Monuments of power

On the cathedral square in Speyer in the Palatinate region, visitors stand together in clusters, gathered around their guides and leaning their heads back to see the top of the towers. In earlier times, the view was blocked and the cathedral was surrounded by chapels. Cobblestones on the square mark where the cloister once stood. The other houses in the town also extended close to the cathedral. Today, there is a clear view of the building and you can really appreciate its scale.

Despite this, many visitors are surprised by its size when they step through one of the heavy bronze doors and into the imposing place of worship. The ceiling is 33 metres high, the Romanesque building surrounded by thick sandstone walls is more than 130 metres long and nearly 40 metres wide. The interior is plain and austere, leading the eyes towards the royal chancel and, above it, a massive crown hanging from the ceiling, which is a replica of the burial crown of Emperor Conrad II.

It was he, who was from the Salian dynasty, who had the cathedral built. Smaller would not do, as he wanted it to be a symbol of his God-given power. So it had to be the largest church in his time. He commissioned it in around 1027, but was long dead by the time it was consecrated in 1061. He was laid to rest in Speyer Cathedral in the crypt, which was also generously proportioned and now contains the mortal remains of the four Salian emperors, three empresses and four kings.

Over the centuries, the building has been modified by various rulers and has a chequered history. It looks austere because it was devastated during the Nine Years’ War and the French Revolution. Napoleon wanted to tear the cathedral down, but was stopped in his tracks. It is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular tourist destination.

Speyer Cathedral, Palatinate

The UNESCO World Heritage Site "Speyer Cathedral", Palatinate

In the emperor’s hall above the cathedral atrium, visitors can admire monumental frescos that adorned the interior of the church as of the 19th century, but were later removed. From there, a staircase leads to the viewing platform in the cathedral’s south-west tower. The view extends well beyond Speyer and to the heights of the Palatinate Forest in the east, with the Rhine winding past the town on the other side.

Interior view of the Speyer Cathedral, Palatinate

Interior view of the Speyer Cathedral, Palatinate

Trifels Castle near Annweiler am Trifels, Palatinate

Trifels Castle near Annweiler am Trifels, Palatinate

The Palatinate has been shaped not only by the Salians, but also by other ruling dynasties. The Staufers included Frederick I, also known as Barbarossa because of his shimmering red beard. He had an imperial palace built in Kaiserslautern in the 12th century. Many medieval rulers had no fixed residence, instead they had various palaces and therefore support points where they ruled and held court. This is what Emperor Barbarossa wanted in what is now Kaiserslauten, as it marked the intersection of many trade routes and the region was rich in forest and fish.

The Trifels Castle is also said to have been one of his favourite castles. The castle near Annweiler sits high on a cliff above the forest. It is also famous as it was where Emperor Henry VI locked away his rival, the legendary English King Richard the Lionheart. Today, visitors come in their droves to the Trifels of their own free will. There are spectacular views from the castle and the interior features amazing replicas of the imperial regalia: crowns, sceptres and orbs.

Beautiful view of the Trifels Castle, Palatinate

Beautiful view of the Trifels Castle, Palatinate

More leisure tips for culture lovers in the Palatinate:

More information about holidays in the Palatinate

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in the Palatinate at the Pfalz.Touristik.

Romantic Cities: Trip to Speyer

Imperial city in the Palatinate with Mediterranean flair: The impressive romanesque architecture of the Speyer Cathedral dominates the city skyline.

Schwarzes Icon, das einen Kompass zeigt

Palatinate Card: The ticket to your Palatinate adventure

Enjoy an "all-inclusive" holiday with the Palatinate Card: You can use the local public transport and enjoy more than 100 attractions throughout the region free of charge for your entire stay.

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