Ulm Minster (German: Ulmer Münster) is a Lutheran church located in Ulm, State of Baden-Württemberg (Germany). Until the eventual completion of Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, Spain, it will remain the tallest church in the world, and the 5th tallest structure built before the 20th century, with a steeple measuring 161.5 metres (530 ft).
Although sometimes referred to as Ulm Cathedral because of its great size, the church is not a cathedral as it has never been the seat of a bishop. Though the towers and all decorative elements are of stone masonry, attracting the attention of visitors, most of the walls, including the façades of the nave and choir, actually consist of visible brick. Therefore, the building is sometimes referred to as a brick church. As such, it lays claim to the rank of second- to fourth-largest, after San Petronio Basilica in Bologna and together with Frauenkirche in Munich and St. Mary's Church in Gdańsk.
Ulm Minster was begun in the Gothic era but not completed until the late 19th century. Nevertheless, all of the church except the towers and some outer decorations was complete, unlike Cologne Cathedral, where less than half of the work had been done, when it ceased.
768 steps lead to the top of the minster's spire. At 143 m (469 ft) there is a panoramic view of Ulm in Baden-Württemberg and Neu-Ulm in Bavaria and, in clear weather, a vista of the Alps from Säntis to the Zugspitze. The final stairwell to the top (known as the third Gallery) is a tall, spiraling staircase that has barely enough room for one person.
The original parish church in Ulm was built at the gate of the city outside the walls, and this caused much trouble for the citizens of the city in the 14th century's conflicts that involved Ulm, as demonstrated by Emperor Charles IV's siege of the city. This parish church had also been subordinated to Reichenau Monastery by Charlemagne in 813, and the denizens of Ulm wanted a new, independent church inside the city's walls. To this end, the city's near 10,000 inhabitants decided to finance construction themselves. On 30 June 1377, Mayor Ludwig Krafft laid the first stone, the foundation stone, of the new church. This church, whose design would be given to Heinrich Parler, the architect of Holy Cross Minster in Schwäbisch Gmünd. The first plan was to build a stepped hall church with aisles as wide and almost as high as the central nave, with a main spire on the west and two steeples above the choir (29 meters (95 ft) long, 15 meters (49 ft) wide). The women of the Ulmer Assemblage would also make their contributions to the foundation works, something memorialized by 17th and 18th century composer Barbara Kluntz.
Michael Parler, who had experience from working at the Dombauhütte in Prague, took over construction of the church in 1381 and continued construction of the nave, which had originally be conceived as a triple-aisled hall church with approximately equal height and width. From 1387 to 1391, Heinrich III Parler managed construction as head of the Bauhütte. Then in 1392 Ulrich Ensingen, associated with Strasbourg Cathedral, was appointed master builder. It was Parler's plan to construct the Ulm Minster's 150 meters (490 ft) spire, the highest of any church. In order to balance its proportions, the nave was now to be much taller than the Parlers had intended, making a noticeable difference in height between the chancel and nave. The cathedral was consecrated on 25 July 1405. In 1446, Ulrich's son Matthäus took over construction and finished the choir vault in 1449 and the vault over the northern nave in 1452. When he died in 1463, his own son, Mortiz, took over construction. Himself dying in 1471, he completed the vaulting over the nave and constructed the sacrament house, finally making the church a basilica according to Ulrich's plan.
In 1477, Matthäus Böblinger took over and made changes to the plans of the cathedral but especially to the main tower and in doing so caused the church's first major structural threat: the heavy vaults of the wide aisles and high nave burdened the columns with too much lateral force at different heights. A new master builder, Burkhart Engelberg of Augsburg, tackled the structural damage by reinforcing the foundation of the west tower and demolishing the heavy aisle vaults and replacing them with vaults of half widths, which afforded rows of additional columns dividing each of the aisles in two. Although catastrophe had been avoided, the walls were left without their buttresses for 350 years and the northern wall of the nave bulges outward by 27 centimeters (11 in) even today.
In a referendum in 1530/31, the citizens of Ulm converted to Protestantism during the Reformation. Ulm Minster became a Lutheran church. Although as large as many cathedrals, Ulm is not a cathedral, as the responsible bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg – member of the Evangelical Church in Germany – resides in Stuttgart.
In 1543 construction work was halted at a time when the steeple had reached a height of some 100 metres (330 ft). The halt in the building process was caused by a variety of factors which were political and religious (the Reformation, the Thirty Years' War, the War of the Spanish Succession) as well as economic (the discovery of the Americas in 1492 and of the sea route to India in 1497, leading to a shift in trade routes and commodities). One result was economic stagnation and a steady decline, preventing major public expenditure.
Ulm Minster in 1643, depicted by Matthaeus Merian
In 1817 the frescos inside were covered by painting the walls grey. In 1844 the work of construction was reactivated. After a phase of repairs lasting until 1856, the central nave was stabilized by the addition of flying buttresses. Then the small steeples beside the choir were built – without medieval plans. At last, the main steeple was completed, changing the available medieval plan in making it about ten metres taller. Finally, on 31 May 1890 the building was completed.
A devastating air raid hit Ulm on 17 December 1944, which destroyed virtually the entire town west of the church to the railway station and north of the church up to the outskirts. The church itself was barely damaged. However, almost all the other buildings of the town square (Münsterplatz) were severely hit and some 80% of the medieval centre of Ulm was destroyed.
While the walls of the choir, the side aisles and the tower were built of brick, the upper levels of the nave are built of ashlar, which would have been sandstone from Isny im Allgäu. Limestone from the nearby Swabian Jura was used in small quantities.
Works of art
Wall of the northern side aisle clerestory. The upper levels of the nave are built in stone while the rest of the church is built of brick.]]
Man of Sorrows on the main portal by Hans Multscher
Virgil by Jörg Syrlin t.E., possibly a self-portrait
"Ulmer Spatz": the original of 1858 by the cathedral roof is now in the Ulmer Münster near the entrance in a display case.
Altar table by Bartholomäus Zeitblom (about 1489–1497)
Stained glass St. Georg by Hans Acker, about 1440
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Ulm Minster.|
|Tallest building in the world
161.5 m (530 ft)
Philadelphia City Hall
|Tallest Building in Europe
161.5 m (530 ft)
Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building