Strictly speaking, it is not a cathedral at all, since it was never a bishop’s church. Nonetheless, the Gothic St. Bartholomew’s Cathedral is one of the few to receive the designation “Imperial Cathedral” (Kaiserdom). From 1356 onwards, according to the Golden Bull of Charles the IVth, kings were elected here. Between 1562 and 1792 ten monarchs were crowned emperor here in front of the coronation altar.
The present-day church is the fifth structure known to have existed at this location. Following a Merovingian chapel that originated in 680 and a Carolingian single-vessel hall church, in 852 the Salvator Basilica of the Carolingian imperial palace was built. The Late Romanesque Bartholomew’s choir was consecrated in 1239, named for the apostle Bartholomew, whose skullcap is venerated as the cathedral’s most important relic. Construction and expansion of the still-extant Gothic nave and the aisles began in 1260. The representative west tower was built in 1415. In 1867, the cathedral fell victim to a major fire. Franz Joseph Denzinger led its Neo-Gothic restoration. Only then did the tower receive its spire according to plans drawn up by cathedral master builder Madern Gerthener in 1415, rising 95 metres into the air.
Restoration of damage from the war began in 1948 and has given the cathedral its present-day appearance. Visitors enter through the stone-vaulted atrium, which was built in 1879/80 and contains the baroque altar depicting Mary’s Assumption. In the nave, visitors are surprised by the bright red colour, which was brought about by the restoration of 1992/1994. The Elector’s Chapel, where kings were elected, emerges south of the medieval High Choir.
The cathedral museum in the medieval cloister shows exhibits from the cathedral’s treasury and spectacular finds from the grave of a girl from the late Merovingian period in the 7th century. From April to October, it is possible to climb the tower. Visitors who climb the 324 steps are rewarded with a magnificent panoramic view.