Henry the Lion - Duke of Saxony and Bavaria (1129 - 1195)

Besides the German Emperor, the Guelf duke was the mightiest ruler of the « Holy Roman Empire of German Nation ». After he had been enfeoffed with the Duchies of Saxony in 1142 and of Bavaria in 1156 he is on the height of his power and influence. Then until 1179 follows a brillant time of political, economic and cultural initiative and success his territories stretching from the Baltic Sea and newly gained east Elbe areas till Caranthia and south Tyrolia. He makes Brunswick a strong residence. The construction of the cathedral from 1173 on is an expression of his position in the Empire and of his faith. He donates a « memoria », a tomb in his memory.

In 1172 a pilgrimage with political ambitions leads him to Byzantium, Istanbul today, to Jerusalem and Bethlehem in the Holy Land . He meets the Byzantine Emperor Manuel who showers him with gifts and as well with the Muslim Sultan Kilidj Arslan of Ikonium.

His marriage with princess Matilda of England (1168), a daughter of Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitainie is the beginning of intense connections to the Anglo-Norman kingdom, which still last today. English artists, scientists, advisors and economists come to the Saxon court in Brunswick.

Political quarrels with the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa from 1187 on end in a process against the duke. He is outlawed, punished and has to go into exile to England. In the meantime Brunswick cathedral´s construction goes on. Henry the Lion gives the cathedral precious works of art: as there are the Altar of our Lady with relic treasure (the Guelf treasure), the seven-armed candelabrum, the gospel, and golden relics decorated with precious stones.

Braunschweig Anno 1190

On August 6th in 1195 Henry the Lion dies after having reconciled with the Emperor. He is buried in Brunswick cathedral. His tomb is preserved. His sons decorate it with two nearly full sculptures ( Henry himself and his wife Matilda ). One of them as Otto IV becomes German Emperor; he too is buried in Brunswick cathedral.

The varied history of Brunswick cathedral

In January 1172, on the height of his reign, Henry the Lion, Duke of Saxony and Bavaria, sets off from Brunswick via Regensburg downstream Danube, celebrates Easter with the Emperor Manuel in Haggia Sofia in Byzanz, and continues his journey by ship to Akko. His aim: the Holy Places of Christianity in Jerusalem and Bethlehem. For his journey back he takes the country route and meets Sultan Kilidj Arslan of Ikonium. The theologians in his company hold interreligious dialogues with Islamic collegues on places where Christians used to fight against the Sarazenes. Full of impressions and with the mules' bags filled with relics he returns to his territories. Shortly after building work on two big cathedrals in Brunswick and Lübeck begin. From the beginning on Brunswick donation is favoured by the Duke, since he has his memorial church built on this place of his residence , his and his wife's the English royal daughter Matilda's tomb, a three nave Romanesque basilica. The exterior building and the interior decoration form a synthesis of art. The cathedral grows from the east and completely fills the southern part of the Burgplatz.

Political events turn against Henry the Lion. The disagreement with the Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, leads to outlawry and banishment, he loses Bavaria and goes into exile to Henry II's, his English father-in-law 's court . Nevertheless construction works in Brunswick go on. In 1188 the presbytery is nearly accomplished so that the Bishop of Hildesheim can consecrate the Altar of Our Lady. Henry and Matilda return from their exile to attend the ceremony. This very day the middle pillar contains the consecration plaque with the corresponding inscription. The bishop's seal closes the capsule in which precious relics, the famous Guelf treasure's heart are laid. One year later Matilda dies. The duchess is buried in selected place in front of the presbytery face to the cross altar (containing a splinter of the Holy Cross).

The old duke deprived of nearly all his power does not forget the cathedral. He donates the seven-armed candelabrum, which probably from 1190 on is made by bronze-cast craftsmen from the same school that had made the Altar of Our Lady and the Statue of the Lion. Later especially the 12th century becomes known for Christian church adapting Jewish symbols and interpreting them in the sense of the New Testament. The example for the candelabrum is found in Moses 2nd , chapter 25 where the Temple of Jerusalem is taken as an example. So the funeral candelabrum at the feet of the donator's tomb keeps on people's memory and as a tree of life points to resurrection. The Cross of Master Imervard from the predecessor church is transferred to the cathedral. Only in the 19th century people find out that it is a passion cross discovering a relic treasure in the behind head of the Christ's sculpture, which nowadays lies in the middle pillar of the Altar of Our Lady. Together with the Secco frescoes that fill the 800 square metres of the presbytery's ceiling the full scheme of the interior decoration becomes clear and can still be admired 800 years after.

In 1195 Henry the Lion dies and is buried at the side of his wife. Now it's his sons' duty to complete the cathedral . There are Henry, Pfalzgraf bei Rhein and Otto IV, emperor and king of the Holy Roman Empire of German Nation. For a short time under Otto IV the cathedral becomes a Kaiserdom in particular because Otto surprisingly needs a funeral place for Beatrix his early deceased wife. The Emperial couple is buried in the cathedral. In the confusion of Guelf succession partitions, the conflicts between the town which as a member of the Hanse has become more and more self-conscious and the ducal court having moved to Wolfenbüttel the donation capital loses its influence. The cathedral however as the ducal and collegiate church remains the ducal court's most important point of reference in the town. Extensions beyond all the Gothic aisles (of particular beauty the twisted columns in English perpendicular style in the double hall at the side of the Burgplatz), and the Gothic bell-house between the towers accomplished soon after the final consecration in 1126 give the cathedral its actual aspect. About 1500 the chiming with its 12 bells is fitted, most of which are cast by the most reknown European bell-founders' family van Wouw.

In 1528 the town-council influenced by Johannes Bugenhagen decides to introduce the Reformation in Brunswick. The cathedral however as the Duke's church remains true to the « old faith », since Duke Henry the Junior sticks to emperor and pope. The donation capital is so restricted in its activities that the doors of the cathedral have to be closed from time to time. Mass is no longer said, spiritual life suffocates. In 1568 only when Duke Julius opens his duchy to the Reformation the cathedral re-opens. From now on dukes and leading clergymen decide about what is to be done in the cathedral. Contemporary Reformation ideas, Baroque and Neo-romantic style change the interior church.

In 1671 the court returns from Wolfenbüttel to Brunswick and the cathedral again becomes the court's church. In the 17th and 18th centuries under the Dukes Rudolf August and Anton Ulrich not only the cathedral but also the whole ecclesiastical structure of the town is re-organized. In 1688 Johann Ludwig Pestorf becomes court and cathedral dean. For the duke it is now important to give the court and cathedral dean a place among the town's priests. A reason why Pestorf begins to carry the Brunswick habit with black robe and ruff.

Innenansicht

In the 19th century it is particularly Duke Wilhelm who personnally takes care of the cathedral' s restauration . A big part of the interior church becomes Neoromanesque. With the reconstruction of Burg Dankwarderode about 1900 the town gets back its central place. With the coming to power of Ernst-August and Victoria-Luise in 1913 the cathedral as a collegiate church for a last time serves as court and cathedral parish church.

There was no doubt that the introduction of the 1st regional bishop in Brunswick in 1923 should take place in the cathedral. The celebration of the service in the cathedral emphathizes the importance of this newly created office from the beginning on and with that he became one of the impressiive persons of this church. Everybody agreed that only the cathedral could be the right place for the bishop's preaches.

Yet only a few years later first arguments between the government of the Free State of Brunswick and the regional church let fear the worst. It is cathedral dean von Schwartz who after 1933 experiences what it means that the government follows the National Socialist ideology and exploits the « property at the cathedral ». Minister-president Klagges tells the church that « the government is interested in giving Henry the Lion's tomb a dignified appearence ». In 1935 the cathedral dean is released from his office, first the service is banished to the presbytery and later completely banned from the cathedral. The same year Hitler visits the excavation works in the cathedral and gives order that the brothers Krüger who had already made the Tannenberg monument build a crypt. This all is accompanied by the attempt to make the cathedral a « National Place of Concecration » in the sense of the National Socialist ideology. From now on scraffiti of the east colonisation of Slave territories, Nazi flags and Imperial eagle, new pulpits for speakers and iron flame dishes leave their marks in the « state cathedral ». National hours of consecration are held, celebrities of the « Partei » and the state appear. Even after the worst destruction of the town in October 1944 a « commemorative celebration for heroes » is held. The bombs had damaged the cathedral, yet the vault resisted. This is why the cathedral immediately after the end of the war can grant asylum the St.Andreas parish the following 20 years. Here many marriages of the neibourhood parishes take place.

In 1946 Martin Erdmann becomes president of the regional church and cathedral dean at St. Blasius, and in his role as regional bishop he regularly preaches in the cathedral. Dr. Ellinor von der Heyde-Dohrn, an excellent musician, becomes organist. In this time first considerations begin about the re-establishment of the cathedral as a place for Christian serves, which initiate negociations with the Land Niedersachsen about the transfer of ownership. In 1954 a « cathedral settlement » is reached. In 1965 the church government refounds the cathedral parish as parish St. Blasius and Oberlandeskirchenrat Dr. Adolf Quast becomes cathedral dean.

links

hisorical pictures of he inner cathedral


tomb before the replacement into the north transcept
tomb before the replacement into the north transcept

impression of a former soil
impression of a former soil

neo-Romanesque altar in the apse of the prebytary
neo-Romanesque altar in the apse of the presbytary

Imervard cross in the north transcept
Imervard cross in the north transcept

high altar created in 1728
high altar created in 1728

1940 « state » cathedral
1940 « state » cathedral

 the presbytery behind a curtain
the presbytery behind a curtain