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Discover St. Martin’s Church in Chur, Switzerland

Last Updated on September 21, 2023 by Darla Uhl

St. Martin’s Church was named for St. Martin, the third Bishop of Tours. Originally a Catholic Church, it’s now the largest Protestant Church in Canton Graubünden (Grisons). Close to St. Martin’s Square, it’s right in the heart of Chur’s Old Town.

St. Martin’s Church dates back to the 8th century. As the oldest parish church in Chur along with the Cathedral, it’s located in the area of the early medieval city expansion.

Image of St. Martin’s Church in Chur by TouringSwitzerland.com

History of St. Martin’s Church in Chur

Chur’s Old Town with St. Martin’s Church in the Center. Image was taken inside the Raetian Museum by TouringSwitzerland.com.

St. Martin’s Church is believed to have first been mentioned at the end of the 8th century, but it may have been at the beginning of the 9th century. There’s no exact date, though.  It was Emperor Otto I who handed over half of Chur and the St. Martin’s Church in 928. 

It is the largest late-Gothic building in the Canton of Graubünden. The church in the old town was a center for the Reformation in Chur starting in 1523.

There’s a four-bay nave with an aisle in the north and a three-bay polygonal chancel. A continuous gable roof covers both the nave and chancel. Stones like limestone, scalara slate, and crystalline formations make up the walls of the Church.

Renovations at Chur’s St. Martin’s Church

Image of St. Martin’s Church in Chur by TouringSwitzerland.com

There was almost complete destruction of the church after the great town fire in 1464. The church was rebuilt by the Upper Austrian master Stefan Klain from Freistadt. After it was rebuilt, its architecture changed to the late Gothic style. Lorenz Schill replaced Stefan Klain as the tower’s master builder in 1491 after Klain passed away.

Under the direction of Otto Schäfer and Martin Risch, the church was renovated again between 1917 and 1918. Throughout the last century, the church has suffered serious damage. There were shapeless light holes, ugly overpaint on the pillar blocks, and unattractive vault ribs. The pulpit was also positioned and seated wrong. The place was dark and unfriendly. 

Glass Windows by Augusto Giacometti

Image of a Glass Window by Augusto Giacometti, St. Martin’s Church, Chur by TouringSwitzerland.com

In the wake of the renovations, the building was reopened and greatly enhanced. During this time, stained glass was installed on the south wall of the nave. The pulpit was also moved and the seating was oriented uniformly.

Since 1919, three glass windows by artist Augusto Giacometti feature in this church. The glass windows tell the Christmas story – in the Annunciation, Birth, and Adoration. In perfect harmony with the Gothic aesthetic, these are presented uniformly, like a mosaic. As a result of the new stained glass windows, the lighting, spatial effect, and atmosphere also improved dramatically. 

St. Martin’s Church was again renovated in 1989 and 1990. A combination of contributions from large and small donors and public money has helped renovate the tower and church through the years.

How to Get to St. Martin’s Church in Chur

AddressKirchgasse 12, 7000 Chur
TrainChur Altstadt
BusChur, Fontanaplatz or Chur, Malteser

Final Words: St. Martin’s Church in Chur

Image of the Tower of St. Martin’s Church in Chur by TouringSwitzerland.com

Historically, St. Martin’s is a very venerable and important church. In case you’re visiting Chur, it’s one of the best places to go. It’s a historically protected place.

Don’t forget to look at the windows when you’re inside St. Martin’s Church. Augusto Giacometti did a great job of maintaining the brightness that a Reformed church wants. 

Resources

  • Descœudres, Georges and Augustin Carigiet. Archäologische Untersuchungen an der Kirche St. Martin. Zeitschrift für Schweizerische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, Band 47, 1990.
  • Jegher, A & C. Die Renovation der St. Martinskirche in Chur. Architekten Schäfer & Risch in Chur. Schweizerische Bauzeitung, 3. Januar 1920.

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Darla Uhl is the owner of TouringSwitzerland.com. Her home is in the German-speaking part of Switzerland. Having lived almost 20 years in Switzerland, she's traveled extensively all over the country.

Darla's favorite regions to visit in Switzerland include Engadin, Lake Geneva, Bernese Oberland, Ticino, and Valais. She loves spending time with her family, hiking, visiting museums, and reading books.

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