It is the largest religious building in the city and a former collegiate church. Despite its common English name, it has never been a true cathedral (episcopal see), but is called the Kaiserdom (an "imperial great church" or imperial cathedral) or simply the Dom due to its importance as former election and coronation church of the Holy Roman Empire. As one of the major buildings of the Empire's history, it was a symbol of national unity, especially in the 19th century.
The present church building is the third church on the same site. Since the late 19th century, excavations have revealed buildings that can be traced back to the 7th century. The history is closely linked with the general history of Frankfurt and Frankfurt's old town because the cathedral had an associated role as the religious counterpart of the Royal Palace in Frankfurt.