Frankfurt Cathedral (German: Frankfurter Dom), officially Imperial Cathedral of Saint Bartholomew (German: Kaiserdom Sankt Bartholomäus) is a Roman Catholic Gothic church located in the centre of Frankfurt am Main, Germany. It is dedicated to Saint Bartholomew.
It is the largest religious building in the city and a former collegiate church. Despite its common English name, it has never been a true cathedral (episcopal see), but is called the Kaiserdom (an "imperial great church" or imperial cathedral) or simply the Dom due to its importance as former election and coronation church of the Holy Roman Empire. As one of the major buildings of the Empire's history, it was a symbol of national unity, especially in the 19th century.
The present church building is the third church on the same site. Since the late 19th century, excavations have revealed buildings that can be traced back to the 7th century. The history is closely linked with the general history of Frankfurt and Frankfurt's old town because the cathedral had an associated role as the religious counterpart of the Royal Palace in Frankfurt.
Frankfurt Cathedral was an imperial collegiate church, termed Dom in German - a synecdoche for all collegiate churches used totum pro parte also for cathedrals -, and thus traditionally translated as cathedral in English. St. Bartholomew's is the main church of Frankfurt and was constructed in the 14th and 15th centuries on the foundation of an earlier church from the Merovingian time.
From 1356 onwards, emperors of the Holy Roman Empire were elected in this collegiate church as kings in Germany, and from 1562 to 1792, emperors-elect were crowned here. The imperial elections were held in the Wahlkapelle, a chapel on the south side of the choir (Hochchor) built for this purpose in 1425 (See the Plan to the right) and the anointing and crowning of the emperors-elect as kings in Germany took place before the central altar–believed to enshrine part of the head of St. Bartholomew – in the crossing of the church, at the entrance to the choir (See the Plan to the right).
In the course of the German Mediatisation the city of Frankfurt finally secularised and appropriated the remaining Catholic churches and their endowments of earning assets, however, leaving the usage of the church buildings to the existing Catholic parishes. Thus St. Bartholomew's became of the city's dotation churches, owned and maintained by the city but used by Catholic or Lutheran congregations.
St. Bartholomew's was seen as symbol for national unity in Germany, especially during the 19th century. Although it had never been a bishop's seat, it was the largest church in Frankfurt and its role in imperial politics, including crowning of medieval German emperors, made the church one of the most important buildings of Imperial history.
In 1867, St. Bartholomew's was destroyed by a fire and rebuilt in its present style. During World War II, between October 1943 and March 1944, the old town of Frankfurt, the biggest old Gothic town in Central Europe, was devastated by six bombardments of the Allied Air Forces. The greatest losses occurred in an attack by the Royal Air Force on 22 March 1944, when more than a thousand buildings of the old town, most of them half-timbered houses, were destroyed.
St. Bartholomew's suffered severe damage; the interior was burned out completely. The building was reconstructed in the 1950s. The height of the spire is 95 metres.
Frankfurt Cathedral Choir School
The Frankfurt Cathedral Choir School (German: Frankfurter Domsingschule), founded in 2011, is a mixed ecumenical children's and youth choir, which accompanies not only mass and evensongs, but also official receptions and openings. The Frankfurter Domsingschule offers any singer, regardless of their religious affiliation, age-based, free vocal basic training at regular rehearsals and valuable one-on-one and group vocal training or early musical education. This extensive basic training is unique for Frankfurt.
Notable people associated with the cathedral
- Conrad III of Dhaun, former provost
- Madern Gerthener, stonemason and architect who designed the cathedral
- Johannes Jeep, organist
- Joseph Weyland, Bishop of Fulda
- Notable burials
- Johannes Karl von und zu Franckenstein, Prince-Bishop of Worms
- Günther von Schwarzburg, anti-king and member of the House of Schwarzburg
- Frankfurter Domsingschule