Stamp issue: 2 Jan 2010
The Church of St. Michael (German: Michaeliskirche) in Hildesheim, Germany, is an early-Romanesque church. It has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985.
Abbey Church of St. Michael's was constructed between 1001 and 1031 under the direction of Bishop Bernward of Hildesheim (993-1022) as the chapel of his Benedictine monastery. Bernward named the church after the archangel Michael, the Christian angel of protection who carries the deceased to heaven, because he planned to be buried in the Michaeliskirche. Bernward's plans were spoiled by his death in 1022, eleven years before the completion and consecration of the church in 1033. Bernward's successor, Godehard, transferred Bernward's remains to the crypt following its completion.
When the Reformation was adopted in Hildesheim in 1542, St. Michael's Church became Protestant, but the Benedictine monastery remained existing until it was secularized in 1803. The monks would still use the church and its crypt, which remain Catholic to this day.
St. Michael's Church was destroyed in an air raid during World War II on 22 March 1945, but reconstruction was begun in 1950 and completed in 1957. In 1985, the church became a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site, along with the Cathedral of Hildesheim, its collection of medieval treasures and its 1000-year old rosebush.
St. Michael's Church is one of the most important churches in Ottonic (Early-Romanesque) style. It is a double-choir basilica with two transepts and a square tower at each crossing. The west choir is emphasized by an ambulatory and a crypt. The ground plan of the building follows a geometrical conception, in which the square of the transept crossing in the ground plan constitutes the key measuring unit for the entire church. The square units are defined by the "double" alteration of columns and piers. There are 2 entrances on the each apse, and 4 entrances on the north and south side of the church.
Beside the choir and the cloister, the painted wooden ceiling (around 1230) is most famous of the Church's interior. It shows the genealogical tree of Jesus Christ. Bishop Bernward wanted to construct the pillars of the nave in the Niedersächsischer Stützenwechsel style, which means square pillars alternating with round ones. Above them, the wall closes with the clerestory, whose round arch windows attract the light from outside. Furthermore, light shines through the Gothic windows of the lower aisles beyond the arcade. Their ceilings are stone vaults.