Great Minster

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West facade of the Grossmünster to the Limmat .
Grossmünster and its Twelve Messenger Chapel from the southeast (Kirchgasse)
The processional axis Grossmünster, Wasserkirche and Fraumünster on the Murer map of Zurich (1576)

The Grossmünster is an Evangelical Reformed church in the old town of Zurich . The church patrons are Felix and Regula and Exuperantius . Up until the Reformation, the Grossmünster was both part of a secular canon and parish church. The Grossmünster, together with the Fraumünster and the St. Peter Church, is one of the most famous churches in the city of Zurich. Its characteristic twin towers are the real symbol of the city.


The name "Grossmünster" dates back to the 14th century. Originally the church was simply referred to in the documents as "Zurich Church" ( Turicina ecclesia ). In 1272 the "Münster" appeared for the first time under the name Monasterium praepositurae Thuricensis . Monasterium , German Münster, is the Latin name for monastery. "Grossmünster" appears for the first time in 1322, probably to distinguish it from the smaller Fraumünster .

Founding legend

The first written evidence of the founding legend of the Great Minster can be found from the 8th century.

The pilgrimage to the graves of Felix and Regula, venerated as saints, is probably older. Felix and Regula belonged to the so-called Theban Legion , which in the 3rd century suffered collective martyrdom in Agaunum , today's Saint-Maurice , because of their conversion to Christianity. Felix and Regula fled to Zurich, where they were also executed. After their beheading on the small Limmatinsel, on which the Wasserkirche stands today, the bodies of the cartridges are said to have carried their severed heads 40 cubits up the hill to the place where they wanted to be buried. The graves are said to have only been rediscovered by Charlemagne . He once chased a stag from Aachen to Zurich when his horse suddenly went down on its knees to pay homage to the graves of the saints . Karl have had to lift the bones and in honor of the saints, the Church and the provost founded Grossmünster. The graves of the saints were accessible to the pilgrims in the Twelve Messenger Chapel (messenger = apostle) until the Reformation . Relics of Charlemagne, which were transferred to Zurich in 1233, were also kept in the same chapel.

The provost of St. Felix and Regula

Canons' monastery and Grossmünster around 1835 with stairs to the galleries above the north portal

In the Middle Ages, the provost's office had 24 canons and 32 chaplains and, along with the cathedral in Constance, was the most important monastery in the historical diocese of Constance . Since 1114 at the latest, the original convent was headed by a provost, whom the monastery and the priest himself were allowed to choose according to their privileges.

As an imperial monastery, the Grossmünster owned goods and income around Zurich. Albisrieden , Schwamendingen , Fluntern , Höngg and Meilen were the most important goods. In addition, free float extended to Töss, Rhine, Reuss, Zuger and Obersee.

Until the appearance of the mendicant orders in the 14th century, the Grossmünster Abbey in the Diocese of Constance was a leader in the maintenance of music. The canon Konrad von Mure donated a benefice for his own cantor (singing master) in 1259 and in 1260 edited the Liber Ordinarius of the Great Minster, a detailed arrangement of the celebratory chants, some of which had been composed and composed by the canons themselves.

The Vogt and judicial rights were transferred to the Council of Zurich after the Reformation. The property remained with the Grossmünster until the monastery was finally abolished in 1832. Important canons in the history of the monastery were Rüdiger III. Manesse , Rudolf von Homberg, advisor to Emperor Heinrich V and Bishop of Basel, Konrad von Mure and Johannes II. Of Zurich , Chancellor King Albrechts, Bishop of Eichstätt and Strasbourg.

After the Reformation, the Canons' Monastery dedicated itself to caring for theological offspring. In addition to a Latin school and a high school, the monastery buildings also housed a theological academy founded by Ulrich Zwingli, which was first called "Prophezei" and then "Carolinum" and was the nucleus of today's University of Zurich (founded in 1833), which is still in its seal refers to the Grossmünster.

After the abolition of the monastery in 1832, the buildings were sold and demolished in 1849 to make way for a new building by Gustav Albert Wegmann in neo-Romanesque style. This so-called Grossmünsterschulhaus was the home of the daughter's school until 1976, a municipal high school for girls. The cloister of the Canons' Monastery, which partly dates from the 12th century, was dismantled when it was demolished and added to the new building in 1851 with many new parts. The theological seminar of the University of Zurich has been located in the building since 1976.

Building history

Reconstruction of the condition in the middle of the 15th century according to JR Rahn
Grossmünster around 1700. Representation by Gerold Escher
The Grossmünster with the Louis XVI balustrades in 1770
Longitudinal section according to Berlepsch
Neo-Gothic tower dome of the Great Minster

The first previous buildings of the Grossmünster are only suspected. Archaeological finds indicate a Roman burial ground in the vicinity of the Great Minster. There was probably a smaller memorial building and a convent for the care of pilgrims. In 870 the convent was converted into a canon by Charles the Fat . As a burial place, the Grossmünster was connected to the Wasserkirche , the place of execution for Felix and Regula, and the Fraumünster on the other side of the Limmat , where the most important relics of the saints were kept. Connected by the Münstersteg, the three churches formed a processional axis.

Remains of a previous building of today's church were discovered during renovation work in the 1930s and assigned to the 11th century. The Romanesque church that still exists today was started around 1100 and completed in 1220. The previous building was gradually canceled. The construction was carried out in six stages, each of which shows deviations from the original construction plan, as new styles were incorporated into the architecture. Changes to the interior and exterior of the church continued, however, into the 20th century. It was only between 1487 and 1492 that the towers were brought to the same height on the initiative of Hans Waldmann and fitted with needle helmets. In 1498 the roof turret was completed in its current form.

The German-Swiss Reformation started from the Grossmünster, since the reformer Huldrych Zwingli had preached there as a people priest since 1519 . On his initiative, the Zurich City Council had the altarpieces removed from the church in 1524. In 1526 a pulpit was installed in front of the choir , which consisted of the destroyed altars of the Zurich churches. This made the conversion of the church clear. No longer "worship" at the altars in the choir, but the sermon was now the focus. The remains of Felix and Regula were removed from the Twelve Messenger Chapel by Zwingli's successor, Heinrich Bullinger . Only a few bones, coal, a brick and a hazelnut came to light.

On the evening of August 24, 1763, a lightning strike destroyed the bell tower and ignited the shingle-covered pointed helmet. With wet ox skins, the bells could be saved from melting. For several years the tower remained in ruins and there was discussion about a completely new construction of the Grossmünster based on plans by Gaetano Matteo Pisoni . The resistance of the pastor Johann Jakob Breitinger prevented it from being broken off.

In 1770 the towers were provided with a flat terrace and balustrades in the Louis-seize style . From 1781 to 1787, today's characteristic neo-Gothic tower closings were created by Johann Caspar Vögeli and Johannes Haggenmiller . The Romanesque bell storey on the north tower was demolished and replaced by a copy of the late Gothic south tower. Both towers were also topped up with a guard room. The interior was also rebuilt in the Baroque style.

From 1845 the Grossmünster was massively redesigned. The stairwell to the galleries above the north main portal was torn down and relocated inside - in the part of the former Twelve Messenger Chapel where the saints' graves were located. Master builder August Stadler also had the rood screen torn down. In 1849 the monastery building was demolished and all baroque elements such as stucco and plaster were removed by 1897. The aim was to restore the original Romanesque interior in line with the historical preservation principles of the 19th century, and to do so, the younger buildings were destroyed. In 1913-15 the interior renovation and simultaneous reconstruction were completed by the city master builder Gustav Gull and the canton master builder Hermann Fietz . The exterior was thoroughly renovated between 1931 and 1936, with the 62 meter high towers being slightly modified. In 1989/90 these changes were reversed.

Building description

Interior of the choir with windows by Giacometti

The west facade without a portal is typical of German Romanesque .

The main facade is in the north. The triumphal-like main portal is the beginning of the processional path from the graves of Saints Felix and Regula to their relics in the Fraumünster. The portal has very little original Romanesque substance. On the left capital, King David is depicted with a string instrument. Since 1950, Zwingli's words can be read on the lintel:

«Providing that the divine word Truewlich will be preached by üch + so that we will keep vatterland + whether it would be sorry + because where Gotzforcht is + there is God's help + Huldriych Zwingli».

The bronze door, created by Otto Münch in 1950, shows individual biblical stories. The door of the south facade is also by Münch and shows pictures from the history of the Reformation.

The west facade is characterized by two rectangular, 64 meter high twin towers. The south tower called Karlsturm can be climbed: 187 steps lead to the viewing platform at a height of 50 meters. On the outside of the tower in the direction of the Limmat there is a seated figure of Emperor Charlemagne . The north tower - also known as the bell tower - is decorated with a relief of the reformer Heinrich Bullinger . A horse and rider hovering high above it is said to be the oldest representation of a rider north of the Alps. The figure dates from around 1180 and could be a symbol of the rulership of the city lord Berchthold IV of Zähringen , which referred to the neighboring Palatinate.

Ground plan according to JR Rahn

inner space

The interior is kept simple. It contains only a pulpit (1853) and a baptismal font (1598), which also serves as a table for the Lord's Supper .

Three colored windows by Augusto Giacometti have been showing the Christmas story since 1933 . The Romanesque capitals in the nave and remains of the original painting in the choir are well worth seeing. In a niche on the north wall there is a small depiction of Veronica's sweatcloth from the 16th century.


Crypt with the original seated figure from the south tower (15th century)

In the crypt, the oldest part of the church, there are heavily faded wall paintings from the 14th / 15th centuries. Century can be seen depicting the martyrdom of the patrons Felix and Regula. They are attributed to Hans Leu the Elder . The original of the seated figure of Charlemagne from the south tower is also stored here.

Remnants of frescoes and a model of the original cathedral can also be seen in the rest of the former Twelve Messenger Chapel. From the former furnishings of the Twelve Messenger Chapel , part of the oldest view of Zurich by Hans Leu d. Ä. been saved. The panels were greatly reduced in size and partly painted over, as the scenes from the martyrdom of the city saints depicted in the foreground no longer seemed interesting after the Reformation. Copies of the panels can be viewed in the building history archive of the City of Zurich, the originals in the Swiss National Museum .


In 2005 the parish held an invitation competition to redesign the western windows in the nave, which had remained white until now. The funds come from a legacy with an artistic mandate. In 2006 the choice fell on the contemporary Cologne artist Sigmar Polke . Its design provides the seven rear western windows of the ship with abstract patterns made of cut agates and the five front ones with colored gridded glass. Towards the choir, the stained glass windows show depictions with Old Testament references that transition from the abstract to the figurative. As the largest and last of Polke's works, the windows were completed in October 2009.

Grossmünster Abbey Library

The medieval library could be reconstructed on the basis of the catalog from 1531/1552 by Konrad Pellikan and is largely preserved in the central library in Zurich .


The Metzler organ

The organ was built in 1960 by the organ construction company Metzler (Dietikon). The instrument is on the gallery in the western part of the church. The new building replaced an instrument that was built by Nepomuk Kuhn in 1876. The organ has 67 registers on four manuals and a pedal.

I choir positive C–
Portal flute 8th'
Principal 4 ′
Quintatön 4 ′
Gemshorn 2 ′
Sedecima 1'
Sharp III 23
Sesquialtera II
Krummhorn 8th'
musette 4 ′
II main work C–
Principal 16 ′
Principal 8th'
Flauto 8th'
Dumped 8th'
Octave 4 ′
Night horn 4 ′
Octave 2 ′
Flat flute 2 ′
Fifth 2 23
Cornet V 8th'
third 1 35
Mixture V 2 ′
Trumpet 8th'
Chip. Trumpet 16 ′
Chip. Trumpet 8th'
III Oberwerk C–
Covered 16 ′
Principal 8th'
Tube bare 8th'
Black viola 8th'
Unda Maris 8th'
Octave 4 ′
Flute 4 ′
Salicet 4 ′
Nasard 2 23
Cornet d'echo II
Piccolo 2 ′
Plein jeu V 2 ′
Basson 16 ′
Trumpet harm. 8th'
oboe 8th'
Clarion 4 ′
IV threshold positive C–
Suavial 8th'
Copula 8th'
Reed flute 4 ′
Principal 2 ′
Pointed 2 ′
Larigot 1 13
third 45 ′ + 1 35
Glockenzimbel II 1 35
Wooden shelf 16 ′
Vox Humana 8th'
Pedal C–
Principal bass 32 ′
Praestant 16 ′
Wooden principal 16 ′
Sub bass 16 ′
Octavbass 8th'
Gedacktpommer 8th'
Octave 4 ′
Reed flute 4 ′
Choral bass 2 ′
Mixture IV 2 23
Greater Sesquialtera III
Bombard 16 ′
Dulcian 16 ′
Trumpet 8th'
Bear whistle 8th'
Clarine 4 ′
Schalmey 2 ′


The north tower houses a four-part bell, which was cast by Jakob Keller (Unterstrass near Zurich) in 1889 and sounds in the beat sequence c 1 –e 1 –g 1 –c 2 . Since a renovation of the bell system, the bells have been hanging on artistically carved wooden yokes and have softer iron clappers. The fifth bell hangs in the roof turret, striking note c 2 ; it sounds at 8 p.m. in the evening. To ring the bell every day, the e 1 bell rings at 11 a.m. and the third bell (g 1 ) at 6 p.m. (in winter 5:30 p.m. ). On Saturday evening at 7 p.m., together with the other inner-city churches, all four bells ring for 15 minutes on Sunday. At the Sunday service there is a double ringing of signals with the third bell - according to the old "Zwinglian" custom; at 8:55 am and 9:25 am. Again, all the bells ring for the service itself. The big bell raises its voice at 7 p.m. on Sunday evening to ring out Sunday. This is also used for « Sechseläuten ».

No. Diameter
Nominal inscription
1 1800 4050 c 1 All that has breath, praise the Lord.
2 1330 1680 e 1 No one can lay any other foundation except that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ.
3 1100 0965 g 1 Let the word of Christ dwell abundantly among you.
4th 0830 0420 c 2 Commit your way to the Lord and hope in him, he will do it well.

Events in the Grossmünster Zurich

In addition to church services, there are many other events in the Grossmünster, such as B. Organ concerts. In the week before Easter sings La Lupa each Lamenti down from the tower.


See also

Grossmünster in the evening


  • Daniel Gutscher: The Grossmünster in Zurich. A monograph on building history. (Swiss Art Guide, No. 5), Bern 1983, ISBN 3-85717-017-4 .
  • Urs Hafner: Cult, Power and Faith. A little history of the Zurich Great Minster. Verlag NZZ Libro, Zurich 2007, ISBN 978-3-03823-355-8 .
  • Gottfried Boehm, Jacqueline Burckhardt, Bice Curiger , Ulrich Gerster, Regine Helbling, Claude Lambert, Käthi La Roche , Urs Rickenbach, Katharina Schmidt, Marina Warner : Sigmar Polke: Windows - Windows Grossmünster Zurich. Parkett Publishers and Grossmünster Zurich, Zurich and New York 2010, ISBN 978-3-907582-27-5 .
  • Ulrich Gerster: The church windows of the Great Minster of Zurich. Augusto Giacometti - Sigmar Polke. (Swiss Art Guide, No. 71). Ed. Society for Swiss Art History GSK. Bern 2012, ISBN 978-3-03797-071-3 .

Web links

Commons : Grossmünster  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gutscher (1983: 9).
  2. ^ Magdalen Bless-Grabher: Zurich and its mendicant monasteries . - In: Mendicant Orders, Brotherhoods and Beguines in Zurich: Urban Culture and Salvation in the Middle Ages , ed. by Barbara Helbling u. a. - Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 2002, pp. 11–24, esp. P. 22. ISBN 3-85823-970-4
  3. Peter Stotz: In praise of the Zurich city patron, liturgical poems for the feast of Felix and Regula . - In: Turicensia latina: Latin texts on the history of Zurich from ancient times , the Middle Ages and modern times , ed. by Peter Stotz u. a. - Verlag Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Zurich 2003, pp. 60–67. ISBN 3-03823-013-8
  4. ^ Gutscher: The Grossmünster in Zurich. Pp. 16-18.
  5. ^ Daniel Gutscher: Zwingli's Kanzellettner in Zurich's Grossmünster. In: Querblicke, Zürcher Reformationsgeschichten , ed. by Peter Niederhäuser and Regula Schmid; Chronos Verlag, Zurich 2019; 203 p., Ill. ( Communications from the Antiquarian Society in Zurich , Volume 86); ISBN 978-3-0340-1498-4 , pp. 130-137.
  6. Sigmar Polke - Church window Grossmünster Polke ( Memento of the original from October 31, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link has been inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , (accessed November 2, 2010) @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. Ulrich Gerster: The church windows of the Grossmünster Zurich. Augusto Giacometti - Sigmar Polke. (Swiss Art Guide, No. 915, Series 92). Ed.  Society for Swiss Art History GSK. Bern 2012, ISBN 978-3-03797-071-3 .
  8. Martin Germann: The Reformed Abbey Library at the Großmünster Zurich in the 16th century and the beginnings of the modern bibliography: Reconstruction of the book inventory and its origin, the book layout and the library room, with an edition of the library catalog from 1532/1551 by Conrad Pellikan. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1994 ( contributions to books and libraries; 34), ISBN 3-447-03482-3
  9. More information about the organ ( Memento of the original from September 17, 2011 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  10. For disposition ( Memento of the original from June 5, 2010 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /

Coordinates: 47 ° 22 '12 "  N , 8 ° 32' 39"  E ; CH1903:  six hundred eighty-three thousand five hundred and one  /  247161