The Fraumünster Church in Zurich is built on the remains of a former abbey for aristocratic women which was founded in 853 by Louis the German for his daughter Hildegard. He endowed the Benedictine convent with the lands of Zurich, Uri, and the Albis forest, and granted the convent immunity, placing it under his direct authority.

In 1045, King Henry III granted the convent the right to hold markets, collect tolls, and mint coins, and thus effectively made the abbess the ruler of the city.

Emperor Frederick II granted the abbey Reichsunmittelbarkeit in 1218, thus making it territorially independent of all authority save that of the Emperor himself, and increasing the political power of the abbess. The abbess assigned the mayor, and she frequently delegated the minting of coins to citizens of the city. A famous abbess during this time of great power was Elisabeth of Wetzikon.

However, the political power of the convent slowly waned in the fourteenth century, beginning with the establishment of the Zunftordnung (guild laws) in 1336 by Rudolf Brun, who also became the first independent mayor, i.e. not assigned by the abbess.

The abbey was dissolved on 30 November 1524 in the course of the reformation of Huldrych Zwingli, supported by the last abbess, Katharina von Zimmern.

The monastery buildings were destroyed in 1898 to make room for the new Stadthaus. The church building today serves as the parish church for one of the city's 34 reformed parishes. Münsterhof, the town square in front of Fraumünster, is named after the former abbey. Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster cultivates the traditions of the former nunnery convent.

Fraumünster's Crypt museum

Since the last renovation in 1900, the crypt under the choir of the Fraumünster abbey was sealed, and has made public since 19 June 2016. The oldest part of the church preserved the abbey's Holy Relics until the Reformation in Zürich banned the Roman Catholic adoration of saints. The foundations of the crypt date back to the 9th century when the abbey was founded. The crypt also comprises an exhibition on the history of the Reformation in Zürich, on the architecture and local history, assisted by a multimedia information system that illustrates the foundation fragments of the crypt, and how the church was rebuilt from the original Romanesque construction phase to its present Gothic appearance, on occasion of its establishment guided by Dölf Wild, the archaeologist in charge.

Chagall windows

The choir of the abbey includes 5 large stained glass windows designed by artist Marc Chagall and installed in 1970. Each of the 5 has a dominant color and depicts a Christian story. 

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Details

Founded: 853 AD
Category: Religious sites in Switzerland

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User Reviews

Abhishek Singh (5 months ago)
Worth seeing. Do not miss it. It closses quite early. Either go in early morning or in late afternoon. Strained glass windows are worth seeing and you must go to the top via stairs. There is a seperate donation you need to give to go there and it's really worth going. Stairs are quite narrow, so not for people who feel a bit suffocated in closed spaces.
Ivone Sima (6 months ago)
Love it when I am in town to get there for a quieter time.. beautiful architectural design!
MBee (10 months ago)
a delightful place to be 14 JULY 2012
LiVessereau (10 months ago)
Extraordinary stained glass windows by Chagal and Giacometti. To have
Thomas Maufer (10 months ago)
A simple but beautiful Protestant church with a fascinating history and beautiful stained glass windows and a gorgeous pipe organ. Check their website to see when they have upcoming lunchtime organ concerts.
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