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Fulda Cathedral, Hessen

Fulda Cathedral (German: Fuldaer Dom, also Sankt Salvator) is the former abbey church of Fulda Abbey and the burial place of Saint Boniface. Since 1752 it has also been the cathedral of the Diocese of Fulda, of which the Prince-Abbots of Fulda were created bishops. The abbey was dissolved in 1802 but the diocese and its cathedral have continued. The dedication is to Christ the Saviour (Latin: Salvator). The cathedral constitutes the high point of the Baroque district of Fulda, and is a symbol of the town.

The present cathedral stands on the site of the Ratgar Basilica (once the largest basilica north of the Alps), which was the burial site of Saint Boniface and the church of Fulda Abbey,functions which the new building was intended to continue. The plans of the new church were drawn up in 1700 by one of the greatest German Baroque architects, Johann Dientzenhofer, who was commissioned by the Prince-Abbot Adalbert von Schleifras for the new building on the recommendation of the Pope after Dientzenhofer’s study trip to Rome in 1699. The deliberate similarity of the church’s internal arrangement to that of St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome is testimony to Dientzenhofer’s visit. The Ratgar Basilica was demolished to make way for the new Baroque structure, on which construction began on 23 April 1704 using in part the foundations of the earlier basilica. In 1707 the shell was completed. The roof was finished in 1708 and the interior in 1712. The new abbey church was dedicated on 15 August 1712. The dedication tablet placed on the facade by von Schleifras gives the dedication as Christus Salvator.

The new Baroque building, like its predecessor, served as the abbey church and the burial shrine of Saint Boniface. In 1752 it was elevated to a cathedral on the creation of the Diocese of Fulda. In 1802 Fulda Abbey was dissolved and the cathedral’s function as the abbey church ceased, but it continued in operation as the seat of the Bishops of Fulda. On 4 June 1905 during celebrations of the 1150th anniversary of the death of Saint Boniface a stray firework lodged in the righthand tower and started a fire (it is presumed to have set light to old jackdaws’ nests). The tower was burnt out, and the bells Osanna and Bonifatius were destroyed. Other parts of the cathedral were not damaged. After damage caused by air raids during World War II the cathedral was closed for restoration until 1954.

Pope John Paul II visited Fulda on 17 and 18 November 1980. More than 100,000 people were present on the cathedral square on 18 November to attend the open-air mass celebrated by the Pope.

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