Hezilo Chandelier – symbol of the Heavenly Jerusalem

The Cathedral of the Assumption of Mary also known as Hildesheim Cathedral is a medieval Catholic church founded in 1010, known for its amazing collections of early medieval art masterpieces which include the Hezilo chandelier.

Placed above the altar it was donated by Bishop Hezilo after whom it got its name when he restored the cathedral.

Hildesheim Cathedral. Photo Credit

The Hezilo chandelier is the oldest and largest out of four wheel chandeliers in the German-speaking area, with a diameter of about 6 m. The other ones are the Azelin chandelier also in Hildesheim, Hartwig chandelier in the Abby of Comburg and the Barbarossa chandelier in the Aachen Cathedral.

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Bernward was the bishop of  Hildesheim, from 993 until his death in 1022,  who gave a present to the  Hildesheim Cathedral. It was a wheel chandelier built by bishop Altfrid, in 1046, after a fire in Altfrid’s cathedral, the Bishop Hezilo had it rebuilt with adaptations. He completely rejected the plan of his predecessor Azelin to built a new cathedral and he hung the crown chandelier with shimmering gold in the nave.

Inside Hildesheim Cathedral. Photo Credit

The Hezilo chandelier was a symbol of goodness and rightness. Until the 19th century, it was at the liturgical center of the cathedral, the crown chandelier is formed of a circular hoop made of gilt copper. On top of the hoop, there are square merlons holding seventy-two candles, twelve towers and twelve gate-houses rotate on the outside of the hoop and a large lamp is hung in the center.

Hezilo chandelier. Photo Credit

The Hezilo chandelier represents the Heavenly Jerusalem, the golden city walls with their twelve watch-towers and twelve gates forming the chandelier’s ring.

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Historical drawing of the Hezilo chandelier

The bishop Hezilo (1054-79) ordered the circle-candlesticks for the Hildesheim cathedral. In the 16th century, the candlesticks were damaged, which resulted in the first documented restoration by goldsmith Sebastian Korber.  At the beginning of the 18th century, with the interior being designed in Baroque style, the candlesticks were removed, this announced the second major restoration that occurred in 1818 at the inducement of vicar Todt.

Hezilo chandelier, details, drawing

The third and last restoration took place during 1901-1902 and was run by professor Küsthardt and since 1904, the candles were substituted for Electric light.

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In 1943, the candlesticks were removed and taken to St. Bernward’s church in Hildesheim, where they were kept safe for 10 years. During the second World War, the chandelier was removed from Hildesheim Cathedral to protect it from the bombing.

Detail of the Hezilo chandelier. Photo Credit

In the last restoration, protection and reconstruction of the candlesticks were one of the goals, layers of paint  were removed from the plates. The existent gildings are being conserved, the damaged parts repaired, and the static structure preserved. During the restoration of the cathedral, from 2001 to 2004, the chandelier was moved to St. Godehard church and when the restoration had finished, it was returned in the Hildesheim Cathedral.

The chandelier. also called a corona is a  magnificent crown of light from the Ottonian period and this 11th-century Romanesque wheel chandelier has been a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage site since 1985.