St. Michael's Church, Hildesheim

The Church of St. Michael is an early-Romanesque church in Hildesheim, Germany. It has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985. It is now a Lutheran church.


Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (996-1022) built a Benedictine monastery from the ground up on a hill linked with the archangel Michael just a half kilometer north of the city walls of his seat (Hildesheim), a monastery that featured an imposing church some 70 meters in length overall. Bernward set the first stone for the new church in 1010 and dedicated the still unfinished building to Michael on the archangel's feast day, 29 September 1022, just a few weeks before his death. Construction, however, continued under his successor, Bishop Godehard (died 1038), who completed the work in 1031 and reconsecrated the church to Michael on September 29 of that year. The church has double choirs east and west, double tripartite transepts at either end of the nave, and six towers - two large ones over the crossings east and west, and four other tall and narrow ones attached to the small sides of the two transepts. The eastern choir featured three apses, and the west had a deep chapel with a huge single apse rising high over an elaborate cross-vaulted hall crypt with an ambulatory. Bishop Bernward's remains were placed in the western crypt.

The monastery comprised a church family and had two other sanctuaries dedicated to Martin and the Holy Cross lying in the cloister that extended northward from St. Michael's north flank. The monastery and church opened southward toward the city of Hildesheim, its south flank comprising a "facade" of a sort. It seems likely that the monastery on the Hill of St. Michael was surrounded by a wall.

In 1186, after a reconstruction following a fire, Hildesheim's Bishop Adelog of Dorstedt - assisted by Tammo, Prince-Bishop of Verden - reconsecrated St. Michael's.

When the people of Hildesheim became Protestant in 1542, St. Michael's became Lutheran, but the Benedictine monastery operated here until it was secularized in 1803. Monks continued to use the church, especially its western choir and crypt, down to that moment.

St. Michael's Church was destroyed in an air raid during World War II on 22 March 1945, but reconstruction was begun in 1950 and completed in 1957. In 1985, the church became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, along with the Cathedral of Hildesheim, its collection of medieval treasures and its 1000-year-old rosebush.

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