Bernward of Hildesheim

Bernward of Hildesheim

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Saint Bern[w]ard was the Bishop of Hildesheim
Bishopric of Hildesheim
The Diocese of Hildesheim is a diocese or ecclesiastical territory of the Latin Rite of the Catholic Church in Germany. Founded in 815 as a missionary diocese by King Louis the Pious, his son Louis the German appointed the famous former archbishop of Rheims, Ebbo, as bishop...

 from 993 until his death in 1022.

Bernward came from a Saxon
The Saxons were a confederation of Germanic tribes originating on the North German plain. The Saxons earliest known area of settlement is Northern Albingia, an area approximately that of modern Holstein...

 noble family and studied at the cathedral school
Cathedral school
Cathedral schools began in the Early Middle Ages as centers of advanced education, some of them ultimately evolving into medieval universities. Throughout the Middle Ages and beyond, they were complemented by the monastic schools...

 of Hildesheim
Hildesheim is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located in the district of Hildesheim, about 30 km southeast of Hanover on the banks of the Innerste river, which is a small tributary of the Leine river...

. From 977, he served as a scribe and chronicler at the court of Otto II
Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto II , called the Red, was the third ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty, the son of Otto the Great and Adelaide of Italy.-Early years and co-ruler with Otto I:...

 and Theophanu
Theophanu , also spelled Theophania, Theophana or Theophano, was born in Constantinople, and was the wife of Otto II, Holy Roman Emperor.-Family:...

 and then from 987/88 to 993, he and the future Pope Sylvester II were in charge of the young Emperor Otto III
Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor
Otto III , a King of Germany, was the fourth ruler of the Saxon or Ottonian dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire. He was elected King in 983 on the death of his father Otto II and was crowned Holy Roman Emperor in 996.-Early reign:...


His time in office fell during the era of the Saxon emperors, who had their roots in the area around Hildesheim and were personally related to Bernward. During this time, Hildesheim was a center of power in the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 and Bernward was determined to give his city an image fitting for one of its stature. The column he planned on the model of Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column
Trajan's Column is a Roman triumphal column in Rome, Italy, which commemorates Roman emperor Trajan's victory in the Dacian Wars. It was probably constructed under the supervision of the architect Apollodorus of Damascus at the order of the Roman Senate. It is located in Trajan's Forum, built near...

 at Rome never came to fruition, but Bernward revived classical precedent by having his name stamped on roof tiles made under his direction.
The most famous extant stamped roof tiles, examples of this ambition, are the Bernward doors of St. Mary's Cathedral
St. Mary's Cathedral, Hildesheim
St. Mary's Cathedral in Hildesheim, Germany, is an important medieval Catholic cathedral, that has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985....

 (bronze cast with scenes of the holy history after the wooden doors of Santa Sabina
Santa Sabina
The Basilica of Saint Sabina at the Aventine is a titular minor basilica and mother church of the Roman Catholic Dominican order in Rome, Italy. Santa Sabina lies high on the Aventine Hill, beside the Tiber, close to the headquarters of theKnights of Malta....

 in Rome), the Christus Pilar (bronze cast with images of the deeds of Christ after the stone Kaisersäulen in Rome), as well as the early Romanesque
Romanesque architecture
Romanesque architecture is an architectural style of Medieval Europe characterised by semi-circular arches. There is no consensus for the beginning date of the Romanesque architecture, with proposals ranging from the 6th to the 10th century. It developed in the 12th century into the Gothic style,...

St. Michael's Church, Hildesheim
The Church of St. Michael in Hildesheim, Germany, is an early-Romanesque church. It has been on the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage list since 1985.-History:...

 (finished after Bernward's death). St. Michael's Church was designed to be the image of heavenly Jerusalem by the bishop and he is buried there. The treasures Bernward created are today UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Bernward built up the cathedral district with a strong twelve-towered wall and erected further forts in the countryside to protect against attacks by the neighboring Slavic peoples
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

. However, the inner spiritual struggles of his diocese and aiding the poor were always closest to his heart.

His life was set down in writing by his student, Thangmar
Thangmar was a German chronicler.-Life:His first appearance in history is as the head of the cathedral school at Hildesheim; at a later date he became dean of the cathedral, and being at the same time notary and librarian his position was a very important one...

, in Vita Bernwardi. For at least part of this document, the authorship is certain, but other parts were probably added in the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

. He died on 20 November 1022, a few weeks after the consecration of the magnificent church of St. Michael, which he had built. Bernward was canonized by Pope Celestine III
Pope Celestine III
Pope Celestine III , born Giacinto Bobone, was elected Pope on March 21, 1191, and reigned until his death. He was born into the noble Orsini family in Rome, though he was only a cardinal deacon before becoming Pope...

. His feast day
Calendar of saints
The calendar of saints is a traditional Christian method of organizing a liturgical year by associating each day with one or more saints and referring to the feast day of said saint...

 is November 20.

St. Bernward's Church
St. Bernward's Church, Hildesheim
St. Bernward's Church is a catholic church in the city of Hildesheim in Lower Saxony, Germany. The name refers to the bishop Bernward of Hildesheim who was canonized by Pope Celestine III.- History :...

 in Hildesheim
Hildesheim is a city in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is located in the district of Hildesheim, about 30 km southeast of Hanover on the banks of the Innerste river, which is a small tributary of the Leine river...

, a neo-romanesque church built 1905-07 and St. Bernward's Chapel in Klein Düngen
Klein Düngen
Klein Düngen is a village in the northern part of the borough of Bad Salzdetfurth in Lower Saxony, Germany. Klein Düngen is on the river Lamme, a tributary of the River Innerste...

 which dates from the 13th century, are named after him.

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