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Located in southwest Germany, in Baden-Wurttemberg, the city was not recorded historically until 854 C.E., recognized as a town in 1165. Ulm became a free town of the Holy Roman Empire in 1274, and was a leader in the Swabian League from 1376 to 1534, ruling a considerable territory north of the Danube. Swabia itself was a Medieval Duchy controlling what is now southwest Baden-Wurttemberg, the Black Forest, parts of Western Bavaria, as well as northern Switzerland. The city was situated at the intersection of major European long distance overland routes, which resulted in Ulm becoming one of the greatest commercial centers and one of the most powerful cities of the medieval empire. Ulm reached its zenith in the 15th century.

Changes in international trade routes during the 15th and 16th centuries, and the religious wars in Germany, primarily the Thirty Years War (1618-48), caused its decline. Ulm accepted the Reformation in 1530 and was a member of the Schmalkaldic League. The city and its territory lost their imperial status in 1802 when Napoleon annexed it to Bavaria at the Diet of Regensburg. Napoleon defeated the entire Austrian Army at the Battle of Ulm in 1805, and his Grande Armée sacked the city. Ulm was transferred to Wurttemberg in 1810. Bavaria built Neu-Ulm on the opposite shore of the Danube, which forms the Stadt (city) boundary there.

Industrial development of Ulm dates from the 19th century. In World War II more than half of the city, including many old and historic buildings, was destroyed; most of the major historic buildings have since been restored. As an aside, Albert Einstein was born in Ulm, undoubtedly much to the chagrin of Adolph Hitler. Though Einstein only spent the first 15 months of his life there, he is proudly quoted by locals as having said: “…a person’s birthplace is a part of who he is, and I am thankful that mine was Ulm, since it combines artistic tradition with pure and healthy character.” In fact there were major celebrations and activities in Ulm throughout the year 2004, marking the 125th anniversary of the birth of Einstein.

CATHEDRAL: Known today as “ULM MÜNSTER” (German: variant of minster, muenster)

Some cathedrals, especially in Germany and also in England, are titled ”minster,” or a variation thereof. The American Heritage Dictionary defines the word as being primarily British, referring to a monastery church, and derived from Vulgar Latin monisterium. In Germany the titles “Münster” (with its own spelling variations above) and “Minster” appear interchangeable, sometimes appearing within the same piece of literature, and refer to Protestant churches. There was a Franciscan monastery on the site (it had been converted into a “Gymnasium”), which was demolished during final construction of the church in 1874, so there could be a tie-in semantically.

The church is late German Gothic (sometimes called “Sondergotik,” which means “special gothic”), begun in 1377 with major construction through1492 (finished in late 1890 according to 15th century designs); the openwork, single spire is the highest of any religious structure anywhere. To quote another source: “…excellence in masonry and poverty in design.” I usually do not credit such sources, but pass them on for your consideration (if you must know, it’s Sir Bannister Fletcher in his A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method. As Fox News exclaims after presenting information, and as I have stated above: “We report, you decide.” So, view our illustrations – better yet, visit the site - then form your own conclusions, because architecture, like art, is NOT a science as far as visuals, feelings, and emotions evoked are concerned. I can only assume that because this building is neither in France nor Greece, that such a personal attack could conceivably emanate. Personally, I find such a criticism baseless, and, if I might push the envelope here, architecturally blasphemous.

The famous Gothic Munster, begun in 1377, is the second largest Gothic church in Germany following Cologne Cathedral (area-wise) and has the world's highest church tower of at least 161 meters (528'). Now we come to the matter of the actual height: a multitude of sources indicate 528 or 529 feet, as written above. However, the Minster itself has signs that indicated to us, as we ascended, that the height is 193 meters (633'). Further discrepancies: one source indicates there are 768 steps, while another states 786 – could be a dyslexic reaction. While neither of these anomalies is earth shaking, the situations are basic and should have specific answers. Regrettably, my son and I did not count the steps on our way up or down. The experience was unlike any other. Prior to ascending Ulm’s Münster, the tallest structure we had climbed previously was the Cathedral of Cologne, whose towers (see above) reach 157.3 meters (516') , but the climbing access is only about 100.5 meters (330'). Apart from forgetting to count steps, this ascent was the first time I ever considered aborting the climb. You will see some pictures illustrating that ascent, but it is not possible to contemplate the repetitive nature of the spiral stairs, the physical conditioning necessary, combined with the fact that it is possible to fall through the openings of the rather thin stone walls of the tower, AND the rather large openings in those walls. It is an extraordinary experience, culminating in exhilarating vistas. I urge students with an extra bit of curiosity to attempt to straighten out the contradictory items mentioned here.

We’re going to spend a bit more time here than usual because of certain conditions physically adjacent to the Cathedral – that of a relatively new complex – as modern as can be – by Richard Meier. This segment will show the very successful juxtaposition of late 20th century Bauhaus-influenced design (the Meier complex) and a Gothic structure in existence for 631 years at this writing in 2008.


In 1993 the American Architect Richard Meier was commissioned to design a “Stadthaus” or “city house” (as a literal translation). In reality, the new complex can best be described as being a tourist information center, providing information, communication facilities, and civic presentations to both local residents as well as tourists. The site is on the grounds of the Münster (Münsterplatz), the landmark of this city on the banks of the Danube. Because of the age of the Münster, in addition to its overwhelming height, the site is representative of almost seven centuries of European culture, development, and symbolism.

Local on-line sites give homage to the buildings on the shared site by stating: “…(the buildings) together form a provocative and exciting contrast.” Further: “From the hall, from the exhibition room flooded with light and from the terraces, the ‘Stadthaus’ offers new views of the dominating cathedral building which have never been available before.”

Let us look at some of those views:

A glimpse of the tower of the Münster as seen through open concrete work framing the entrance to underground facilities in Meier's design.

Stepping back a bit, we sense the strong horizontals of Meier’s composition, framed against the multitude of verticals of the tower.

The Müenster as seen through the windows of Meier’s café.

The view inspired a bier drinker to sketch. You will indulge a proud father – this is my middle son Rahm, just prior to shipping off to Baghdad.

As noted above in our discussion of Notre Dame in Paris, Meier has a knack for opening his own building to view another. Repeating the illustration above.

Some lessons to be learned here, at least for the moment, for we shall return to the Meier composition during our ascent of the tower, and after leaving the Münster. As discussed previously, words can sometimes disguise reality. Words such as “typography,” “hierarchy,” “datum,” and “contextuality” among many others are often used to describe “necessary” design elements. The curse of the Post Modern movement in Architecture was (hopefully past-tense at your reading, but the blight continues to infest our cities at this writing) that additions and new structures had to conform to the old, to the adjacent, to the surrounding. Hopefully you will see that in this complex it is not only NOT necessary to conform, but the opposite can infuse joyous life into urban space.

In this example, rather than even attempt to conform to, match, or compete with the soaring tower (realize it is the height of a fifty to sixty story building), Meier seemingly chose to contrast elements of his design with that tower. Additionally, Meier not only does not block our view of the landmark, he opens his building to enable our viewing that tower. Again, more revealing details of empathy for the original city attraction will follow.

Actually, Sir Norman Foster did this in his multi-use building (it is a combination of a 'mediatheque' and visual art gallery) opposite the Maison Carrée, his Carré d'Art in Nîmes (see SESSION FOUR above). To quote Foster + Partners' web site:

The Carré d'Art shows how a building project, backed by an enlightened political initiative, can not only encourage a dialogue between ancient and modern architectures but can also provide a powerful catalyst for reinvigorating the social and physical fabric of a city. The challenge was to relate the new to the old, but at the same time to create a building that represented its own age with integrity.”


These illustrations show the way in which Medieval churches would overlook their communities. In our discussion of Chartres in SESSION EIGHT above, mention was made of the possibly incorrect use of the word “dominate.” Ulm is a good example. The Dom is there; no doubt about having a fifty to sixty-story structure in your front or back yard – but the tower appears almost pleasant, certainly benign, and its symbolism had to have been – indeed, must still be - a comfort that therein lies sanctuary for its faithful. Unfortunately, the benevolent feeling would have been lost on those persecuted for having a different faith, and who found themselves being thrown out of town or set on fire. But speaking generally of a work of Architecture, indeed a masterpiece of construction combined with aesthetics, these views manifest the power of Architecture. And could any design of such magnitude be more graceful or more elegant to the eye?

We begin our approach to the Münsterplatz by walking down a pedestrian way, where Meier’s Stadthaus is seen across the platz. The following illustrations will culminate with our first glimpse of the base of the tower, which houses the entrance to the Münster. Just follow the illustrations below.

This last illustration has some of the base protected by scaffolding; fortunately, a recent return visit revealed the main portal.

This view is much more than of normal interest. It reveals a porch, something we have not seen for some time, but which was common in early church building (see St. Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna, in SESSION FIVE above). We will get into the reinforcements necessary to contain structural forces of the huge tower, but for the moment realize that the three arches of this porch are contained within the pier buttresses on the north and south sides of the porch.

As an architectural feature, the rather delicate arches are obviously not doing any heavy structural supporting, but really serve as a visual interjection, acting as a dimensional transition between the platz outside and the church within. Such a screening effect acts like a filter (it has also become a common basketball maneuver, “screen” that is), in that it separates “there” from “here.” It can officially be described as an “outer narthex.” Once within such a design (the porch) you can sense arrival with minimum separation from where you have been; yet the feeling is there. This is a serious principle, and yet another example of how design elements, not specific details, can be used to teach us how to create. There is lot to discuss, just within this porch itself, but it would be best to present our usual background and vital statistics.

Prior to 1530 when the city voted to officially become Protestant, the church was known as the Cathedral of Notre Dame of Ulm. A parish church served the city, but was situated outside the city walls. Rebuilding as well as new construction occurred well into the 14th century. But a siege by Charles IV of the Holy Roman Empire in 1376 cut off the residents of Ulm from their place of worship, so plans were made to relocate the church to within the city’s defenses.

The first plan drawn was by a member of the Parler family. Some sources say it was Heinrich, but his birth seems to have been in 1290, which would have made him at least eighty-six years old at this time. His son Peter is a more likely candidate, and he and his three sons, Nicolaus, Johann, and Wenzel (not to exclude the elder Heinrich) formed a dynasty of Architect/Masons in North Europe, practicing in what is now Germany and in Prague. Other famous-at-the-time Architects involved into the mid 16th century were Urlich Ensinger, Hans Kun, and Matthaüs Böblinger.

One of the Parlers started with the chancel, setting the width at 15 meters (49'), which developed to 52 meters (170') when the side aisles were created. Another source gives the total width of 44.8 meters (147'). Yet an additional source lists the width as 48.8 meters (160'), which is 1.2 meters (4') less than Notre Dame in Paris. Perhaps an ambitious student can uncover additional dimensions, or take a field trip with a tape measure, something I have, unfortunately – and I apologize – failed to do. Why there is constant discrepancy is beyond me. The length of the church is 126 meters (413'), all of which was fixed in place before the end of the 14th century. The church has five aisles, with the original side aisles enlarged early in its construction in the 14th century, making each side aisle as wide as the nave. Slender columns were placed in the middle of this area, obviously for support, in 1502. This is a “hall” church, in that the side aisles rise almost to the height of the nave, since there is no triforium gallery, but there are clerestory windows.

Here politics enters the field of Architecture. Charles IV commissioned one of the Parlers to design the Cathedral of St. Vitus in Prague. The parishioners of Ulm decided to outdo anything that was to be created for the Emperor who had laid siege to their city – unsuccessfully, at that! In 1393 Ulrich von Ensingen was brought in to be responsible for the west tower. But he, too, was called away for other work in Strasbourg in 1399 (not very faithful to their clients, those medieval Architects). Consecration took place amidst incomplete construction in 1405. What was there has been described as a torso. The west tower had hardly begun, a roof was hastily thrown over an incomplete nave, and it seemed original enthusiasm and possibly funding was dissipating.

An aside here: there is a remarkable amount of data available at the site (though not in usual reference sources), and some of the information is due to serious record-keeping, and especially to markings left by masons and carpenters. With regards the cutting of stone, investigators have been able to identify sculptors and masons by the scribes (chisels) used to carve and cut stone, and occasionally by signatures and dates marking their work (we saw an example of this above in our discussion of Cologne Cathedral).

Matthäus Böblinger was brought to work in 1477, and devoted all of his energies to work on the west tower. He even took the Emperor Maximilian to his completed third level, the belfry area, a height of 70 meters (230'). One has to realize that an attempt to create a fifty to sixty story structure was a little more than complicated and involved – think about this now – more than 600 years ago. In 1492 and 1493 some stones in the west tower fell out, and cracks were found in the masonry. The tower had not just threatened to collapse, but to do so in an easterly direction, which would have destroyed the entire church. It was found that the foundations laid by Ensingen had been inadequate. It seems the ignominy of that near collapse forced Böblinger to leave the city in disgrace. He paid a price for his predecessor’s errors, but as we shall see, created some trouble of his own making.

A panel of twenty-eight experts selected Burkhard Engelberg, a master builder, to make things right. Engelberg brought with him from Augsburg 116 journeymen stonemasons.

Engelberg’s first job was to reinforce the tower. He proceeded to wall up open arches, increased the size of lower pillars, and created new buttressing walls (see narthex/porch above). Additionally, Engelberg had to confront the side aisle vaults designed by Böblinger, which were threatening to push nave arcades inward, and the exterior walls outward – their span was too wide as designed. Prior to this church, side aisles had been much narrower than the nave, and could certainly be used to aid in supporting a large and tall nave. Here the side aisles competed for structural integrity in their own right. Engelberg subdivided the side aisles with slender round columns, cutting vault construction spans in half; this occurred between 1502 and 1507. Engelberg actually removed the existing stone vaults. All of the changes and corrections made by Engelberg usually left existing construction intact, and this is viewed today as an almost inconceivable engineering feat.

The above is chronicled specifically in markings left by the masons, and by analysis of the cutting marks, and the tools that created those marks. The analyzing is tantamount to forensic science, and this is what continues to fascinate me. Architectural history becomes a detective-like mystery, replete with false clues, misinformation, and disinformation, hidden clues, false testimony, and the occasional tour guide who acts like a street informant anxious for a handout, who will tell you anything you want to hear, especially if it makes you happy (to encourage a big tip). Further, evidence does not want to be found. Even with the use of the research capabilities of the internet, it took two days of plodding to discover that Charles IV was the “Emperor” who laid siege to Ulm. My hope has always been to impart a further quest for knowledge and possibly truth in my students.

Work stopped completely on the Münster in 1530, possibly due to iconoclastic riots at about that time, and would not be resumed for more than 300 years. Perhaps civic pride was reborn; certainly an interest in the past was prevalent in the 19th century. External work began once more.

In 1856, continuing through 1870, Ferdinand Thrän finished the flying buttresses and added pinnacles to the tops of pillars and piers. Ludwig Scheu built the choir gallery and the two east towers between 1879 and 1880. Between 1885 and 1890 August Beyer completed the west tower according to the original plans of Böblinger.

The upper portion of the west tower. Do realize that the single tower was not the customary Gothic thing to do. In addition, since the Reformation had not taken place at the time of its initial design, we cannot attribute such a uniqueness to any English precedent. It seems to be a manifestation of the creativity of Ulrich von Ensingen, and then of his son Matthäus. Critics have stated that the tower was “smothered with decoration” in 1478-92 by Böblinger, but I would say that the layers of almost transparent stonework superimposed on the body of the tower are the very essence of the Gothic movement: that of creating a spiritual illusion of a non-solid structure.

This is a detail in the spire, which sits atop the tower itself. Rather than call this “excessive,” I would suggest that the building has become a piece of jewelry, as I described San Marco in Venice. When art in the form of sculpted pieces of stone can become the building itself, we then have total integration of art with architecture. In fact, the open work, trellis-like stone creations, pinnacles, and carvings all tend to lighten – appearance-wise - the mass of the tower. It has been suggested that the easy access up into this tower actually challenges a visitor to so ascend. Unlike earlier churches, here one can ascend almost to the very peak of the spire. In fact, there is only 18 meters (59') of height that is not accessible.

Approaching the porch, observe how figures become part of the columns on which they are interjected. Notice, too, that the trefoil tracery in the stonework beyond is a separate layer of material in front of the windows. This layering effect is rather unique, and adds to the diffusion of the actual walls. The figures on this and the other porch columns were created by a stone mason named Hartmann between 1417 and 1422, and represent religious patrons of the church: St. Anthony, John the Baptist, Mary, and St. Martin.

The statues above the pointed Gothic exterior arches represent various Saints, and are also by Hartmann. Notice the articulated ribs of the ceiling construction.

The area above the arched doorways leading to the interior is filled with dioramas depicting the Creation, and date back to about 1385. During reconstruction by Ensingen, some of the scenes were moved and mixed up. As with so many scenes throughout history, pictorial stories were told for the benefit of those who could not read, and as a means of decorating in an integral and meaningful manner, in that the subject material of the art form is, obviously, related to the function of the building.

The southwest corner of the tower, showing stepped buttresses or piers. Gothic architecture reveals how accumulated weights increase as structure comes down to the ground, and how that additional weight is constantly accounted for by increased material in the support. This is most organic, but is hardly ever revealed in contemporary designs. Nowadays we just make steel columns thicker, but keep outer dimensions the same; so, too, with concrete columns, in which we just intensify the reinforcing, while maintaining constant outer dimensions. You can certainly draw your own conclusions as to whether or not this is “honest” construction, but it is expedient and actually a reflection of new building techniques.

The south side of the Münster. Flying buttresses supporting the nave are in turn buttressed by piers placed at right angles to the body of the building. Additional support is obtained by the spires pressing their weight down to stabilize those piers. The vertical repetition creates a most effective staccato effect, which belies the enormity of the edifice. Our first glimpse of the two eastern towers. They were designed by Ludwig Scheu, and were constructed as recently as 1879 and 1880.

There is always a decision to be made: do we ascend the tower first, or enter the building? No contest; the challenge is present, and is overwhelming.

A very nearby spiral staircase reveals itself and we ascend. Do keep this image in your mind, as we will view a modern version in Meier’s adjacent Stadthaus. Typically, the angled treads radiate out of a central support. It is easier to walk on the wider outer part of the treads, until someone comes down.

There is minimal stone construction between the stair and the exterior detailing. Remember my comment about the danger of literally falling out of the stair, since the opening goes down to tread height.

A view both of the finely carved stonework, and of the scene below it, which it presents to us.

A walk-about at the “gallery,” 70 meters (230') above the ground.

Looking up. Note how perfectly the stone is cut and laid. Nowadays many so-called “masons” cannot lay block in a straight line.

Continuing through the passageway at the top of the belfry level.

The belfry.

The way up. That's your Professor waving.

Stairwell within the tower.

Between the layers of construction – remember that this is all stone, not the metal cage-like enclosure at Cologne.

A very unusual gargoyle in the image of a human in a beseeching pose.

Traditional gargoyle, menacing those below.

Flying buttresses on the south side of the church supporting the nave. Notice, too, the spires sitting atop those buttresses, their weight employed to press down on the piers, thus containing those flying buttresses.

Closer view of the flying buttresses, this time on the north side of the church. Notice how crockets break up the silhouette, continuing the practice of blurring the solidity of structures in the Gothic period. Think of thousands of fingers piercing the surrounding atmosphere.

A view through an opening of stonework, showing the twin east towers.

Upper open work of the northeast tower. It was at about this level that work was completed in the 19th century. Additional research can possibly identify the point of the “newer” construction. The spirit of the Gothic, and the completion of the design according to original concepts, is significant and valid. Compare such endeavor with the “gothic” competition-winning design (1922) of the Chicago Tribune Tower, built from 1923 to 1925, mentioned above in our discussion of Cologne, in which a steel skeleton was covered with stone and simulated flying buttresses. That building followed a “style,” a misbegotten moment in American architecture, when style won over substance (and Chicago is not even close to being in France). The second place “loser” of the competition (also mentioned above) was Eero Saarinen, who created an exemplary design indicative of what a steel skyscraper should look like: a creation of substance. More in our second semester.

A digression: I believe it was Rush Limbaugh who, commenting upon the deaths of Princess Diana of England and Mother Teresa of the Catholic church – each of whom died in the same week - with the latter getting scarce attention. Limbaugh’s comment was that interest focused on style rather than substance. In fact, Diana died in 1997, and at this writing in 2008 her lover's father was in an inquest accusing Prince Philip of plotting to murder the Princess and his son Dodi al-Fayed. Anyone hear anything about Mother Teresa lately? We report, you decide.

Frank Lloyd Wright once said that a Doctor could bury his mistakes, but an Architect could only plant vines. Well, sadly, there are no vines growing at the bend of the Chicago River where the Tribune still stands, as of this writing, more than eighty years after style won out over substance. More next semester: Just remind me to address what I like to call “The Rise and Fall of the Chicago School.” We will also discuss a post-modern 19th century style library built at the very end of the 20th century, excused by the “fact” that there were some 19th century buildings in the Chicago neighborhood. Interestingly, when Paris commissioned its new library at about the same time – and we all know that Paris is full of 19th century construction – the competition-winning design was not only contemporary, but turned the entire concept of library as anyone knew it, upside down and inside out. Do not forget the Native American concept: “remember the past, imagine the future.”

Here is that abomination again. The library will be shown in our second semester.

From a higher level, we can see the open work of the spires atop those eastern towers. As Gothic designs developed, with the blurring of edges and, therefore, of the solids they defined, as described above, a rather “organic” principle came into play – that of blurring the distinction of the exterior from the interior. This was one of the basic concepts of Frank Lloyd Wright’sorganic architecture,” developed in the late 19th century, and carried throughout much of his work through more than half of the 20th century. Ironically, it was Wright who, upon entering Philip Johnson's "glass house" in Connecticut, reportedly said: "I don't know whether to take off my hat or leave it on" (there are no solid walls on the perimeter, and minimal such internally).

A complete view of the eastern towers, the nave and side aisles, as we continue our ascent.

Zooming in on the southeast tower, we can begin to appreciate the work of the masons.

A view of the Danube (Donau) as it meanders through Ulm. Notice the twisting street configurations.

Richard Meier’s Stadhaus below, situated on the Münster Platz. The contrast with the Münster is, of course, more than obvious, but note the recall of the angled roofs of the city, echoed in Meier’s design, with a saw-tooth effect. This is a serious way to pay homage to surrounding structures without cow-towing to the existing style in a false way. Remember that architecture, to be meaningful, should employ materials and technical developments – the means of construction – of the moment, not Halloween costuming or blind obeisance to “contextuality.” We want to move forward into the future. To do otherwise is tantamount to an expression of Marshall McLuhan, who described such backward behavior as “driving while looking through the rear-view mirror.”

Typical of just about every single community in Germany: a pedestrian way, free of automobiles, making the street pedestrian-friendly; indeed, giving the city back to the people. It is possible!

Our first glimpse of the interior, as we stand between the enclosed narthex, the vestibule of the church, and the nave.

Turning towards the northeast, we see the pointed arcade of the nave, with clerestory windows above. There is no gallery, triforium or otherwise. The nave vaults appear, and are variations on a quadripartite theme. The now-familiar "crease" is gone, however. At the right of the image is the proscenium arch, a description dating back to Greek and Roman times, referring to the opening of a stage; the term is applicable here, though not acknowledged in most texts. It is, however, what it is.

Internally, the height of the nave vaults is 42 meters (138').

The beautifully rhythmic flow of the irregular nave ceiling vaults carries the eye towards the east. This was the true accomplishment of a unified sense of movement produced by Gothic construction, and is a culmination of centuries of development. It is rhythmic to the point of being lyrical.

Looking east towards the altar area with the apse beyond.

A scene of the crucifixion hangs suspended from the pointed arch of the proscenium.

The figure of Christ expresses the “passion” for which such works are named. The more north one travels in Europe, the more dramatic the depiction. The sculpture is a copy of a work in a nearby monastery, and was made in the workshop of Michael Erhart in about 1500.

This church is unusual in that there is no ambulatory behind the altar in the apse, and so one can see directly to the east end of the church. The rib delineation superbly ties the semicircular apse to the proscenium arch. The structural packages are so neatly tied together.

An unknown artist created the fresco painted on the proscenium arch in 1470. The figure of Christ contained within a mandorla is depicted as Judge of the Universe. At his feet, immediately adjacent, are images of Mary and John the Baptist. The mural also contains the twelve disciples as well as kings and priests of the Old Testament to the side, and below are figures from the New Testament, framed around the centrally positioned seven holy virgins.

These choir stalls on the north side of the altar are for men; women occupied the south side.

Turning around we see the organ in the west wall. This newest installation was done in 1969, and has 8,370 pipes, 5 manuals, and 99 registers. To the right, on the north arcade of the nave, is the pulpit, dating from the early 15th century, with canopy (sounding board) above dating from 1510; this latter is carved in wood, and was signed by the sculptor Jörg Syrlin the Younger.

Just in front of the organ the second bay into the nave features a boss at the crossing of the diagonal ribs; there are only two such bosses in the nave. The remaining vaults feature a rib connecting two sets of ribs springing from the articulated columns. Such variations of the original French concept of either quadripartite or sexpartite vaults developed in the Late gothic Period and manifested itself differently throughout Europe. The odd rib is known as a “lierne”, mentioned above, from the French “lien”, meaning, “tie”.

The southern side aisles show the row of columns inserted to stabilize the expanse.

What would a Gothic church be without stained glass windows?

Outside and a few steps away we see Meier’s Stadthaus. The crisp clarity and pure whiteness are trademarks of Richard Meier designs. But there is more.

On the opposite side is something familiar. The freestanding horizontal curve looks so much like a flying buttress, albeit situated sideways.

It is not by chance that this lateral “buttress” exists, but the brilliance of Richard Meier constantly manifests such occurrences.

A letter of allegiance signed by townspeople in 1397 declared the solidarity of the community in support of a unified sponsorship of the church in general, as opposed to individual wealthy families sponsoring individual chapels and the like. In fact, the inscription on the foundation stone does not refer to a patron of the church or to the Virgin Mary, for whom the church was originally named.

Such recognition of the public appeared to be a precursor of the Renaissance, which was to follow. This construction was a manifestation of civic pride, a major component of the Renaissance, in which not only individual worth was recognized, but also civic development in the form of community was realized. It has to be remembered that a strong economy, coupled with political ideals manifested in the self-confidence of the townspeople, made this extraordinary architectural achievement possible.

This is a fitting end to this semester, and a commencement of the next manifestation of Western architecture: the Renaissance. We shall see that such civic pride will be directed towards not only religious structures, but secular designs as well, and of not only buildings, but also the cities which contain them.

Thank you!

© Architecture Past Present & Future - Edward D. Levinson, 2009

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