In the summers from 1961 to 1966, and again every summer since 1994, the steps leading up to St. Mary’s Cathedral in Erfurt have been the venue for open-air theater, music and opera performances at the DomStufen Festspiele, the Cathedral Steps Festival. This is a festival I have never attended, but I understand it was even held — in a reduced and adapted form — in the pandemic summers of 2020 and 2021.
For 2020, they had been planning a new production of the opera Nabucco by Giuseppe Verdi, but because of the pandemic this was postponed until 2022. Instead, they presented an eighty-minute potpourri of Italian opera arias every second evening, alternating with a potpourri of melodies from operettas and musicals. To reduce the danger of infection, these evenings had no intermissions, and the audience was limited to five hundred people, less than a quarter of the usual number.
In 2021, the festival presented a shortened version of the opera The Maid of Orleans by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and the audience each evening was limited to 1,200 people. Performances were scheduled for twenty-one evenings, but two of these had to be cancelled because of heavy rain.
The first known church on this spot was first mentioned in the year 742. The current cathedral was built in many different stages, beginning in the twelfth century and continuing more or less up to the present. (Details here.)
The largest bell in this cathedral (in fact someone said on German television a while back that it is the largest in Europe) is the “Gloriosa”, which is about 2 meters high and 2.57 m across. It was cast in July 1497 by a Dutch bell and cannon maker named Gerhardus Wou de Campis. This was actually the fifth recasting of this huge bell, since the other four had either burst or been destroyed by fire during the Middle Ages.
Here is St. Mary’s Cathedral at night. The new opera house is just a few blocks behind the cathedral. Just walk around to the left, or take the number 4 streetcar one stop to Theaterplatz.
Looking back down the cathedral steps we can see the Domplatz or Cathedral Square, where on some days outdoor markets are held
Erfurt is the capital of the German state of Thüringen, so it is appropriate that you can get a genuine Thüringer sausage hot off the grill at one of the open-air stands on the Domplatz, just below the cathedral.
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2021.
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5 thoughts on “Cathedral Steps Festival in Erfurt”
I would like to think that there was an easier way into the cathedral than having to climb up those steps
Is the Cathedral Steps Festival unique to Erfurt? or is there an underlying tradition of open air performances like the Oberammergau Passion Play?
I’ve never been to the Oberammergau Passion Play and don’t know much about it, but I do know that the Frankfurt Chamber Opera (a shoestring operation) has been presenting open-air operas every summer in the Frankfurt Palm Garden for several decades now. These performances can be nice if the weather is good, but in Germany the weather is always a risk. In 2021, for instance, we had a quite cool and rainy summer for the most part.
Also I have been to open-air opera performances in the castle courtyards of Weikersheim and Heidelberg: https://operasandcycling.com/open-air-opera-at-heidelberg-castle/
Every time we’re in Germany I wish I liked sausages. However, I don’t and don’t think that will change at my age. I’m with easymalc on the steps. I don’t mind the steps but like a solid railing on the way up.
Durham, North Carolina set up the Brightleaf Opera in their old tobacco warehouses. They do summer operas and it is a great venue. Our whole family performed in a couple of them and that was really fun. Audience members would come up at intermission and ask if we were all related . . . we were.
Beautiful photos Nemorino! 🙂