Bishop Bernward (ca. 960 - 1022)

Bernward was born around 960 as a descendent of a noble Saxon family. From ca. 976, he attended the renowned Cathedral school in Hildesheim. He attained particular importance when, in 989, the Empress-Regent Theophano entrusted him with the tutoring of her son King Otto III., then still a minor. Very soon, Bernward was counted among the politically most influential bishops of the Ottonian Empire. In 993 he became Bishop of Hildesheim, dedicating himself to the intensification of church life. Around the millennium, he founded the first Benedictine monastery in Hildesheim, St Michael's. By building the monastery, he wanted to earn his salvation, as he confessed in his so-called second will: "For a long time, I have pondered through which deserving edifice, through which price I … might merit Divine Grace … I embarked on … founding a new church, whereby, for the greater praise and glory of the Lord's name, I have fulfilled both my own promise as well as provided for the holy Christendom."
His direct influence on the works of art which he commissioned also makes him an important artistic personality of his time. He initiated and influenced the erection of the monastery church of St Michael. He also had several highly important works of art created, among them the bronze doors and the column, normally located in the Cathedral. But due to the current renovation elsewhere: the doors at the Roemer- und Pelizaeus-Museum, the column at St. Michael.

Bernward's successors enriched the interior design of the two churches by works of art of again very high quality. So many of these art treasures have been preserved to date that, according to the ICOMOS specialists, the visitor gains "an outstanding impression of the design and the distribution of fitments in a church, as was customary during the Romanesque period".

The memorial slab with the figure of Bishop Bernward, holding the model of St Michael's Church in his hand, dates approx. from 1360. It is located in the western choir of St Michael's, above the crypt where Bernward was buried.

Tomb slab with the figure of Bishop Bernward from 1360; (c) Kirchengemeinde St. Michaelis, photo: Andreas Lechtape, 2010