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High altar of the Michaelskirche in Munich

The Sunday ( althochdeutsch  sunnun day or fron [o] day "Lord's Day", Latin dies solis "Day of the Sun " and the dominica , Greek κυριακὴ ἡμέρα Kyriake Hemera "day of the Lord [ Jesus Christ ]") is now in the civil calendar of the German Space and most of the world is the seventh and last day of the week , also defined in the international standard ISO 8601 . In terms of cultural history and in some areas - especially in Jewish, Muslim and Christian - areas, Sunday is still the first day of the week today, due to historical representations.

Legal regulations

Many European countries have legal restrictions on Sunday work . So which is Sunday rest regulated by law in Germany and constitutionally special protection ( Art. 140 GG ). Its origins go back to the trade regulation amendment of June 1, 1891 by Kaiser Wilhelm II . A counterexample is Sweden , where there was no statutory working time regulation for Sundays in 2017.

In addition, every Sunday is a public holiday in Hessen .

Christian meaning

In most of the countries shaped by Christianity , Sunday is the weekly public holiday on which the service is celebrated in almost all churches as a celebration of the death and resurrection of Christ on the "first day of the week" ( Mt 28.1  EU ). According to Jewish tradition, the seven-day week begins on Sunday , which ends on Shabbat as the seventh day, which ends on Saturday evening.

Development of Sunday

Basically, in Greco-Roman antiquity, the course of the year was mainly divided into periodic festivals. Within the months, different regional days were highlighted (for Roman times: Kalenden , Nonen , Iden ). For the early Roman period, the Nundinal week (8-day rhythm) was highly controversial as a general obligation, but in Greek Poleis there is often a 10-day rhythm (decade). With the originally Babylonian 7-day week, the Greeks and Romans also adopted the names of the days after the old seven planets (including the sun and moon). Already from Gaius Iulius Caesar there is evidence that the Jewish Sabbath week was taken into account. So the first day dedicated to the sun was called hêméra Hêliou in Greek and dies solis in Latin . Legally, this 7-day week can only be made legally binding with Emperor Constantine from 321 AD in the legislation on freedom of work and court days on Sundays. When the Germans adopted the weekly division in the 4th century AD, they translated the term to “Sunday”, Old High German sunnûntag . In Romance languages , the church Latin name Dominica dies (“Day of the Lord”), so in French Dimanche .

Early Christianity

The early Jewish Christians commemorated the Sabbath and kept it as a day of rest and peace.

8  Remember the Sabbath: Keep it holy! 9  You can create for six days and do all your work. 10  The seventh day is a day of rest dedicated to the Lord your God. You must not do any work on him: you and your son and your daughter, your slave and your slave girl and your cattle and your stranger in your gates. 11  For in six days the Lord made heaven, earth, and sea, and all that belonged to them; on the seventh day he rested. That is why the Lord has blessed the Sabbath and sanctified it. "

- Exodus 20.8–11  EU

The celebration of this day of rest and prayer was moved to the dies solis by the Gentile Christians in commemoration of the resurrection of Jesus Christ . Because, according to the Gospels, the resurrection took place on the third day after the crucifixion of Christ , that is, after the Sabbath, it was thought of by the Gentile Christians as the “day of the Lord”. This term still lives on today in many Romance languages ​​as the term for Sunday: The French Dimanche , the Italian Domenica and the Spanish Domingo are derived from Dies dominicus or Dies dominica , the Latin translation of the Greek [hē] kyriake heméra .

The meaning of Sunday is already confirmed for the beginning of the 2nd century by the Didache (dates vary between 80 and 180), later also by Pliny , the letter of Barnabas (around 100 in Alexandria), by Ignatius of Antioch (around 110 in Asia) , attested by Justin the Martyr and by Irenaeus of Lyons (around 180).

"But when you come together on Lord's Day, break the bread and give thanks after first having made known your transgressions, so that your sacrifice may be pure."

- Didache (between 80 and 180)

"That is why we also celebrate the eighth day [Sunday, the first day of the new week] with joy, on which Jesus also rose from the dead and, after he had revealed himself, ascended to heaven."

- Barnabas letter, Alexandria (around 100)

"They used to gather on a certain day before sunrise to sing an alternating hymn to Christ as their God [...] Afterwards they parted and then came together again to eat food [...]"

- Pliny, Asia Minor (around 110)

“On the day named after the sun, everyone who is in cities or in the country will come together in one place. The records of the apostles and the writings of the prophets are read as time permits. When the reader has stopped, the headmaster gives a speech in which he admonishes and encourages people to follow these beautiful teachings and examples. Then we all get up together and send prayers to heaven * for ourselves [...] and for everyone else in the whole world, so that we may become worthy [...] also in works as good [...] people and as observers of the commandments to be found in order to attain eternal salvation. After finishing the prayers, we greet each other with a kiss. Then bread is brought to the chief of the brothers and a cup with a mixture of water and wine. He takes it, sends praise and praise to the Father of all things through the name of the Son and the Holy Spirit and gives a long thanksgiving for the fact that we have been honored by him for these gifts. When he has finished with prayers and thanksgiving, all the people present join in by saying: Amen. After the ruler has performed the act of thanksgiving and the whole people have agreed, the deacons, as they are called here, offer everyone present the blessed bread and the wine mixed with water for enjoyment and also bring those who are absent. "

- Justin Martyr, Rome, first apology (around 150)

From this it can be concluded that the custom was already widespread at the time of the oldest written sources. What cannot be inferred from this, however, is a continuous "keeping of saint" Sunday in the sense of a day of rest from work. Rather, for most Christians, it seems to have been a matter of collecting gifts before going into business on the first day of the week (with Paul) and of spiritual strengthening before starting work (Sunday as the working day). Even Jesus did not rest on the first day during his resurrection ( Lk 24  KJV ).

The reason given for the non-observance of the Shabbat and the introduction of the Sunday celebration and day of remembrance among the Gentile Christians is the following: The early Jewish Christians who went to the synagogue service on Shabbat read the Holy Scriptures and understood them differently from other ancient currents of Judaism. The day of the Lord was the anticipation of God's judgment and world perfection, the end-time day of the Lord. In rabbinical Judaism, it represents a day of longing for universal world peace in the messianic times and the world to come.

A second reason was added: for the Gentile Christians, Jesus Christ was Lord and God (Kyrios) and not the Roman emperor, who claimed the divine title of "Lord" (Kyrios) for himself. By celebrating the Lord's Day, Christians distanced themselves from the deified Roman Emperor or the imperial cult, and thus their Lord's Day became a lived creed and in a certain sense also a political issue.

From the 3rd century onwards, apart from the Ebionites, there were several little known groups who also celebrated the Sabbath parallel to the day of the Lord. B. the Albigensians .

Late Roman Empire

Constantine the Great (307–337) as Sol invictus . Minted approx. 309–310, Lugdunum. Sol standing with his face to the right, right hand raised, the globe in his left, with the seven- pointed halo of Helios

In the year 321 , Emperor Constantine declared the dies solis to be an obligatory holiday, also for Christians and Mithras followers. "All judges and inhabitants of the cities, including the workers of all arts, should rest on the venerable 'day of the sun'."

Urgent agricultural work is excluded with Konstantin. This celebrated day was for the followers of the Mithraic cult , to which the Roman soldiers adhered predominantly, the holy day, which the Gentile Christians also celebrated as the day of the Lord. With this edict, Constantine was able to serve two important religions at the same time, although he had himself minted on coins as Sol invictus ("undefeated sun").

middle Ages

In the course of the Middle Ages, church commandments developed with regard to Sunday rest: Christians had to take part in the service, the Sunday crime (Sunday work) endangered the salvation of the soul. The same also applied to a gradually increasing number of church holidays .


In the Reformation , the absolutely work-free Sunday was not essential; the Sunday sanctification was primarily about attending church services. Most of the other church holidays were abolished.

“That is why this commandment does not concern us Christians in the grossly outward sense of the word. For it is a question of an entirely external thing, which, like other statutes of the Old Testament, was bound to particular modes, persons, times and places; these are now all released through Christ. But in order to outline a Christian understanding for ordinary people of what God demands of us in this commandment, note: we do not keep holidays for the sake of discreet and learned Christians, because they don't need it for anything. Rather, we do it firstly for the sake of physical causes and needs. Because nature teaches and demands this for the common people, for servants and maids who have gone about their work and business the whole week, that they also retire for a day to rest and refresh themselves. Then mostly because on such a day of rest, because otherwise one cannot get around to it, one has the opportunity and time to take part in the worship service; So one should come together to hear God's word and to deal with it, in order to then also praise God, sing and pray. "

"103. What does God want in the fourth commandment? - First of all, God wants the preaching office and the schools to be preserved and that I come regularly to the church of God, especially on holidays, to learn the word of God, to use the holy sacraments, to call on the Lord publicly and to give Christian alms. Second, he wants me to celebrate all the days of my life from my wicked works, to let the Lord work in me through his Spirit and thus begin the eternal Sabbath in this life. "

Modern times

Paul Signac : Sunday 1888–1890

In the 17th century , the Pietists influenced by the Puritans reappeared a sabbath-like Sunday sanctification, which was observed less and less in the following centuries due to industrialization.

The French Revolution led to the - at least temporarily - abolition of all public holidays and the equation of Sunday with an ordinary working day. It was not until the 19th century that the first labor laws were passed that restricted work on Sundays (e.g. the Swiss Factory Act of 1877).

The Weimar Constitution of 1919 stipulated in Art. 139 : “Sunday and the nationally recognized public holidays remain legally protected as days of rest from work and spiritual exhilaration.” According to Art. 140 of the Basic Law of 1949, the article of the Weimar Constitution is “part of this Basic Law ".

From October 1, 1929, the first version of the Soviet revolution calendar was introduced due to a government decree of September 24, 1929 . As an anti-church measure, it was supposed to overlay the seven-day week with an interrupted five-day working week with 12 months of 30 days each and five additional days off and thus abolish Sunday as a day of rest. In 1940 the revolutionary calendar was abolished and the seven-day week reintroduced. The reasons given were that the tradition in the population could not be suppressed and that workers often stayed away from work both on Sundays and on the rest day of the revolutionary calendar.


"Thank God, it's Sunday"; Banner at a church

The operation of machines and systems that cannot be switched off for individual days, urgent agricultural work and the need to maintain security and supplies justify Sunday work, contrary to the rules of faith, also under social and humanitarian aspects. Therefore labor laws allow for exceptions for the Sunday contrary to the Sunday rest . Sunday remains to be protected as a “great cultural asset ” ( Reinhard Cardinal Marx ). One should not more and more subordinate it to the “economy” ( Heinrich Bedford-Strohm ) in shaping life . In the Alliance for Free Sunday, the Church Service in the World of Work (KDA), the Federal Association of Protestant Workers 'Organizations (BVEA), the Catholic Workers' Movement (KAB) , the Catholic company pastoral care and the Verdi union have come together to protect Sundays to be used as a day off.

The work-free Sunday was anchored in European law until the 1990s, when the European Court of Justice overturned the clause. Since then it has been up to the respective countries: It was not until the end of 2013 that a British court ruled that Christian workers should not refuse Sunday work on the basis of their faith. Therefore, among other things, shops in Catholic Poland can open without restrictions on Sundays. At pressure of the cath. Church and the Solidarność trade union would like to change that, the national conservative government: from 2020, shopping centers and supermarkets must remain closed; Smaller family businesses, petrol stations and station shops are not affected.

In 2011, the "European Sunday Alliance" founded ( European Sunday Alliance ). Trade unions, churches, sports associations and social organizations are committed to preserving the non-working Sunday as part of the European cultural heritage.

In addition to Judaism and Christianity, Islam also knows the seven-day holiday rhythm. In many Islamic countries, Friday takes on the role of the day of rest, although the day used to be not work-free, but rather everyone should be allowed to visit the mosque at noon. Friday became the day off in Islamic countries in the 20th century. Since Sunday is called yom al ahad (“first day”) in Arabic, this term can be found as an Arabic loan word or as a translation in the languages ​​of most Muslims (Arabic, Iranian / Tajik, Tatar, Malay / Indonesian).


The Hamburg fish market , which is held on Sundays and public holidays, starts at 5 a.m., in winter at 7 a.m. and ends at 9:30 a.m. The early opening times go back to the historic fish market, which has been held since 1703: The perishable fish should be sold at ten on Sundays before going to church.

The Scottish athlete Eric Liddell refused to compete as a devout Christian at the Olympic Games in Paris in 1924 for the preliminary of his discipline, the 100-meter run, because it took place on a Sunday. Instead, Liddel was surprisingly and with a new world record winner in the 400-meter run, in which the heats and finals were held on working days. These events were taken up in the 1981 film The Hour of the Winner (English Chariots of Fire ). In the Netherlands, a 1954 law prohibits playing football before 1 p.m.

Sunday social psychology

Viktor Frankl speaks of the “Sunday neurosis”, into which the worker falls who is “nothing but a workman”: On Sunday, when the pace of the work week drops, the lack of sensuality in everyday urban life is exposed.

See also


  • Andreas Heiser: “Are you a Christian? Why are you so zealous with the Jews? ”Christian Sabbath observation in the mirror of the polemics of John Chrysostom . In: Sabbath and Sabbath observance in the early modern period (Ed. Anselm Schubert). Volume 217 in the series of writings of the Association for Reformation History . Gütersloher Verlagshaus, Heidelberg 2016. ISBN 978-3-579-05997-6 . Pp. 18-38
  • Uwe Becker : Sabbath and Sunday. Plea for a church time policy based on Sabbath theology. Neukirchener Verlag 2006, ISBN 3-7887-2166-9 .
  • Jürgen P. Rinderspacher: Without Sunday there are only working days. The social and cultural significance of the weekend. Dietz-Verlag, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-80-120290-9 .
  • Jürgen P. Rinderspacher, Beate Hollbach, Dietrich Henckel (eds.): The world at the weekend. Development prospects of the weekly rest days. An intercultural comparison. SWI-Verlag, Bochum 1994.
  • Karl-Wilhelm Dahm , Andreas Mattner, Jürgen P. Rinderspacher, Rolf Stober (Eds.): Never on Sundays? The future of the weekend. Campus publishing house, Frankfurt a. M., New York 1989.
  • Peter Häberle : Sunday as a constitutional principle . Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 2006, 2nd edition, ISBN 3-428-12172-4 .
  • Ernst Haag : From Sabbath to Sunday. A biblical theological study. (Trier Theological Studies; 52), Paulinus-Verlag 1991, ISBN 3-7902-1280-6 .
  • Wolfgang Mosbacher: Sunday protection and shop closing. Duncker & Humblot 2007, ISBN 3-428-12409-X .
  • Berthold Simeon Nuss: The dispute over Sunday. The struggle of the Catholic Church in Germany from 1869 to 1992 for Sunday as a collective time structure. Issues - Backgrounds - Perspectives. Komzi 1996, ISBN 3-929522-91-8 .

Web links

Commons : Sunday  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Sunday  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
  • Dies Domini - Letter from Pope John Paul II on the sanctification of Sunday from 1998 (PDF file; 345 kB)

Individual evidence

  1. (e.g. DIN 1355 since January 1, 1976)
  2. Sunday is not a day of rest for everyone in Europe . In: Bernd Becker (Hrsg.): Our Church - Protestant weekly newspaper . Evangelical newspaper for Westphalia and Lippe OUR CHURCH, March 3, 2017 ( [accessed October 31, 2018]).
  3. Creation texts of Genesis
  4. ^ Philon, Legatio ad Gaium 158.
  5. Codex Theodosianus 2,8,1.
  6. The Great Catechism. The third commandment: You should keep the holiday holy. On
  7. Joachim Krämer The dispute about Sunday rest - yesterday and today , chap. III (August 27, 2000). Retrieved December 3, 2017 .
  8. Cardinal Marx and Regional Bishop Bedford-Strohm in conversation , accessed on February 2, 2012
  9. Teaserrow Slider. Retrieved February 6, 2018 .
  10. Catholic shopping on "Lord's Day", Christ in der Gegenwart No. 49/2017, p. 534
  11. Regulations for opening Sundays and public holidays in Europe - no shop closing until (almost) strict Sunday rest. Retrieved December 3, 2017 .
  12. ( Memento from February 22, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  13. Hamburg Fish Market (accessed April 28, 2009)
  14. ^ Britannica Online Encyclopedia (accessed April 28, 2009)
  15. BBC, A Sporting Nation (accessed April 28, 2009)
  16. ^ Henk Boesten, Where football is taboo on Sunday , in: Saarbrücker Zeitung, April 7, 2009 (accessed April 28, 2009)
  17. ^ Viktor Frankl: Medical pastoral care. Basics of logotherapy and existential analysis. Last edition. Status: 2005. In: Viktor Frankl : Gesammelte Werke. Volume 4. Böhlau Verlag, Vienna, Cologne, Weimar 2011, ISBN 978-3-205-78619-1 , p. 311 (441 f.)