St Martin’s Cathedral in Mainz

Built in the style of St Peter’s in Rome, the imperial cathedral in Mainz has been the most striking building in the city for a long time. At 110 metres long and 28 metres tall, the massive red sandstone cathedral has been extended over the centuries and is now the most famous landmark of the capital of Rhineland‑Palatinate. The tallest tower stretches a whole 80 metres into the sky.

Archbishop Willigis, friend and advisor of Emperor Otto II and deputy to the pope, had the cathedral built to underline his ecclesiastical and earthly power as the imperial prince and territorial lord of the whole Mainz archdiocese. The cathedral burnt seven times, seven kings were crowned in it and 45 bishops are buried in it. Emperor Barbarossa celebrated his legendary Mainz Court Festival in the cathedral in the 12th century. Holy Roman Emperor Henry V and Matilda, daughter of English King Henry I, tied the knot here.

The market gate on the north side of the nave is the most important entrance to the cathedral. The bronze door in the Romanesque sandstone portico was built in 1200, making it the oldest part of the pillared basilica. It dates back to cathedral construction commissioned by Archbishop Willigis around one thousand years ago. But this cathedral burnt down before it was consecrated, which is why Willigis is buried at St Stephan’s Church.

Interior of the cathedral in Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

Interior of the cathedral in Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

One particularly striking feature inside the cathedral is the depiction of Mary in the Ketteler Chapel known as the ‘Schöne Mainzerin’, or the ‘beautiful lady of Mainz’. Mainz Cathedral is also famous for its large collection of tombs from the 13th to 19th centuries, which can be seen on the pillars and walls throughout the church. Even the cloister in Mainz served more as a burial place than a walkway, as is more conventional for monasteries. It is said that around 250 people in total are buried here. There are numerous burial plates on the floor and walls in their memory.

Visiting the interior of Mainz Cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

Visiting the interior of Mainz Cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

The cloister of the St Martin's Cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

The cloister of the St Martin's Cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

On a guided tour of Mainz Cathedral, many people will have wondered how minstrel Henry of Meissen, also known as Frauenlob, merited the honour of being buried in the cloister 700 years ago. This burial place was normally reserved for men of the church. Frauenlob was a cut above the other minstrels of his time with his refined language, wonderful coinages and wide-ranging knowledge. This was probably what impressed Peter of Aspelt, Archbishop of Mainz, so much that he allowed Frauenlob to be buried in the cloister in 1318.

The cathedral museum houses and exhibits sacred artworks from the Carolingian period to the 20th century. The collection however focuses on the Middle Ages. The exhibits include paintings and drawings, stone and wooden sculptures, manuscripts, textiles and furniture. The chasuble (liturgical costume) of Archbishop Willigis (around 1000), the sculptures of the Naumburg Master (around 1240) and the church tabernacle of Abraham Roentgens (1758) are among the highlights at the cathedral museum.

The imperial cathedral stands on the famous market square in Mainz, which is regularly filled with lively markets and is a favoured meeting point because of its central location. From here, it is just a few steps to the promenade along the Rhine or the old town, and most of the guided tours of the city start here.

 The St Martin’s Cathedral in Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

The St Martin’s Cathedral in Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

The old town of Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

Half-timbered houses in the old town of Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

More leisure tips for culture lovers in Rhine-Hesse:

More information about holidays in Rhine-Hesse

Find out everything you need to know on events, attractions and other destinations in Rhine-Hesse at Rheinhessen-Touristik GmbH.

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