St. Mary's Cathedral: The Cathedral of Augsburg and Oldest Stained Glass
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St. Mary's Cathedral: The Cathedral of Augsburg and Oldest Stained Glass

The cathedral of Augsburg is an 11th-century Romanesque cathedral with 14th-century Gothic additions in Bavaria, Germany. It contains many notable artworks, bronze doors and including the oldest stained glass windows in the country.


The cathedral of Augsburg is an 11th-century Romanesque cathedral with 14th-century Gothic additions in Bavaria, Germany. It contains many notable artworks, bronze doors and including the oldest stained glass windows in the country.

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Excavations beneath the cathedral site reveals that earlier structures were built since the early 14th century but it is not clear if the building was a church. The first recorded information was mention in around 822 where the first known cathedral on this site was built in the 8th century.

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During the Hungarian invasion, the cathedral was damaged and the restoration was supervised by Bishop Ulrich in 923. Empress Adelaide, a visionary who claimed to have foreseen the destruction help to rebuilt the collapsed west end in about 994.

Bishop Henry II consecrated the construction on the present Romanesque cathedral which began in about 1043 and was finished 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.

During the Protestant Reformation, iconoclast seized and destroyed most of the cathedral’s religious art but some of which were restored later. In 1565, the north tower was heightened.

The interior was given a variety of touches as years passed. A Baroque treatment was given in 1655 to 1658 and was reversed in 1852 to 1863 to restore it to a romanticized medieval appearance. More medieval artworks were added to complete its effect, while the Neo-gothic elements were taken off 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.

Augsburg cathedral is made mainly of red brick. The cathedral possessed a three-aisles 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.

Extensive 10th century foundations of St. John’s church are displayed in the south plaza while Roman artifacts can be seen at the west end.

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The south portal (1356) into the east choir featured detailed carved sculptures scenario of Virgin Mary on tympanum and on the central column, while figures of the apostles on the jambs.

The tympanum of the north portal (1343) has been moved inside the cathedral. It is much simpler depicting Annunciation, Christ’s birth, Magi’s Adoration, and Death and Coronation of the Virgin.


The south portal into the west choir is 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.

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One side depicts events from the Old Testament

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The other side seems to depict parables from the New Testament

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The combination of architectural style and additions made the interior is not very harmonious, but is interesting and graceful 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 dating around 1356-1431, with an ambulatory and many chapels. There is also a west choir, raised higher than the nave where beneath is a crypt dating from the 10th century.

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Stained glass window of Daniel. Part of a series of five windows in the south clerestory that are the oldest in Germany, late 11th century or early 12th century, Augsburg Cathedral, Bavaria, Germany.

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 George Bergmüller.

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Detail of south transept stained glass window depicting the Virgin Mary as the Throne of Solomon, 1330-40, and restored 1837.

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.

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Early stained glass 1100

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Prophet Daniel and King David after 1132

This Gothic cathedral contains the oldest painted glass windows in the world. These beautiful “prophets windows” were made by the monks of Tegern Lake in 1140. Another treasure of the cathedral is the four panels painted by Hans Holbein the Elder. Outside the cathedral is the Roman Wall that reminds everyone of Augsburg’s origin.


Image Source – Augsburg Cathedral Photo Gallery

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Comments (8)

Excellent discussion and presentation, Ron.

Very amazing graphics and overall presentation!

beautiful and artistic cathedral. excellent presentation!

Thanks everyone.

Another beautiful building.

Thanks Brenda.

Very well done article filled with such detail that you presented so well. Thank you for the history lesson and the beauty you conveyed through your words and pictures too.

Thanks Roberta.