Frauenkirche

Landmark par excellence

With its distinctive towers, the Frauenkirche is the city’s most famous landmark.

Visible from far and wide, the two towers of the Frauenkirche jut out against the clouds, shaping Munich’s skyline more than any other building in the city. And the inhabitants of Munich are keen on making sure it stays this way for a long time to come: In 2004, they voted in a city referendum to stop any new buildings in Munich exceeding the height of the Frauenkirche at 98.57 metres.

The Gothic cathedral is the seat of the Archdiocese of Munich and is officially known as "Zu Unserer Lieben Frau" (Cathedral Of Our Dear Lady). Erected by the Munich-based architect and master builder Jörg von Halsbach in the 15th century, the building was constructed using bricks to save money due to the lack of quarries in the region. Apart from the tops of the two towers, the building was completed in 1488 after just 20 years of construction work.

During the War of the Succession of Landshut, cannons were set up on the roofless towers to defend the city against attackers. Their hallmark helmed roofs weren’t added until 1525. The style was adopted from the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, which at the time was thought to be the ancient Solomon’s Temple.

After suffering heavy damage during the air raids of the Second World War, the Frauenkirche was reconstructed between 1948 and 1955 with a plainer design and fewer embellishments. Later stages of renovation saw more ornate features being added on a gradual basis. Today, the cathedral is the seat of the Archbishop of Munich and Freising.

The devil himself is said to have left a footprint at the entrance to the main church.

The Frauenkirche is the subject of a terrifying legend: The devil himself is said to have left a footprint at the entrance to the main church. As with many myths, there are several versions of how the “Teufelstritt” (literally the devil’s footprint) was created. Here is just one of them:

As building work on the Frauenkirche came to an end, the devil crept around the church and was annoyed to find that yet another building had been erected in God’s name. In the entrance hall, he then noticed that the church did not contain a single window and began laughing out loud at the builder’s stupidity.

He leapt up in joy and, when he landed back down on the ground, left behind his footprint. However, when he took another step forwards, he noticed that the church did indeed have windows. They had just been covered by massive pillars and the former Gothic high altar. In anger, he is said to have transformed himself into a powerful storm in an attempt to tear down the church, at which he failed. Even today, you are said to be able to feel his wind in the streets around the Frauenkirche.

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Photo: istock/foottoo