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Zürich - Münsterhof - Halbparonama 2.jpg
Münsterhof, Zunfthaus zur Waag, to the left, Zunfthaus zur Meisen to the right
Typetown square, parking facility (2015), pedestrian zone (2016)
OwnerCity of Zürich
LocationLindenhof, Zürich, Switzerland
Postal code8001
Coordinates47°22′12.30″N 8°32′27.70″E / 47.3700833°N 8.5410278°E / 47.3700833; 8.5410278

Münsterhof (literally: Fraumünster abbey courtyard) is a town square situated in the Lindenhof quarter in the historical center of Zürich, Switzerland. Münsterhof is the largest town square within the Altstadt (old town) of Zürich, and is surrounded by medieval buildings. The area forms part of the southern extension of the Quaianlagen promenades of Zürich's lakefront.

Kratzquartier, Münsterbrücke, Fraumünster and Münsterhof, early 16th century, Hans Leu the Elder


Münsterhof is located in front of the Fraumünster church, and lies a short distance from the Münsterbrücke bridge which leads eastwards across the river Limmat to the Limmatquai and Grossmünster church beyond. It is surrounded by medieval buildings, among which are several guild houses, including zur Waag, the former Kämbel guild house, and the art museum Zunfthaus zur Meisen. This area forms part of the southern extension of the Quaianlagen promenades that were built between 1881 and 1887.[1]

Münsterhof is the biggest town square within the former medieval town walls of Zürich. It is part of the historical core of the medieval town of Zürich, previously the Celtic-Roman Turicum.


Public transport from this area includes the Zürich tram lines 2, 4 and 15, as well as the Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (ZSG) and its Limmat river tour boats towards Zürichhorn. Automobile transportation is limited because the area is part of the pedestrian zone of Zürich. It is limited to road transport use between lower Limmatquai and Bellevueplatz, upstream on the Limmat. Since 25 September 2004, the driving of motor vehicles, motorcycles and scooters is restricted, except for goods deliveries, police vehicles, postal delivery services, medical doctors and emergency services.[2]

Sights and activities[edit]

The main sights are the Fraumünster church (first mentioned in 853 AD) and art museum Zunfthaus zur Meisen, which houses the porcelain and faience collection of the Swiss National Museum. There are restaurants and cafés at Münsterhof, including Zunfthaus zur Waag, Zeughauskeller, and Sprüngli at nearby Paradeplatz.

The equestrian monument in front of the Fraumünster church at Münsterbrücke was created by Hermann Haller. It was unveiled on 6 April 1937 by the Kämbel guild, aiming to rehabilitate Hans Waldmann, mayor of Zürich from 1482 to 1489 and their former dean, who they proposed had been the victim of a judicial murder.[3] The equestrian statue became the subject of controversy for artistic, political and historical reasons.

Fraumünster church and its courtyard as seen from the Limmatquai

On 14 March 2004, the Katharina von Zimmern memorial was inaugurated at the former cloister of the Fraumünster Abbey, initiated by the Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Anna-Maria Bauer, a sculptor from Zürich, created a sculpture that consists of 37 copper blocks that are layered into a compact square. The shape of the sculpture refers to the shape of an altar table or burial and shines in its simplicity as a symbol of timelessness,[4][according to whom?] to remember the last princess Abbess's decision that enabled the peaceful introduction of the Reformation in Zürich on 8 December 1524.[5][6][7]

On the ground floor of the cloister a banner is engraved: "Die Stadt vor Unruhe und Umgemach bewahren und tun, was Zürich lieb und dienlich ist." (English: To preserve the city of riots and misfortune, and to do what is nice and helpful to the city of Zürich.) These were the words of Katharina von Zimmern on occasion of the surrender of the Fraumünster Abbey to the city's magistrates during the Reformation in Zürich.

Paul Bodmer's fresco related to the history of the abbey are also a very popular touristic destination situated in the abbey's cloister.

Frescos by Paul Bodmer in the cloister of Fraumünster

Beginning in 1999, Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster (Fraumünster society) organized every three years the Mittelalter Spectaculum, a medieval funfair, at the Münsterhof square.

Redesign of the Münsterhof plaza[edit]

The city's authorities planned from May 2003 to declare Münsterhof a car-free zone, and evaluations were made to improve public use of the historical urban square for open-air performances and other public events. Construction works of 2014 were scheduled to be completed in 2015, but were delayed to 2016 due to archaeological excavations in the winter of 2014–15 and from October to November 2015.[9][10]

The redesign includes a distinctive new fountain, 6 metres (20 ft) in diameter and almost 4 metres (13 ft) tall, as a central element. A smaller drinking-water fountain is to be connected directly to that central water basin. A new granite stone pavement with contrasting patterns visually divides the plaza into an inner and an outer area. New steel lighting fixtures enable a warm visual atmosphere. Benches are to be added, and more space for outdoor cafés and restaurants. All structures are to meet the requirements for barrier-free construction and be accessible to physically disabled people.[11]

With this transformation, Münsterhof would no longer be used for parking, which will be restricted to Fraumünstertrasse and Parking Opéra. Once work is finished, the plaza is to again be a representative and lively urban square in the heart of historical Zürich, available in its entirety for major events. The focus, however, will be on everyday use. The present (as of October 2015) construction works will result in minimal physical design changes, but the city's authorities claim "they will nonetheless enhance the square significantly" and create a "transformation into a tranquil open space which invites everyone to take a stroll or simply relax."[11]


Münsterhof, Fraumünster and the medieval upper Limmat bridge on Hans Leu's view of Zürich, c. 1500

While in prehistoric times the Münsterhof area was a swampy hollow, flooded by the river Sihl,[12] Lindenhof hill was the core of the Helvetii (Oppidum Lindenhof) and Roman (Vicus Turicum) settlement, upon which the modern city has grown, expanding along the easterly Limmat riverbank. Roman buildings were likely built at the site of the Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten on the other riverbank, and the Roman settlement may have stretched towards the present Münsterbrücke, crossing the Limmat between Grossmünster (remains of graves) and Wasserkirche, and the present-day Münsterhof plaza. Suggested by historians and recent archaeological evidence uncovered during construction at Münsterbrücke, the present Weinplatz square may have been the site of the civilian harbour of the Celtic-Roman Turicum.[13] Firebed tombs from the 1st century AD were found at Poststrasse, west of the Fraumünster church; northeast of the church, a round pit from the 2nd or 3rd century AD was discovered with numerous pottery shards. The human remains of a large 7th-century cemetery at Münsterhof were secured in October–November 2015.[9] Probably in the 10th century wooden houses were built by Zürich citizens beside the Fraumünster Abbey, and mansions made of stone may have been built in the early 13th century.[14]

First mentioned in 1221 respectively 1303 AD,[timeframe?][15] Münsterhof was for centuries the only proper square within the medieval town walls. From the Middle Ages onwards, it often served as a place to stage important political and cultural events for a larger audience. It is where the German king and his retenue was formally welcomed by the abbess of the Fraumünster abbey. She was also acting princess of the Holy German Empire and, up to the time of the Reformation in Zürich, the formal ruler of Zürich. The plaza probably became an open square around 1300 AD when the monastic graveyard was abandoned (except for the narrow strip beside the abbey). At the same time, the demolition of the adjoining St. James chapel (in German: Jakobskapelle), as well as a number of houses,[10] was probably carried out on the orders of the prince abbess.[11] In medieval times the bailiff's house of the Einsiedeln Abbey was also located at Münsterhof, and the plaza became the preferred domicile of the abbey's associates.

17th-century glass painting showing the "Mordnacht von Zürich" on 23–24 February 1350

On 18 July 1336, Rudolf Brun defeated his political opponents in the Rat (council) of Zürich; these banned members found refuge with Count Johann I in Rapperswil.[16] The so-called Äusseres Zürich, meaning the banned councilors, declared the feud (German: Fehde) and formed a coalition, and Johann I became the leader of Brun's opposition,[17] among them the ancient councilors family Bilgeri.[16] On 21 September 1337, Zürich troops moved over the Obersee to the Grynau Castle where Johann I was killed.[18] Count Johann I's underaged children – Johann II, Rudolf, Gotfrid and Agnes – were set under guardianship of Albrecht, Duke of Austria.[19] The feud was continued by Johann II in the late 1340s,[17] and an attempted coup by Brun's opposition was forcefully put down after intensive street fights around Münsterhof plaza on 23–24 February 1350. Count Johann II was arrested for two years, Rapperswil and its castle were destroyed by the Zürich troops, and Brun's opponents executed or banned. After the intervention of Habsburg-Austria against Zürich, a peace contract was signed in 1352.[20]

In 1504 AD, and probably much earlier, the passion play of the city's martyrs Felix and Regula was celebrated in the plaza. On 8 December 1524, on the day of the Immaculate Conception, Katharina von Zimmern, the imperial abbess of Zürich, passed the abbey and all rights to the council of Zürich.[21] Following the Reformation in Zürich, the area was used as a pig market until 1667. In 1676, the town square was renewed and paved with cobblestones. From 1627 to 1835, stalls were situated along the north wall of Fraumünster church.

Münsterhof and Neptun fountain (demolished in 1811), drawing by Emil Schulthess, c. 1835

In 1766, the Neptun fountain adorned Münsterhof plaza, but was removed 45 years later. During Züriputsch in September 1839, several thousand putschists stormed the city from the west, and fought the cantonal troops in the alleys between Paradeplatz and Münsterhof. In 1938, the plaza was rebuilt at its south-westerly side towards Poststrasse as it is today,[22] now mainly being a parking facility nearby the pedestrian zones at Bahnhofstrasse, Paradeplatz and Limmatquai.

Archaeological excavations[edit]

Dölf Wild, chief archaeologist of the 2014–15 excavations, told in an interview: "For 700 years, Münsterhof was the stage of large gatherings, and will it soon be again, after a rather sad interlude as [a] parking facility."[23] The archaeological excavations of winter 2014–15 were concentrated on the plaza and on the Stadthausquai and Poststrasse areas; the remains of the cemetery chapel of the era before 1300 AD have been examined (the chapel had been removed and the cemetery reduced when a new gothic church building was erected). The Zürich archaeologists also secured grave furnishings, which will be presented along with the findings of the excavations in 1977–78 as part of an "archaeological window" into the Fraumünster's crypt.[10] In 2015, the city archaeologists (Amt für Städtebau) also identified a 600-year-old badge of Charlemagne on his horse discovering the graves of the martyrs Felix and Regula. The beautifully cast figure is made of non-ferrous metals, measures just 3.5 centimetres (1.4 in), and is believed to have been a pilgrim badge.[24]

In addition to the firebed tombs from the 1st century AD at Poststrasse, west of the Fraumünster church, a round pit from the 2nd or 3rd century was discovered northeast of the church, with numerous shards mainly of drinking cups and bowls. In October 2015, the remains of about 280 buried people were secured from the abandoned 7th century cemetery; they are stored temporarily at the Sihlfeld cemetery for scientific research, while a final resting place is sought for a mass grave.[9]


  1. ^ Grün Stadt Zürich (May 2006). "Vom Bürkliplatz zur Sukkulenten-Sammlung" (PDF) (in German). Grün Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  2. ^ "Limmatquai" (in German). Poliezidepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  3. ^ "Kleine Zürcher Verfassungsgeschichte 1218–2000" (PDF) (in German). Staatsarchiv Zürich. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
  4. ^ "Zeitlos und vielschichtig: Ein Erinnerungsort für die letzte Fraumünster-Äbtissin" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 2002-05-28. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  5. ^ "Geschichte" (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  6. ^ "Frauenehrungen" (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  7. ^ "Frauenehrungen der Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster" (PDF) (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. 2014. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2015-02-07. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  8. ^ "Verein Tibeter Jugend in Europa: Wangpo Tethong". vtje.org. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
  9. ^ a b c "Wütende Camper, OPS-Personalmangel, Knochen-Bestattung" (in German). Schweiz aktuell. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  10. ^ a b c "Archäologen dringen tief in Zürichs Stadtgeschichte vor" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. 2015-03-29. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  11. ^ a b c According to the information boards on occasion of the construction works in July 2015.
  12. ^ Dölf Wild (2008-09-25). "Zürcher City unter Wasser. Interaktion zwischen Natur und Mensch in der Frühzeit Zürichs" (in German). Hochdepartement der Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
  13. ^ "Turicum II" (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  14. ^ Dölf Wild (2011). "Zürichs Münsterhof – ein städtischer Platz des 13. Jahrhunderts? Überlegungen zum Thema "Stadtgestalt und Öffentlichkeit" im mittelalterlichen Zürich" (PDF) (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  15. ^ "W I 29.1 Ratsurkunde betreffend Erhöhung des Hauses am Münsterhof (1303.08.03)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  16. ^ a b "C I, Nr. 516 Bürgermeister Rudolf Brun, der Rat und die Bürger von Zürich verbannen 12 Mitglieder der gestürzten Regierung. (1336.07.18)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  17. ^ a b "23. Konrad II. von Gösgen" (in German). Einsiedeln Abbey. Retrieved 2014-11-05.
  18. ^ Herman Wartmann (1835). Die Grafen von Toggenburg. Zollikofer, 1835 (in German). Google eBooks. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
  19. ^ "C I, Nr. 1447 Kaiser Ludwig und Herzog Albrecht von Österreich, Vogt der Kinder des verstorbenen Grafen Johans von Habsburg, vermitteln einen Vertrag zwischen den genannten Kindern und den Bürgern von Zürich. 1337.11.21 (Dokument)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  20. ^ "C I, Nr. 1464 Hans, Rudolf und Gotfrid, Grafen von Habsburg, erklären, mit der Stadt Zürich und ihren Eidgenossen Frieden geschlossen ... (1352.09.19)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-04.
  21. ^ "Katharina von Zimmern" (in German). frauen-und-reformation.de. Archived from the original on 2016-03-31. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  22. ^ Münsterhof on Gang dur Alt-Züri website (in German)
  23. ^ "Als in Zürich die Frauen das Sagen hatten" (in German). Einstein (Swiss TV series). 2015-05-29. Retrieved 2015-05-30.
  24. ^ "Eine rund 600 Jahre alte Gussfigur wurde nach den Grabungen rund ums Fraumünster identifiziert" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-22.

External links[edit]