Cathedral treasury and chapter house
The treasures belonging to Merseburg Cathedral are on display in the chapter house and in the south cloister of Merseburg Cathedral. The unique exhibits to be found there are of particular importance in terms of art and cultural history. In 2008, the Year of the Cathedral Treasures of Saxony-Anhalt, the rooms of the south cloister were opened to visitors following extensive restoration. The timber and walls found there were dated to the first half of the 12th century. This makes the south cloister one of the oldest cloister buildings in Germany.
The chapter house with its coat of arms hall which has been completely reconstructed according to historical models, is today one of the most impressive late-Gothic buildings in Germany. Here, together with late-Gothic sculptures and liturgical vestments from the time of Bishop Thilo von Trotha, there are numerous exquisite pieces of furniture from the collection of the Vereinigte Domstifter.
In the south cloister, further valuable exhibits are presented in the treasury and in the manuscript and incantation vaults.
The manuscript vault contains selected items from the Merseburg cathedral chapter library. Domstiftsbibliothek.
The chapter house
The main structural parts of the Merseburg chapter house, which is located to the east of the cloister, date back to the 12th century. The first written mention of the adjoining Marienkapelle (Lady Chapel) to the south was in the 13th century. The chapter house itself was first mentioned at the end of the 14th century, when the newly elected Bishop Heinrich took his oath to the cathedral chapter there. With its archives, library and administrative rooms, the house was at the centre of cathedral chapter administration and was, as it were, a counterpart to the bishop’s palace or the administrative centre of the administrators.
The chapter house underwent a major reconstruction at the beginning of the 16th century, during the reign of Bishop Thilo von Trotha. The rooms were magnificently decorated with wall paintings. With the coloured coats of arms of the canons and the cathedral chapter’s nobility, the Merseburg Bishopric was now on full show in the chapter house.
During the Second World War, the collections of the cathedral archives and library that were stored there had to be moved to another location. From the 1950s onwards, the chapter house deteriorated visibly. The first protective measures were carried out at the beginning of the 1990s, and between 2003 and 2006 the house was comprehensively restored and redesigned. The coat of arms hall was completely reconstructed according to historical models.
In the chapter house, you can visit the Lady Chapel, the coat of arms hall and the chapter room, which today serve as exhibition rooms. In addition to valuable archival documents from the Merseburg cathedral archives, such as choir book fragments, you will find examples of genealogy charts, textiles, seals of the cathedral chapter of Merseburg and other valuable furnishings, such as the figure of the Golden Madonna and a magnificent chasuble.
The treasure vault
Probably the most striking exhibit is the “Otto cloak” in the centre of the room. Part of the robe actually dates back to the 10th century. The precious silk samite of the chasuble probably comes from Byzantium, as discernible by the filigree pattern incised in the wide hem.
The altar wings, with the four archangels and the Latin Church Fathers, are a special loan from the von Bose family and the Protestant church community of Frankleben. The inner wings show the church fathers Augustine with the heart, Pope Gregory the Great and Jerome with the lion. Between them is the founder of the Benedictine order, Benedict of Nursia. The four archangels Michael, Gabriel, Raphael and Uriel can be seen on the outer sides of the altar wings.
The manuscript vault
The manuscript vault showcases documents, incunabula and medieval manuscripts, such as the magnificently painted Merseburg Bible, as well as more recent documents from the extensive collection of the cathedral chapter library. They document the recent history of Merseburg Cathedral.
The three large-format volumes of the Romanesque Merseburg Bible can be seen on rotation in a display case. This bible is a particularly valuable example of the German book illumination of the early 13th century. Initials and full-page miniatures are depicted here in splendidly luminous colours. The composition of the beginning of Genesis as well as the depiction of the story of Joseph show us the anonymous master’s special joy in storytelling and outstanding skill.
The chapter house garden
The terraced garden adjoining the chapter house, which was designed according to Baroque models, offers breathtaking views of the Romanesque Neumarktkirche and the meadow landscape of the Saale.
As the seasons change, roses, lavender and the long rows of sedum, along with the quince trees reminiscent of the old orchard of the canons, create a very special atmosphere.