Results 1-2of 2 Reviews
New Delhi, India
June 25, 2009
The Münster stands in a vast paved square, Münsterplatz, which is thankfully free of pesky souvenir sellers, buskers and hordes of tourists, who tend to ruin one’s photos by coming in the way. At the far end of Münsterplatz (the near end, if you’re approaching from Münstergasse—the Bernese obviously aren’t very creative when it comes to names; I’m surprised the river isn’t the Münster-something-or-the-other rather than the mundane Aare), the first bit of interesting architecture is a gaudy statue of Moses. His head’s ornamented with strange rabbit ear-like tufts that stick up from his head, one cluster on either side. Not a halo, as one would expect on a saint or an angel, but something approaching it—deputy saint? Dunno.
But I digress. The Münster. This was, on the outside, a disappointment, because the Swiss had taken it into their heads to do some renovations just then. Spoilsports. The cathedral, therefore, had an unsightly petticoat-like bit of scaffolding round its spire, and any chances of a decent long shot went kaput. Tarun and I, however, are nothing if not resilient, so we tut-tutted and went closer.
And by golly, the façade below all that scaffolding is impressive, especially the tympanum (which I’d always thought was an eardrum—one lives and learns). Well, this is one helluva tympanum, and quite literally too. It depicts the Last Judgment, with the saved going cheerily off, all fully clothed, to the joys of heaven, while the damned (all stark naked) are led off into hell, to be thrashed, burnt, turned on the wheel and generally made to pay for their sins. At the top sits Jesus, surrounded by the apostles and a couple of angels; below are what we presumed (a wild guess, this) to be saints, all of them dressed in white robes. One was wearing a ship captain’s peaked cap and another definitely had a tricorn on his head, so we couldn’t be sure. But all that gilt and paint and carving was pretty impressive.
Inside, too, the Münster’s quite the ticket—and glory be, no scaffolding! The vaulted ceiling’s painted with a repetitive arabesque pattern of black on cream. In the middle of the ceiling is a circle with a solid, gilded rim and a bear painted on the inside. I ask you. What on earth do bears have to do with churches?
Our guidebook (a Dorling Kindersley Eye Witness) tells us that this is a three-aisle basilica with fan vaulting, side chapels and a tower. Work on the Münster began in 1421 and went on till the 16th century (how enlightening; the 16th century was 79 years away from 1421, so one can’t be sure how long they slogged away at it). At any rate, the church stood around till 1893 before someone woke up and added a spire to it.
History and stats done, it’s time for a quick roundup of what appealed to us. The choir stalls—all well-carved and well-polished wood—are a neat bit of work (we hadn’t yet been to Strasbourg, where the Eglise St Pierre le Jeune has choir stalls that would make this lot look like a toddler’s weekend whittling). The stained glass is pretty enough, the section behind the altar depicting the life of Christ. The organ, all gilt and heavy wood, isn’t bad, just a bit too baroque.
With our taste for the ridiculous, our favourite bit of the Münster proved to be a side chapel that shows the plight of the wicked: a richly dressed and somewhat porcine man being harried by a grinning skeleton that dances around, poking, prodding and generally being nasty.
And yes, the pulpit’s smart too. It has statues of the saints carved in stone, and looks impressive, if a tad dusty. We later discovered that these aren’t original; the actual statues were destroyed in the zeal of the Reformation and these are mere replacements.
But, replacements, dusty pulpit and petticoat-clad spire aside, the Münster is worth a look. Free, too, unless you want to go up the spire and get dizzy. That costs CHF2. Do remember to do a circuit round the outside of the Münster: we went looking for loos and instead found a pretty park looking out over the jade-green Aare below. Very pretty. And if you wriggle a bit and get some leaves into the picture, you can manage a decent shot of the Münster without the scaffolding getting in the way. And yes, do look out for the gargoyles on the roof of the Münster: deliciously nasty creatures.
From journal Bears, Bears Everywhere
by Bridgett Ellis
November 6, 2003
From journal Beautiful Switzerland