The Great Minster (Grossmünster) is a Romanesque-style church in Zurich, Switzerland. It is one of the three major churches in the city (the others being the Fraumünster and St. Peterskirche). The core of the present building near the banks of the Limmat River was constructed on the site of a Carolingian church, which was, according to legend, originally commissioned by Charlemagne. Construction of the present structure commenced around 1100 and it was inaugurated around 1220.
The Grossmünster was a monastery church, vying for precedence with the Fraumünster across the Limmat throughout the Middle Ages. According to legend, the Grossmünster was founded by Charlemagne, whose horse fell to its knees over the tombs of Felix and Regula, Zürich's patron saints. The legend helps support a claim of seniority over the Fraumünster, which was founded by Louis the German, Charlemagne's grandson. Recent archaeological evidence confirms the presence of a Roman burial ground at the site. Huldrych Zwingli initiated the Swiss-German Reformation in Switzerland from his pastoral office at the Grossmünster, starting in 1520.
The twin towers of the Grossmünster are regarded as perhaps the most recognized landmark in Zurich. Architecturally, the church is considered Romanesque in style and thus a part of the first pan-European architectural trend since Imperial Roman architecture. In keeping with the Romanesque architectural style, Grossmünster offers a great carved portal featuring medieval columns with grotesques adorning the capitals. A Romanesque crypt dates to the 11th and 13th centuries. The two towers were first erected between 1487 and 1492. Originally, they had high wooden steeples, which were destroyed by fire in 1781, following which the present neo-Gothic tops were added.
Richard Wagner is known to have mocked the church's appearance as that of two pepper dispensers. The church now features modern stained-glass windows by Swiss artist Augusto Giacometti added in 1932. Ornate bronze doors in the north and south portals by Otto Münch were added in 1935 and 1950. The church houses a reformation museum in the cloister. The annex to the cloister houses the theological school of the University of Zurich.
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