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According to legend, the inhabitants of Ulm needed a particularly large beam for the construction of Ulm Minster, but could not get it through the city gate. As they were about to tear the gate down, they noticed a sparrow carrying a straw for its nest; which turned it from crosswise to lengthwise in its beak. Realisation dawned on the people of Ulm, who have ever since placed long loads along rather than across their carts.
The legend is first recorded in an 1842 poem by Carl Hertzog.
The legend's origin
The figure on the nave of Ulm Minster was donated by wealthy citizens. It is not a sparrow, but a dove carrying an olive branch in its beak, as in the biblical story of Noah's Ark. It is small in relation to the building, and only easily visible from the tower. Over time, the inhabitants came to refer to it mockingly as a sparrow, and the legend grew from there.
Cultural and other references
- Ulmer Spatz is a nickname both for inhabitants of Ulm and for players in the sports club SSV Ulm 1846.
- Ulmer Spatz is a glazed bread roll, similar to a pretzel.
- A children's and youth's choir is named Die Ulmer Spatzen.
- A tramcar called Ulmer Spatz operates at weekends from Ulm through the Swabian Jura.
- A restored cruise ship on the Upper Danube is named Ulmer Spatz.
- Asteroid 8345 Ulmerspatz is named after the Ulm Sparrow.