The Basel Minster is one of the main landmarks and tourist attractions of the Swiss city of Basel. It adds definition to the cityscape with its red sandstone architecture and coloured roof tiles, its two slim towers and the cross-shaped intersection of the main roof.

Early structures

The hill on which the Minster is located today was already a building site in the late Celtic Era in first century BC. A pre-Roman rampart (Murus Gallicus) was uncovered during archeological excavations. The first bishop of Basel is claimed to be Justinianus 343-346 AD. The bishop's see was relocated from Augusta Raurica (today Kaiseraugst) to Minster hill during the Early Middle Ages. This transfer presumably took place at the beginning of the 7th century under bishop Ragnacharius, a former monk of monastery Luxeuil. There is no historical evidence for the existence of a cathedral before the 9th century.

Second church structure

Some time after the turn of the first millennium a new building was built in the early Romanesque style of the Ottonian period was built by order of Bishop Adalberto II (approx. 999 - 1025). The crypt of this building, consecrated in 1019, had not been expanded. At the end of the 11th century a tower made of light-colored limestone and molasse was erected on the western side of the building. This historic structure remains forming the bottom part of the north tower (Georgsturm) today.

The current church

The building as it stands today dates back for the most part to the late Romanesque building constructed in the last third of the 12th century and completed around 1225. On the foundations of the previous buildings a church with three naves and a transept was built. The western facade was finished sometime in the latter part of the 13th century. A third storey was added to Georgsturm, and the Martinsturm was started.

Even though supported by massive pillars, an earthquake in 1356 destroyed five towers, the choir and various vaults. Johannes von Gmünd, who was also the architect of Freiburg Minster, rebuilt the damaged cathedral and in 1363 the main altar was consecrated. In 1421 Ulrich von Ensingen, who constructed the towers of the minsters in Ulm and Strasbourg, began the extension of the northern tower. This phase ended in 1429. The southern tower was completed by Hans von Nussdorf in 1500. This date marks the official architectural completion of the minster. In the 15th century the major and the minor cloisters were added. The minster served as a bishop’s see until 1529 during the Reformation.

From 1852 until 1857 the rood screen was moved and the crypt on the western side was closed. In the 20th century the main aim of renovations has been to emphasize the late Romanesque architecture and to reverse some modifications made in the 1850s. Additionally, the floor was returned to its original level in 1975 and the crypt reopened. A workshop dedicated to taking care of the increasingly deteriorating sandstone exterior was set up in 1985.

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Details

Founded: 12th century
Category: Religious sites in Switzerland

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4.6/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Tolga Sevencan (5 months ago)
Muenster was very majestic. And there are great viewing areas.
stormhawk9 (5 months ago)
I am a single traveler and asked to visit the tower and was refused because I was told they only allow people in pairs to go up "for security reasons". I have never heard something so silly and unfriendly from a touristic place much less a church that is supposed to be welcoming to all people...
Alf Hofstetter (7 months ago)
Basel, known as the cultural but also industrial center of Switzerland with its advanced Chemical and Pharmaceutical companies. Connected to the world via it's harbor at the banks of the River Rhein. Located at the extreme North-west of Switzerland bordering to France and Germany. Traces go back about 2000 years but todays location was established about 1200 years ago. With this, a beautifully maintained city center provides astonishing middle age atmosphere. Good to know: Basel has the mildest climate in Switzerland and it's early spring flowers with Palm trees and Oleanders are just breathtaking!
Igor Fabjan (7 months ago)
Attractive cathedral with some interesting outer wings. I enjoyed inner courts with green area and some sculptures. Plus there is an inviting terrace behind cathedral with great views of the river Rhine.
matthew robinson (7 months ago)
Fantastic, not many churches allow you to climb up the bell tower and walk around outside up on the roof. Also very beautiful inside with fascinating thousand year old sarcophagus in view
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