I am very pleased to welcome you to the Speyer Cathedral’s website.
The Speyer Cathedral is a house of God and a world heritage site. It is a place of communion, silence and beauty. It is a place where the visitor can experience the architecture of the Middle Ages and our common history. And it is a place of congress with God and a meeting place for people from all over the world.
No survey of art would omit the Speyer Cathedral from its pages. Its clear structure, vaulting and dwarf gallery, not to mention the details ornamenting the surface of this Romanesque marvel, they all cause the visitor to step back in wonder. Additionally there are also pictorial traces from later centuries, such as the monumental Schraudolph frescoes from the 19th century.
It is below in the medieval tombs of the emperors and queens that history makes itself most strongly felt. Many people come here to walk in the footsteps of these long-departed monarchs. They stand before the grave of Emperor Henry IV and think of the ruler, who quarreled with the Pope, and whose “Walk to Canossa” went down in history.
God’s presence makes itself felt within the cathedral, in its exterior and immediate surroundings; this it does in many ways, whether through church services, prayer, or the very architecture of the building. The cathedral is constructed in the shape of a cross, symbolizing simultaneously both the martyring of Christ and our salvation from the dark permanence of death. Access to the cathedral is achieved via the 12 steps of the main entrance. Along the nave 12 arches are interspersed between the massive pillars. These elements are formal expressions of the importance of the number 12 in Christianity, referencing the 12 Tribes of Israel and the 12 Apostles. At the end of the nave there is the crossing, and over the high altar there is a giant dome that seems to float up above like heaven. At the end of your path there is the apse, the easternmost point of the cathedral, where the sun rises, representing for Christians Jesus Christ.
You will encounter other people as you enter the cathedral: A young couple listening to the audio guide; children hollering briefly, testing out the acoustics of the space; a woman praying before the statue of Mary; American tourists asking questions regarding the imperial tombs… Our cathedral provides community – it is a concrete vision of belief, a house for communion and prayer for all peoples and individuals.
Furthermore, the cathedral also provides a chance for one to encounter their true self. It invites one to tranquil contemplation, and guides the individual towards that which touches, draws, moves and does good. It breathes in the nearness of God.
In the middle of the cathedral, where the steps lead to the high altar, there is a large statue of the Mother of God. It shows us Mary, mother of Jesus with her child on her arm. From its earliest time our cathedral has also been a place of pilgrimage. Many believers come here and turn trustingly to the Mother of God and Jesus, her son. They come here full with all that moves them, to pause and light a candle.
I truly hope that your visit here will be an unforgettable experience, in which you meet with other people, experience your true self, and rejoice in the presence of God.
Dr. Karl-Heinz Wiesemann
Bishop of Speyer