The Cathedral Saint Peter of Worms – A Guest Post (Jong-Soung Kimm)

Together with Speyer and Mainz, Worms is one of the three “Imperial Cathedrals (Kaiserdom)” along the upper Rhein, one of the finest achievements of the High Romanesque architecture in Germany.

Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The plan of Worms is based on a nave plus two aisles, both eastern and western choirs, one transept near the eastern apse with an impressive crossing tower, a smaller tower above the western choir, and four cylindrical corner towers. All these architectural elements of the cathedral create a harmonious ensemble, and it projects a majestic skyline over the Rhein. The present cathedral was constructed mostly between 1125 and 1181 over the footprint of an earlier cathedral that had been built a century earlier by Bishop Burchard, an important historical figure. The cathedral is built of red sandstone, material also used at Speyer and Mainz, that visually ties the three Kaiserdoms. The general view from the south shows the splendid Gothic style South Portal of ca.1300, which replaced the Romanesque façade of the Nikolaus Chapel inside.

South portal, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The south transept, mere 5 meters away from the high altar directly inside, shows a modest, yet meticulously positioned doorway and asymmetrically located arched openings and a round window. The gable has what is known as “Lombard molding.”

Nave, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The nave was built between 1160 and 1170, and the chancel at the far end of the photograph, was completed in 1181 when the cathedral was consecrated. The plan of the nave is organized as five square bays as seen above by the cross vaulting. The aisles are half as wide as the nave, and therefore, north and south aisles have ten smaller square bays each. The procession of alternating major and minor piers along the length of the nave is slow moving and contemplative, a characteristic of Romanesque space.

Chancel, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The high altar was designed by Balthasar Neumann, one of the most important architects of the 18th century in Germany. The gilded wood and marble Baroque altar is a powerful work of art in itself, holding forth in the strong frame of the Romanesque architecture of the Worms Cathedral. The eastern apse seen beyond the altar was the earliest part of the cathedral constructed from 1125 to 1144.

Nave arcades and clerestory, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The photograph illustrates the nave elevation scheme well; the major piers with half round pilasters over rectangular projection continue all the way to the springing of the main arches and cross ribs for the vaulting, while the minor piers receive the arches for the clerestory windows and blind arcades underneath.

Nave to western choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The photograph shows the western choir at the end of finely proportioned nave. The height of the nave is 26 meters.

Western choir, Dom Sankt Peter, Worms (Rhineland-Palatinate) Photo by Jong-Soung Kimm

The western choir was built the last at around the end of the 12th century. The interior view of the choir gives a clue to the dynamic, sculptural massing that projects beyond the main volume of the nave on the exterior. One can only marvel at the master builder’s ingenuity in designing the rose window and the surrounding smaller windows as well as the masons’ meticulous workmanship in chiseling the precise moldings.

Camera information: 21mm Super Angulon for Leica on Canon 5D with an adapter.

Location: 49.629930° 8.360178°

✜ We are delighted to have another post from Jong-Soung Kimm on our Via Lucis site. For more information on Mr. Kimm, please see this link. ✜

12 thoughts on “The Cathedral Saint Peter of Worms – A Guest Post (Jong-Soung Kimm)

    1. Ann, we’re so lucky to have Jong-Soung Kimm writing these articles, illustrated by his photos as well. More coming, even more appreciated because we haven’t photographed in Germany at all!

  1. Wow i love the architecture of these old cathedrals! Germany seems to always have amazingly well preserved places such as this one!

    1. Justin, amazing how many of these places have survived. France has 5,000 Romanesque churches, Spain about 1500, and who knows how many in Germany, England, Italy, Portugal, and the rest of Europe. And then there is the Gothic, as well. Glad you like the architecture, especially as presented by Mr. Kimm.

  2. The lucid writing– “slow moving and contemplative”– really opened up the architecture for me. I can see the slowed time and great depth more than ever. Sometimes Baroque approaches, like the alter, dismay me, but I could discern the midaevil bones underneath in this essay. Elegant.

    1. Suzanne, Jong-Soung is a distinguished architect and we love having his guest posts here on Via Lucis. I too was struck by the “slow moving and contemplative” phrasing as characteristic of the Romanesque architecture. Thanks for your careful attention.

      1. Suzanne,
        Thank you for your generous comment. The phrase is meant to distinguish the Romanesque from the Gothic space.

        It is very kind of you to describe my guest post in very welcoming words. I am a confirmed afficionado of the Romanesque architecture.

    1. Thanks, Allie. Jong-Soung can write and take pictures. Not to mention design buildings!

      BTW, on your trip to Saint Louis, I see you weren’t able to get too many shots of the Cathedral. Are you planning on going back soon?

      1. Soon-ish. My boyfriend and I are dealing with the end of the semester + many weddings, so it will be several months, but he lives close enough that we will definitely be going back for a day trip.

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