Speyer Cathedral of the Virgin Maria and St. Stephen is one of the sevenimperial cathedrals (Kaiserdom) in Germany. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Siteand is the world’s largest existing Romanesque church. Emperor Conrad II began itsconstruction in 1030. At the time of the death of Conrad II, the cathedral’s constructionwas not finished yet. First, his son, Henry III, then his grandson, Henry IV, continuedit. The cathedral was consecrated in 1061, but it was finally completed only atthe end of the life of Henry IV, who died in 1106. In total, five generationsof craftsmen and workers participated in the construction of the temple.
Speyer Cathedral has along and colorful history. It was the last refuge for Salic dynasty emperors ConradII, Henry III, Henry IV and Henry V, as well several German kings and theirrelatives. The church did not keep its original shape because of numerous warsand fires. The temple got the worst blow during the War of the PalatinateSuccession (1688-1697), when the troops of Louis XIV systematically raided the Palatinatecities. On May 31, 1689, French soldiers desecrated and looted the tombs andset fire to the cathedral itself, due to which its western part was almostcompletely destroyed.
With this Speyer Cathedral’smishaps did not end. Another hundred years later the French Revolution brokeout. The crowd of militant soldiers burst into the cathedral and destroyed thealtars. The defiled building was used as stables and warehouses. The damage wassuch that the possibility to make the temple as quarry was seriously consideredin 1806. Fortunately, the city council rejected the idea. Bishop of MainzJoseph Ludwig Colmar, who took up supporting the local congregate after theabolition of Speyer’s episcopacy, convinced Napoleon through Josephine de Beauharnaisto cancel the decree on demolition that had already signed.
When the Palatinate becamepart of Bavaria by the decision of the Congress of Vienna, King Maximilian I re-establishedSpeyer’s episcopacy in 1817. At the same time, the cathedral’s gradualrestoration began. There is a huge stone bowl (Domnapf), accommodating morethan 1,500 liters of liquid on the square in front of the cathedral. There wasa tradition in the old days, under which each new bishop was required to fillthe bowl brimful with wine for Speyer’s residents before taking up the post. Weinam Dom wine festival is an echo of this tradition in our days. It is held everyspring in the square in front of the cathedral.