The month of October in Munich, Germany is well-known for its Oktoberfest celebrations. If you are making a pilgrimage to Germany, consider traveling three hours west of Munich, where you will find the quaint and charming town of Speyer that boasts many architectural gems as well as the historical Speyer Cathedral.
Speyer Cathedral is an almost 1,000-year-old structure that is historically and architecturally one of the most noteworthy examples of Romanesque architecture in all of Europe. This cathedral, a basilica with four towers and two domes, was founded by Conrad II in 1030 and remodeled at the end of the 11th century. It’s one of the most important Romanesque monuments still in existence from the Holy Roman Empire and is the largest Romanesque church in the world. In addition, the cathedral was the burial place of the German emperors for nearly 300 years.
This adjoining crypt, consecrated in 1041, holds eight medieval emperors and kings of the Holy Roman Empire of the German nation laid to rest in its vault. In 1689, the cathedral was seriously damaged by fire. The reconstruction of the west bays of the nave from 1772-78, as an almost exact copy of the original structure, can be regarded as one of the first great achievements of monument preservation in Europe.
In 1981, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites as a major monument of Romanesque art in the German Empire. UNESCO awards the title of World Heritage to sites that are of world importance due to their uniqueness, authenticity and integrity.
Currently, Speyer Cathedral has an active congregation of more than 5,000 people still worshiping in the church today. Mass is celebrated in the cathedral every day of the week.
There are private tours as well as self-guided audio tours which include music, historical sound recordings and excerpts from Pope John Paul II’s speech in front of the cathedral in 1987. There is also a children’s audio guide. For more information, visit www.dom-zu-speyer.de.