The Basler Munster. Photo/Foto: TES.

The Basler Münster Millennium

On 11 October 1019, Bishop Adalbero II (deceased 1025) consecrated the Cathedral of Basel in the presence of the Holy Roman Emperor Henry II (973-1024) and his wife Kunigunde (975-1040).

Henry and Kunigunde are portrayed on the western facade. A thousand years and various renovations (1170-1220, 1270, 1439, 1500), earthquake (1356), the Reformation (1529) and the tomb of Erasmus (1536) later, the Basler Münster is still there.

However, the foundations of the Münster are about 200 years older than the year of consecration. Nothing is known about this Carolingian church, only that it was built during the time of Bishop Haito (763-836), who was also abbot of the Reichenau monastery.

At the time of the inauguration of the Münster, Basel was still part of the Burgundian kingdom (888-1032), but the last (childless) king Rudolf III (970-1032) had already appointed Henry II as heir to his throne.

The Münster of 1019 was a Romanesque basilica with a nave and two aisles. Despite the later renovations and earthquake of 1356, these original Romanesque contours are still visible.

The cathedral suffered from the iconoclasm of 1529, although precious objects have been saved, such as the Golden Altar of Henry II (the original is in Paris, the Cluny museum).

In the years 1170-1220, the Münster was rebuilt in the late Romanesque style, as evidenced by the Gallus Gate (Galluspfort) and the vaults.

The Gothic style was already in full swing in France. Some vaults of the Münster are also Gothic. The name of the architect Lüthold I von Aarburg (deceased 1213) is known, rather exceptional in this period. He is portrayed in the crypt.

The major Gothic adaptations took place in the years 1270-1290 when the western facade was changed, and Gothic side chapels were added.

After these adjustments, the Münster had five towers. They were all destroyed by the great earthquake of 1356. The vaults collapsed as well.

The reconstruction was completed in 1500 by the construction of the St. Martin’s Tower, after the completion of the St. Georg’s Tower in 1439.  The two towers have not only been completed, but they are not symmetrical.

Many cathedrals never finished their towers or have just one tower. The Klein Klingental Museum in Basel shows this (construction) history. (Source: D. Schwinn Schürmann, H.-R. Meier, E. Schmidt, Das Basler Münster, Basel 2006).