St Paulus Dom in Münster- A Small Cathedral with an AMAZING Clock
Unfortunately, the St Paulus Dom Münster seldom makes it onto anyone’s must-see bucket list. It’s just not very big (compared to the Cologne Cathedral, it’s downright small). And, it has a lot of competition in Münster! As churches go, it takes second place to the much more famous Lamberti Kirche. (Face it, cages hanging off of the spire will lure people in.) And the Friedensaal, in the center of the city, has serious historical legacy, being the spot where they signed the Peace of Westphalia to end the Thirty Years War. It’s a shame really, because the St Paulus Dom has some interesting features that definitely make it worth a visit.
St Paulus Dom in Münster
You will find St Paulus Dom in the center of the ring on the Domplatz in Münster. (From the Domplatz you can follow the spokes out to any part of the old city.) I love that the official description states that the St Paulus Cathedral sits on the Horsteberg. “Berg” implies an imposing mountain! Since the Münsterland is like a tabletop, it’s all relative, Horsteber is a small hill that you probably won’t even notice (leave your hiking boots at home).
Say “guten Tag” to St Christopher you walk in. He’s the one holding a baby and walking stick (usually made from a small tree). According to lore, St Christopher was a giant who carried the infant Jesus and the weight of the world across a raging river. (Today he’s the patron saint of travelers, so it can’t hurt to check in.) Despite the near destruction of the Cathedral in World War II, the St Christopher statue only took a little bit of damage, and has stood for over 380 years! The tree/staff in his hand gets replaced from time to time.
As you walk down the central Aisle of the Cathedral, you may notice that it feels somewhat “plain” in comparison to many of the grand European Cathedrals. But remember, the St Paulus Dom was almost completely destroyed during WWII. And before this, in the early 1500s, the Iconoclasts of the Anabaptist rebellion destroyed much of the Cathedral’s art as well as its original Astronomical Clock. Some sources say that the towers were originally topped by spires, which were also destroyed to make high flat vantage points for Anabaptist look-outs and cannons. Today the Frauenkirche is still flat… while St Paulus has small pyramids on top of the towers.
St Paulus Dom Modern Stained Glass
Many of the stained glass windows are done in a Modern Style by Georg Meisterman between 1985 and 1990. They depict biblical stories in an abstract geometric style. The biggest change was the very controversial Western wall. (The wall facing away from the Alter).
The western Wall… Once the Main Entrance…
Originally, this was a main doorway or portal into the Cathedral (since it faced the Prinz-Bishop’s Castle) which was topped by a beautiful Rose Window… but today it’s a rather flat wall with 12 small round modern windows surrounding 4 other small round modern windows. After the destruction of the Western Portal during WWII, Archbishop Keller hired Emil Steffan und Fritz Thoma to create something future-looking for the Cathedral. Unfortunately for him, there was incredible outrage when the door was closed up, and the “new: windows revealed in 1956. The whole city was up in arms about the changes, and many nasty letters were written to the papers. The new windows were (not too politely) referred to as “Seelen Brause” (Soul Shower Head) and Keller Fenster (Cellar Windows… a nasty slam at the Bishop’s name) and my personal favorite “Himmel’s Telefon” (Heaven’s Rotary Telephone).
The Rotary Phone…
St Paulus Astronomical Clock
The Astronomical Clock in Münster
The “new” Astronomical Clock is (in my opinion) the BEST reason to visit the St Paulus Dom in Münster. It was begun just 6 years after the destruction of the original. The main purpose of the clock was to determine the exact date of Easter, which became a bit more complicated after the switch to the Gregorian Calendar. (Easter is the first Sunday after the first full moon after the Vernal equinox… so you need to know the moon’s phases 6 weeks in advance to prepare).
It is a marvel of engineering! Unlike most clocks, the face has all 24 hours on it. AND it runs COUNTER-CLOCKWISE so that the hands follow the sun. The main hand that tells time is decorated with a sun and a rainbow. Five other hands indicate the positions of Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Saturn and Mercury in the heavens. The moon’s phases are indicated by a slowly rotating ball. You will see references to the Four Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John in the corners of the clock. And down either side of the clock are boards that show the names of which Roman gods rule that day.
Death and Chronos
Every quarter of an hour small figures of Death and Chronos ring in the time. And at noon, the Three Magi circle the image of the Virgin and child in a procession that keeps in time with the church bells.
Astronomical Clock St. Pauls Cathedral Münster from Thomas Sommer on Vimeo.
The Best Time to See St Paulus Dom Münster
The best times to wander in to see the St Paulus Dom in Münster would be either Wednesday or Saturday at Noon. Why? The Domplatz hosts the Wochenmarkt (weekly Farmer’s Market) on those days! Stop by, say hello to St Christopher, imagine making a phone call on Heaven’s Rotary phone, and enjoy the show at the Astronomical Clock. Then head back out and enjoy a stand up lunch at one of the stalls in the Market (may I suggest the Potato Pancakes?).
The US Army sent me to Handorf, now part of Münster in January 1970. During my nearly two and a half years there, I explored every inch of the city on foot. I have seen the clock strike noon hundreds of times. My friends in Münster say I know the area better than they do. Maybe so, but I visit the church and the clock everytime I go “home.” I forgot to say, my eldest son was baptized in St Paul’s on Thanksgiving Day 1971.
WOW! Sounds like I need you as my tour guide!