During our tour of the city, we already briefly passed the cathedral of St.Johannes and St.Laurentius. Now, a little later, we are standing in front of the cathedral in Merseburg, which forms the fourth wing of Merseburg Castle, and are looking forward to a tour. At the ticket office we receive an overview map and photo permission and set off on our own on a journey of discovery.
Merseburg Cathedral – a little history
Legend has it that during the battle on the Lechfeld in 955, Otto the Great swore that if he won the battle, he would found a new diocese in Merseburg. He won the battle and in 1015 Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg laid the foundation stone for a cathedral in the diocese of Merseburg.
Today, the crypt, the round choir companion towers, the basements of the west towers and lower wall sections of the transept with the eastern apses remain from this original Romanesque building.
At the same time as the cathedral was being built, the then Emperor Henry II also founded the cathedral library, in which the Merseburg Magic Spells were discovered in 1841. But more about that later.
Bishop Thilo von Trotha had the church rebuilt in 1510-1517. The late Gothic hall longhouse was built.
A highlight in the history of Merseburg Cathedral was certainly the sermon that Martin Luther preached here in 1545. A genk plate commemorates this event today.
After the Thirty Years’ War, the curiae in the Cathedral Freedom were repaired in the Baroque style. Some of these are still preserved today and are used in very different ways.
During the Second World War, many bombs fell on Merseburg (the BUNA and Leuna factories were attack targets in the immediate vicinity). The cathedral in Merseburg also suffered major damage. The chapter house and the choir were damaged. It was not until 2006 that the renovated chapter house could be reopened.
On the way in the cathedral
A thunderstorm was brewing outside and we were glad to be inside the cathedral. The thunder and rumble created a very special atmosphere in the church.
First we walk through the nave. I discover the organ. It has 6000 pipes and is considered one of the largest romantic organs in Germany.
Liszt’s “Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H” was premiered on this organ in 1856. Once a year, the Merseburg Organ Days take place, where this beautiful organ is played and attracts numerous listeners.
I am a big fan of church windows. Often, the interior of a church only has an effect on me when the light falls through the windows. The old master builders very often used the sun’s rays to create accentuations inside the church that are unique.
There are remains of medieval glazing in Merseburg Cathedral. Some medallions with a diameter of over 60 cm have been preserved and can be admired in the west portal. Other windows today replace the glazing of the choir destroyed in the Second World War. They are somewhat more modern and fit in well with the overall appearance of the cathedral.
There is also a princely crypt in Merseburg Cathedral. Here are the 37 tin and wooden coffins of the Wettin secondary dynasty.
Unfortunately, when we enter the underground and dark Kypta, I don’t see any of the coffins, only the sign indicates that we are in the right place. But maybe they were in one of the closed areas, which were not open to the public.
We go into the cloister. This dates from the 13-15 century. The arcades enclose a small courtyard with a fountain. Here is also the statue of Bishop Thietmar of Merseburg.
Behind a door we could watch a small video about the history of the cathedral. Right next to it we went into the special exhibition “Thietmar’s World”, which should be opened a few days later. We could already take a look through the glass door and what could be seen seemed to be very interesting.
Merseburg magic spells
During our stay in Merseburg, the Merseburg Spells were referred to several times. This writing was discovered in 1841 in a manuscript collection of the 9th or 10th century in the cathedral library. The discoverer renounced the publication of the find. The Grimm brothers received the document for editing and Jakob Grimm used it for his work.
I do not want to go into the exact content and the literary interpretations associated with it, only this much should be noted:
The First Merseburg Spell is considered a spell for loosening the bonds of a prisoner. The Second Merseburg Spell is a healing spell for an injured / dislocated foot. Both are written in Old High German and refer to pre-Christian Germanic mythologies. How and why they found their way into a cathedral library is not clear.
Unfortunately, we could not take a look at the cathedral treasure and spells, this part of the cathedral was not open.
We liked it very much in the cathedral. Inside beautifully quiet and not overloaded with art objects, while outside a thunderstorm raged and a downpour descended. We could enjoy the atmosphere in peace and continue exploring the city after the rain.
Monday-Saturday: 9-18 h
Sunday, church holidays: 12-18 h
Monday-Saturday: 10-16 h
Sunday, church holidays: 12-16 h
Attention. On the website of the cathedral you can find some additional dates when the cathedral is closed for visitors.
Discounts and guided tours of the cathedral are available.
Disclosure: The visit to the cathedral in Merseburg was part of our blogging tour of the city and was provided free of charge. The blog post was created independently of this and is my own opinion.