Grossmünster, 1100-1230, Zurich. Photo: TES.

The Grossmünster in Zurich

Together with the episcopal churches of Chur and Basel, the Grossmünster in Zurich forms a group of late-Romanesque pillar basilicas. The Grossmünster also shows the trans-European character of Romanesque art and medieval art in general. Elements of the episcopal Church of Constance, the St. Trinite ( Abbaye des Dames) and St. Etienne in Caen, the Cathedral in Speyer and St. Michele in Pavia are clearly visible in the Grossmünster. In the Middle Ages, the Grossmünster was considered the highest church in the diocese of Constance after the cathedral in Zurich and even became the mother church of the German-Swiss Reformation in the 16th century.

The beginning of the Grossmünster is not known. Charles the Fat (1839-888) converted a monastery into an abbey around 870. Archaeological research suggests a Carolingian basilica with three naves. Around 1100 the construction of the present cathedral began, which was completed in six phases until 1230. The first construction phase was around 1100-1117, the second and third around 1120-1130, the fourth 1130-1150, the fifth 1150-1200 and the sixth until 1220/1230. The building was extended, renovated or religiously motivated destroyed/refurbished (Reformation) or destroyed by fire (1763). The current spires of the towers were added and the interior was adapted to the Baroque style at the expense of the Romanesque character in 1781-1786. Only after the establishment of the Antiquarian Society Zurich in 1832, the Romanesque interior was gradually rebuilt and today the cathedral, with the exception of the tower ends, appears as a building of high and late Romanesque art, including the Romanesque cloister corridor, which was reconstructed using original parts in 1851. (Source: D. Gutscher, Grossmünster Zürich, Bern 1995)