Bronze doors, Saint Michael’s, Hildesheim, commissioned by Bishop Bernward, 1015

Bronze doors, Saint Michael’s, Hildesheim, commissioned by Bishop Bernward, 1015


SPEAKER 1: We’re looking
at the Bishop Bernward doors that date from about 1015. We know that Bishop Bernward
went on a pilgrimage to Rome, and then returned
back to Hildesheim, and wanted to recreate some of
the monumental art that he saw. And specifically,
when he was in Rome, he saw the monumental
wooden doors at Santa Sabina that have scenes
from the Old and New Testament carved into them. And he felt like he
needed his own doors. SPEAKER 2: We read these
starting in the upper left hand corner, in which you
have the creation of Eve from the side of Adam. And then, below that is the
presentation of Eve to Adam. Then the temptation. Below that, is then the
accusation of Adam and Eve. And then, below
that, the expulsion. The panel below that,
interrupted by the door handles, and we see
Adam working the land on the left, Eve
nursing on the right. And a fun fact about
the Eve nursing is that this is one of maybe
only 20 images of Eve nursing. Below that, we have Cain and
Abel and their sacrifices or presentation to the Lord. Below that, in the final panel,
is the murder of Abel by Cain. SPEAKER 1: And then, instead
of going back to the top, on the right it starts
at the bottom, where we have the Annunciation,
with Mary and the angel. Then the Nativity, that’s
the birth of Jesus. And then the scene that’s
interrupted by the door handle here is the
adoration of the magi. We have three magi on the right
approaching Mary and Jesus on the left. Above that, we have the
presentation in the Temple. Above that, we’ve got Christ
being presented to either Herod or Pilate before
his crucifixion. Above that, we’ve got the
crucifixion of Christ. Above that, we have the
Marys at the tomb, which was the standard scene
showing the Resurrection in the early Middle Ages. And then at the very top, we
have what’s called the noli me tangere. Mary Magdalene sees
Jesus in the garden, and he says, don’t touch me. And so we have our scenes
from early Genesis, and then scenes from the Gospels. Now, one of the really
interesting things that happens here is that we
have all these scenes lined up next to each other. There are some visual and
also some thematic patterns that happen left to right. And the one that I think
is a really good example– in the third panel from the
top, we’ve got the Temptation. Adam and Eve are about
to eat the fruit. And then on the right,
the Crucifixion. And if we look at the tree that
holds the fruit in the Adam and Eve scene, it’s very
much a cruciform shaped tree, just as we have
Christ on the cross in the center of
the other image. And then we have Adam
and Eve on either side, just as we have the
tormentors on either side. And then on the far edges
of the Adam and Eve scene, we’ve got trees. And then, we have Mary and
John in the Crucifixion scene. So there’s a similarity
of composition. And what I think that
does is bring out the thematic
connection of in Adam all men die, and
in Christ all men are made alive, which is
a really important idea for Christianity. And especially for Christianity
in the Middle Ages. SPEAKER 2: Absolutely. This is a very long, old
tradition in Christianity to compare Christ
as the new Adam, and then Mary, the new Eve. And you have traditions
that the cross was made from the wood of
the tree in the garden. SPEAKER 1:So this an
Ottonian work of art. And Ottonians were
kind of, hangers on to the Carolingian Renaissance. They saw themselves
as being inheritors of the Carolingian Empire. In my mind, they are not so
much looking back so diligently to the classical models. But there is
definitely the flavor of some of that Carolingian
Renaissance here. These are cast in solid bronze. And it’s very much
thought that the lost wax method was used here. That Bishop Bernward had his
artists recreate or rediscover the lost wax method, so
that these doors could be cast in two single
pieces, as opposed to being hammered from the
inside with the repousse. SPEAKER 2: And that is
very much in keeping with that Carolingian and the
inherited idea of looking back to classical and ancient
models and reclaiming them and reviving them. SPEAKER 1: Right. So we have the ancient
method used here in the Ottonian period.

5 Replies to “Bronze doors, Saint Michael’s, Hildesheim, commissioned by Bishop Bernward, 1015”

  1. Yes, the door is at the Hildesheim Cathedral. Also the famous bronze column.
    I don't know why so much books say that they are in Saint Michael.

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