Dominican priory and church

A brief description.

Halle is the largest city in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called ‘Halle an der Saale’, - literally ‘Halle on the Saale river’, and in some historic references simply ‘Saale after the river’ -, in order to distinguish it from Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia. It is situated in the southern part of the state, along the river Saale which drains the surrounding plains and the greater part of the neighbouring Free State of Thuringia located just to its south, and the Thuringian basin, northwards from the Thuringer Wald.


Halle's early history is connected with harvesting of salt. The name Halle might derive from a Pre-Germanic word for salt. Also the name of the river Saale contains the Germanic root for salt. Salt-harvesting has taken place in Halle at least since the Bronze Age.

The town was first mentioned in 806. It became a part of the ArchBishopric of Magdeburg in the 10th century and remained so until 1680, when Brandenburg-Prussia annexed it together with Magdeburg as the Duchy of Magdeburg. In 1815 it became part of the Prussian Province of Saxony.

Source photo: Flickr: photos. Dominican church.

After World War II Halle served as the capital of the short-lived administrative region of Saxony-Anhalt, until 1952 when the East German government abolished its "Länder" (States). As a part of East Germany (until 1990), it functioned as the capital of the administrative district ("Bezirk") of Halle. When Saxony-Anhalt was re-established as a Bundesland, Magdeburg became the capital.

The Dominican priory and church  in Halle

In Halle was a Dominican priory before 1230, because the Dominicans of Halle were the spiritual advisers of the community of Beguines at Magdeburg. The supprior of the priory, Baldwin of Halle, was a brother of Mechtild of Magdeburg (1207-1282 or 1294), a Beguine at Magdeburg in 1230, and her spiritual advisor.  Henry of Halle, member of the priory of Halle, lector in Rupin, advised her to write her biography after 1250.

The tower less cathedral of Halle is a curiosity, built between 1280 and 1331 by the Dominicans as an early Gothic church of their priory.
The long pillared nave is only slightly higher than the narrow side aisles, maKing it one of the earliest hall churches in central Germany.

During the Reformation period, it was remodelled in Renaissance style. Beginning in 1520, Cardinal Albrecht used the church to house his extensive collection of relics and art. Of the interior, only the cycle of 17 frieze images on the pillars, the pulpit and part of the choir stalls remain intact. According to some historians, the description of the church as “dom” (cathedral) goes back to the dedicatory plaque of 1523 attributed to Sculptor Schro from Mainz. The church was elevated to the status of Cathedral after restoration in 1530. The Reformation since 1523 in Halle, drove the Dominicans from their priory and church in 1561. Since 1692, the structure has been exclusively used as a parish church by the Reformed Church – whose services are still held there today.

George Frideric Handel

In Halle George Frideric Handel was born on 23 February 1685. His  mother nurtured his musical gifts and his father trying to dissuade him from pursuing a dubious occupation. Handel began taKing music lessons at the age of 7. By the time he was 12, he was assistant organist at Halle cathedral (1702-03).
At eighteen he was appointed organist at the Cathedral of Moritzburg. Handel the son of a barber-surgeon, received little family encouragement in his early years. It was not until after his father's death that Handel was able to concentrate all his efforts on music rather than divide his time between his chosen life in music and his father's selection of law as a career for the young Handel. As a youth, he had a typical Lutheran education and studied law at the University of Halle for a year. After a year in Moritzburg, Handel moved to Hamburg, at that time a centre of French, Italian, and German operatic styles in 1703. There his earliest activity as a composer began while as second violinist in the orchestra at the opera house. At age 19 he wrote such a major work as "The Passion According to Saint John" and at 20 he wrote the opera "Almira." He died on 14 April 1759. See for following dates internet.

                                                           The cathedral today

Major restoration of the interior was carried out in the late 1950s. The structure of the cathedral has been preserved thanks to extensive renovation work. The building is painted white and has an unusual appearance.
The church is owned by the Cathedral Foundation Saxony-Anhalt. The church’s excellent acoustics make it a popular setting for concerts and theatre performances.

Source: Saxony-Anhalt Romanesque Road, Harz.
           : Wikipedia and others.


At the left view of Halle at the beginning of the 18th century.
At the right modern Halle, 1990.

Germany, DDR 1990, Mi  3338-39, Sc 2826-27.


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