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Grossmünster Church Zurich: All You Need to Know in a Nutshell

(Last Updated On: September 21, 2023)

A must-see sight in Zurich is without a doubt the Grossmünster Church, the iconic landmark of the city with two distinctive towers. There are lots of beautiful stained windows and symbolisms throughout this Romanesque-style Protestant church located in Zurich’s Old Town, despite it not being as ostentatious as its more ornate, baroque counterparts. The following guide will provide you with all the information you need about Grossmünster Church Zurich.

Grossmünster Church Zurich as viewed across the Limmat River
Image of Grossmünster Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

History of Grossmünster Church Zurich

Grossmünster Church Zurich Facade
Image of the Grossmünster Church by TouringSwitzerland.com

Grossmünster is a Protestant church located in Zurich, Switzerland. The church has a rich history and was the catalyst for the Swiss Reformation in the German-speaking region under Huldrych Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger. Zurich’s patron saints, Felix and Regula, are said to have been buried beneath the church. As a tourist attraction and a sacred site, Grossmünster has become a popular tourist destination.

Origins and Construction

Construction of the church began in 1100 and was almost completed in 1220. With robust pillars, durable building materials, and decorative sculptural elements, the cathedral is built in the Romanesque style. There is an atmosphere of special beauty about it.

There are stained glass windows on the front and sides that are quite beautiful and artistic. Also, the building is quite tall, with a central nave and side aisles. This place is dimly lit, without frills, and built for mystery and solemnity.

A prominent feature of the church is its twin towers, which are visible throughout the city. A great example of late Gothic architecture in Switzerland, these towers date back to the 15th century.

Renovations

The church has undergone several renovations during its lifetime. In 1763, a lightning strike hit the bell tower and caused a fire. During the 19th and 20th centuries, the church underwent several restorations to preserve its historic architecture and artwork. In the 1960s, the church’s stained glass windows were replaced with modern designs by Augusto Giacometti, a prominent Swiss artist.

Starting in 2022, renovations at Grossmünster Church will be conducted in stages until likely 2027 or 2028. Structure work includes equipping the towers and roof with extinguishing systems, adding technical and storage rooms, and making the building more accessible to the disabled.

Today, Grossmünster is one of the most visited tourist attractions in Zurich, drawing in half a million visitors per year. It continues to serve as an important religious and cultural center for the city and the country.

Protestant Reformation

During the Swiss Protestant Reformation, Grossmünster played a significant role in changes to civil life and state affairs. The church’s most famous reformer was Huldrych Zwingli, who preached there from 1520. During his tenure as a people’s priest in Grossmünster, Huldrych Zwingli created works on the reform of the Catholic Church. These works addressed topics such as fasting during Lent, clerical marriage, and expository preaching.

Heinrich Bullinger, who succeeded him, coauthored the Helvetic Confessions and worked closely with John Calvin. Besides being a theologian, he was an accomplished writer. Despite its age, Buillinger’s Helvetic Confessions remain a standard in reformed churches. Besides topics related to the Church, his extensive writings covered history and letters as well.

Grossmünster Church Zurich: What to Expect

The Grossmünster Church is an outstanding example of Romanesque architecture. Despite several renovations and restorations over the years, the church’s original design remains intact. It is a popular tourist attraction in Zurich and a recognizable landmark.

The Main Portal and Karlsturm Tower

Grossmünster Church Zurich Main Portal
Image of the Main Portal of Grossmünster Zurich by TouringSwitzerland.com

A richly decorated main portal with Romanesque figures welcomes you. Swiss sculptor Otto Münch created them. The bronze doors of Grossmünster Church are a sight to behold. One of the finest examples of bronze work in Switzerland, the doors feature intricate carvings.

Motives found here include:

  • The Ten Commandments
  • Confession of faith
  • Our Father’s Prayer
  • Mothers from Jesus’ genealogy

Grossmünster Church is impressive and imposing from the outside. Through a narrow staircase, you can climb to the top of the Karlsturm Tower. You can enjoy the city and the lake after climbing 187 steps and reaching a height of 50 meters.

Interior of Grossmünster Church Zurich

As impressive as the exterior is the interior of the Grossmünster Church. One of the most striking features of the church is its height and spaciousness, and the lack of intricate baroque elements. There is a large nave flanked by two aisles in the church. In addition to the sparse altar, there are no statues.

Intricate carvings adorn the massive columns supporting the nave. You will see reliefs of Felix and Regula, the city’s patron saints, as well as six men involved in a battle.

The crypt, at the oldest part of the Grossmünster, is located on the left side of the church, along with the pulpit, added in 1853.

Stained Glass Windows

Grossmünster Church Zurich Glass Windows
Image of the Stained Glass Windows inside Grossmünster Church by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Grossmünster Church is famous for its stunning stained glass windows. The most prominent are the Christmas Windows designed by Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti, in the 1930s.

The colorful windows depict scenes from the Bible and are a testament to the skill and artistry of the craftsmen who created them. With vibrant colors, these window shows Mary, the infant Jesus, two of the three Magi, and angels.

Polke Windows

Grossmünster Church Zurich Polke Agate Windows
Image of a Polke Agate Window by TouringSwitzerland.com

The Grossmünster Church contains twelve stained glass windows that were completed by Sigmar Polke, a German painter, and photographer. Seven windows are filled with colorful agates, which depict Earth’s history. Also present are five figurative windows inspired by the gospel, including “King David” and “Elijah’s Ascension”.

As a whole, the artifacts of Grossmünster Church illustrate Zurich’s rich history and culture. By visiting the church, visitors can appreciate the city’s heritage and admire these impressive works of art.

Grossmünster Church Zurich: Practical Information

  • Opening Hours: You can visit the Grossmünster Church all year long during its opening hours. Please confirm the opening hours on their website www.grossmuenster.ch.
  • Worship Services: The Grossmünster Church offers weekly worship services that are open to the public. It also offers worship services during major church holidays.
  • Guided Tours: Guided tours are available in German. French and English tours are available upon request. You can check www.grossmuenster.ch for more information.
  • Climbing Karlsturm Tower: Climbing the Karlsturm Tower can be done for an additional fee of CHF 5 per person.
  • Bible Collection: Visiting the Bible Collection can be done for an additional fee of CHF 5 per person.

How to Get to Grossmünster Church Zurich

Grossmünster Church Zurich in Limmat
Image of Grossmünster Church by TouringSwitzerland.com

You can reach Grossmünster Church easily either from Zurich’s train stations or from the old town. The church is situated in Zurich’s Old Town, so I recommend walking there, but you may also take the tram or boat. Although I would discourage car travel, nearby parking spaces are available if you decide to do so.

AddressGrossmünsterplatz
8001 Zürich
TramHelmhaus (Trams 3, 4, 11, 15)
BoatZurich Storchen
Train– Zurich Hauptbahnhof (12-minute walk)
– Zurich Stadelhofen (7-minute walk)
Car– Hirschengraben 15, 8001 Zürich (7-minute walk)
– Rämistrasse 22A, 8001 Zürich (8-minute walk)

Final Thoughts: Grossmünster Church Zurich

Grossmünster Church Zurich Karlsturm Towers
Image of the Grossmünster Church Bell Towers by TouringSwitzerland.com

Visiting Grossmünster Church is an important part of experiencing Zurich’s rich history and cultural heritage. While the church’s interior may seem simple to those used to baroque churches and cathedrals, it is filled with fascinating symbols that reflect its long and varied history. You can admire the stunning and colorful stained-glass windows, which were designed by renowned Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti, as well as the twelve Polke windows on both sides of the church.

Despite its simplicity, Grossmünster Church is considered one of the most important churches in Switzerland. It became an essential place for the Swiss Reformation in the 16th century, with prominent figures such as Ulrich Zwingli and Heinrich Bullinger preaching there.

Today, the church continues to serve as a symbol of Zurich’s religious and cultural identity. It is a popular destination for tourists and locals alike. Due to its central location in the heart of the city, it is included in almost every visitor’s itinerary when visiting Zurich’s many attractions.

Overall, a visit to Grossmünster Church is an essential part of any trip to Zurich. I highly recommend that you stop by even just for a while.


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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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