The Benedictine Monastery of St Michael, founded by Bishop Bernward, belonged to the reformed monasteries of the Empire. The monks in these monasteries strove to live a renewed monastic life in an exemplary manner. The first monks arrived around the year 1000 A. D. The monastery church, erected from approx. 1010 onward, is one of the key works of medieval architecture. It is a double-choir basilica with two transepts.
The west choir is emphasized by an ambulatory and a crypt. The interior of the church is characterized by strict monumentality and sobriety. The rhythm of its nave arcades results from the so-called "niedersächsischer Stützenwechsel" ("Lower-Saxon alternation of supports": column - column - pillar), which became characteristic for the Romanesque period in the Duchy of Saxony.
Bernward equipped his monastery church with precious works of art. The most famous among those few which still exist today is the bronze column of Christ, which is now situated in the Cathedral.
In 1186 Bishop Adelog re-consecrated the church. Some parts had been damaged by a fire, so that a certain amount of repairs were necessary: the columns of the middle nave received new capitals with figured and floral motifs. The walls of the aisles were decorated with stucco reliefs, among which the depictions of the Beatitudes in the south aisle have been preserved in part to this day.
As early as 1150, a synod had permitted regional veneration of Bernward, the founder of the monastery. His official canonization in 1192 led to extensive structural renovation. The crypt with Bishop Bernward's grave was remodeled, along with the entire west choir. In this context the stucco reliefs of the choir screen were created, the northern part of which has been preserved until today. The reliefs show the Mother of God, surrounded by the Apostles and Saints Bernward and Benedict.
During the 13th century, the interior decoration of the monastery church was enhanced further: The painted wooden ceiling with a length of 27.8 m and a width of 8.7 m, created around 1230, is a singular work of art. It represents the genealogical tree of Jesus, the so-called "Root of Jesse". This ceiling, which consists of 1300 individual parts, is the only remaining instance of such a work in Central Europe, apart from the one in Zillis (Switzerland).
Unesco World Heritage in Hildesheim: http://www.welterbe-hildesheim.de/english/intro_01.html