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Imperial Abbey of Fraumünster
Reichskloster Fraumünster
Imperial Abbey of the Holy Roman Empire


Fraumünster abbey, Münsterhof, old Kornhaus (to the left side) and Zunfthaus zur Meisen. Aquarell by Franz Schmid, showing situation in 1757.
Capital Fraumünster Abbey
Government Theocracy
Historical era Middle Ages
 •  Founded by Louis
    the German

21 July 853
 •  Granted market, toll and
    minting rights by Henry III

 •  Imp. immediacy
    confirmed by Frederick II

 •  Rudolf Brun indep. mayor,
    established guild laws

 •  Dissolved in
    Zwinglian Reforms

30 November 1524
 •  Buildings destroyed 1898
Today part of   Switzerland
The Fraumünster church, the stained glass windows in the choir are by Marc Chagall.

The Fraumünster Church (lit. in English: Women's Minster, but often wrongly translated to [Our] Lady Minster) in Zurich is built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded in 853 by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard. He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zurich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority. Today, it belongs to the Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of Zürich and is one of the four main churches of Zürich, the other's being the Grossmünster, Prediger and St. Peter's church.


In 1045, King Henry III granted the convent the right to hold markets, collect tolls, and mint coins, and thus effectively made the abbess the ruler of the city.

Emperor Frederick II granted the abbey Reichsunmittelbarkeit in 1218, thus making it territorially independent of all authority save that of the Emperor himself, and increasing the political power of the abbess. The abbess assigned the mayor, and she frequently delegated the minting of coins to citizens of the city. A famous abbess during this time of great power was Elisabeth of Wetzikon.

However, the political power of the convent slowly waned in the fourteenth century, beginning with the establishment of the Zunftordnung (guild laws) in 1336 by Rudolf Brun, who also became the first independent mayor, i.e. not assigned by the abbess.

The abbey was dissolved on 30 November 1524 in the course of the reformation of Huldrych Zwingli, supported by the last abbess, Katharina von Zimmern.

The monastery buildings were destroyed in 1898 to make room for the new Stadthaus. The church building today serves as the parish church for one of the city's 34 reformed parishes. Münsterhof, the town square in front of Fraumünster, is named after the former abbey. Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster cultivates the traditions of the former nunnery convent.

Chagall windows[edit]

The choir of the abbey includes 5 large stained glass windows designed by artist Marc Chagall and installed in 1970. Each of the 5 has a dominant color and depicts a Christian story. From left (northern wall) to right, the 5 works are:

  • Prophets, depicting Elijah's ascent to heaven
  • Jacob, displaying his combat, and dreams of heaven
  • Christ, illustrating various scenes of Christ's life
  • Zion, showing an angel trumpeting the end of the world
  • Law, with Moses looking down upon the suffering of his people

Equally impressive is the 9m tall stained glass of the North transept, created by Augusto Giacometti in 1940.



Cultural heritage of national importance[edit]

In the Swiss inventory of cultural property of national and regional significance the Fraumünster is listed as a Class A object of national importance.[1]


  • Peter Vogelsanger: Zürich und sein Fraumünster. Eine elfhundertjährige Geschichte (853–1956). NZZ Libro, Zürich 1994, ISBN 3-85823-515-6

See also[edit]

Coordinates: 47°22′11″N 8°32′28″E / 47.36972°N 8.54111°E / 47.36972; 8.54111


  1. ^ "A-Objekte KGS-Inventar" (PDF). Schweizerische Eidgenossenschaft, Amt für Bevölkerungsschutz. 2015-01-01. Retrieved 2015-09-13.