The Bernward Doors
In the year 1015 Bishop Bernward commissioned the two door leaves for the west entrance of Hildesheim Cathedral. The doors measure 4.72 metres in height and, being the tallest amongst all doors of their era, they occupy a special status amongst medieval doors.
Even at the the time they were made, the bronze door leaves were unique. As a case in point, they surpassed the bronze doors that Charlemagne had cast for the Collegiate Church in Aachen, not only because of their immense height, but also due to the reliefs that make the bronze doors of Hildesheim Cathedral a sculptural masterpiece.
Of all the bronze doors with figural scenes dating back to the Middle Ages, the Bernward Doors are the oldest, with what is probably one of the earliest great sculptural cycles of images north of the Alps and one of the boldest works of all medieval castings in ore. 16 panels depict the biblical story of Salvation in extraordinary vividness and in a manner that is unbelievably dramatic for the time in which they were made. The panels on the left leaf depict scenes from the Old Testament, starting at the top with the Creation of Man and ending with the murder of Abel by his brother Cain. The panels on the opposite side show events from the New Testament, starting with the Annunciation to Mary at the bottom and ending with Easter and the Ascension at the top.
In the west side of the cathedral an explanation of the portal can now be given to the many groups of visitors in an appropriate environment without disturbing the tranquility of the nave. The area between the Bernward Doors and the outer western end of the westwork now forms a sort of vestibule. In order to access this from the cathedral, two entrances to the left and right of the organ gallery have now been created.