The Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul

The Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul

The four towers of the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul can be seen from miles away, standing out in the hilly landscape between the Saale and Unstrut rivers. The cathedral is one of the most significant cultural monuments of the High Middle Ages. Its architecture, stained-glass and sculptural art are totally unique.

The Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul

Experience Uta’s world

Visitors are especially fascinated with the cathedral’s figures of the founders in the west choir, created by an unnamed stone sculptor almost 800 years ago. They are captivated by the statues’ range of emotions: the various founders appear severe, vivacious, melancholic, sensitive, proud, bold and witty – staggering when you consider they were hewn from stone in around 1240 but still look so lifelike. One figure is especially striking: Uta von Naumburg, looking proud yet enigmatic. Umberto Eco called her “the most beautiful woman of the Middle Ages.”

Their creator was also behind the planning, design and features of the cathedral’s west choir and west rood screen – a masterpiece of human creativity. He is known as the “Naumburg Master.” Inspired by French Gothic cathedral architecture, he brought his workshop to Naumburg in the middle of the 13th century and completed his magnum opus in just six years. This makes him an outstanding living example of cultural exchange during the High Middle Ages.

The two rood screens that separate the choir from the knave are another impressive feature of the cathedral. No other church in the world boasts two preserved High Middle Ages rood screens! And they still illustrate how the church was used at the time. The east choir was the main area for the liturgy given by the high diocesan clergy. The cathedral’s Romanesque and Gothic artworks allow visitors to experience medieval liturgy in a way that is virtually unparalleled.

The cathedral’s treasure vault houses an exhibition of more than 30 exquisite religious artefacts from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, including St John’s bowl from the 13th century, an altarpiece by Lucas Cranach and the unique Naumburg Pietà. Even simply entering the room is an experience – at around 285 square meters, it is one of the largest Romanesque vaults in Central Germany. The permanent exhibition near the cathedral tells the story of the Naumburg Master’s creative journey from France to Germany.

A further highlight is the contemporary glass windows that were installed in the Elisabeth chapel in 2007, whose central scenes depict the lives of the saints. These were designed by internationally renowned artist Neo Rauch of the New Leipzig School. On sunny days in particular, the chapel has an especially welcoming atmosphere.

In light of the whole ensemble, consisting of the architecture, sculpture and stained glass, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee declared the Cathedral of St Peter and St Paul a human World Heritage Site, as a “a masterpiece of human creative genius.”