Saintly Architecture

I brought donuts to work this morning. I’m not supposed to because COVID, but that just means I’ll eat them all myself. I’m celebrating, because it is one of my favorite days, as someone who loves obscure and esoteric things. It the feast day of St. Bernward of Hildesheim, a more obscure patron of architects (and goldsmiths). He passed away on this day 998 years ago.

Most notably, Bernward was Bishop of Hildesheim for nearly 30 years, and the chief architect of the Abbey Church of Saint Michael, which also features a number of commissioned works and his own design work as well. The Bernward column, pictured below, was a commissioned work for the church, in the style of Trajan’s column, where a single continuous frieze snakes around the column. In this case, it depicts scenes from the life of Christ.

Drawing of Bernward Column in St. Michael, 1800s. Image by Gallistl, Bernhard; Die Bernwardsäule und die Michaeliskirche zu Hildesheim; Olms Verlag 1993. Use permitted by creative commons license.

Bernward also designed the original large bronze doors that depict scenes from Genesis and the life of Christ, and it is believed he crafted the doors himself, based on his extensive training and skill in painting, sculpture, and metalwork. These doors are now housed at the nearby Cathedral of Hildesheim.

Bronze Bernward Doors. Photo by Bischöfliche Pressestelle Hildesheim (bph).

The church itself is considered a monument of exceptional harmony for its time/era, but was heavily destroyed in World War II. It has since been restored and is now a UNESCO Word Cultural Heritage Site.

Reconstructed Church of St. Michael, designed by St. Bernward of Hildesheim. Photo by Heinz-Josef Lücking. Use permitted by creative commons license.

St. Bernward, pray for us!


Feature Image: Icon of St. Bernward, written by Britta Prinzivalli

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