The Old Cathedral of Brunswick

The town of Braunschweig (Brunswick) is only about 45 minutes by train from Hannover. The newly rebuilt palace sounded interesting, so a friend and I decided to go there for a day trip. Also this city was heavily bombed in World War II. I can’s say my first impression of the city when leaving the railway station was a good one. Better take a bus into the old town immediately. There is something of the old city centre left, most of it rebuilt I guess. But at least it looked much better, even on a quiet Sunday. And there are several nice museums if you have time.

More about the palace later. Our first stop was actually the Braunschweiger Dom St. Blasii (Brunswick Cathedral St Blasii). Braunschweig was first mentioned in 1031, from the 12th until the 20th century it was a residence of the House of Guelph (Welfen). Heinrich der Löwe (Henry the Lion), Duke of Saxony  and Bavaria (1129/31-1195) was the founder of the cathedral and the medieval family seat, the Dankwarderode Castle. The reconstructed palace built in 1887 is situated next to the cathedral and is now a museum. In front of it is the statue of a lion.

Heinrich and his wife Mathilde, the sister of the English King Richard the Lionheart, are buried in the cathedral, as is their son Otto IV – the only Guelph ever to be crowned Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire in 1209 – and his wife Beatrix. The beautiful tomb of Heinrich and Mathilde is in front of the altar, in front of it a small plate mentioning Otto and Beatrix. Heinrich holds a sword and a model of the cathedral. Their sarcophagus can be found in the vault under the altar.

That is one thing you shouldn’t miss – if you like us like it. Several members of the family until the 19th century are buried here. They are especially proud of the tomb of the “Black Duke”, Friedrich Wilhelm Duke of Brunswick-Oels (1771-1815), that was rather recently restored. Unfortunately tours only seem to take place during the week, so at weekends all you can do is stand in front of the crypt and try to see as much as possible in the rather dark place.

I wasn’t too impressed by the outside and general interior of the cathedral. In the back are some gorgeous painted ceilings though. And the monuments in the cathedral itself and on the walls are more than worth a look. Especially the sarcophagus of Duke Ludwig Rudolph of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel and his wife Christine Luise, Princess zu Oettingen-Oettingen are worth a closer look. Their detailed statues are actually lying as if they take part in a Roman bacchanalia.

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