Jan 18, 2010

Ulm Minster - World's Tallest Church

Ulm Minster (German: Ulmer Münster, literally: minster) is a Lutheran church located in Ulm, Germany; it is the tallest church in the world, with a steeple measuring 161.53 metres (530 ft) and containing 768 steps. Although sometimes referred to as Ulm Cathedral because of its great size, the church is not a cathedral as it has never been the seat of a bishop. (The responsible bishop of the Evangelical State Church in Württemberg - member of the Evangelical Church in Germany - resides in Stuttgart.) Ulm Minster is a famous example of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. Like Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) - another building begun in the Gothic era - the Ulm Münster was not completed until the 19th century. From the top level at 143 metres (470 ft) there is a panoramic view of Ulm in Baden-Württemberg and Neu-Ulm in Bavaria and, in clear weather, a vista of the Alps from Säntis to the Zugspitze. The final stairwell to the top (known as the third Gallery) is a tall, spiraling staircase that has barely enough room for one person.

Measurements

  • The church has a length of 123.56 metres (405.4 ft) and a width of 48.8 metres (160 ft).
  • The building area is approximately 8,260 square metres (88,900 sq ft).
  • The height of the central nave is 41.6 metres (136 ft), whilst the lateral naves are 20.55 metres (67.4 ft) high.
  • The volume of the edifice is some 190,000 cubic metres (6,700,000 cu ft).
  • The weight of the main steeple is estimated at 51,500 tonnes (50,700 LT; 56,800 ST).
  • The church seats a congregation of 2,000.
  • In the Middle Ages, before pews were introduced, it could accommodate 20,000 people.
  • The Ulm Münster is the largest Lutheran church and the second largest church in Germany (after Cologne Cathedral).

Construction work

In the 14th century, the parish church of Ulm was located outside the walled city. The burghers of Ulm decided to erect a new church within the perimeters of the city and to finance the costs of the erection.

In 1377 the foundation stone was laid. The planned church was to have three naves of equal height, a main spire on the west and two steeples above the choir. In 1392 Ulrich Ensingen (associated with Strasbourg Cathedral) was appointed master builder. It was his plan to make the western church tower the tallest spire (which it is to the current day).

The church, consisting of the longitudinal naves and the choir, covered by a temporary roof, was consecrated in 1405.

However, structural damages, caused by the height of the aisles and the weight of the heavy vaulting, necessitated a reconstruction of the lateral naves. The side aisles were supported by a row of additional column in their centre.

In a referendum in 1530/31, the citizens of Ulm converted to Protestantism during the Reformation and in 1543 construction work was halted at a time when the steeple had reached a height of some 100 metres (330 ft).

The halt in the building process was caused by a variety of factors which were political and religious (the reformation, the Thirty Years' War, the War of the Spanish Succession) as well as economic (the discovery of the Americas in 1492 and of the sea route to India in 1497, leading to a shift in trade routes and commodities). One result was economic stagnation and a steady decline, preventing major public expenditure.

In 1817 work resumed and the three steeples of the church were completed. Finally, on 31 May 1890 the building was completed.



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