Speyer is the home of a magnificent cathedral and a number of significant churches. The official name of the largest and most important cathedral is Imperial Cathedral Basilica of the Assumption and St. Stephen. It was founded in 1030 and opened in 1106. Over the centuries it has been enlarged, reconstructed and changed. It has four towers and two domes and is made of red sandstone. This cathedral was the burial place of German emperors for almost 300 years. It is the largest Romanesque cathedral in the world and by most people, simply called Speyer Cathedral.
The front faces onto a square, as is typical of European cathedrals. It is also under renovation…also typical.
The interior is wonderful. I am always in awe of the inside of these houses of worship; awestruck is certainly the intended reaction.
There was a great fire in Speyer in 1689, and many people fled to Frankfort. The construction of Trinity Church started afterward, in 1701. It is the city’s oldest Protestant church with a beautiful exterior and interior.
The inside is still in its original condition. It is hard to believe that intricate wood carvings and the dome paintings are the same as they were in 1701.
A remarkable and significant Jewish community lived side by side with the Christian community in Speyer. This was one of the most important Jewish communities of the Middle Ages in Northern Europe. Today, ruins to the courtyard of the synagogue as well as areas dedicated just to women can be visited. Beautiful modern day statues have been placed in the courtyard, but for me, seeing the areas meant just for women was the most important.
This mikveh, or ritual bath was first documented in 1126, and although ancient, it was easy to imagine a woman on her way to and actually using the bath. The ritual bath of spiritual purification is underground and has not changed for centuries. Steps lead to the bath, and each step gives time to leave the hectic world behind.
In the changing room, there is even a small opening in the wall to place personal items, like hair pins.
A women might have stopped here and looked into the bath as Ashleigh is doing.
Finally, the bath, itself, which just happens to be very cold because it is fed by a natural spring.
Medieval Speyer had an active and diverse spiritual life, and anyone you speak to today says that has not changed.
Love, The Unseasoned Traveler