As the heartland of German and European history, Saxony-Anhalt offers a host of monuments from the Middle Ages that are worth visiting. The outstanding skills and abilities of the master builders from the Romanesque era are particularly reflected along the “Route of the Romanesque” running through Saxony-Anhalt in a northern and a southern loop.
The 1,000 kilometres long route joins 65 towns and villages with 80 buildings dating back to the Romanesque period. Splendid cathedrals, small parish churches, mighty castles and monasteries testify to the importance of the region, which is now Saxony-Anhalt, in the Middle Ages.
Magdeburg: St. Maurice and St. Catherine`s Evangelic Cathedral
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 104 meters.
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. In 955, the church building was transformed into a basilica in Romanesque style, and in 968 Magdeburg became an Archbishopry. 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.
Halberstadt: Cathedral of St. Sephan and St. Sixtus
The point of origin of Halberstadt´s development into the most important city in the foothills of the Harz mountains was a station of Carolingian missionaries.
Here a bishop’s seat was founded around the year 804. The foundation stone of today’s elegant gothic cathedral, following French models, was laid in the 1230s.
Some works have remained from the romanesque era, especially the baptismal font of marble. The most important work of art furnishing the cathedral is the monumental triumphal cross, produced around 1220. The treasury of the cathedral counts among the most precious ensembles of Middle Age artwork. Three romanesque tapestries and a byzantine paten should be mentioned of the most distinguished works there.
A number of Romanesque churches were taken over in the Halberstadt area, in the first place the Collegiate Church of Our Lady and the Benedictine Monastery of Huysburg.
Quedlinburg: Collegiate Church of St. Servatius
The protected part of Quedlinburg covers more than 80 hectares. UNESCO declared it to be an outstanding example of a European city of medieval origin which has preserved through the centuries its precious architectural heritage of Romanesque and half-timbering buildings in exceptional quality.
Quedlinburg was at the heart of the East Franconian Empire at the time of the Saxon dynasty of the Ottonians. It became a prosperous trading centre from its inception in the tenth century. The collegiate church of St. Servatius on a hill above the old town is a Romanesque masterpiece, and it also houses a famous church treasure.
Naumburg: Ss. Peter und Paul`s Cathedral
Among the works are the representation of Christ’s suffering on the west rood screen and the world-famous figure of a founder, Margravine Uta. Apart from these elements it is the Romanesque elements which determine the character of the cathedral with their sublime simplicity.
A particular centre of attraction is the three-part Romanesque hall crypt from 1160/70 and 1220/1230 which is of outstanding fascination due to its Romanesque wooden crucifix (1160). A special architectural feature is Germany’s oldest preserved hall rood screen in late Romanesque style, one of the two rood screens in Naumburg Cathedral. Also from the Romanesque period are the east choir and the east towers with apses as well as the main portal showing the Ascension of Christ in the tympanum from 1230.
Merseburg: Ss. John the Baptist and Lawrence`s Cathedral
Above the city of Merseburg, on the left bank of the Saale river, rises the architectonically impressive ensemble of cathedral and castle which are able to tell important historic facts. Present-day Merseburg Cathedral is a late Gothic hall church with a transept and four towers.
It is mainly characterised by the early Romanesque cathedral building constructed by Heinrich II and provides visitors with insights into the different centuries and their significant achievements in art, culture and the church. One of the most valuable works of art is Germany’s oldest bronze portrait tomb of Rudolf of Swabia (around 1080), the counterking of Heinrich IV.
The three-nave, four-bay crypt (first half of the 11th century) is an important result of early Romanesque architecture. It is one of the oldest, unchanged, preserved and most beautiful hall crypts in Middle Germany.
Merseburg Cathedral is known far beyond Germany for its organ which was renovated by Friedrich Ladegast in 1855. With almost 5700 organ pipes it is one of the biggest organs of Romanticism with one of the most beautiful sounds in Middle Germany. Visitors can enjoy a marvellous view of the cathedral precincts and the Saale region when climbing up the imposing west towers which contain medieval bells.
Havelberg: Ev. St. Mary`s Cathedral and former Premonstratensian Monastery
Havelberg was mentioned for the first time in 948 in a document as a diocesan town, but the construction of St. Mary’s Cathedral and the premonstratense monastery which is a part of it began only in the XIIth century.
Today the cathedral, consecrated in 1170, is the most characteristic building of Havelberg. It has Gothic and Romanesque elements; the later are the reason why the “Romanesque Road” passes through the town. The Paradiessaal and the cathedral cloister provide excellent acoustics and have often been used as concert venues. Also the 100 years old Prignitz-Museum is worth a visit.