St. Peter's Church

Zürich, Switzerland

Located next to the Lindenhof hill, site of the former Roman castle, St. Peter's church was built on the site of a temple to Jupiter. An early church is archaeologically attested for the 8th or 9th century. This building was replaced by an early Romanesque church around AD 1000, in turn replaced in 1230 by a late romanesque structure, parts of which survive. Rudolf Brun, first independent mayor of the town, was buried here in 1360. The nave was rebuilt in 1460 in Gothic style. Prior to the Reformation, St. Peter was the only parish church of the town, the rest being part of monasteries. The first reformed pastor, Leo Jud (1523-1542), was a friend of Zwingli and contributed to the first translation of the Bible in Zurich. Johann Kaspar Lavater was pastor from 1778-1801. His gravestone can be seen in the church wall. Theologian Adolf Keller served as pastor 1909 -1924.

The current building was consecrated in 1706 as the first church built under Protestant rule. Its congregation forms part of the Evangelical Reformed Church of the Canton of Zürich. Until 1911, the steeple was manned by a fire watch. Restoration work was carried out in 1970 to 1975. The steeple's clock face has a diameter of 8.7 m, the largest church clock face in Europe. The bells date to 1880.

Church tower and largest church clock of Europe

The church tower was primarily used for fire police duties, and 1340 AD the first fire guard was set in duty. In the pre- and early Romanesque area, St. Peter had no church tower, i.e. the first massive three-storey tower was built in early 13th century AD. The first floor with Romanesque ribbed vault dates back to that period. In 1450 the tower was increased to 64 metres (as of today) and a pitched (helmet) roof was attached. That 24 metres high part of the tower was in 1996 re-covered with 42,000 larch shingles from the Engadine valley, since then being the only wooden roof in Zürich.

Towards the end of the 13th century a mechanical church clock was installed. In 1366 it was renewed and got one only dial that was directed towards the Limmat and only displayed the hours. Around 1460, the sense of time has been refined by half on the quarter-hour strike, and in 1538 the striking clock was replaced, and all four facades got dials. Replacements of the clock mechanism followed in 1593/94 and 1675 and 1826. In 1844 a new movement with quarter-hour strike was installed; the electrification of the work was carried out in 1873. In 1972 the balance was replaced by a fully automatic master clock in the clock room of the St. Peter's tower, and in 1996 the electrified mechanical movement of 1844 was shut down and replaced by a central computer system. The clock tower of St. Peter was for centuries Zürich's 'official local time', and all public city clocks had to conform to it. The church clock of St. Peter has the largest tower clock face in Europe, the outer diameter of each of the four church clocks measures 8.64 metres.

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Founded: c. 1230
Category: Religious sites in Switzerland

Rating

4.5/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Dr. Abdul Ghaffar (6 months ago)
This is a quiet holy place , less crowded. One can easily walk inside , pray and view. We went inside and also sat on chairs outside.
Michael Barton (7 months ago)
No tickets are required to enter the church, but you won't be able to enter after 6 pm. The inside is pretty small and very quiet. You'll find signs on both sides of the church detailing the history of the church and it's significance towards the protestant reformation, especially in Switzerland. However, all the signs are in German so expect some difficulties if you don't speak German. A church associate was present in the back of the church to answer questions and help you on your visit.
Jiayi Wu (8 months ago)
The church looks grand with its own plaza, where you find some benches and a nice wooden table, under tree shade. We had a nice food break there.
David Molner (8 months ago)
Nice small church. Their claim to fam is there clock is the largest in Europe measuring in at 28’. Cool to see if in the area but don’t go out of your way. So much to see walking endlessly up and down the streets aimlessly.
Aey-Hathaichana Sirikat (ooAeYoo) (9 months ago)
It was a great time during our walk around the old town
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