St Peter’s Cathedral in Regensburg
One who has faith is never alone! This is the vital message that St Peter’s Cathedral has conveyed to us down through the centuries. From those people who built this church to those who fill it with life today – everyone can find a haven under the mighty vaulting, surrounded in spirit by the faithful who have gone before. The cathedral is a place to find comfort and solace in the presence of God and a place to find strength for daily life.
For nearly 750 years, people have been joining together in Regensburg’s cathedral to pray, to celebrate religious services, and to rejoice in the sublime beauty of the building, its works of art, and its music.
The cathedral has been a → World Heritage Site since 2006, as part of the ensemble “The Old City of Regensburg and Stadtamhof”. That same year, the cathedral was honoured with its first (and up to now only) papal visit, when Pope Benedict XVI celebrated an ecumenical service on September 12.
The construction of the building
Documentary evidence of an “ecclesia sancti Petri” exists from 788 on (the first cathedral). In the late eighth and early ninth centuries, a basilica with nave and two side aisles was built in the area of today’s stonemason’s yard (the second cathedral). This was extended westwards considerably at the beginning of the eleventh century; the so-called “Eselsturm” or “Donkey Tower” was part of this. A fire in 1273 and a growing interest in the “modern” Gothic style led to the decision to build a completely new cathedral, starting in 1275-76 – the present St Peter’s Cathedral, built in French Gothic style (the third cathedral).
For the first phase of construction, the master builder followed a very traditional, Romanesque-oriented design (south choir). A second phase of construction began in 1295, with the erection of a “trial window” in the main choir. The walls, built of solid stone up to that point, dissolved into diaphanous, transparent surfaces. A stupendous glasshouse with the typical French Gothic tripartite elevation (arcade, triforium and clerestory) arose in the main choir. The first stained glass windows were installed ca.1310-15. Section by section, over more than two centuries, the rest of the cathedral was built – choir, transept, nave and west facade with its triangular portal. The beginning of the sixteenth century was a time of economic downturn, religious upheaval, and social unrest in Regensburg, and the construction of the cathedral came to a halt around 1520.
The interior walls of the cathedral were white in the Middle Ages. In the Baroque era, ca. 1620-30, they were painted an ochre colour, rather like gold, and later, around 1700, a grey-green olive tone. Baroque altars, musicians’ tribunes, elaborate funeral monuments and huge paintings considerably changed the character of the interior of the cathedral. The magnificent silver altar in the choir was constructed over a period from 1675 to 1785, with donations from several bishops and the Cathedral Chapter. In 1697, in place of the tower originally planned, a richly painted and decorated cupola was built over the crossing.
The nineteenth century brought decisive changes to the cathedral. As a consequence of the Secularization in 1810, the cathedral passed to the kingdom of Bavaria and became a state building. In 1835 King Ludwig I of Bavaria gave the order to remove all features that were not Gothic. This included the dismantling of the Baroque cupola over the crossing and its replacement with rib vaulting and central keystone. The nineteenth-century nostalgia for the Middle Ages and the interpretation of Gothic as an “altdeutsch” or old German architectural style brought with it the desire to complete the cathedral. The spires were erected between 1859 and 1869, under Bishop Ignatius von Senestrey, with generous financial support from the Bavarian kings Ludwig I and Maximilian II. By 1872, the missing transept gable was finished, and with this, after 600 years, the construction of the cathedral was brought to completion. The twentieth and beginning of the twenty-first centuries were concerned mainly with restoration measures and changes to the interior of the cathedral. The State Stonemason’s Yard was founded for this purpose in 1923, and since then has regularly carried out work concerned with the upkeep, maintenance and restoration of the building. Bishop Michael Buchberger decided on a new thematic program for the baldachin and side altars in the 1930’s. Under Bishop Rudolf Graber, beginning in 1967, new stained glass windows were created by Josef Oberberger. A new altar, created by Richard Triebe, took its place in the centre of the cathedral in 1976, seven hundred years after the first altar was dedicated. During the years 1984-1989, under Bishop Manfred Müller, an extensive restoration took place, as well as the construction of the underground burial vault for the bishops of Regensburg. Following this work, the exterior of the cathedral was cleaned, taking up to 2010. Under Bishop Gerhard Ludwig Müller, the south choir was converted to the Sailer Chapel in the years 2004-5, and the Rieger organ built in 2009.
Among the most valuable possessions of the cathedral are the 39 stained glass windows with over 1100 preserved panes, dating from the years 1310 to 1450, which bathe the cathedral in a “holy light”. The stone statues that people the cathedral inside and out are of outstanding quality; the artistic high point is the “Annunciation Group” with Mary and the smiling angel. Both figures were carved in 1280 by the cathedral master builder Ludwig (formerly known as the Erminold Master). In form and expression, they are masterpieces of European rank.
June to SeptemberWeekday (Mon-Sat): 6:30 am to 7 pm
Sunday/holiday: 1 pm to 7 pm
April, May and OctoberWeekday (Mon-Sat): 6:30 am to 6 pm
Sunday/holiday: 1 pm to 6 pm
November to MarchWeekday (Mon-Sat): 6:30 am to 5 pm
Sunday/holiday: 1:00 pm to 5 pm
Opening hours of the Cathedral TreasuryWeekday (Mon-Sat): 11 am to 5 pm
Sunday/holiday: 12 noon to 5 pm The Cathedral treasury is closed Dec 24/25 and Jan 1.
Sunday and Catholic holiday10 am Holy Mass (with the → Regensburger Domspatzen (cathedral choir) and → cathedral organist)
12 noon Holy Mass
Monday to Saturday7 am Holy Mass (Sailer chapel)
Exploring the cathedral
You are cordially invited to attend any of our Masses, devotions, choir concerts and organ recitals. The cathedral is also open for private prayer and personal devotion. Please feel free to explore the cathedral on your own and at your own pace.
On Sundays and public holidays, you may visit the cathedral from 1 pm until the cathedral closes.
Please note that short-term partial closures owing to important events may occur. We apologize for any inconvenience.
Guided tours in St Peter’s Cathedral can be conducted only by an authorized Cathedral guide. Guided tours in English, Italian and French can be booked by → e-mail DOMPLATZ 5 (Cathedral Information Center).