Schaffhausen - Munsterplatz

Schaffhausen - solar clock in Munsterplatz

Day 2 of our vacation started with a tour of the center of the city of Schaffhausen. After finding a good parking place we crossed the street towards the historic old town, and found ourselves in the Munsterplatz. The style of the decorated buildings, some of them with exterior frescoes catches the eyes and I shall talk about some of the most beautiful of them in the next episode. One building however attracted our attention for the solar clock and the inscription indicating that the building was bombed in 1944 and rebuilt in 1945. This is related to one of the strange episodes of World War II – Schaffhausen being the only city in neutral Switzerland bombed by the allies during the war, on April 1st, 1944 and then again in February 1945. Although the allies claimed that the air force mistakenly bombed the town located close to the German border, is is suspected that the bombing may have been intentional, as some industries in the town were suppliers for the German army.

the Schaffhausen Muster zu Allerheiligen

The Munster zu Allerheiligen (All Saints Minster) was our first objective of the day. Believe it ir not, it is actually the first time I made the connection between the German word munster, the English minster and ministry, and the Romanian manastire. The first church on the site was built in 1049 under pope Leo IX, while the current building’s foundations were laid by the end of the 11th century, with the first part of the current building being finished by 1103. The next centuries saw the development of the cathedral, the building of the Romanesque tower and of the cloister in Romanesque-Gothic style, the largest in Switzerland.

Munster - West Portal bronze door

The access to the church is through a massive bronze door in the West Portal, created in 1959 by Otto Charles Banninger (1897-1973), representing the descend from the cross, and the symbols of the 4 evangelists, with a door handle in the form of a crown of thorns.

bronze bust of Albert Schweitzer

Immediately after entering the church, on the left, one can find the bust of the theologian, doctor and philosofer Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965), winner of the Nobel price for peace in 1952.

Munster - glass windows and tapestry

It’s a reformed church today, so the overall impression of of austerity and simplicity, enhancing the architectural elements of the building. 12 monolithic columns sustain the building, symbolizing the 12 apostles. On one of the them the capital has split and is held together with an iron brace – this is “Juda’s column”. The beautiful colored glass windows representing Jesus flanked by angels were made by Carl Roesch and below hangs a tapestry representing the Last Judgment by Lissy Funk.

Munster - detail of the Credo-frieze

It is however the few remains of the original medieval church paintings that deserve most of the attention for their beauty and originality. By the time of the Lutheran reformation in the 16th century most of the altars and cult objects were removed, and the original walls painted over. We were to meet this pattern of reformation taking over the Catholic churches and bringing essential changes to their appearance several times later in the trip in this area which was by the middle of the previous millennium on the line of conflict between Catholicism and Reformation. The little that was saved and restored in the Schaffhausen Munster has however the advantage of being authentic and has a remarkable artistic value. A Credo-frieze includes 12 beautiful medallions from the mid-15th century …

Munster - enthroned Mary with child

… and on one of the pillars a picture of the enthroned Mary with the child Jesus from around 1400 brings a striking resemblance to the Byzantine iconic representations and the later Russian icons descending from the same tradition.

Munster - squires cemetery in the cloister

We continued the visit in the interior cloister. Part of it hosts what was a cemetery in the walls of the minster for the noble squires of the city, with elaborated tombstones bearing witness of past times and men who were important enough to be buried here.

Munster cloister - herb garden

The gardens also include the huge Schiller bell cast in 1486 (Schiller never visited the place but wrote a famous poem about it based on a mention by Goethe) and the herb garden – kind of a botanical garden with elegant arcades on one of its sides. The smaller St. Anna chapel used by the Catholic community was unfortunately closed the day our visit.