The Grossmünster Cathedral where legend meets landmark | Zürich, Switzerland
Updated: Jul 12
The Grossmünster, one of the four most prominent Cathedrals of Zürich is to be found right in the heart of the old town of the city. It is of such great significance that its two towers are even one of the Landmarks of Zurich. Due to numerous reconstructions, its rich history and architecture is met by temporary art and offers beautiful impressions all around, inside as well as outside of the Cathedral.
The actual origin date of the once Catholic and now Protestant Cathedral in Romanesque style is unknown, however it is said that the church was first built by Karl the Great (Charlemagne) and the first written evidence of its creation stems from the 8th century. Up until 1272 the Cathedral was known as the Zürich Church (Turicina Ecclesia), then as Monasterium praepositurae Thuricensis and by 1322 as Grossmünster literally meaning “Great Minster” distinguishing it due to its vastness from the smaller Fraumünster located on the opposite side of the river Limat.
History & legend
The story says that it was Karl the Great (Charlemagne) who founded the church because of the 3 Patron Saints of Zurich, Felix, Regula and Exuperantius, on who’s grave he stumbled upon whilst on one of his journeys.
Dating back to the 3rd century, these 3 Saints were members of the Theban Legion who suffered greatly because of Saint Maurice (which is today a town in canton Wallis in Switzerland) as he did not agree with their conversion to Christianity, therefore they fled to Zürich before being executed.
It is said that their graves were found by Karl the Great when he passed them as his horse stopped and kneeled down to pay respect to them. Due to this he ordered their body remains to be lifted and the church was created to honor the Saints. Up until the reformation in the 16th century the Saints graves' as well as later on in 1233 the relics of Karl the Great were all kept in this church. Today you can find a roman Crypt in the church which dates back to the 11th century where their remains were once kept and honored.
Architecture & design
Between 1517 und 1648 there was a reformation period in western Christianism and during this period the church saw many changes, first conducted by Ulrich Zwingli followed by Heinrich Bullinger and others. Thus you can see various architectural styles in the church. It was in the 18th century that the foundation of the two towers seen today was built by Johann Vögeli and Johannes Haggenmiller in a neo-gothic style. In the 19th and 20th Century the Church saw overall extreme reconstructions in the interior as well as exterior during which time the towers were also increased in size. Even today the towers of the church have been under reconstruction and by the end of November 2020 the newly reconstructed towers are once again to be visited.
In the interior of the Church you can find different incredible stained glass windows created by Sigmar Polke. The German artist expressed the theme of the birth of Christ, telling the story through the different artistic windows each containing a special message.
There is also a very significant Metzler Organ which can be observed and it’s outstanding acoustic can be admired during diverse concerts throughout the year. Ontop of that there is the original “sitting figure” of Karl the Great located in the oldest part of the church, the Krypta.
You can visit the church, take guided tours, rent out certain areas for events or attend one of the different events and concerts and as of end of November the towers can also be visited again. For more information click here.
Opening times: Open all year
10:00 - 18:00 (March 1 – October 31)
10:00 - 17:00 (November 1 – February 28)
Price: Free entry
Address: Grossmünsterplatz, Zürich 8001
The Grossmünster is one of the four most prominent Cathedrals in Zürich filled with so much history and culture as well as diverse architecture and design.
Visiting such an incredible location opens your horizons for new research and a greater understanding about the history of Zurich. So let’s go out there more, be curious and feed our minds!
We are generation change!
Enjoy! Yours truly,
© Isabel Silvia