Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Back from Münster

Actually we're at day 3 of the Analogue Hobbies Painting Challenge but this year an event to remember delayed my personal start. My most beloved wife an me spent three days in the wonderful town of Münster and enjoyed the festive ado there.
Münster's city centre on Friday evening
Münster (not to be confused with Munster) itself is a 300,000 residents' city in northern North Rhine-Westphalia and the cultural centre of Westphalia. Nowadays Münster is well known for it's university, its cycle-friendly traffic policy and the wonderful old city centre. Meanwhile I learned that Münster's centre was nearly completely destroyed by British and American bombers during WW2 but afterwards it was re-build in a manner that kept it's traditional shape and 'feeling'.

Seal of the Wilhelm-University (source: Wikipedia)

Besides that Münster is said to wonderful during Christmas season and thus Mrs Monty and yours truly took the chance to leave our girls at my parents-in-law and set sail for a romantic weekend on our own. Luckily Münster is jus about an hour away from the area we and my in-laws are living in and so we arrived rather early on Friday afternoon. We checked in at a lovely hotel directly in the city centre only a stone throw from the cathedral and after a short rest we explored the old town. And indeed it's wonderful beyond comparison. Especially the festive illumination turns it to an enchanting place. There are six smaller Christmas markets spread over the city centre and we visited most of them. Unfortunately they were absolutely overcrowded - as whole Münster seemeed to be - but that didn't damp our spirits.
The traditional town hall.
'Überwasserkirche' one of Münster's many churches
Alongside this extraordinary appearance Münster is a place of history as well. It's history starts about 1,200 years ago when the catholic missionary (Saint) Ludger was sent to proselytise the Frisians and Saxons. Among other things he laid the foundation for Münster's Saint Paul's Cathedral and became first Bishop of Münster. During the centuries of the Middle Ages Münster was an important player on the diplomatic and political field. It's far too much to mention now but have a look at the Wikipedia article about the history of Münster. At least it gives an idea of the importance of the city in earlier days: Here in English or much more extensive in German here.
90% of Münster's city centre was destroyed during heavy WW2 bombing
Anyway some of the historical events are still present in modern Münster. E. g. Münster was stage of one of the most violent, reformist rebellions of the 16th century. From early 1534 the city was ruled by radical Anabaptists under Jan Mathys, Jan van Leiden and their followers. They were preaching the end of the world, devastated churches, destroyed pieces of saced art and vilolently demanded adult babtism for and from every one. That brought Münster a kind of reign of terror and simultaneously the siege of the catholic Prince-Bishop Fanz von Waldeck. After two years the Münster Rebellion ended with the execution of the leader Jan van Leiden, Bernhard Krechting and Bernhard Knipperdolling. The cages in which their dead bodies were left as feed for the crows are still present at the tower of Saint Lamberti church in the city centre of Münster.
St. Lamberti with the three cages
About a century later Münster was one of the venues for the Peace of Westphalia which ended the Thirty Years War. While the protestant states gathered in the city of Osnabrück the catholic emissaries came together in Münster. Today there are still some places bearing witness of those eventful days. E. g. the 'Friedenssaal' in Münster's historical town hall is still in it's original state - correctly it was restored to its historical state after destruction in WW2. Unfortunately we didn't find the time to visit the room this time but next time it's top of my list.
Münster's old town hall
But most noticeable are the churches. From my personal point of view Münster must be one of the cities with the largest number of large, important churches on an area as small as Münster's city centre. They are all more or less besides each other and they all are bearing historical importance. In front of St. Lamberti the ringleaders of the 1534 / 1535 rebellion were executed, the 'Überwasserkirche' served as one of their gun positions during the siege and of course the St.-Paulus-Dom is one of the most important catholic churches within Westphalia. We took some time on Sunday morning to visit the chathedral and for our next visit we'll definitely try to get a guided tour through this sacred building and its treasury.
St.-Paulus-Dom zu Münster
It's bearing a lot of architectual and religious features. Although architectur isn't my cup of tea I was really impressed by the roman and gothic characteristics of the building. Current main entrance is the so called 'Paradies' with a wonderfully ornamented vestibule:
Inner portal of the Paradise
The main hall is simply breath-taking. Its high ceiling and the plain roman columns are overwhelming. Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to take a picture of the main hall. There were believers gathering for the coming Holy Mass and I didn't want to disturb them.

But the aisles are bearing interesting and fascinating pieces of art as well. Especially the astronomical clock between the high choir and the south arm of the ambulatory is a piece of master-craftsmanship without equal. Luckily its mechanism was removed and protected during WW2 and thus you can still observe the work from centuries ago.
Astronomical clock
Around the outer walls and in apses their are a couple of tombs and ledgers as well as a richely ornamented way of the cross. Of two of them I took pictures:
Tomb of Prince-Bishop Friedrich Christian von Plettenberg

Ledger of Bishop Clemens August Graf von Gahlen
The latter once one of the most important German churchmen of the last century and a fascinating character which crossed my studies a couple of times before. During the darkest years of German history von Gahlen was pastor in and later Bishop of Münster and had to witness how Germany fell to the Nazis. During those years of terror he stayed oppositional and named and shamed ideology and practiced of the Nazi dictatorship. He was well known for his tough sermons which granted him the name 'Lion of Münster'.
After WW2 he was one of three German bishops promoted to cardinal. On 16th March 1946 he was celebrated by the residents of Münster when he returned from Rome but six days later he died of the consequences of a cecal perforation.

Although von Gahlen is present in a lot of places one of the most impressive is the statue behind the cathedral. It's the crucefied Jesus with two leepers and Cardinal von Gahlen besides him. Von Gahlen is holding notes with his sermons. Besides those believers is sitting the formerly mentioned Jan van Leiden. He looks rather worried and is either seeing the end of the world or the downfall of his movement.
The group of statues behind the cathedral.
These were only a very few of the landmarks of Münster. I'm sure you could spend at least a week there to visit all the interesting spots in and around Münster. If you're there for the first time I cannot recommend enough to take a guided tour. We booked one of 'Stadt Lupe' and it was as interesting as entertaining. Simply outstanding! I'm not sure whether they're offering them in English as well but it's definitely worth a try.

My dear wife and me are already thinking returning there next year. There are a couple of other interesting places to visit but last weekend we fell in love with Münster...
That's enough for now... Next time more about my preparations for the painting challenge. Until then enjoy the last days before Christmas!


  1. Great post. It looks like a very interesting city. In case I don't make it back here in time. Merry Christmas!

    1. Many thanks, Sean.
      A merry Christmas and a happy new year to you as well!

  2. Looks an interesting city... One more to add the list to visit

    1. Tell me when you start working through the list and come to the German cities.

  3. Just the place to get you set up for Christmas, now back to painting my friend!

    1. Yes... Back to painting. Difficult these days... :-(

  4. It looks ad sounds like a wonderful visit! My wife spent a year there as a student many years ago, working to improve her German language skills. Frohe Weihnachten by the way!


    1. Indeed a wonderful place during this season of the year.
      Meery Christmas for you and yours as well!

  5. I know that my parents would take us to Munster when my father was with the Canadian Army in Soest in the 1960s, but all I can remember are the toy shops. It looks like a splendid place to visit at Christmas. Today some Canadian cities with German migrant populations, like Kitchener (formerly Berlin) have Christmas markets inspired by the ones in Germany.
    There are some grim stories associated with those splendid churches.
    Thank you for the lovely photos.

    1. You're very welcome, Michael.
      And indeed church history bears a lot of grim episodes...