Imervard cross

The wooden sculpture Jesus Christ at the cross made by a craftsman called Imervard is the most important piece of art in the cathedral. Its name Imervard indicates Nothern Europe. Imervard could have been of Low-German, Anglo-Saxon or Scandinavian origin. Among art critics it is undisputed that « Imervard » belongs to the so-called Volto-Santo types, that means a type of large crosses primarily found in Italy and Spain altogether referring to the « highly respected and legendary cross » (volto santo ) in Lucca, Italy.

Originally the tunic was purple, only later it had been changed into night blue decorated with stars. When and where the crucifix was created can only be deduced by critically comparing styles of art. It is made of oak which in some places is worked out to a thickness of 3 cm only. Its back is hollow. In termes of art history it is Romanesque four-nail-cross with a corpse wearing a strictly stylized long garment, with raised head, very small, wide - open eyes under heavy lids and high, thin eyebrows. The connection of the Christ with his cross is absolutely unreal, as if here not a deeply tortured man was hanging at a wooden cross, here the cross is just a symbol in front of which the Lord is « suspended ». It is called a « maiestas-figure ». This unreal aspect is the result of not only extraordinary stylization but of the lengthening of his extremities ( head, hands, feet ) as well and his very flat body. All this becomes the more illustrative as with its high degree of formal independence and abstraction it goes past contemporary style to alienate reality. Although the sculpture of the head shows an exact stydy of lively forms, those are immediately submitted and adapted to the design principles of this figure of the Christ. They seem lengthened, stretched and consequently fitted into the framework of lines and stages of the figure's design. Many generations had forgotten that Imevard is a large relic. The back head, hollow and closed with a drawer carried 30 relics which were rediscovered during an examination, taken out of the head and put into the middle pillar's capital of the Altar of Our Lady. The crucifix probably had been created about 1150 because it was proved before the building of the actual cathedral.

The Altar of Our Lady

Central liturgucal decorative item in Brunswick cathedral is the Altar of Our Lady between the steps that lead to the presbytery. Commissioned by Henry the Lion it was consecrated by bishop Adelung of Hildesheim on September 8th in 1188 , Mary's birthday. Five slender bronze-cast pillars carry an altar slab of grey and black marble which weighs 45 kgs. Only the capital of the fifth pillar in the middle under the altar slab is decorated with foliage. When the altar was consecrated in 1188 a lead receptable was laid into containing several relics. Engraved on the cover are the date of consecration, and the names of the altar's patrons and donator . A replica of the concecration plaque is obtainable in the cathedral. In 2000 the altar was restored and these days hides rests of the relic treasure the medeival importance of which bases on Henry the Lion's pilgrimage to Byzantium and Jerusalem in 1172.

The seven-armed candelabrum (1188)

This magnificent seven -armed candelabrum is made of 77 bronze-cast partswhich are telescoped and wedged up with studs and sleeves . Its narrow and tight curves, the layers of spread wreath of leaves above the pommels suggest the foliage in the Altar of Our Lady and therefor an almost contemporaneous origin.

There is no doubt that the altar had been placed before 1166 since Ludolf von Volkmarode in a deed of donation binds himself to care for the waxcandles. The candelabrum has the importing height of nearly 5 metres, a span of 4 metres and it weighs 400 kgs. Leaves and pommels refer to the Biblical order in 2nd Moses, chapt 25 to create a candelabrum and suggest a relationship with the Jewish menorah. At the same time medieval church takes t he motif of the « tree of life » as it has come down from the Book of Revelation in chapter 22 in connection with the vision of the « future heavenly Jerusalem » . Originally this huge candelabrum stood between the cross altar and Henry's and Matilda' tomb and therefore is death candelabrum and hope of resurrection in one. In the number of its arms one finds more symbolic meaning. In Jewish-Christian symbolism the number seven appears again and again. Just think of the seven days of Creation, the seven requests in the Lord's Prayer, the seven archangels and the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit. During the French occupation of Brunswick duchy King Jerome who resides in Kassel puts the seven-armed candelabrum and the lion on his list of looted art. They should join Napoleon's art collection in the Louvre in Paris. The candelabrum , however, has just been stored in wodden boxes and cannot be found. Napoleon's defeat and the restitution of the duchy makes an uprupt end to this request. Besides Brunswick's candelabrum comrarable one can only be found in the Minster of Essen and the cathedral of Milan.

Siebenarmiger Leuchter (1188)


In 1845 medieval frescoes were dicovered in choir, crossing and transcept. While in our century we primarily use to preserve and to restore, the 19th century has a quite different idea of restoration, which even allows imaginative reconstruction. In 1180/81 the cathedral was completely repainted, whereas the representationals apparently have been taken over. In 1876 the statues of the saints at the nave's columns have already been created. Older photographs show that the cathedral's nave is completely decorated with ornamental and figurative paintings. How far this refers to the Middle-Ages still remains undetermined, yet frescoes are unseperable parts of interior medieval churches. So one of the two inscriptions of the performing artists are found at the north-west nave column, the other one is to be seen in the crosssing vault. It names a « Johannes Wale » « Johannes Gallicus », who points to his work with proudness. The frescoes, as well as the name Gallicus, point to a French influence on the artist. The style of the Brunswick frescoes allows to date themat1240/50. Besides that there are significant references to the paintings on the wooden ceiling in St Michael in Hildesheim, the performing workshop of which must have been closely connected with Brunswick. So we find the same square treatment in the depictions especially of the lower garment folds. Later these square folds were called « teeth », and were often seen in the second half of the 13th century.

One has the best impression of the original state in the south arm of the transcept, which had been restored by the restorer Fritz Herzig in 1954/56 with painstaking attention to detail. Hereby he examined Johannes Gallicus 's frescoe-secco technique, where different from al fresco painting, one works on dry plaster. These paintings are less tenable different from those frescoes applied on wet plaster, because they bind much less with the undercoat. This technique is the mostly used in Romanesque time. This is not the right place to describe any detail of the frescoes, we will just pay attention to the succession of scenes. Hereby we will walk from the presbytery, past the crossing to the south part of the transcept. Tree of Jesse ( genealogical tree of Jesus ), heavenly Jerusalem ( directions ),cycles of the finding of the real cross of Jesus by Holy Helen. The martyr legends of holy Blasius, John the Baptist and Thomas Becket of Canterbury. After the disclosure of the north part of the transcept in the 19th century scenes of the life of Jesus were painted, in the middle ages these walls obviously were not painted.

Wallpaintings have always been casualy realted.This shows- although partly alienated by overwork in the 19th century - the importance of these frescoe for medieval churches an its narrative pleasure. More than visitors of today the observer at that time was impressed by the colourful succession of pictures, its magnificent, scenes partly gold -plated, which as a whole are regarded as one of the most extensive cycles on German ground.

The Gospel of Henry the Lion

Henry the Lion's Gospel of is one of the great creations of Romanesque book art and at the same time by the donater's intentions an impressive testimonial of the Duke's dynastic claim and high self-confidence. He had ordered the book for the Altar of Our Lady. It is the only liturgical Gospel manuscript from the 12th century donated by a ruler preserved from the Staufer dynasty's time. It takes up the big donations of splendid manuscripts by Carolingian, Ottonian and Salian emperors and kings. Duke Henry the Lion, together with his wife Matilda dedicated his one to Brunswick cathedral on the occasion of the Altar of Our Lady' s consecration.

At the end of the dedication poem we read that it was made by Herimann, a monk in the Benedictine Abbey Helmarshausen. The term « Gospel » for the manuscript tells us that it contains the words bequeathed in the four gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John which since ever have belonged to the truth of Christian church. As they used to read the Gospels during the services in earlier times already, they began to copy the Gospels' texts into seperate books. Their high liturgical importance was the reason for the very precious illustration of exact these books which as medium of holy texts were worshipped as ritual objects. And there had already existed a long tradition until the 12th century, when Henry the Lion ordered the Gospel for his collegiate church in Brunswick.

The tomb (1226)

Duke Henry the Lion had a sepulchre built for himself and his wife Matilda in St. Blasius cathedral. On June 28th in 1189 his wife Matilda of England died at the age of 32 or 33 and was buried in the still unaccomplished cathedral. On August 6th in 1195 Henry the Lion died and was buried in St. Blasius cathedral at the side of his wife Matilda. Short before its donator's death the cathedral might have been nearly accomplished. It was his son Henry who ordered the tomb for his father, probably between 1235 and 1240, only a long time after the couple's death. Its unkwnown creater who no more had known the deceased had them given an ideal identity born from his fantasy and imagination. We see Henry as a young ruler, in his right hand carrying a model of Brunswick cathedral. The dedication feast on December 29th in 1226 seemes to be the end of the cathedral's first construction phase.


Bishop Conrad of Hildesheim dedicated the new collgiate church to the Holy bishop St. Blasius,and John the Baptist. In 1226 a third patron joined them: Thomas Becket, bishop pf Canterbury, who had already been canonized in1173.


pctures of the works of art

pictures of the  Imervard cross
pictures of the Imervard cross

pictures of the  Imervard cross
pictures of the Imervard cross

pictures of the Altar of Our Lady
pictures of the Altar of Our Lady

pictures of the candelabrum
pictures of the candelabrum

pictures of the frescoes

Abbildung einiger Wandmalereien

Abbildung einiger Wandmalereien

Christusdarstellung in der Apsis des Hohen Chores

pictures from the facsimile

Abbildung aus dem Faksimile Abbildung aus dem Faksimile Abbildung aus dem Faksimile Abbildung aus dem Faksimile
(original is kept in the Herzog August library in Wolfenbüttel)

pictures of the tomb

Abbildung des Grabmals