St. Mary's in Erfurt – a little bit closer to heaven after climbing the 70 steps to the cathedral

The locals call it the most spectacular skyline in the world. The view of Cathedral Hill in Erfurt is definitely unique and impressive, with its two churches – St. Mary's Cathedral and St. Severus Church, also known as the cathedral's "little sister".

East, west, south or north: no matter where you look, the two churches on Cathedral Hill can always be seen towering over the rooftops of the Thuringian capital city of Erfurt. From the outside, the two buildings – one a former collegiate church and the other a convent – convey a sense of harmony. Yet when it comes to their interiors, they have been competing for centuries.

The best example of this is the baptismal font. As St. Severus had one with a baldachin, St. Mary's needed one, too. The cathedral received its stone baldachin during the Renaissance period, and of course it was magnificent, as it should be in a cathedral that likes its monumental architecture. By contrast, the two oldest features in Erfurt Cathedral, the Wolfram candelabra and the stucco altar of the Enthroned Madonna, seem rather plain. These are not the cathedral's only treasures – there are more in the treasury, part of which can be seen on guided tours. A total of 13 Gothic windows and more than 1,000 mosaics: environmental impacts are the main concern when it comes to the old stained-glass windows, which include a late Gothic tableau – the largest of this kind in Germany. This poses a major challenge for the specialists in the cathedral's glass workshop. The world's largest free-swinging bell is also a wonder to behold. The "Gloriosa" (English: glorious) is more than 1,500 years old. It rings out only a few times a year, and has moved some of Erfurt's residents to tears on occasion.

Erfurt Cathedral

Opening hours: May to October: Monday to Saturday, 9:30am to 6pm; Sundays and bank holidays, 1pm to 6pm; November to April: Monday to Saturday, 9:30am to 5pm; Sundays and bank holidays, 1pm to 5pm

Entry: free

Nearest train station: Erfurt

Public tours of the cathedral held every day at 2pm (for a fee, not available at the weekends during Advent); tours of the bell also available; Cathedral Hill is accessible, hearing loops in the pews at the front, texts available in braille

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