Grossmünster (Great Minster)
Grossmünster, also means the great minister, is a beautiful 12th-century cathedral and is one of the most recognizable and distinguished landmarks of Zurich. Its emblematic twin towers touching skyline makes it a very famous site and attracts thousands of tourists each day. The triple-aisled crypt is also the largest in Switzerland. Grossmünster holds a very important place in Protestant Christianity because of its role in the Protestant Reformation in Switzerland. It is one of the largest churches in Zurich along with St. Peterskirche, Predigerkirche, and Fraumünster. Stands true to its literal meaning in German as “large Cathedral”, Grossmünster has great architectural and historical significance.It is located at the Notre Dame cathedral on the banks of the Limmat River from the end of Zurich Lake, facing the other largest church in Zurich in the old town. It is totally possible and expected to get lost in the mind-blowing views around and exploring the city via electronic tuk tuk ride, going for a Swiss Chocolate walking tour or just walking by the riverside and waiting for the sunset to climb up to one of the church’s tower balcony and getting some super intagramic sunset photos.
The Romanesque cathedral is as important historically as it is architecturally. The major incidents include the story of three beheaded saints - St Felix, St Regula, and St Exuperantius, how emperor Charlemagne found the tomb of the three martyr saints when visited Zurich on a hunting trip and Grossmünster and church Fraumünster’s rivalry, Protest Reformation and Architectural Modernity.As the famous story goes, the three saints St. Felix and St. Regula were brothers and with their servant Exuperantius were executed by Roman authority. They miraculously stood-up, picked their head in their hands and started walking. They walked around paces uphill, made their last prayer before lying down in death and they were buried at the exact place where they fell.Around 500 years later Emperor Charlemagne was near Zurich on a hunting trip and upon his arrival, his horse fell to its knees over the grave of the three patron saints of Zurich - St. Felix, St Regula and their servant Exuperantius. The emperor ordered the construction of the cathedral Grossmünster in around 1100 CE at the same place honoring the martyr which has become the most famous and tourist place to visit in Zurich.Since then many significant renovations have been made to Grossmünster from time to time. One of the most important ones was to increase the height of the southern tower to the similar height of the northern tower in the 15th- century CE.The legendary Roman Emperor’s connection to the Grossmünster can be seen in both – a replacement relief, sitting on a throne with a sword and a gold crown on his brow, high up on the west wall. And, the original 15th – Century statue can be found now in the crypt beneath the church.During the medieval times, the rivalry between Grossmünster and church Fraumünster which is located on the other side of the Limmat River, over the control of the patron Saints’ relics and superiority over the other.And, eventually both the churches agreed to share the authority and started a grand public festive procession each year on September 11, which till today has been celebrated and declared a public holiday in Zurich.Ulrich Zwingli started working as a pastor at the Grossmünster around 1519 CE and this was the beginning of the Swiss protest reformation led by Zwingli and followed by many. Zwingli, born in a farmer’s family was well educated and had great influence in his life and work by Dutch philosopher Erasmus. He supported that the holy scriptures must be read and interpreted in the native language by commerns and not to be bound and restricted. He also suggested that people must ideally live a life as per the Gospels by Jesus Christ. He also denounced the catholic mass, removed the swiss mercenaries and considered the forms of idolatry in catholic worship. And, It was in 1523 when with the support of the government, the Zurich’s monasteries were dissolved. Ulrich Zwingli's influence is notable in Grossmünster's architecture and interiors. Grossmünster had been majorly renovated to express the pure quiddity of the reformation in a physical form. However, with multiple refurbishments till the 19th-20th-century, Grossmünster restored to its full splendor.