded and been rebuilt, and these photos display the tumultuous history that the city has endured.  It is always interesting for me to compare the pre-WWII photos, the photos of the destruction, and the present-day building in which I am standing.  You are really in the trenches of history!

Last Saturday, February 6, was the first sunny day we've had here in a very long time, so I went to Hildesheim to explore the many churches and the cathedral museum.  The train from Braunschweig to Hildesheim only takes about 25 minutes, so it was a quick ride!  While walking from the train station to find the first church on my list, I stumble upon the Marktplatz (market place) which is lined with INCREDIBLE half-timbered buildings!  Both of these buildings I photographed were originally built in the 16th century, destroyed during WWII, and then rebuilt in the 1950's and 1960's.  Totally to die for!  I stared at these lovely bits of eye candy for a bit before heading along on my route.

I first visited St. Andreas, originally built during the 12th and 13th centuries.  It is a pretty church with fun 1960's stained glass windows.

Stained glass windows in St. Andreas, 1966
St. Andreas in 2016
St. Andreas before WWII

Next on the agenda was St. Michael's.  What a treat!  St. Michael's was a Benedictine monastery, built in the 11th and 12th centuries.  The 13th-century painted wooden ceiling was absolutely incredible!  I must have had a crick in my neck for days after wandering around staring up for so long!!  The tomb of Bishop Bernward and the crypts under the altar were also totally cool.

St. Michael's
Note Bishop Bernward in the foreground and the painted ceiling above the central aisle
Detail of small reliquary capsule on the sculpture of Bishop Bernward
13th-Century Painted Wooden Ceilings
Then I adventured on to the main attraction, the Dom St. Maria Himmelfahrt (Cathedral of the Assumption of the Virgin).  One of the main reasons for my trip to Hildesheim was to find the medieval bronze doors of the cathedral-- They are in every art history textbook, and I wanted to pay my respects!  Called the Bernwardtür (doors of Bernward- the same Bishop referenced at St. Michael's), the enormous bronze doors were cast in the 11th century in Hildesheim.  They show common typological imagery, pairing related Old Testament and New Testament events (such as the Fall of Adam and Eve with the Crucifixion).  The doors alone were worth the trip to Hildesheim!

11th-Century Bronze Doors, Hildesheim Cathedral
I included my hand in this to show the scale of these massive doors.
For scale... A little old lady by the doors
Labors of Adam and Eve-- Adam sows the field while Eve nurses Cain or Abel
There is another fun tourist attraction at the cathedral, and that is the Tausendjährige Rosenstock (thousand-year rose bush).  The legend says that this rose bush survived the destruction of the cathedral during the Second World War, and inspired the war-torn city with its new blooms afterward.  I don't know if it's a thousand years old, but that thing sure is huge!  I can't wait to go back in the summer when it is blooming!

"Thousand-Year Rose Bush"
Attached to the cathedral is the Dommuseum (Cathedral Museum), which has been newly renovated. Tons of cool medieval stuff to see there!  I was even surprised to find a few textiles I didn't know they had!  I sent an email to the director today to see if I can come back and photograph the textiles with my tripod and whole pro-photographer set-up.  

Dommuseum, Hildesheim
Head-Shaped Reliquary, ca. 1450-1500
Embroidery with Kings and Prophets, ca. 1400
Bishop's Shoes (LOL), ca. 1150

Embroidery with Life of St. Margaret of Antioch, ca. 1400
Before leaving Hildesheim, a little restaurant caught my eye so I decided to stop in for dinner.  The Antik Cafe had my name all over it!  I had a Pfannkuchen with mixed vegetables and mozzarella.  Pfannkuchen is kind of a pancake-meets-funnel cake type of thing... And then it has various toppings, either sweet or savory.  The place was covered in various knick-knacks and vintage decor, so it was a totally perfect way to end an adventurous day!

Antik Cafe & Pfannkuchenhaus
Pfannkuchen with Mixed Veggies and Mozzarella

Antik Cafe
Antik Cafe

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