St Martin’s Cathedral in Mainz – the heart of a lively city

The cathedral towers above everything. The whole of Mainz is at your feet. It seems to watch over the city like a faithful guard, watching over the lovely old houses, the narrow streets, the bustling squares and the activity at its feet.

“I like Mainz best when it has just rained. The light is beautifully clear and everything looks fresh and clean. The whole city shines,” explains an enthusiastic Jennifer Schrauth. From her workplace at the heady heights of the cathedral’s main tower, this slight short-haired woman has the best view in town. She works as a stonemason for the cathedral workshop and her work on renovating the cathedral sees her out and about in all weathers. She is not afraid of heights.

Panoramic view of the city of Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

Panoramic view of the city of Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

Mainz is known as ‘Aurea Moguntia’ or ‘Golden Mainz’, and that could also refer to the city’s glittering past. For centuries, the powerful Archbishops of Mainz steered the fates of the Holy Roman Empire and the cathedral dedicated to Saint Martin of Tours was their status symbol.

It was to be as grand as St Peter’s Basilica in Rome, according to Archbishop Willigis, who commissioned the mighty cathedral in 975. But it burnt down just before it was consecrated. This powerful Romanesque cathedral, with its striking red sandstone towers, was to suffer another seven devastating fires in its history spanning more than 1,000 years.

“The people were never disheartened. They just kept building it back up again. Every era put its stamp on it, but it still looks seamless today.” Even after working as a stonemason at the cathedral for more than 20 years, Jennifer Schrauth is still very much a fan of its unique architecture.

The interior of Mainz Cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

The interior of Mainz Cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

It is hardly surprising, given the magnificent interior with its three naves, all flooded with golden light, the two sublime, awe-inspiring chancels and the numerous chapels you can step inside for a moment’s peace. Not to mention the elegant two-storey Gothic cloister dating back to the 15th century. A guided tour of the cathedral is an opportunity to admire all this with your own eyes, including the rich treasures collected over the centuries in the cathedral museum.

The architects of the Middle Ages definitely knew how to design a cathedral. If you sit at one of the pretty cafés in the squares around the cathedral, it is almost always in sight. During the day, it gleams bright red against the blue sky and it almost seems to glow in the last rays of the sunshine at dusk.

Evening light in Mainz with view of the cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

Evening light in Mainz with view of the cathedral, Rhine-Hesse

Enjoying a glass of wine on Liebfrauenplatz in Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

Enjoying a glass of wine on Liebfrauenplatz in Mainz, Rhine-Hesse

It is only on market days, when everyone meets for a legendary market breakfast and a glass of wine during the famous Johannisfest in summer, or among the stalls of the Christmas market in winter, that the bustle just outside steals its thunder a little.

Eating, drinking and partying are important to the sociable people of Mainz. This is something you can experience in the cosy wine bars of the old town around the cathedral. There is virtually always space. And they will shove up and make space if need be. And after a hearty meal and a glass of wine, you feel safe and at home.

After all, the cathedral is watching over you outside.

More recommended excursions for culture vultures in Rhineland-Palatinate:

More information about holidays in Mainz

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