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Witness of troubled times

St. Lamberti church on the northern end of Prinzipalmarkt street is dedicated to the bishop of Maastricht who was killed between 698 and 708 for criticizing the powers that be as the legend has it. Unlike the more “status imposing” St. Paul cathedral, parishioners of St. Lamberti church were people of a lower class – traders, craftsmen, families of well-off citizens. The foundation for the present building was laid in 1375. The famous 90-metre-tall tower was finished in the 19th century. The church is considered to be one of the important monuments of the late gothic architecture in Westphalia.

The church obtained its main “decoration” in the 16th century. In 1534-1535 radical Anabaptists led by Jan Matthys (and after his death by John of Leiden) organized a commune in Münster, having banished the bishop and citizens who were unhappy with the changes. Church property was confiscated, money, private property, and marriage abolished. The rule of Anabaptists lasted for 14 months, after which the forces of the bishop of Münster won the city back. John of Leiden and his closest comrades Bernd Krechting and Bernd Knipperdolling were executed. Their bodies in iron cages were hung for everyone to see on the tower of the St. Lamberti church. This stern reminder about the troubled time has been preserved until today, having survived several restorations.

A curious detail: St. Lamberti church still has the position of the tower keeper (Türmerin), first mentioned in 1383. The keeper is on patrol at the top of the tower every evening (except Tuesday) from 21:00 till midnight. Every half an hour he must blow a copper horn to notify townsfolk that everything is quiet in Münster. Today the position of the tower keeper is more decorative. It requires skills of communicating with press, good lungs and not being afraid of the height – you can only reach your working place by a steep spiral staircase. In January 2014 this job was for the first time trusted to a woman – musicologist Martje Saljé. 

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