Hildesheim Cathedral © holidays in Lower Saxony

Material Culture, Art and the Elites at Hildesheim 1130 – 1250

The Cathedral and the Church of the Abbey in Hildesheim are rightly famous. Not only the architecture, but also the interior design create the idea of “total works of art”. The question is in which way this came about? And what role the elites played?

Hildesheim holds two world famous treasures – the Cathedral and the Abbey Church. Both listed as UNESCO World Heritage, they are some of the most impressive examples of what in German is called a “Gesamtkunstwerk” or “total work of art”. Not only the architectural heritage, but also the objects of art, created by and for these churches, witness to the conscious intent of the elite, as well as the intellectual context, in which they were commissioned.

For the last two years, a research project funded by the German Federal Government has united the efforts of medieval historians and art historians at the Universities in Kiel, Potsdam, Osnabrück and Bonn as well as the Dommuseum in Hildesheim to uncover the social context of Hildesheim between 1130 and 1250. During this period, a religious, as well as secular elite, formed a milieu, in which the ideas behind the total work of art as well as its distinct pieces came to fruition. Witnessed by spiritual writings, memorae as well as charters and deeds, this milieu has been the object of an interdisciplinary research project since 2015

More precisely, studies have focussed on famous pieces of art as well as their art-historical, technical and socio-cultural context. Following themes have been explored:

  • The Large Golden Madonna
  • The Murals in the Cathedral
  • The Murals in St. Michael
  • The Treasures in the Cathedral and in St. Michael
  • The Character and Role of the Cathedral Chapter and School
  • Works of Enamel
  • Ottonian Works in Gold
  • Baptismal Font and the Works in Bronze
  • Secular and Religious Elites

From 22.02.2018 – 23.02.2018 a conference will be held in Hildesheim at the Cathedral Museum, presenting the results of the research.


Hildesheim Cathedral © holidays in Lower Saxony


Innovation und Tradition. Objekte und Eliten in Hildesheim, 1130–1250


The results are currently being published in a series of books by Schnell & Steiner of which two have so far been published:

Typen mittelalterlicher Reliquiare zwischen Innovation und Tradition
By Klaus Gereon Beuckers and Dorothee Kemper
Series: Objekte und Eliten in Hildesheim 1130 bis 1250, Vol 2
Schnell & Steiner 2017
ISBN-13: 978-3-7954-3229-4






Drachenlandung: Ein Hildesheimer Drachen-Aquamanile des 12. Jahrhunderts
Series: Objekte und Eliten in Hildesheim 1130 bis 1250, Band 1
By Gerhard Lutz and Joanna Olchawa
Schnell & Steiner 2017
ISBN-13: 978-3795432287



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