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