Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Hildesheim Doors

The doors of abbey church of St. Michael are one of the "most ambitious and complex bronze-casting projects undertaken since antiquity." (p. 448 Stokstad) They were made under the direction of Bishop Bernward, in 1015, in Hildesheim, Germany. The doors are made of bronze and are 16 feet and 6 inches in height. The door consists of eight pairs of panels that are located next to each other on the horizontal line. The first eight panels that are on the left side of the door, from top to bottom, have molded drawings starting from the creation of Eve and down to the scene when Cain murders Abel, from the book of Genesis in the Old Testament of the Bible. The second eight panels that are on the right side of the door, from bottom to the top, have molded drawings of Jesus life starting from the Annunciation scene on the lowest panel and up to the scene of Noli me tangere, from the New Testament of the Bible.

The drawing of each panel has architectural elements and landscapes in a low relief in the background. In the foreground of each panels' drawing, there are people who are molded in much more detail compared to the background, and have 3-dimensional depth to their heads which make them stand out more. Each pair of scenes across from each other is meant to compliment the other scene and the event which it depicts.

For example, the seventh panel down on the left side of the door, shows Offerings by Cain (grain) and Abel (lamb). And its paired with another panel on the left side which is the scene of Nativity. The Offerings by Cain and Abel shows us how the two brothers brought the best of their labors and offered it to God to glorify Him, but God only accepted Abel's offering of the lamb, the most innocent and pure of the creatures, because his heart was pure and sincere. Abel is also known as the first martyr, and this scene pretty much shows his last day on earth before his brother Cain killed him of jealousy. The other panel, the Nativity, shows the scene of Jesus birth.  It shows how God had sent His Son down to Earth to save the sinners, those who did know Him yet. Jesus was born an innocent child into a manger, a place where animals live and eat out of. This could be referenced to the lamb that Abel offered to God, the lamb is the symbol for Jesus. Some people say that Abel himself was also a symbolism for Jesus, he was innocent and had a humble heart. And the birth of Jesus shows the Holy Child being offered to us to be later sacrificed for our sins, which is a different version of the offering that Cain and Abel brought for Gods glory.

These two panels are related to each other mostly through the lamb that Abel brought as an offering to God, and through Jesus, who like the lamb, was given as an offering for the sins of people.


  1. These are interesting panels to compare, and you have brought up some good points about how the subject matter is related. What do you think about the compositions of these panels? Do they seem similar or opposite to you? As was discussed in the lecture video, the compositions of these door panels (when approached with a "horizontal reading") are either similar or opposite in composition (and sometimes a little of both!).

    -Prof. Bowen

  2. I probably would not have connected those two panels in the way that you did. Thank you for sharing your insight on the lamb and Jesus.