The importance of Hildesheim for medieval art history is closely connected with two of its 11th century bishops: Bernward (993–1022) and Godehard (1022–1038), who were both canonised in the 12th century. While Bernward is famous today because of his artistic donations to his foundation of St. Michael’s monastery and the cathedral, Godehard was the much more popular figure in the Middle Ages. Thus he was already canonized in 1131 while his predecessor followed more than 50 years later. The greater reputation of Godehard can partly be explained by his ideal lifestyle as a Benedictine monk from Bavaria, and in Bishop Bernhard (1130–1153), a supporter of the 12th century monastic reform movements, he had an influential advocate.

The date of Godehard’s canonization coincides with a turning point in Hildesheim’s history: the town was particularly prosperous at the time because of the flourishing mining sites in the Harz mountains which were part of the diocese. At the same time Hildesheim had a renowned cathedral school with close ties to the intellectual centres in France. This intensive heyday continued until the second quarter of the 13th century, a period that included the canonization of Bernward in 1192, which led to a radical renovation and refurnishing of St. Michael’s which lasted until the 1230s.

The essay presents the different factors which led equally to major foundations, such as St. Godehard abbey, building campaigns (St. Michael’s) and numerous donations by ordinary monks and clerics, such as Bishop Bruno’s library, the Stammheim Missal (J. Paul Getty Museum) or the portable altar of Thidericus from St. Godehard (British Museum), and how economic prosperity, an outstanding intellectual climate and the cult of newly canonized saints came together and amplified each other.