The Cathedral of Worms
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The Cathedral of Worms

The beginnings of Worms Cathedral go back to early Christian times in around 614 AD and the first Bishop of Worms was Berthulf; his cathedral was much smaller than the present one. In around 1000-1025, under Burchard, the most notable Bishop of Worms, a new Romanesque cathedral was built on the site.


The city of Worms is one of the oldest cities in Germany, where Celtic and Roman have lived on the banks of the Rhine, as was also the center of power since the late fifteenth century. For almost 1000 years has raised above all other ancient structures in the city. The Cathedral of Worms is one of the three great majestic cathedrals on Rhine and is one of the finest examples of High Romanesque architecture with splendid carvings which are especially preserved.

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The towering Worms Cathedral - Photo by Robert Scarth

The beginnings of Worms Cathedral go back to early Christian times in around 614 AD and the first Bishop of Worms was Berthulf; his cathedral was much smaller than the present one. In around 1000-1025, under Burchard, the most notable Bishop of Worms, a new Romanesque cathedral was built on the site. It had a similarity in measurements to the cathedral today with some of the original parts that make it. The cathedral crypt houses the burial place for the Salian royal family who had a castle in Worms since the 11th century.

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The exterior of Worms Cathedral – Photo under GFDL

After a century, a more splendid High Romanesque structure replaced the structure of Burchard with the east section as usual to be the first part to be built in 1125-44. The nave was constructed in around 1170 while the chancel was almost finished in about 1181 when the cathedral was consecrated and the west end was last to be built at the end of the 12th century.

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The cathedral was a landmark of many historical events during the Middle Ages, many visits from the Emperor with some sober political consequences took place. Around 1300, the Nikolaus chapel was replaced with a Gothic chapel and the south portal was renovated with carvings in an impressive Gothic style. A late Gothic style cloister was carved with scenes of the life of Christ around the end of the 15th century at the north nave.

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View of the nave, looking to the high altar - Photo by Robert Scarth

After the wars against the French in the late 17th century, the town of Worms was heavily damaged and a Baroque high altar by Balthasar Neumann was added to the cathedral. With the domed choirs and the four corner towers gave the cathedral of Worms a highly distinctive exterior appearance. The architecture was harmoniously unified with a few Gothic additions were made to the original Romanesque structure.

The Sudportal or the main entrance is a famous Gothic addition which is an authentic Bible in stone where the former Romanesque portal was preserved on the wall immediately inside. On the north side portal is the Kaiserportal where according to the German epic Nibelungenlied, Kriemhild and her sister-in-law Brunnhild had a quarrel who had the right to enter first the portal – leading eventually to the murder of Siegfried and collapse of Burgundy.

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The Romanesque west rose window - Photo by Michael Clemens

At the interior is the east choir, most probably the oldest section (1132) which becomes a model for a distinctive antic of local architecture: the walls a straight on the outside but rounded inside. The statues of fearsome lions decorated on the arcades are used to watch and frighten off the devils.

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The Romanesque west choir - Photo by Michael Clemens

The elaborate decorative west choir is the completion of the building program towards the end of the 12th century. It totals splendid works of typical Romanesque features, including rose windows, zigzag arcades and rich moldings.

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Sunbeams illuminate the Baroque high altar - Photo by Allanimal

The high altar is a Baroque amusement by the famous architect Balthasar Neumann which is an opulent work of glided wood and marble so huge that there was no space for a proper transept. It depicts Saint Peter and Saint Paul accompanied with two angels pointing to the Madonna and Child, with special effects of coming toward right at you.

Off the south side is a highly decorated 14th century Niklauspelle – Chapel of St. Nicholas, contains three virgin martyrs with a Gothic font and a new stained glass windows, divided down the middle by pillars like a monastic refectory.

The crypt is austere, dark and mysterious and serves as the resting place of generations of the Salian dynasty. At the north aisle contains the five late Gothic tympana depicting the Tree of Jesse and four scenes from the life of Christ which previously adorned the now-demolished cloister.


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Comments (11)

is Worms the city name or how did the cathedral be known as worms? I missed that.

The cathedral was named after the city of Worms, thanks a lot Brenda.

Thanks for another illuminating discussion, Ron.

Thanks a lot Michael.

I kinda smile when I heard the name. It is totally unfamiliar to me.. But the photo of the cathedral really defy its name. Very wonderful!

Thanks a lot Sir Guims.

I wonder why anyone name a place worms but I noticed its Celtic in origin. Otherwise, better known as a settlement in a watery area. Who am I to dispute..hehehe. Great article.

Thanks a lot macherie.

Very nicely described history and architecture of the cathedral of Worms.

The title caught my attention. OK, now I know, it was named after the city of worms.

Thanks a lot Roberta. Thanks Phoenix, appreciated.