Fraumunster, or ‘Church of Our Lady’, is one of the most famous churches in Zurich. First built by King Louis the German in 853AD, most of the current site dates from the mid-13th century, when the Abbess Judenta Hagenbuch undertook renovations of Fraumunster.
History of Fraumunster
Fraumunster was built upon the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard in 853.
In 1045, King Henry III granted the convent a number of privileges, such as the right to hold markets, collect tolls, and mint coins, which effectively made the abbess the ruler of the city.
The convent enjoyed the patronage of kings well into the 13th century, at which point the convent passed into the city of Zurich after the Reformation. The abbey was officially dissolved in 1524.
In 1898, the monastery buildings were destroyed to make room for the new Stadthaus. Though the church was originally Romanesque in style, today it is a predominantly gothic building.
In the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance, Fraumunster is listed as a Class A object of national importance.
Today, the Gothic church is enjoyed by visitors and locals alike as the parish church for one of the city’s 34 reformed parishes. It is one of the most famous buildings in Zurich, with its famous long green steeple punctuating the sky.
Visitors who attend Fraumunster today go to see its Romanesque features. These include 5 large stained glass windows which were installed in 1970, with each featuring a dominant colour and depicting a biblical story, and a rosette in the southern transept.
The organ is another famous feature, with its 5793 pipes making it the largest in the canton of Zurich.
The crypt under the choir was sealed in 1900, but was made public in 2016. Its foundations date back to the 9th century, when the abbey was founded. Inside the crypt is a museum which holds an exhibition of the Reformation in Zurich alongside other information about local architecture and history.
There are a number of church services held there year-round, and admission includes a multilingual audioguide.
Getting to Fraumunster
From the centre of Zurich, Fraumunster is a 10-15 minute scenic walk via the Bahnhofquai and Schipfe or Bahnhofquai and Limmatquai roads. By car, it takes around 5 minutes via the Hirschengraben road. Equally, there is a regular and well-connected tram service – the 13, 4, 7, and 11 – which depart regularly from the city centre and take between 5 and 10 minutes to reach the church.