Architecture & Buildings

Europe, Switzerland, Zurich

The Grossmünster ("great minster") is a Romanesque-style church that played an important role in the history of the Protestant Reformation. It is one of the three major churches of Zürich (the others being the Fraumünster and St. Peterskirche). The core of the present building near the banks of the Limmat River was constructed on the site of a Carolingian church, which was, according to legend, originally commissioned by Charlemagne. Construction of the present structure commenced around 1100 and it was inaugurated around 1220. The Grossmünster was a monastery church, vying for precedence with the Fraumünster across the Limmat throughout the Middle Ages. According to legend, the Grossmünster was founded by Charlemagne, whose horse fell to its knees over the tombs of Felix and Regula, Zürich's patron saints. The legend helps support a claim of seniority over the Fraumünster, which was founded by Louis the German, Charlemagne's grandson. Recent archaeological evidence confirms the presence of a Roman burial ground at the site.