Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Munich - Cathedral of Our Dear Lady, "Frauenkirche"

Date of visit: 14th April 2014

Photo by Bmdavll -
I didn't know anything about the Frauenkirche before we arrived in Marienplatz, Munich central square. It catches my eyes as soon as I spotted the 2 reminiscent towers from Marienplatz entrance point. At the time of visit, one of the tower was under maintenance and/or restoration, therefore 1 was covered. Due to weather issues and tiredness after a long walk inside Residenz Museum, the rest of the ladies would not support me should I asked them to asses the cathedral front view to capture the same angle of the above magnificent photo by Bmdavll. I hope, the photo owner would not mind that I use his work for this entry since I didn't get a chance to do so. 

The Frauenkirche means a Cathedral of Our Dear Lady, is a church in the Bavarian city of Munich that serves as the cathedral of the Archdiocese of Munich and Freising and seat of its Archbishop. It is a landmark and is considered a symbol of the Bavarian capital city. I was attracted to the 526 year old cathedral's twin towers which are widely visible due to it’s local height limits. Because of it's historical significant to the city, City Administration prohibits buildings with a height exceeding 99 m in the city center. Since November 2004, this prohibition has been provisionally extended outward and as a result, no buildings may be built in the city over the aforementioned height. The south tower is open to those wishing to climb the stairs and offers a unique view of Munich and the nearby Alps.

Right next to the town's first ring of walls, a romanesque church was added in the 12th century, serving as a second city parish following Alter Peter church (nicknamed 'Ole Pete'), which is the oldest. The current construction replaced this older church and was commissioned by Duke Sigismund and the people of Munich.

The cathedral was erected in only 20 years time by Jorg von Halsbach. Brick was chosen as building material due to the lack of a nearby stone pit, beside a reasons of a higher construction cost to export stone from outside. The red bricks minimise it's financial burden. Construction began in 1468. Since the cash resources were again exhausted in 1479, Pope Sixtus IV has granted an indulgence to support the continuity of works. The cathedral is in use for the last 526 years, therefore, the investment that has been placed by the late Pope Sixtus IV was paid off well in time.

Frauenkirche in the evening, photo copied from Wikipedia

The 2 towers, North tower height is 98.57 m and South tower is 0.12 m less were completed in 1488 and the church was consecrated in 1494. There was another financial crisis, the originally planned tall open-work spires so typical for the Gothic style could not be built and the towers had to stay uncovered until 1525. Hartmann Schedel printed a view of Munich including the uncovered towers in his famous Nuremberg Chronicle, better known as Schedel's World Chronicle.

By then, nonetheless since more and more rainwater irrupted through the two tower's ceilings, a decision was finally made to expedite the works, however in a much more budget constrant design. This way the building will get its famous domes atop each tower and the church became such a non-interchangeable landmark. Their design was modelled on the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which in turn took a lead from late Byzantine architecture.

Besides from having another parish church, Munich had only 13,000 inhabitants but erected a simple parish church that was able to house a crowd of 20,000. The first has to leave away the church benches in the naves, something most unusual at that time and being a much later addition.

The cathedral suffered severe damage during World War II where the roof collapsed and one of the towers suffered severe damage. A major restoration effort immediately began after the war and was carried out in several stages, the last was told came to an end in 1994. The Frauenkirche was constructed from red brick in the late Gothic style. The building is designed very plainly, without rich Gothic ornaments.

This late Gothic brick building with chapels surrounding the apse is 109 metres long, 40 metres wide, and 37 metres high (the church coverage area). Contrary to a widespread legend that says the 2 towers with their characteristic domes are exactly 1 meter different in height, they are almost looks equal. The north tower is 98.57 metres whilst the south tower is only 98.45 metres, 12 centimetres less. The original design called for pointed spires to top the towers, much like Cologne Cathedral, but those were never built because of lack of money. Instead, the two domes were constructed during the Renaissance and do not match the architectural style of the building, however they have become a distinctive landmark of Munich. I would recommend anyone of you to climb the south tower should you have the opportunity to do so.

The cathedral can hold approximately 20,000 people, and Catholic Mass is still held here regularly. The interior of the cathedral, which is among the largest hall churches in southern Germany, consists of the nave and two side aisles of equal height, 31 metres. The arches were designed by Heinrich von Straubing.

Constructing a church with a capacity of 20,000 is surprising when one considers that the city only had about 13,000 inhabitants at end of the 15th Century. The interior does not overwhelm despite its size because the double-row of 22 metres (72 ft) high columns helps enclose the space. From the main portal the view seems to be only the rows of columns with no windows and translucent walls between the vaults through which the light seems to shine. The spatial effect of the church is connected with a legend about a footprint in a square tile at the entrance to the nave, the so-called "devil's footstep".

Much of the interior was destroyed during World War II. An attraction that survived is the Teufelstritt, or Devil's Footstep, at the entrance. This is a black mark resembling a footprint, which according to legend was where the devil stood when he curiously regarded and ridiculed the 'windowless' church that Halsbach had built. In baroque times the high altar would obscure the one window at the very end of the church visitors can spot now when standing in the entrance hall.

In another version of the legend, the devil made a deal with the builder to finance construction of the church on the condition that it contain no windows. The clever builder, however, tricked the devil by positioning columns so that the windows were not visible from the spot where the devil stood in the foyer. When the devil discovered that he had been tricked, he could not enter the already consecrated church. The devil could only stand in the foyer and stomp his foot furiously, which left the dark footprint that remains visible in the church's entrance today. Legend also says the devil then rushed outside and manifested its evil spirit in the wind that furiously rages around the church.

Some of the interior decorations were lost during the air raids of 1944, but there are still a large number of historic works of arts in the cathedral since most of those objects were brought to a safe location before the air raids took place. Some of the interesting works of art include a painting by Jan Polack from around 1510 and a retable by Friedrich Pacher from 1483.

I hope you guys may find it useful from what I'm sharing thus far, which mostly important for me to recall this place should I have a dementia issue in my old age. That was the main reason why I have to include the historical and the geographical overview of all the places that I visited. It's more for my future reference.

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