It is the tallest church building in the world and the fascinating story behind its origin
The tallest church is in the German city of Ulm, and it’s a humble modern marvel to see in person.
Ulm Minster towers over all the other buildings around it and is now the tallest church in the world. It is a Lutheran church located in the city of Ulm in the important German state of Baden-Württemberg. Prior to the 20th century, it was the fifth tallest structure in the world. But its much-vaunted status as the world’s tallest church isn’t expected to last very long.
Although it may seem like building cathedrals is a thing of the past, the Sagrada Familia is still under construction (as it has been for over a hundred years) and it is destined to surpass this giant church.
History and background of the church
Although this church is sometimes referred to as a cathedral due to its size, it is actually a church. It has never been the episcopal seat of a bishop – a condition required to be designated a cathedral.
Like other great constructions like the Sagrada Familia (but unlike the Great Pyramid), the construction of this church took a long time. Construction began during the period of Gothic architecture in the late Middle Ages, but it was not completed until the 19th century. The church remained unfinished for centuries. Construction began in 1377. It was not completed until 1890.
- Height: 530 feet or 161.5 meters to the top of the steeple
When work ceased in the 16th century, the church was nearly complete. The church itself was complete, but the towers and some of the exterior decorations were still incomplete.
- Climb the tower: Currently it is not possible to climb the tower
- Capacity of the church: 20,000 people
The original intention to build this massive church is rather surprising. The reason was that in the 1300s, when it was built, it was dangerous to step outside the city walls. At that time there were frequent periods of war and the old parish was located outside the defensive walls. Thus, it was often dangerous for devotees at that time.
The church was originally to have three naves of equal height, the main spire and two steeples above the choir. The weight of the naves and the weight of the vault caused damage to the structure. This required rebuilding and strengthening.
The church changed from Catholicism to Protestantism in 1530/31. This followed the outbreak of the Protestant Reformation and the local referendum in Ulm to convert to Protestantism. In the year 1543, funds ran out and construction ceased. The construction of the church was financed by the townspeople and not by the state or the church.
- 613 years: Duration of the completion of the church
World War II firebombing
In one of the tragedies of World War II, the Western Allies engaged in extensive firebombing of German cities and deliberately targeted civilians. The Allies at different points around the world sought to destroy Germany’s finest medieval towns. After the war, many of these towns were no more than heaps of smoking rubble.
Ulm was also the target, during a raid 1,449 tons of bombs were dropped on the city and at the end of the campaign only 1,763 of the city’s 12,756 buildings remained intact. As the town was razed and destroyed around it, miraculously the church survived virtually unscathed. About 80% of the medieval town was destroyed.
A rather odd problem with the church today is a large number of people emptying their bladders around the church structure. The problem is the adjacent Musterplatz, which attracts large crowds of people, but events often don’t have enough toilets. Acids and salts degrade the sandstone foundations of the church and lead to costly repairs.
Public access today
Today the church is open to visitors. For visitors who feel up to it, they can climb the 768 steps to the top of the spire. Don’t expect an elevator! Be careful, the third and last spiral staircase barely has enough room for one person to pass. The views from this height offer great panoramic views of the city of Ulm as well as the town of Neu-Ulm in Bavaria.
Today, it remains a vibrant and vibrant church that hosts more than 1,000 church services and other events each year.
- Opening hours: Mon-Sun: 10 a.m.—5 p.m.
- Opening hours: April-September 9 a.m.–7 p.m.
- Admission cost: Adults: 5 euros ($6)
For those traveling to southern Germany, Ulm Münster is truly a must-see. He has an incredible story. It took 613 years to build, it’s the tallest church building in the world, and it’s a survivor. It is a monument to perseverance and human engineering and a national treasure of today’s Germany.
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