UNKNOWN MASTER, German
(active c. 1015 in Hildesheim)

Bernward door

1015
Bronze
Cathedral, Hildesheim

The great masterpieces of Ottonian sculpture were church fittings with monumental aspirations, made of bronze. The technique of casting an alloy of copper, tin and zinc in a mould, known since Antiquity, was particularly developed in the Ottonian centres in the Rhineland and northern Germany (Hildesheim, Augsburg, Mainz, Magdeburg). In addition to the very rapid diffusion of small objects such as crucifixes, Ottonian bronze founding became famous at Hildesheim under Bishop Bernward (993-1022), the tutor of Otto III. Two imposing monuments have been preserved, the doors and the triumphal column. These are the jewels of the Hildesheim bronze workshops which also produced and exported a number of small-scale works: candlesticks, chandeliers and crucifixes.

Numerous highly ornate Romanesque bronze church doors have been well-preserved, one of them is the Bernward door on the west portal of the cathedral in Hildesheim. The eight reliefs on each half of the door depict scenes from the Old and New Testaments. The technical skill represented by the founding of each of the leaves of the door in one piece is only equalled by the plastic effort employed to animate a flat surface with figures in high relief.




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