Hornemann Institute Publishes the Results of a Conference on St. Godehard

Publishing Date: 04.07.2023

In 2022/23, the diocese of Hildesheim celebrated the 1000th anniversary of Godehard, the patron saint of Hildesheim's church of St. Godehard, taking the office as bishop and invited all interested parties to contribute. This was a welcome opportunity for the Hornemann Institute of the HAWK University of Applied Sciences and Arts Hildesheim / Holzminden / Göttingen to take up this initiative and, together with the Klosterkammer Hannover, organised an interdisciplinary conference in September 2022 on the church, which was completed and consecrated in 1172, 850 years ago.

The church with its furnishings is one of the most interesting and best-preserved ecclesiastical buildings from the 12th century. Only nine months after the conference, the Hornemann Institute has now published the papers from the fields of art history, history, preservation of monuments and conservation in a 448-page volume richly illustrated with 349 mostly colour illustrations, tables and diagrams. The 24 essays provide fascinating insights into the church, monastery and furnishings and their cultural and historical significance for the region and beyond. Five epochs of history are in the focus, with a main emphasis - following the 850th anniversary - on the monastery and the construction of the church in the 12th century.


About the book

The monastery in the 12th and 13th centuries
Prof. Dr. Martina Giese (University of Würzburg) examines for the first time the monastery in its first two centuries in terms of the number as well as the composition of its members. The extensive confraternities of the monastery show a wide spiritual network beyond the diocese of Hildesheim. Prof. Dr. Harald Wolter-von dem Knesebeck (University of Bonn) focuses on the book culture and landscape of knowledge in Hildesheim. In particular, the depiction of the Root of Jesse in a gospel book from the monastery library provides insights into the thinking of the Hildesheim clergy up to the 13th century. One of the most important works of art from the monastery of St. Godehard is the portable altar, donated by Abbot Thidericus and now in the British Museum in London. Dr. Gerhard Lutz (Cleveland Museum of Art) reconstructs the object's eventful journey from Hildesheim to London since the dissolution of the monastery during the secularisation and places the work in the context of artistic production in Hildesheim around 1200. Dr. Bernhard Gallistl (Hildesheim) shows that the lost reliquiary bust of St. Godehard was the most important sacred object in the monastery. It was placed on the high altar in the eastern choir.
St. Godehard is one of the most unusual church buildings of the 12th century. Dr. Ulrich Knapp (Leonberg) analyses the church for its 12th-century structure and is able to clarify numerous misinterpretations. On the one hand, the design of the building follows that of other monastic buildings of the time, for example from Thuringia (Paulinzella) to Saxony-Anhalt (Hamersleben). On the other hand, St. Godehard has a choir with radiating chapels, as known from contemporary architecture in France. Prof. Dr. Hans-Rudolf Meier (Bauhaus University Weimar) explains how the choir ambulatory is part of the local Hildesheim tradition and asks about the specific model for its remarkable three radiating chapels.

The former structure and function of the medieval west building is being reconstructed for the first time by Dr. Kristina Krüger (University of Heidelberg). Prof. Dr. Matthias Untermann (University of Heidelberg) is investigating the nave with regard to the question of whether there was any "reformed Benedictine" architecture at all in the 12th century. In doing so, he breaks with the previous state of research, because he sees contemporary monastic basilicas with flat ceilings as a noble architectural form that cannot be explained by its use. On the basis of the high-quality capital in the nave, Dr. Christian Forster (Leipzig) discusses how quickly the building of the monastery church progressed and when new developments in architectural sculpture became noticeable: Did the church of St. Godehard in Hildesheim initiate significant artistic changes in the 12th century?

New research focuses on the 15th to 20th century
The history of the building and furnishings of St. Godehard from the 15th to the 20th century has been largely unresearched and is presented in this book for the first time. The former high altarpiece of St. Godehard church from the early 15th century is said to be in the Protestant city church in Gronau today, about 20 kilometres south-west of Hildesheim. Dr Felix Prinz (Dommuseum Hildesheim) went in search of clues. Dr. Stefan Bartilla (Prague) is reconstructing a unique pictorial programme in the monastery's banqueting hall based on the monastery's chronicle from 1500.

St. Godehard became particularly important during the period of the so-called Bursfelde reform movement from 1466. Prof. Dr. Thomas Vogtherr (University of Osnabrück) traces the development and analyses the work of the abbots in the Bursfelde Congregation. The new abbot Lippold (1465-1473) commissioned choir stalls in the year of his inauguration, of which significant remains have survived. Anja Seliger (Halle) is the first to propose a reconstruction and to place it stylistically within the artistic production of the region.
Among the best-known works from the pre-Reformation period are the wooden sculptures on the altarpiece of St. Benedict in the southern transept, built at the end of the 18th century. On this basis, Dr. Markus Hörsch (Leipzig / Bamberg) draws a critical balance of the master and his Hildesheim circle and discusses their references to the art of the time.
Dr. Monika Suchan (Dombibliothek Hildesheim) focuses on the library of the Godehardi monastery in the 15th and 16th centuries and the decoration of the library room. She shows how St. Godehard, who was himself committed to monastic reform, served as a model for the monks of the 15th century.

Prof. Dr. Dr. Jörg Bölling (University of Hildesheim) explains the significance of Godehard as a bishop, saint and monastery patron in the Baroque period on the basis of a previously little-noticed biography of the saint. Dr. Christian Scholl (University of Hildesheim) succeeds in a plausible reconstruction of the Baroque church furnishings on the basis of a comprehensive study of the preserved furnishings as well as written and pictorial sources. Dr. Christian Schuffels (Institut für Sächsische Geschichte und Volkskunde, Dresden) deals with the iconography of patrons and founders in the Baroque church and monastery. His point of departure is the tomb of Bishop Bernhard I in the choir, for which a new tombstone was made in 1745.

In the 19th century, the building was completely redesigned in historicizing forms. Dr. Christian Scholl develops an appreciation of this decoration campaign in the context of 19th century historicism. Stefanie Lindemeier (Hannover) presents the conservation of the richly encrusted plaster floor in the choir, a rare decorative technique from the Middle Ages. Prof. Dr. Ursula Schädler-Saub (HAWK Hildesheim) discusses the still irritating conservation measures of the 1960s and places them in the context of West German conservation trends with the help of many newly consulted written sources.

But the church was not a solitary building from the beginning. Dr. Angela Weyer (Hornemann Institute, HAWK Hildesheim) gives an overview of the medieval monastery complex and the nearby parish Church of St. Nicolai. Finally, Dr. Christian Schuffels traces the building history of the gate house and the adjoining farm buildings.

The Hornemann Institute for the Region
Founded 25 years ago in connection with the EXPO 2000 in Hildesheim to promote international knowledge transfer in the field of cultural heritage conservation, the Hornemann Institute has become an integral part of the cultural life of the region: Whether in the context of Hildesheim's theme year 2011 "Learning to live", the regional church festival programme "God's angels never leave. St. Michael’s 2010", the city and diocese jubilee 2014/15 or Hildesheim's application to become European Capital of Culture 2025, the Hornemann Institute was always actively involved. New research on Hildesheim's architectural monuments has been communicated through exhibitions and events, and time and again through exquisitely illustrated books. For example, research on the Kaiserhaus, St Michael's Church and its cloister and the Town Hall have been published in its series.

These conference proceedings on St. Godehard, rich in content and lavishly illustrated, are now published as the 23rd book in the series under the title: 850 Years of St. Godehard Hildesheim. Church - Monastery - Furnishings. Edited and published by Dr. Gerhard Lutz, former deputy director of the Hildesheim Cathedral Museum, and Dr. Angela Weyer, director of the Hornemann Institute of the HAWK, the book can be purchased from the institute for 49.95 Euros.
The book was printed with the financial support of the Ministry of Science and Culture of the State of Lower Saxony and the Diocese of Hildesheim. It will contribute to the sustainability of the jubilee of Bishop Godehard, to the dissemination of the new scientific findings and hopefully attract many new streams of visitors to Hildesheim and the church of St. Godehard.