Das Ulmer Münster

I’ve been neglectful. We’ve lived here in Ulm for 4+ months and I have barely mentioned the most famous tourist sites here. Part of that is because we have little kids in tow. They’re not patient enough yet for most of the museums and not old enough to ride on the beer bike.

The city of Ulm is not very well-known to most Americans. When we first started thinking about coming here, we learned that it is the birthplace of Albert Einstein (although he only lived here for his first year of life, so all of the Einstein references around town are a bit of a stretch). Ulm also is the site of the failed flying attempts of the “Tailor of Ulm“. But most notably, our new hometown has the tallest church steeple in the world, the Ulm Münster.


The Münster was begun in the Gothic Era (1377) but construction was halted due to a lack of funds and to the city’s conversion to Protestantism in 1530. Like the Cologne cathedral, it wasn’t completed until the late 19th century. The completed church was the tallest building in the world from 1890-1901, when the Philadelphia City Hall surpassed it.


The outside features gargoyles and intricate carvings of biblical scenes.


It is not a cathedral because it never housed a Catholic bishop. The Minster/Münster term derives from the Latin for monastery and is related to (but not the same as) the Anglican term used for Westminster and York Minster.


Mozart played on this organ during a visit in 1763, although his father Leopold described Ulm as a “hateful, old-fashioned and disgusting place” [source].


It is a Lutheran church, with seating for a congregation of 2,000. The interior, like most European cathedrals, features beautiful artwork at every turn. Even the ceiling is painted and gilded.


The smell of incense, candles, and aging wood permeates everything.


With the dim lighting and stained glass windows, it’s hard to capture the interior with our camera.


Sam always feel good to be able to say a prayer and light a candle for our loved ones.


Outside, there are some stone sparrows to climb on. The sparrow is a common sight around Ulm, being one of the town’s official mascots. It is meant in jest, since the legend has it that the residents were unable to figure out how to navigate a large beam through the city gates until they observed a sparrow maneuvering a long twig into its nest lengthwise. But the Ulmer citizens have embraced this symbol of their ineptitude and it is represented in public artwork at every turn.


We still haven’t managed to climb the 768 steps to the top of the steeple. We’ll have to get a babysitter for that one, since I don’t exactly relish carrying our two kids up that many narrow, winding flights of stairs. But we’ll manage it sometime before we leave this Germany city, by gum! It’s definitely at the top of our to-do list.


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