The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta
Discover the lovely little town Bressanone
An excursion to the medieval city of Bressanone leads you directly to South Tyrol’s Mother Church, Bressanone Cathedral, officially named "The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and San Cassiano".
The Bressanone Cathedral is the largest and first episcopal church in the Roman Catholic diocese of Bolzano-Bressanone. As a cathedral and basilica minor, it’s probably South Tyrol’s most important church. Along with buildings that surround it, including the cathedral cloister, the San Giovanni chapel and the Church of our Lady, the cathedral is part of today's cathedral district of the city of Bressanone and a Christian landmark, both within the city and the South Tyrol region.
The presence of the cathedral meant that the South Tyrolean town of Bressanone was a diocese town for centuries. Several episcopal ordinations have taken place here in the cathedral’s sacred and beautiful interior. Then, in 1964, the seat of the bishop moved to the Cathedral of “The Assumption of Our Lady” in Bolzano.
As well as learning about the interesting progression of Catholic history and its bishops, you can admire the cathedral’s architecture, which has advanced through different stages. This can be dated back to the original building, constructed around the year 980. This church, with its three aisles and a double choir, was probably built to symbolise the Pope and the empire. However, over time and various stages of political change, after less than two hundred years, the west choir was demolished and the two facade towers were built.
In the 10th century, around 1200 AD, after several fires, the Bressanone Cathedral was expanded in the style of the Romantic period. This included, for example, the arched roof of the nave and a single aisle transept. However, the numerous chapels date back to the Gothic period.
Around the middle of the 18th century, the building was extended and expanded in the Baroque style, with frescoes, oil paintings, stuccoes and many different types of marble, 33 different kinds to be precise. Look upwards and admire the beautiful fresco collection called "Mary’s Assumption" by the South Tyrolean artist Paul Troger from Welsberg. There’s also the fascinating painting of the high altar by his contemporary, the artist Michelangelo Unterberger. Don’t miss the high altar itself, constructed in the Baroque style by Theodor Benetti from Mori. There are also classical elements in the large porch leading into Bressanone Cathedral. The porch was designed and built by Jakob Pirchstaller around thirty years later. Occasionally, restoration works take place at Bressanone Cathedral but these don’t deviate from the traditional historical architecture. Instead, they try to reproduce Baroque ornamentation and colouring with all the style and originality of their conception.
The Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta and St. Kassian also has another important feature, which is the church organ with its magnificent gilding. Its 48 stops and 3335 pipes make you want to pause for a moment of peace and listen to the beautiful organ playing.
Further inside the cathedral on the southern side, you’ll find the cloister. This is very individual and is considered to be one of the most important architectural features of South Tyrol. It's thought that the construction of this cloister goes back to pre-Roman times. In the course of time, the Bishop Frederick of Erdingen commissioned its reconstruction in the Gothic style. It's barely changed since then. Historians are still trying to find out the identity of the artists who painted the cloister. However, they think that the magnificent cloister walls were mainly decorated by South Tyrolean artists commissioned by the bishops of the time.
They are certain about the origins of the "Fountain of Life" on the Cathedral Square in Bressanone. The “Fountain of Life” was designed by Martin Rainer, a South Tyrolean artist and portrays the different phases of human life. Depicted in the shape of a spiral, life springs forth from the hands of God before finally returning to his hands in the end.
Standing in the Bressanone Cathedral Square and surrounded by the wonderfully romantic old town, you can take on board the different art epochs and ways of thinking of our ancestors. Then, stroll a little further to the nearby Capuccian cloister and the Imperial Palace.
The small South Tyrolean city of Bressanone is an ideal place to immerse yourself in the history of our region and really enjoy your day out, surrounded by wonderful architecture and art.