He studied history, geography and philology at the universities of Berlin, Breslau and Münster, earning his doctorate in 1883 at Münster. Afterwards, he worked as an editorial assistant at Munich, later obtaining a professorship in medieval history at the University of Fribourg (1889).
Schnürer is known for his studies of religious and religio-cultural history. His best known written work was Kirche und Kultur im Mittelalter, a book that was translated into English in 1956 by George J. Undreiner as Church and Culture in the Middle Ages: 350–814.
He was co-founder of Deutschen Gesellschaft für christliche Kunst (German Society of Christian Art) (1893) and Zeitschrift für schweizerische Kirchengeschichte ("Magazine of Swiss Church History") (1907).
- Albert Portmann-Tinguely (1995). "Schnürer, Gustav". In Bautz, Traugott. Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL) (in German). 9. Herzberg: Bautz. cols. 593–596. ISBN 3-88309-058-1. English translation
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