A grisly church

The headless figures above a trough near the entrance to St. Lamberti’s Church in Muenster (featured photo) seemed all of one piece with the bloody history of this town. The aggressive bicyclists in this university town probably channel the violent history of religious wars which swirled around this region in the 16th and 17th centuries CE. The spire of this church still has three empty cages where the bishop of Muenster had the tortured bodies of Anabaptist rebels left to die.

A St. Lamberti’s church has been here from before the first recorded reference to it in 1189 CE; some say as early as 1000 CE. The present structure was about 75 years in construction, and was completed in 1450 CE. The tower had to be demolished in 1881 and rebuilt. The three cages were hoisted on to the new 90 meter tall tower on its completion in 1898. The bombed church was partially restored already in 1949, and the restoration was completed in 1978. If you have the misfortune to be selected as the Tuermer by the city, then you have to climb the tower every half hour between 9 PM and midnight to mark time by blowing a trumpet. The first woman to be struck by this bad luck is the current incumbent, Martje Solje.

The stone dove near the headless statues was altogether different in nature. I couldn’t find any references to when this sculpture was installed. From the style it seems to be modern, and could well have been placed here during the post-war restorations. This would make it contemporaneous with the modern German pacifist tendencies.

The inside was surprisingly bare. The main decorations were the wooden statues which are common in Westphalia. I looked at the gilded statue of St. Anthony of Padua and thought that anyone who keeps smiling as a child pulls at his scant hair deserves to be called a saint. I could sympathize with Anthony, but I preferred the expression on the face of St. Peter.

We came out of the church and walked around to the main entrance from the square. This side of the building has wonderful Gothic windows and many sculptures. There was a greatly detailed panel which depicts the family tree of Jesus (image above). Apparently, the mid-15th century piece was made in sandstone which eroded in less than four hundred years, and had to be replaced in 1913. The statues of saints also were replaced at the same time. An interesting story about the four evangelists (photo above) is that the restored statues show Goethe as Luke (extreme left) and Schiller as John (extreme right).

I wondered a little about the spikes around the heads of some of the statues. Medieval torture or stylized halos? It took me a while to understand that it was neither, just a utilitarian device to keep away pigeons. The relationship of this church with pigeons is worth pondering. Some saints have pigeons thrust on them, others have spikes driven into their heads to keep pigeons away. Does the city realize how confusing this can be for a foreigner?

There’s a fountain in the square in front of the church. Historically this was the graveyard of the church. Statues of a Westphalian farmer’s family decorate the well. I could not find a dating for this statue, but by the weathering you can see, it may need replacement in another hundred years.