St. Lamberti in Muenster

The Parish and the Church

Parish History


St. Lamberti's church is one of the oldest established churches within the city of Münster standing today, together with the Cathedral, the 'Liebfrauen-Überwasser' church and the 'Mauritz' church. St. Lamberti's church was first recorded at the time of Bishop Hermann II (1174-1203 A.D.). In a document from 1189 A.D., the Bishop announced that he was creating a number of new parishes (St. Ludgeri, St. Martini, and St. Aegidii): "Until now, the parish was led solely by the priest, Father Ernestus." Father 'Ernestus' is the first member of St. Lamberti's clergy whose name we have a record of.

 Town and Market church (c.1850)Town and Market church (c.1850) Therefore, St. Lamberti's church must be even older, perhaps founded in 1090 A.D. This was the year when the so-called second cathedral was sanctified by Bishop Erpho. He was assisted in this ceremony by Archbishop Hermann of Cologne and Bishop Heinrich of Lüttich. Bishop Heinrich of Lüttich may have used this opportunity to bring a relic of St. Lambertus to Münster. St. Lambertus, the Bishop of Maastricht, was murdered on 17th of September, 705 or 706 A.D., in Lüttich.

Latest studies conclude that the worship of St. Lambertus had already been brought from the Lothring area to Münster by the year 1000 A.D., via the 'Cologne Route'. This route runs from Cologne to Münster, Osnabruck, Bremen and Hamburg. At the junction of the Cologne Route, running from south to north (Ludgeri Street - Main Market - Old Fish Market), and Friesen Street, running from west to east (Spieker Courtyard - Rye Market - Old Stoneway), merchants built a market church, the patron of which was St. Lambertus.

From these foundations St. Lamberti's church developed over the following decades and centuries into the principle town and market church and subsequently became the main church for the citizens of Münster.

History of the Building

The present church of St. Lamberti's was preceded by at least three other buildings. During excavation, vast foundations of these former churches were found. According to these discoveries, the first church may have been built on this site around the year 1000 A.D. The present church was built between 1375 and 1450 A.D. It is known as the "biggest and most beautiful church in the city, whilst also being the most highly advanced 'hall building' of the late Gothic period in Westfalen." (Dehio). The tower of the present church was only added between 1887 and 1898, being modelled on the Freiburg Minster. At a height of 90.5m, it was higher than any other towers in the town centre. Until the 19th century, the church had a tower which was 60 metres tall and which clearly displayed the different periods during which it had been built, from the Roman period through to the Gothic and Baroque periods.

This old tower had to be demolished in 1881 because of subsidence. The tower of St. Lamberti's church was mentioned now and again in the minutes of the city council as "specula civitatis" (watchtower of the town) because it also accommodated a fireguard with an alarm and a fire-bell. Even today, the city of Münster employs somebody to act as night watchman in the tower, who blows a horn on each hour.

outside of the churchDuring the Second World War, St. Lamberti's church suffered great damage. The main hall was almost entirely destroyed and the tower was also severely damaged. However, in the late Autumn of 1949, the first service of worship was held in the renovated church. A complete renovation of both the interior and exterior of the church took place between 1976 and 1978.

Description of the Building - The Outside

The south side of St. Lamberti's church, which faces the main market, is elaborately detailed. A high saddle roof, which is firmly joined to the tower half-way up, covers the full width of the church like a tent. Together with the tower, it clearly divides the main market to the north. There are three portals on the south side of St. Lamberti's church. Above the main portal rises an artistically and historically important stone carving from the middle of the 15th century, which illustrates the theme of the root of Jesse; the family tree of Christ. Unfortunately, this work of art is no longer the original because the Baumberger sand-stone which was used as the building material was not weatherproof and therefore this work of art had to be renewed in 1913, along with all the other decorative ornaments. The middle portal depicts the scene at the birth of Christ. The third portal shows Christ as a man in pain between the two "Johns" (both works of art have also been completely renewed).

Especially remarkable are the high windows which are divided into four sections. These show, in the pointed archway, abundant late Gothic period ornaments (...)

Today, in Lamberti's Place, which is the former church graveyard of St. Lamberti's parish, there is a well depicting a farmer's family from the area around Münster. Each year, on the 17th of September, the feast of the patron St. Lambertus is celebrated at this well and the children of Münster perform traditional Lambertus songs.

To this day, there are three cages attached to the tower of the church above the clock. In these cages, the dead bodies of the leaders of the Anabaptist movement (Jan van Leyden, Krechting, Knipperdollinck) were put on display by the Archbishop after their execution on the 22nd January, 1536, as an example to all. The cages were not taken down until the tower was demolished between 1881 and 1898. They were put up again on the new tower which is still in place.

On the outer walls of the church, mainly on the south side, engravings which were nearly all damaged by the Anabaptists are visible...

Translated from the German original: "St. Lamberti in Münster"