HILDESHEIM, a town and episcopal see of Germany, in the Prussian province of Hanover, beautifully situated at the north foot of the Harz Mountains, on the right bank of the Innerste, 18 m. S.E. of Hanover by railway, and on the main line from Berlin, via Magdeburg to Cologne. Pop. (1885) 20,386, (1905) 47,060. The town consists of an old and a new part, and is surrounded by ramparts which have been converted into promenades. Its streets are for the most part narrow and irregular, and contain many old houses with overhanging upper storeys and richly and curiously adorned wooden facades. Its religious edifices are five Roman Catholic and four Evangelical churches and a synagogue. The most interesting is the Roman Catholic cathedral, which dates from the middle of the nth century and occupies the site of a building founded by the emperor Louis the Pious early in the 9th century. It is famous for its antiquities and works of art. These include the bronze doors executed by Bishop Bernward, with reliefs from the history of Adam and of Jesus Christ; a brazen font of the 13th century; two large candelabra of the 11th century; the sarcophagus of St Godehard; and the tomb of St Epiphanius. In the cathedral also there is a bronze column 15 ft. high, adorned with reliefs from the life of Christ and dating from 1022, and another column, at one time thought to be an Irminsaule erected in honour of the Saxon idol Irmin, but now regarded as belonging to a Roman aqueduct. On the wall of the Romanesque crypt, which was restored in 1896, is a rose-bush, alleged to be a thousand years old; this sends its branches to a height of 24 ft. and a breadth of 30 ft., and they are trained to interlace one of the windows. Before the cathedral is the pretty cloister garth, with the chapel of St Anne, erected in 1321 and restored in 1888. The Romanesque church of St Godehard was built in the 12th century and restored in the igth. The church of St Michael, founded by Bishop Bernward early in the 11th century and restored after injury by fire in 1186, contains a unique painted ceiling of the 12th century, the sarcophagus and monument of Bishop Bernward, and a bronze font; it is now a Protestant parish church, but the crypt is used by the Roman Catholics. The church of the Magdalene possesses two candelabra, a gold cross, and various other works in metal by Bishop Bernward; and the Lutheran church of St Andrew has a choir dating from 1389 and a tower 385 ft. high. In the suburb of Moritzberg there is an abbey church founded in 1040, the only pure columnar basilica in north Germany.
The chief secular buildings are the town-hall (Rathaus), which dates from the 15th century and was restored in 1883- 1892, adorned with frescoes illustrating the history of the city; the Tempelherrenhaus, in Late Gothic erroneously said to have been built by the Knights Templars; the Knochenhaueramthaus, formerly the gild-house of the butchers, which was restored after being damaged by fire in 1884, and is probably the finest specimen of a wooden building in Germany; the Michaelis monastery, used as a lunatic asylum; and the old Carthusian monastery. The Romer museum of antiquities and natural history is housed in the former church of St Martin; the buildings of Trinity hospital, partly dating from the 14th century, are now a factory; and the Wedekindhaus (1598) is now a savingsbank. The educational establishments include a Roman Catholic and a Lutheran gymnasium, a Roman Catholic school and college and two technical institutions, the Georgstift for daughters of state servants and a conservatoire of music. Hildesheim is the seat of considerable industry. Its chief productions are sugar, tobacco and cigars, stoves, machines, vehicles, agricultural implements and bricks. Other trades are brewing and tanning. It is connected with Hanover by an electric tram line, 19 m. in length.
Hildesheim owes its rise and prosperity to the fact that in 822 it was made the seat of the bishopric which Charlemagne had founded at Elze a few years before. Its importance was greatly increased by St Bernward, who was bishop from 993 to 1022 and walled the town. By his example and patronage the art of working in metals was greatly stimulated. In the 13th century Hildesheim became a free city of the Empire; in 1249 it received municipal rights and about the same time it joined the Hanseatic league. Several of its bishops belonged to one or other of the great families of Germany ; and gradually they became practically independent. The citizens were frequently quarrelling with the bishops, who also carried on wars with neighbouring princes, especially with the house of Brunswick-Liineburg, under whose protection Hildesheim placed itself several times. The most celebrated of these struggles is the one known as the Hildesheimer Stiflsfehde, which broke out early in the 16th century when John, duke of Saxe-Lauenburg, was bishop. At first the bishop and his allies were successful, but in 1521 the king of Denmark and the duke of Brunswick overran his lands and in 1523 he made peace, surrendering nearly all his possessions. Much, however, was restored when Ferdinand, prince of Bavaria, was bishop (1612-1650), as this warlike prelate took advantage of the disturbances caused by the Thirty Years' War to seize the lost lands, and at the beginning of the 19th century the extent of the prince bishopric was 682 sq. m. In 1801 the bishopric was secularized and in 1803 was granted to Prussia; in 1807 it was incorporated with the kingdom of Westphalia and in 1813 was transferred to Hanover. In 1866, along with Hanover, it was annexed by Prussia. In 1803 a new bishopric of Hildesheim, a spiritual organization only, was established, and this has jurisdiction over all the Roman Catholic churches in the centre of north Germany.
In October 1868 a unique collection of ancient Augustan silver plate was discovered on the Galgenberg near Hildesheim by some soldiers who were throwing up earthworks. This Hildesheimer Silberfund excited great interest among classical archaeologists. Some authorities think that it is the actual plate which belonged to Drusus himself. The most noteworthy pieces are a crater richly ornamented with arabesques and figures of children, a platter with a representation of Minerva, another with one of the boy Hercules and another with one of Cybele. The collection is in the Kunstgewerbemuseum in Berlin.
See the Urkundenbuch der Stoat Hildesheim, edited by R. Dobner (Hildesheim, 1881-1901); the Urkundenbuch des Hochstifts Hildesheim, edited by K. Janicke and H. Hoogeweg (Leipzig and Hanover, 1896-1903); C. Bauer, Geschichte von Hildesheim (Hildesheim, 1892) ; A. Bertram, Geschichte des Bistums Hildesheim (Hildesheim, 1899 fol.); C. Euling, Hildesheimer Land undLeitte des idten Jahrhunderts (Hildesheim, 1892); O. Fischer, Die Stadt Hildesheim wdhrend des dreissigjdhrigen Krieges (Hildesheim, 1897); A. Grebe, Auf Hildesheimschem Boden (Hildesheim, 1884); H. Cuno, Hildesheims Kunstler im Mittelalter (Hildesheim, 1886); W. Wachsmuth, Geschichte von Hochstift und Stadt Hildesheim (Hildesheim, 1863); R. Dobner, Studien zur Hildesheimischen Geschichte (Hildesheim, 1901); Lachner, Die Holzarchilektur Hildesheims (Hildesheim, 1882); Seifart, Sagen, Marchen, Schwdnke und Gebrduche aus Stadt und Stift Hildesheims (Hildesheim, 1889). For the Hildesheimer Stiftsfehde, see H. Delius, Die Hildesheimische Stiftsfehde 1519 (Leipzig, 1803). For the Hildesheimer Silberfund, see Wieseler, Der Hildesheimer Silberfund (Gottingen, 1869) ; Holzer, Der Hildesheimer antike Silberfund (Hildesheim, 1871); and E. Pernice and F. Winter, Der Hildesheimer Silberfund der koniglichen Museen zu Berlin (Berlin, 1901)