This summer Frankfurt finally welcomed back one of its most popular sightseeing attractions. Now, visitors to the city will once again be able to climb up the 328 steps of Emperor’s Cathedral, closed off to the general public some 11 years ago due to structural damage. Having been painstakingly reconstructed, the stairway is once again open to the top of the tower, from where visitors are guaranteed an unmatched view of the surrounding old town, including: the Römer, the city’s time-honoured town hall, St. Paul’s Church, Frankfurt’s famous skyline in the background, and the museum embankment along the River Main.
The breathtaking view from atop Emperor’s Cathedral, also known as Frankfurt Cathedral or St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral, isn’t the only thing making this time-honoured venue well worth the visit. Its historical significance and range of artefacts on display have played an equally important part in making the cathedral one of the city’s foremost sightseeing attractions. Consecrated in the name of St. Bartholomew, the Gothic-style cathedral was erected between 1315 and 1358 where a dilapidated palace chapel built by Louis the Pious in the 9th century had previously stood. During the Middle Ages, the cathedral served as the official seat of the imperial chapter of St. Bartholomew. In 1356, Emperor Charles IV declared Frankfurt to be the new electoral site of German kings, and from 1562 to 1792 as the coronation site for 10 emperors of the Holy Roman Empire. Today, the “electoral chapel” remains as a place of prayer and silent contemplation.
Emperor’s Cathedral houses many artistic treasures, including the Sleeping Mary Altar, created by an unknown artist in the 15th century, a painting depicting the Lamentation of Jesus Christ by Antonius van Dyck, the tombs of various famous Frankfurt personalities and a frieze of the cathedral’s namesake, St. Bartholomew. Those interested in finding out more about the life of Bartholomew or the history of the cathedral are urged to pay a visit to the neighbouring Cathedral Museum, which offers a chronological tour highlighting the history of the cathedral. A collection of burial objects found in the tomb of a Merovingian maiden, discovered in the 1950s and dating back to the 07th century, is of particular interest.
Emperor’s Cathedral has also endured its share of hard times over the years. It was ravaged by fire in 1867. Nearly a century later, in March of 1944, it burned out again and also suffered heavy structural damage during a series of Allied air raids. The reconstruction necessitated by these two fateful events has of course influenced the appearance of the cathedral. The present-day cathedral presents itself as a three-nave hall church. Its monumental western tower, built in the 15th century, is one of the most important representations of the German Gothic period. One of the most unique parts of this unique structure is the belfry, featuring “Gloriosa”, Germany’s second-heaviest church bell, weighing in at an impressive 11,950 kilograms.
Tickets for a tower visit may be purchased at the small box office situated at the base of the tower. Adults pay three Euros, while children get in at half price. The panorama view from the top of the tower makes the climb more than worthwhile. A family ticket is available for five Euros and groups of over 20 persons pay reduced price as well. Tower access is limited to 50 people at a time. Unfortunately, group reservations are not possible. The cathedral tower is open daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm. This year, the tower will remain open until 1st October. In 2011, the tower will be accessible once again from 1st April until 1st October.