World’s Tallest Church and One Fantastic Castle

Ulm Münster
Ulm Münster
Tallest church spire up close
Tallest church spire up close

I’m still in awe over this past weekend’s sights!  James, Steve, and I set off by car on Saturday in search of two unforgettable buildings.  First we headed to Ulm, a town a little less than three hours southeast from us whose Ulm Münster (“Minster” in English, which is apparently a word for a stately church) boasts the tallest church spire in the world.  Nearly every aspect of the church was covered in intricate art, from the unique stone gargoyles on each part of the roof outside to the tall stained glass windows and carved wooden biblical figures inside.  Originally begun in 1377, the construction of the church was not completely finished until 1890.  For a few centuries its assembly was suspended due to lack of funds, which came entirely from the townsfolk.  During this extensive period, the town and their church also shifted from Catholic to Lutheran.

One of many stained glass windows in Ulm Münster
One of many stained glass windows in Ulm Münster
Main aisle view
Main aisle view
Angel statue from the back of the church - eerie and striking
Angel statue from the back of the church – eerie and striking

We were allowed to climb a good deal of the 161.5 meter (530 feet) spire by way of a spiral staircase just about wide enough for one person.  From a walkway at that height we were able to oversee the town market taking place in the square below.  Further exploring led us to a dark room in the middle of the spire with a large basket on a pulley over a wide covered cylinder.  A glimpse through small windows on the cover revealed the hollow inside of the spire, and it seemed the basket could be used like an elevator to transport materials.

Taking a break from climbing to view Ulm's market
Taking a break from climbing to view Ulm’s market
A view of Ulm from the Spire
A view of Ulm from the Spire
And the spire keeps going!
And the spire keeps going!

From this amazing site we drove about an hour west in the direction of home and stopped at Schloss Lichtenstein, which is my favorite castle that I’ve seen so far (for now!).  The original castle was built as a fortress in a slightly different location by the Knights of Lichtenstein during the middle ages.  It was destroyed in 1377 and rebuilt in its current location in about 1390.  And what a location!  While not a huge building, the castle sits upon a tall sheer stone column that drops away and eventually ends in the hillside that lords over the humble town of Lichtenstein.

Entering Schloss Lichtenstein
Entering Schloss Lichtenstein
My favorite view of Schloss Lichtenstein
My favorite view of Schloss Lichtenstein

It’s truly like a castle out of a fairy tale.  To tour the building, we crossed a wooden bridge over the abyss to reach the entry gate.  We were unfortunately only allowed to look (no photos) at the ornately painted walls, colorful ceramic stoves, and carved wooden decorations inside.  The castle (a Schloss is a showier castle than a more practical/defensive Burg) is still owned by the Dukes and Counts of Württemberg.  In addition to a secret passage, Schloss Lichtenstein has a number of historically interesting artifacts.  Among these are death masks of Napoleon, Goethe, Schiller, and the Duke of Württemberg.  Also a mirror in a room that honors the Württemberg ancestors bears evidence of a World War II attack.  A fragment from an explosion had ricocheted around the room and put a small distinct hole and a radiating crack through the mirror that remain today.

Town view from the Schloss
Town view from the Schloss

We followed up the tour with another typical German “coffee time” that included tea and Grießkuchen, a heavier cheesecake than the one we tried the week before.  Next weekend holds new adventures in another country:  Scotland!

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