Hildesheim, Germany – A tale from history

Continuing on with the Germany theme, I would like to introduce a nice, small city in Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen) that I particularly like called Hildesheim.

If you like medieval history, this small city 30 km (19 miles) southeast of Hanover is the place to be. It is one of the oldest cities in northern Germany; HIldesheim was one of the religious and political power centres of the Middle Ages. It is also believed to be one of the largest cities at the time, hosting multiple churches and cathedrals, which showed off its power and wealth.

There is so much to do and see in Hildesheim; what happens if you only have enough time to spend a day there? Not to worry! Hildesheim is known for its UNESCO World Heritage Sites and historical tourism. The city created a route for you: the Rosenroute. Following the roses painted or tiled into the ground, you can see what Hildesheim has to offer. A map of the route, which can also be obtained from the information points, can be followed.

The Rosenroute

A tile on the red (main) portion of the Rosenroute

The Rosenroute runs through the old part of the city and the historic streets and alleys. Each part is marked with roses of different descriptions and colours, depending on which part/path of the Rosenroute one follows. The main route, the red one, stays in the very centre of the city and visits more of the attractions. There are three variations on this route:

  • The green route includes the gardens near the Michaeliskirche
  • The orange route introduces some of the old houses in the old Jewish quarter
  • The purple route (an extension of the orange route) showcases the old boundaries and defences of the old city

The Rathaus (City Hall), Central Market and Knochenhaueramtshaus

The Rosenroute starts at the City Hall (which contains an information point about the city and the Rosenroute. The brochure for which can be bought for €2) and the old central market. If you go during Adventzeit (in December before Christmas), this is also where the central Christmas market for Hildesheim is. I highly recommend it! Also in this market is the Knochenhaueramtshaus, or the very wealthy and very influential Butcher’s Guild Hall. Today it contains the city museum and a restaurant. The house built in the half-timbered style, which is typical of traditional houses in this area of Germany.

Andreaskirche (St. Andrew’s Church)

The Andreaskirche is the second stop on the Rosenroute. It was the first church in Hildesheim to convert to Lutheranism during the Reformation. This was a snub to the Catholic bishops in the Hildesheim Cathedral further along the Route. The Andreaskirche is a gothic church with Romanesque westwork. However its defining feature is its tower, which is the highest in Niedersachsen and offers panoramic views to its visitors. You can see the beauty of Hildesheim from above.

Image from Wikipedia

Kreuzkirche (Church of the Holy Cross)

The Kreuzkirche is the third stop on the Rosenroute and has a somewhat unique history. In brief, the church used to be part of the old fortifications of the city. Later it was converted into a church around 1080. The town had expanded by this time; the old fortifications that one can visit later on the Rosenroute served as a replacement. The church still holds services and the building on the right-hand side is a religious school/priest training facility/cloister. Don’t be surprised if the church is not open when you are in the area.

Lambertkirche (St. Lamberti’s Church)

The fourth stop is on the orange route is the Lambertkirche. Located in the towns’ Neustadt (‘New Town’), which is ironic considering that it is over 800 years old. The ‘Neu’ refers to the expansion of the city past the old fortifications, such as the origins of the Kreuzkirche.

Kesslerstraße (Kessler Street) and Kehrwiederwall (Kehrwieder Wall)

Kesserstraße and Kehrwiederwall don’t necessarily have specific sights to see in comparison with the churches and cathedral that the rest of the routes have to offer; don’t be fooled! Unfortunately, Hildesheim received heavy damage during the Second World War; most of the churches and cathedrals were destroyed and later renovated. Kesslerstraße is an exception. The (mostly half-timbered) houses date back to their construction (ranging from 1400-1600) rather than being restored after the war.

Kehrwiederwall (notice the last part ‘-wall’) is now an elevated park but was once the location of the city wall that ran beside the river. The park offers an elevated but distant view of the old district through which the Rosenroute runs.

Kehrwiederturm (Kehrwieder Tower)

The Kehrwiederturm is the only remaining part of the old fortifications that were constructed in 1300. This building can only be viewed from the outside; the inside is now home of a Kunstverein (Artistic Association), but it is impressive nonetheless. This also ends the purple route and puts us back on the orange route extension.

Basilika St. Godehard (St. Godehard Basilica)

The St. Godehard church (officially, a Basilica minor) is a Romanesque, Roman Catholic church in Hildesheim. It sits very close to the river and is the farthest point from the market on the Rosenroute. Another unique feature of the Basilica is that it was mostly undamaged during World War Two, meaning that the majority of work it has had done has been light restoration. This church has been for almost 900 years in various forms.

Wernersches Haus (Werner House) and the Monument of the Synagogue

In the centre of the Jewish quarter, two more impressive sites can be found, the Wernersches Haus and the Monument of the Synagogue. The Wernersches Haus is a prime example of the half-timbered construction style along with a façade of wood-carvings and is definitely a sight worth seeing (from the outside only, the inside is a law office).

The Monument of the Synagogue, unfortunately, marks a dark period in both world- and Hildesheim history. On the Kristallnacht (Night of Broken Glass) during the Nazi’s rise to power, the main Synagogue in Hildesheim was destroyed along with the Jewish school across the street. This monument, along with the reconstructed foundations of the Synagogue, are how Hildesheim has chosen to remember the atrocities of that night.

Hildesheimischer Dom and Domhof (Hildesheim Cathedral and Cathedral Square)

This next stop puts us back on the main (red) route. The Cathedral is one of the oldest buildings in Hildesheim. if you can forget that it was destroyed during WW2, it was constructed originally in 1015 and is the original reason for the existence of the city.  In addition to a wealth of religious treasures, the Cathedral is also world-famous for another reason: the Thousand-Year Rosebush. It is said that the dog-rose bush that flourishes in the Cathedral grounds is over one thousand years old. Unlike the Cathedral it survived the air raid on 22 March 1945, although most of the bush burned beyond saving. The roots were still intact and the bush came back with a vengeance in the same year), making it the world’s oldest rosebush.

Additionally, the main doors (Bernward Doors, named after the bishop who commissioned them) of the Cathedral are also over one thousand years old, made of bronze, and depicts scenes from the Book of Genesis and the life of Jesus. These are the oldest known image-cycle and metal-casted images in Germany.

In addition to its beauty, the cathedral also was a home of learning. It’s cloisters housed one of the best schools of the time (it still exists today); the library is the oldest known library in Northern Germany (ca. 815).

Michaeliskirche

The Michaeliskirche is the last stop on the main Rosenroute. The Michaeliskirche was originally a monastery built around the same time as the Cathedral and was in operation up to 1803 when Hildesheim underwent secularisation (i.e. no longer ruled by a religious ruler). The church sits on an elevated piece of land over the city and is the second basilica in Hildesheim. The interior is more spartanly decorated and very spacious.

Magdalenengarten (Magdelena’s Garden)

The Magdalenengarten is a baroque park in Hildesheim near the Michaeliskirche and is the entirety of the green route extension. As one might assume, roses now feature heavily (before it was a vegetable and medicine garden) and was administered by the nuns at St. Magdalena’s Church at the bottom of the park. After WW2, the garden was repurposed into a baroque-style park. There are many places to sit, rest and read. On the slopes that overlook the park, future wine (sorry, I mean grapevines) grow.

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