Ulm Minsteris a Lutheran church located in Ulm, Germany. Although sometimes referred to as Ulm Cathedral because of its great size, the church is not a cathedral as it has never been the seat of abishop. Ulm Minster is a famous example of Gothic ecclesiastical architecture. Like Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom), also begun in the Gothic era, Ulm Minster was not completed until the 19th century. It is the tallest church in the world, and the 4thtallest structure built before the 20th century, with a steeple measuring 161.5 metres (530 ft) and containing 768 steps. From the top level at 143 m (469 ft) there is a panoramic view of Ulm in Baden-Württemberg and Neu-Ulm in Bavaria and, in clear weather, a vista of the Alps from Säntis to the Zugspitze. The final stairwell to the top (known as the third Gallery) is a tall, spiraling staircase that has barely enough room for one person.
In the 14th century, the parish church of Ulm was located outside the walled city. The burghers of Ulm decided to erect a new church within the perimeters of the city and to finance the costs of the erection. In 1377 the foundation stone was laid. The planned church was to have three naves of equal height, a main spire on the west and two steeples above the choir. In 1392 Ulrich Ensingen (associated with Strasbourg Cathedral) was appointed master builder. It was his plan to make the western church tower the tallest spire, which it remains in the present day. The church, consisting of the longitudinal naves and the choir, covered by a temporary roof, was consecrated in 1405. However, structural damage, caused by the height of the naves and the weight of the heavy vaulting, necessitated a reconstruction of the lateral naves which were supported by a row of additional column in their centre. In a referendum in 1530/31, the citizens of Ulm converted to Protestantism during the Reformation. Ulm Minster became a Lutheran church. Although as large as many cathedrals, Ulm is not a cathedral, as the responsible bishop of the Evangelical-Lutheran Church in Württemberg – member of the Evangelical Church in Germany – resides in Stuttgart. In 1543 construction work was halted at a time when the steeple had reached a height of some 100 metres (330 ft). The halt in the building process was caused by a variety of factors which were political and religious (the Reformation, the Thirty Years’ War, the War of the Spanish Succession) as well as economic (the discovery of the Americas in 1492 and of the sea route to India in 1497, leading to a shift in trade routes and commodities). One result was economic stagnation and a steady decline, preventing major public expenditure. In 1817 work resumed and the three steeples of the church were completed. Finally, on 31 May 1890 the building was completed.
- Late medieval sculptures include the tympanum of the main Western entrance depicts scenes from the Genesis. The central column bears a sculpture, the Man of Sorrows, by the local master Hans Multscher.
- The 15th century choir stalls by Jörg Syrlin the Elder, made from oak and adorned with hundreds of carved busts are among the most famous pewsof the Gothic period.
- The pulpit canopy is by Jörg Syrlin the Younger.
- The original main altar was destroyed by the iconoclasts of the Reformation. The current altarpiece from the early 16th century is a triptych, showing figures of the Holy Family and the Last Supper in the predella.
- The five stained glass windows of the apse, which is in the form of half a decagon, show biblical scenes and go back to the 14th and 15th century.
- The main organ of the church was destroyed by iconoclasts and replaced in the late 16th century. In 1763 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is known to have played it. For some decades it was the largest organ in existence. In the late 1960s it was reconstructed to solve acoustic problems ofreverberation.
- In 1877, the Jewish congregation of the synagogue of Ulm – including Hermann Einstein, the father of Albert Einstein – donated money for a statue of the Biblical prophet Jeremiah. The figure was placed below the main organ.
- Later renovations in the modern era added gargoyles and a sculpture, The Beggar, by the expressionist Ernst Barlach.
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