Munster St. Lambert's Church, or LambertikircheI was recently honored to be able to take part in a special tour of the German city Münster’s historical Lambertikirche, or St. Lambert’s Church. Situated in the heart of this bicycle-obsessed university town, where the three markts (Roggenmarkt {rye market}, Alter Fischmarkt {old fish market}, and the Prinzipalmarkt {main market}) meet, the church is a must-see attraction. Its rich and dark history, central location, and beautiful late-Gothic architecture and intricate details are sure to have something to appeal to all visitors, no matter the interest.

History

St. Lambert’s Church has had a history replete with activity, and a good portion of it is dark and tempestuous. The church that stands today at its namesake plaza, Lambertikirchplatz, was built starting in 1375, though it took the place of a smaller church which once stood there since about the year 1000. Named for Saint Lambert, a bishop of Maastricht (or referred to sometimes as of Liège), the structure was completed in 1450. The most notorious story regarding the church of St. Lambert has to do with the radical Anabaptists, a group of Christians that instituted some questionable practices as they sought to build a New Jerusalem.

The Münster Rebellion was the Anabaptists’ attempt to overthrow the government in Münster and establish their own government in its place. For about a year and a half, from 1534-1535, Münster was under Anabaptist rule; the seat of their government was the town hall, which is located several buildings down from the Lamberikirche. The deposed bishop, Franz von Waldeck, besieged the city for a year, and as the citizens of Münster starved, the Anabaptists became more and more radical. Finally, a year later, the Bishop von Waldeck was recaptured back, and three of the leading Anabaptists were captured, tortured by being jabbed with hot tongs, executed and displayed in three cages which were hoisted up onto the steeple of St. Lambert’s Church for all the villagers to see and remember; cages representing this event are still hanging from the same spot on the Lambertikirche.

Cages of Munster's Lambertikirche
Closeup of the three cages that once held the leaders of Münster’s Anabaptist Movement; they still hang from the Lambertikirche, and every night a dim light shines from each cage, in remembrance of that turbulent time in history.

In the late 1800’s, the tall original tower was destroyed, due to structural defects, and the new one erected, a smaller copy of the famous Freiburger Münster (Freiburg Minster), the neo-gothic steeple of Freiburg im Breisgau; this is the one that stands today. Cardinal von Galen in the earlier 20th century once held sermons from the church criticizing the Nazis and what they stood for. The church was also damaged extensively during World War II, but has since been repaired and reconstructed. Today, the church is one of the most-visited and photographed sites in Münster.

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