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Ulm Minster, Germany
Ulm Minster history
In the 14th century, the old church of Ulm was located outside the walled city. The burghers of Ulm decided to erect a new church within the perimeters of the city and to finance the costs of the construction themselves. In 1377 the foundation stone for the new, massive project, was laid.
The original plan was to build a church with three spires of the same height. However the plans were changed when the original foreman, Heinrich Parler, passed on the work to his brother Michael. Later, one of the master-masons of the time, Ulrich von Ensingen, had the vision of one spire rising high into the sky and dominating the others. Thus the concept was changed and a massive single spire would be built instead.
The construction of Ulm Minster continued until the work came to a standstill in 1492 when two stones from the vault crashed into the congregation during a mass. At that time the tower had reached about half their height. After the incident, the foreman left over night and outside expertise from master builders were brought in.
During the early 16th century, repairs, alterations and adjustments were made and which saved the church, but the passion for Ulm Minster was gone. Due to the religious Reformation and the fact that they were running out of money, the city council decided to stop the work on Ulm Minster in 1543.
Completed at last
For 300 years, only smaller repair works were carried out until Ulm Minster was classified as a ruin in 1838. By then, the people once again had the will to finish Ulm Minster; funds were raised, taxes were imposed, and the sovereigns were called upon. Finally in 1890 the final stone was set.
Ulm Minster has a total of 13 bells, ranging in weight from 40kg up to almost 5000kg. The heaviest bell, “Gloriosa”, was cast in Stuttgart year 1956 and weighs a total 4912kg. Until year 1953 the bells were rung by hand, since then it has been done mechanically. Every year at 7.15pm on the 17th of December, the Gloriosa is rung for 15 minutes as a reminder of the bombardment of Ulm in 1944.
Second World War
During the Second World War, the city of Ulm was heavily bombarded. During the most devastating air raid on December the 17th, 330 allied bombers dropped 1449 tons of bombs during a 25 minute raid. German barracks, military hospitals and lorry factories were the main targets, but 81% of the city center was also destroyed. Hundreds of people were killed and 25.000 were left homeless.
However, Ulm Minster remained standing amongst all the ruins - most likely because the historical value and because it could be utilized as a navigational landmark for the allied bombers.
Why visit Ulm Minster ?
Today the Ulm Münster, as the church is called in German, can boast about being the largest church in southern Germany and about being the tallest church in the whole world. The main tower stands an impressive 161 meters tall. Visitors who are neither claustrophobic nor afraid of heights can walk the 768 step staircase that leads up to the viewing platform in the spire. From 141 meters above the ground, it provides a spectacular, unmatched view over the region.
Ulm Minster isn’t all about boasting number. It is also a remarkably beautiful church. By looking at the outside of the church, visitors will see that all the pillars and decorations point upwards – towards the sky. This is a symbol for trying to reach up to heaven, which is a typical sign of Gothic architecture.
Visitors extra keen on details can spot a signature symbol of Ulm at the roof of the main hall, near the spire. There stands a small statue of a sparrow - the symbol for the city of Ulm. This is hardly surprising, as the city is full of sparrow symbols. The citizens of Ulm even call themselves “Spatzen”, meaning “Sparrows”.
The story behind the sparrow symbol is actually linked to Ulm Minster itself. During the transportation of material for the church construction, workers had problems entering the city gate with their overloaded carts.
According to the ledged, a sparrow flew by with a long straw in its mouth. The sparrow flew to its nest, and turned the straw lengthwise to push it into the narrow space. Instantly the coin dropped for the workers who then rearranged the material on the carts to fit the entrance of the gate.
The Foundation Stone
One special treasure within Ulm Minster is the Foundation Stone relief. This piece of art, which can be found to the right of the seats, is a vision of the hard work to come in the process of building the church. The stone pictures the former mayor of Ulm, Lutz Krafft, and his wife as they place a model of the church on the shoulders of the foreman.
Visitors looking at the stone will see that the foreman and architect, Heinrich Parler, looks rather worried about the size of the project and what he has gotten himself into. By looking back in time, one can say Heinrich were right.
Ulm Minster location
Ulm Minster is located in Ulm, Germany. The church is situated in front of Münsterplatz in central parts of the city. For the exact location of Ulm Minster, check out the location map to the right.
Ulm Minster resources
Ulm Minster from below. (public domain)
Stained glass window. (GFDL) Joachim Köhler.
The Foundation Stone relief. (GFDL) Joachim Köhler.
Interactive location map. For a larger and more detailed map, check out our Germany map.
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