Bremen Cathedral history
The site for the current Bremen Cathedral has been verified as a site of many religious structures. The place has a long and somewhat troublesome history. The first religious structure on the site was a timber church constructed as early as year 789. The timber church didn’t last for long though, as Saxons attacked and burned it just three years later.
Another church, made of local sandstone, was established in 805. This church later became important and played a central role when it came to converting northern Germany and Scandinavia to Christianity.
During the mid 10th century, the church was in the process of being rebuilt and enlarged but in 1041 most of Bremen, including the cathedral, was destroyed by a devastating fire.
When the construction of a new church started, the church was given a Romanesque style, with two stubby flat-topped towers on the west side and a flat timber ceiling. Romanesque architectual style is also known as “Norman style”, from the way the Normans used to design their buildings; functional, compact and minimalistic.
In order to get the church up as soon as possible, they cut some corners and used parts of the city walls as building material to reduce the costs. This proved to be a major mistake, as the short-sightedness resulted in Saxons sacking and the Bremen Cathedral city in 1064. To put it simple; the city of Bremen – and its churches in particular – have had some rough times.
However, Bremen Cathedral survived the Saxons sacking and it was later remodeled in the 13th century to reflect the new architectural trend of the time; the Gothic Architecture. Bremen Cathedral was reconstructed using baked brick and the flat ceiling was changed to rib vaulting which is one of the hallmarks of Gothic church architecture.
The two towers and the front wall were blended together and a rose window was added. The transition into a Gothic church continued in the late 15th century, when several new chapels were added.
Due to the Protestant Reformation that swept through northern Germany, Bremen Cathedral later became a Lutheran church in 1638. In January the very same year, the south tower collapsed causing severe damage to surrounding buildings, killing eight people. In 1660 a 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. Bad luck and destruction had once again struck the Bremen Cathedral.
Due to conflict between different interests within the church, little effort was made to restore Bremen Cathedral to its former glory. It was as late as in the 1880s that the citizens of Bremen decided to restore it. Money was raised for the restoration and the work began 1888.
When restoring Bremen Cathedral, much thought was given to the history of the site and the different stages in has gone though. The West Front of the Bremen Cathedral reflects the Romanesque origins of the building whereas the lower sections were restored to show the sandstone origins of the building.
The rest of Bremen Cathedral is built in the characteristic Hanseatic Brick style of northern Germany.
The interior of Bremen Cathedral was restored in the Gothic style making it difficult to see the changes in style that occurred over time. Reconstruction continued off and on until 1901 when the cathedral reopened.
World War II
During the Second World War, Bremen Cathedral was struck by a fire bomb during an Allied air raid in 1943 which caused severe damage to the building. In 1945, a high explosive bomb caused a collapse of the roof vaulting.
During this stage, Bremen Cathedral was so severely damaged that it was feared that the building would totally collapse. However the ruins were stabilized and Bremen Cathedral was reconstructed in 1950. From 1972 to 1981 Bremen Cathedral was once again restored to the High Gothic form of the 1901 restoration which is the beautiful Bremen Cathedral we can see today.
Why visit Bremen Cathedral ?
The classic Bremen Cathedral, also known as St. Peters Cathedral from the saint Peter, has a lot to offer.
During the Middle Ages the towers had eight bells. Today however, the towers house Bremen Cathedral ‘s four bells. The north tower has three bells whereas the south holds a single bell. 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.
Bremen Cathedral is known for its long history of fine organs and music. Besides the large organ, another important attraction is also the lead cellar, known as “Bleikeller”. This 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.
Today, eight mummies in glass-topped coffins can be seen down there. The crypt has become the cathedral’s most visited attraction for more than 300 years. The cathedral also houses a museum was constructed in one of the side chapels in the 1970s cathedral restoration. The Cathedral Museum displays various items discovered in the tombs under the nave.
Twos interesting traditions with connection to Bremen 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 which then releases him from his duty.
When a women who reach their thirtieth birthday unmarried, she must polish the cathedral doorknobs in the company of friends and family until they all are released by the kiss of a young man.
If you pay Bremen Cathedral a visit and happen to see a man in his 30ies, sweeping the steps or a woman in her 30ies, polishing the doorknob; release them from their duty!
Bremen Cathedral location
Bremen Cathedral is located in Bremen, Germany. The cathedral is situated in central parts of the city, close to the city hall. For the exact location of Bremen Cathedral, check out the location map to the right.