Located in the heart of Germany in the south of the State of Saxony-Anhalt, is a unique testimony to medieval art and architecture. Most of the church building dates back to the 13th century. It is composed of a basilical Romanesque nave flanked by two Gothic choirs in the east and in the west.
The west choir with the famous portrait statues of the twelve cathedral founders and the west rood screen are the masterpieces of a pan-European workshop accordingly named the “Naumburg Master”. The polychrome reliefs and sculptures of the choir and the rood screen count among the most significant sculptures of the Middle Ages.
The overall iconographic concept and the harmonious combination of architecture, sculpture and glass paintings reflect in a unique way the profound changes in religious practice and the visual arts of the 13th century. These changes resulted in a hitherto unknown realism and observation of nature, as well as in the recourse to ancient sources.
The Architectural Integration of the Founder Figure Syzzo
Employing innovative and complex stone cuts, the famous founder figures of the Naumburg Master merge sculpture and architecture into one. These limestone blocks feature naturalistic life-sized statues, while also serving as pillars for the wall structure. They are integral part of the supporting walls, while the proportions and decorum of the surrounding architecture set a stage to specifically highlight these sculptures. This short animated film of about 3 minutes length illustrates the building of the west choir of Naumburg Cathedral, showing the statue of Count Syzzo as an example.
Naumburg Cathedral is nominated under UNESCO Criteria I, II and IV.
It represents a masterpiece of human creative genius (I.), it exhibits an important interchange of human values within a cultural area of the world on developments in architecture or technology (II.), and it is an outstanding example of a type of building which illustrates a significant stage in human history (IV.):
Criterion (i) The episcopal church of Naumburg is unique among the medieval cathedrals due to the west choir conceptualized and designed by a brilliant sculptor - the "Naumburg Master" - and his workshop. The organic combination of architecture, sculpture and glass paintings created an extraordinary synthesis of the arts. The twelve life-sized, coloured founder figures in the west choir, the passion reliefs of the west rood screen, the crucifixion group on its portal and the numerous capitals are outstanding examples of the architectural sculpture of the Middle Ages. One of the founder figures - Uta of Ballenstedt - is considered to be an icon of Gothic sculpture.
Criterion (ii) The workshop organization of sculptors and stonemasons was established in the early 13th century and is known under the name Naumburg Master. It constitutes one of the decisive conveyors and pioneers of the ground-breaking innovations in architecture and sculpture in the second half of the 13th century. The migration of the workshop of the Naumburg Master, from northeastern France through the Middle Rhine areas to the eastern boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire and further to southwestern Europe, gives testimony to the extensive European cultural exchange during the High Middle Ages.
Criterion (iv) Naumburg Cathedral has a large double choir structure built in the transitional style between Late Romanesque and Early Gothic. The two almost completely preserved choir screen structures from the ﬁrst half of the 13th century are unique. In front of the east choir, the Late Romanesque hall rood screen has survived. In the west choir, there is a Gothic partition-type screen that was first developed in France and has been lost in other places. The Naumburg Master created with the innovative architectural design of the west choir a new choir model that was groundbreaking for the next two and a half centuries.