Bamberg Cathedral is one of the largest such buildings in Germany, alongside the rest of the Old Town is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and is more than 1,000 years old although most of what we can see today is somewhat younger. It measures around 94 metres by 28 metres and is around 26 metres high and the towers are each around 81 metres.
The cathedral was started by Heinrich, King of Germany, who in the year of his accession began construction. That cathedral was not much smaller than the one we can see today being 75 metres long and with two towers – quite a feat of engineering for the time. It was consecrated on Heinrich's birthday, 6 May 1012. Heinrich was later canonised in 1146.
It fell victim to a fire in 1081 – a common occurance in those times and the fire claimed all the interior art and fittings but not the structure although in 1111 Bishop Otto had it rebuilt completely. That rebuilt church burned down in 1185.
In 1047, the body of Pope Clement II, who had been Bishop of Bamberg from 1040-6 was transferred from Rome to Bamberg and was buried in the cathedral. With the destruction of the tomb of Pope Benedict V at Hamburg at the beginning of the 19th century, this became the only papal grave outside what is today France or Italy.
Most of what we can see today dates to the thirteenth century and the rebuilding work that took place then . The rebuilt cathedral was consecrated on 6 May 1237.
During the 17th century, the interior of the cathedral was changed to Baroque style. The medieval coloured windows were removed, the interior was whitened with frescoes being painted out. Later the rood screens were demolished and new high altars set up in both choirs.
In 1803 with the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, the Bishopric of Bamberg was secularized and became a part of the Electorate of Bavaria. Ludwig I of Bavaria, saw the cathedral as a national monument and attempted to revert it back to its medieval look and replaced Baroque art with Romanesque Revival art. It is for this reason that we can see so many styles in the cathedral today.
The bells date to between 1200 and 1972. Their weight varies from 170kg for a bell made in 1972 to 5,200 kg for a bell from 1311. The oldest bells date from the beginning of the thirteenth century.
The cathedral square is fronted by Renaissance buildings of the Alte Hofhaltung which was where the bishops lived from the fourteen century to 1602 and the Baroque Neue Residenz, the bishops’ palace from 1602 to 1803.