Magdeburg Cathedral, dedicated to St. Maurice and St. Catherine, is the first Gothic cathedral erected on German soil as well as the highest cathedral in East Germany with a height of 104m. The beginning of the cathedral can be traced back to 937 when Emperor Otto the First founded a monastery and dedicated it to St. Maurice. Otto the First had many precious Italian pieces of art shipped to Magdeburg (such as the baptismal font and columns) which can still be admired in today’s cathedral.
Otto founded a Benedictine monastery on the Magdeburg Cathedral Hill under the patronage of St. Mauritius in 937. This building probably did not stand long after its construction in 955. As the recent archaeological excavations suggest, the basilica may have collapsed before 982 for unexplained reasons.
Magdeburg’s third archbishop immediately began building a new cathedral south of the ruin after his inauguration in 1004.
The building underwent several changes and expansions in the following 200 years. Around 1170, during the term of office of Archbishop Wichmann von Seeburg, the enclosure building was added to the south, of which the striking late Romanesque cloister south wing can still be seen in its lower parts today.
On good Friday in 1207, suddenly a fire broke out at noon. It struck the just 200 years old Romanesque cathedral and the cloister buildings, which were only a few decades old, and destroyed them down to the outer walls of the basilica and the cloister south wing. Shortly after it the archbishop Albrecht let the walls tear down and founded the ground of today´s Gothic cathedral. Master builders from France, which also worked on Notre Dame in Paris, also worked in Magdeburg and created the eastern parts of this Gothic cathedral according to the French model on German soil. From 1230 until its consecration in 1363, further construction phases followed, repeatedly interrupted by breaks caused by financial difficulties or an uncertain political situation. In the last construction phase from 1477 to 1520, the two west towers grew to their final height of almost 101 meters. The Magdeburg Cathedral was completed in the Gothic era. In a total of 313 years, this cathedral building with a length of 120 meters, a width of 33 meters (in the nave) and a height of 32 meters (in the nave) was created.
After almost 20 years of closure, because of the unsure religious situation made by the thesis of Martin Luther, the cathedral opened its doors in 1567 again and has ever since been an evangelistic church. During the 30-year war in the 17th century the cathedral lost its old medieval stained-glass windows.
With Napoleon conquering the country in 1806 it became a warehouse, weapons warehouse and cattle barn for Napoleon’s troops until 1814.
The most notable restoration was made within the years 1825 until 1834. During these years the marvellous restoration of the interior of the cathedral, especially the sandstone sculptures, the rood screen and the epitaphs, made by the famous Prussian architect Schinkel. Between 1890 and 1910 all 73 windows were restored and coloured with famous picture cycles of the 19th century.
During the 2nd World War the cathedral was damaged very badly. Most parts of the walls were vanished and much of the interior was destroyed. The renewal and restoration lasted over 10 years until the end of 1955.
ARCHITECTURE AND FURNITURE
The building has an inside length of 120 metres, and a height to the ceiling of 32 metres. The towers rise to 99.25 and 100.98 metres, and are among the highest church towers in eastern Germany. The layout of the cathedral consists of one nave and two aisles, with one transept crossing the nave and aisles. Each side of the transept has an entrance, the south entrance leading into the cloister. The ceiling in the nave is higher than in the aisles, allowing for clerestory windows to give light to the nave. There is a separate narthex (entrance area) in the west. The presbytery in the east is separated from the nave by a stone wall, serving the same function as a rood screen. The sanctuary and the apse follow the presbytery. An ambulatory also surrounds the apse.
The church is carrying the tomb of Otto I inside, the first Ottonian Holy Roman Emperor (962 – 973). When the tomb was opened in 1844, a skeleton and remains of clothes were found, but no grave goods, which were presumably stolen during the Thirty-Years War.
Fortunately, some beautiful and internationally renowned pieces of art have been preserved and can be admired today, like the miracle-working Madonna, the famous war memorial designed by Ernst Barlach in 1929 and the crucifix made by Jürgen Weber in 1988. There are lots of sculptures from the years around 1250 to view inside: The (incomplete) sculpture of Saint Maurice, which is the first and oldest known realistic depiction of an ethnic African in central European art, with a very high degree of naturalism, not common in this period. The sculpture is known as the Royal Couple (Herrscherpaar), located in the sixteen-sided chapel which may represent Otto I and his consort, Edith. And the most remarkable pieces of art in the cathedral are the sculptures of the five wise and the five foolish virgins, because all figures are different and have ethnic Slavic features. Also there are numerous historical grave monuments, epitaphs and grave slabs from the 12th to 14th centuries.
The pulpit of the Cathedral is one of the most important Renaissance works of art in Germany which is made of alabaster.
May – September 10.00 – 18.00
Oktober 10.00 – 17.00
November – March 10.00 – 16.00
April 10.00 – 17.00
Sundays and holidays 11.30 -16.00
Monday – Friday 9.00 – 12.00
On Tueday additionally 16.30 – 17.30
Phone +49 391 5410436
Fax +49 391 5342507
ENTRANCE FEES & GUIDED TOURS
Daily all year 14.00
Sundays 11.30 and 14.00
Additionally in May – October:
Monday – Thursday and Saturday 16.00
Adults 7 Euro / Reduced 5 Euro
Groups 6 Euro per Person
April – October
7 Euro / maximum 20 Persons – only buyable directly before the tour inside the Cathedral and no advanced bookings possible.
Night Tours inside the Cathedral with flashlights:
Only October – April
Fridays every 2 weeks at 22.00
Adults 8 Euro – only buyable directly before the tour inside the Cathedral and no advanced bookings possible.
Current dates to find at
TOURIST INFORMATION OFFICE
Magdeburg Marketing Kongress und Tourismus GmbH
Breiter Weg 22
Telephone: +49 391 63601-402