Munich´s most unmistakable symbol is the Frauenkirche, the Cathedral of our Dear Lady. The two onion domes of the Gothic monument are one, if not the most beknown silhouettes of the skyline of the Bavarian capital. The cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop and often referred to as Münchner Dom.
One thing that makes the Frauenkirche stand out within the skyline is the local height limit that restricts constructions inside the city´s center not to exceed a height of 99 metres. Being one of the largest cities within Germany (greater Munich and surroundings counts almost 2 million inhabitants) you will notice no skyscrapers inside the downtown area. This may be one of the reasons why Munich is referred to as the largest “Village on Earth”.
Constructions began in 1468 and took “only” 20 years to complete. For this time apparently a master achievement. An interesting fact is that due to the lack of a nearby stone pit and a general financial bottleneck, red bricks were chosen as construction material.
The Frauenkirche was consecrated in 1494. At that time, the lack of funds was the reason that the open-work spires that had been planned to top the two towers could not be implemented. Until 1525, the towers remained unfinished and uncovered causing rainwater to constantly penetrate the interiors of the them.
Finally, they received their onion dome shaped roofs which were inspired by the Dome of Rock in Jerusalem and which fell out of the typical Gothic architectural style. This low-budget solution made Frauenkirche one of the most non-interchangeable landmarks in Munich and well-known around the world.
While in modern times the size of the cathedral is still imposing, at the time it was finished it was almost monstrous. It is believed to have room for over 20,000 standing people. At the time of completion, Munich had a population of roughly 13,000 by the end of the 15th century. What a gigantism!
During World War II, the building suffered severe exterior and interior damages. The entire roof collapsed and one of the towers was almost half-destructed. It is said that most of the extremely precious fittings and treasures had either been destroyed by the bombings themselves or by the removal of the debris after the war was over.
One thing that a lot of international tourists come to see inside the Marienkirche is the famous “Devil´s footprint” in the center of the building´s entrance hall. An old legend says, that the devil had entered the church one night after its completion and had not been able to see any windows from the point where he was standing.
Being quite amused about this fact, he stamped onto the floor leaving an evenly shaped print on the ground. Others claim, that this was the only spot inside the church where no sunlight ever touched ground.
It once must have been an enormously impressive church with lots of opulent fittings inside. After its reconstruction and the redesign of the late gothic style it appears in my opinion a little uncluttered. Yet the remains of the most detailed church windows give an idea of how splendid Marienkirche once must have been.
Another interesting fact is, that Marienkirche´s five bells are still the historical originals. Three of them are made in the medieval, two in baroque style. Making the ensemble one of Germany´s richest and most valuable cultural heritage in church bells. The largest and heaviest (8 tons) of the five bells, the Salve Bell, is said to be among the largest bells in Bavaria with one of the most beautiful sounds of all medieval bells in whole Europe.
Marienkirche is not my most favourite church here in Munich when it comes to the interior design, yet the height of the main transept with its almost never-ending vault construction is still impressive. On the other hand, it is not as overloaded with details as some of the churches that I have already featured in Church Chic. That helps quite a lot to present those treasures that survived the war maybe in a way that they deserve.
I would very much welcome though if the beautiful stained glass windows would sometimes be completely restored. The obtained ones give a great idea on how detailed and unique they must have been long time ago. Another thing that some people do not know about Marienkirche is the fact that the southern tower holds a viewing platform with excellent panoramas over Munich and on clear days towards the Alps. Due to current construction works (as of Winter 2016/17), the tower is closed to visitors.