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The term builder designates higher-level managers in construction planning , execution and supervision . It was and is partly supplemented by additions that designate the subject or the employer, such as fortress, cathedral, court, government or city. It can be a job title (e.g. master builder) or a function title (e.g. city master builder). The activity can be freelance , commercial , employed or civil servant . The term is subject to historical change. Until an academic education in construction was established, master builders were the only higher-level managers in construction. They combined planning and execution skills as well as technical and design knowledge. The classic master builder is advanced training that still exists today in Austria and Switzerland, but no longer in Germany. The term is still legally protected in all three countries. In Germany, the designation is now only given as a functional designation (e.g. city master builder, cathedral master builder) or in some federal states as a title after successfully completing the legal clerkship for the higher civil engineering service (government master builder ).

Terms builder, cathedral builder and court builder


The builder takes over the execution of construction work of all kinds, partly also the construction planning and construction management . The term is still a professional title in Austria and Switzerland , but in Germany it is no longer used in its original meaning. Builders were mostly trained stonemasons , bricklayers and carpenters , sometimes other professions such as a carpenter or plasterer formed the basis for a builder. The apprenticeship usually began at the age of 13. After the apprenticeship and journeyman's examination, the candidate went on a journey . In order to achieve the title of master , they made a masterpiece . With the establishment of the building trade schools - today technical colleges - their attendance was compulsory in order to obtain the title of master builder. Personal aptitude and assertiveness were decisive for the successful performance of the job.

In the 19th century, the builders were responsible for a building from design to implementation. As a rule, they differed from architects in that, in addition to their own design studio, they also had their own construction company.

Cathedral builder, minster builder, master builder

The term is used for heads of existing construction huts . Dombaumeister is today with the construction and maintenance of cathedrals and minsters connected. In the case of a minster, the term minster builder is also used. In the case of the Dresden Zwinger , the head of the associated building hut bears the title of master builder .

Court architect

A court architect was a builder appointed to the seat of a ruling prince or ruler (court) , i.e. a builder entrusted by a sovereign with the planning and implementation of public construction projects. Depending on the duties of the court builder, he could also be a cathedral builder and vice versa. The term court architect disappeared with the end of monarchical rulers.

City builder, country builder, market builder

These terms identify a function in a state or municipal building authority. In Austria the term Stadtbaumeister is mainly used as a term for commercial builders who are based in a town.


Cathedral builders were trained craftsmen, stonemasons and stone sculptors who ran a construction works during the Gothic period . The medieval cathedral master builders, who emerged from the stonemasonry and the building works tradition , are referred to in contemporary sources as master craftsmen or, in Latin, magister operis . Towards the end of the Gothic period, the construction of the cathedral and with it the number of construction huts declined. Large construction huts, such as B. the one in Strasbourg, existed until the 19th century. The term cathedral master builder changed, like the building work, to that of the master builder .

The Renaissance produced a new type of builder . He was trained as a craftsman and, in addition to his function as an architect, was also an entrepreneur. In the Renaissance, builders were no longer just stonemasons and stone sculptors: builder Elias Holl was a trained craftsman, but a bricklayer.

In the Baroque and Rococo , master builders were trained for the first time in France at state building schools. In Germany (German-speaking area) at that time, the builders who were craftsmen learned from practical experience and from the so-called master craftsman books . The so-called Vorarlberg Building School, which dealt exclusively with sacred buildings, was an exception. The builders were still trained craftsmen, but their main task was to be planners and organizers.

Beginning in the 18th century and increasingly in the 19th century, in the course of industrialization , academic professions emerged in the construction industry as in the rest of technology, the modern architects and civil engineers . This was combined with a focus on design on the one hand and technology, calculation and construction on the other. The transition from empirical knowledge to engineering basics (statics, materials science, etc.) now established itself here. In addition, however, the master builder training remained as an advanced qualification for builders. With the ordinance replacing the master builder ordinance, which came into force on January 1, 1981, master builder training in Germany ended.

Master builder in Germany today

The term master builder is a protected professional title in Germany, even if it has not been recognized again since 1981 and only grandfathering applies to those who were previously entitled. In addition, the following applies:

  • Government builder: In Baden-Württemberg, Saxony and Bavaria building trainees (i.e. candidates for the higher civil engineering administrative service) are entitled to bear the title of government builder after successfully passing the state examination (corresponding to the 2nd state examination) .
  • District, town, market and community builders: Functional designation of the senior civil engineering employee or, if technically trained, often also the head of municipal building authorities .
  • The heads of cathedral builders are nowadays referred to as master builders in a continuation of traditional names . Some are master stonemasons, others are engineers or architects. Towards the end of the 20th century there were female cathedral builders for the first time at Ulm Minster and since 2008 at Freiburg Minster . Peter Füssenich has held this office at Cologne Cathedral since 2016 . The Speyer Cathedral has been looked after by Hedwig Drabik as master builder since March 2019.
  • The architect of the Dresden State Art Collections , Ulrich Aust , who was responsible for the preservation of the Dresden Zwinger, held the title of master builder as director of the Zwingerbauhütte until his death in 1992 .

Builders today in Austria and Switzerland

In Austria and Switzerland, the term master builder is still a specific job title . While architects and civil engineers are mainly to be found in the planning and controlling area, the builder is the only universally applicable construction specialist.

The builder is entitled:

  • to plan the most diverse structures,
  • calculate the static structure,
  • Determine costs,
  • Carry out, direct and control construction work.

In most cases, the master builder examination is taken by craftsmen with additional theoretical training, but also by engineers after three years of practical experience. After passing a master builder examination, he is entitled to project development , management and project control , to project management and to take over construction management . As part of its business license can his client before authorities and public corporations represented . In Austria and Switzerland, builders are only allowed to call themselves who have successfully passed the builder examination. In Austria, the master builder is a professional title (not an academic title) and is abbreviated as BM or Bmstr. Here the master builder examination is a universal examination with no possibility of indulgence. In Switzerland, on the other hand, you can take the master builder examination for building construction and civil engineering separately. After passing the exam, you can obtain the title dipl. Builder lead. The final exams last 16 hours in Switzerland after 14 module exams and 123 hours in Austria.

Personalities as builders

Portrait of Peter Parler

The head of the construction often were called foreman (mhd. Wercmeistere ) or builder ; they mostly emerged from the stonemasonry trade and were the medieval architects. Names like magister operis were also used. The master stonemason (magister lapicidae) and the master mason (magister caementari) as well as the sculptor were important in the execution . The masters of construction changed more frequently for each building, if only because of the long construction times.

Some important cathedral builders or master builders and stonemasons of the Gothic era became known:

The masters could often be recognized by their stonemason's mark, a mark that they put on their work in the Middle Ages.


  • Anja Sibylle Dollinger: Construction Management and Construction Technology, From Romanesque to Historicism. Edited by Vocational training center for stonemasons and sculptors, natural stone and environmental protection in monument preservation. Ebner, Ulm 1997, ISBN 3-87188-143-0 .
  • Christine Kratzke: Builder . Part of the preprint version of courts and residences in the late medieval empire. Images and terms . Edited by Werner Paravicini , arr. by Jan Hirschbiegel and Jörg Wettlaufer. Residency research 15 II, vol. 1 and 2, Thorbecke Verlag, Ostfildern 2005.

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Verena Schühly: The new master builder Michael Hilbert on first impressions , Südwestpresse Ulm, March 7, 2013.
  2. ^ Anja Sibylle Dollinger: Construction and construction technology. P. 228
  3. § 133 GewO - authorization to use the master builder title
  4. Art. 2 of the ordinance to replace the master builder ordinance
  5. March 11, 2019
  6. ^ WHO: Master builder proficiency test