Highest Church Steeple in the World: The Ulm Minster
Have you ever wondered which church actually has the tallest church steeple in the world?
Well, by now you already know the answer: its the Ulm Minster. I have been living in Ulm and could see this impressive building every day. I can say that it's definitely worth a visit! But before you hopefully come and check it out for yourself, you will learn some interesting and useful stuff about it below.
Height of the Church Steeple
With its 530 feet in height, the Ulm Minster actually has the tallest church steeple in the world. This record height was reached in 1890 and no other church building has surpassed this height since. Many people, even some of my friends living around Ulm, don't know this fact. This is probably because the Ulm Minster is not so famous and well known as the Cologne Cathedral, wich is also impressively high. However, with "only" 516 feet in height, it places second in Europe and third in the World for tallest church tower. The Ulm Minster takes the first place.
Additional to the main tower, there are also two smaller steeples located at the other end of the building. They are called the choir towers because they are above the churches choir. Those two towers are both 282 feet high. While they are considerably smaller than the main tower, they still rank within the list of the highest church towers in the world.
Location of the Ulm Minster
The Ulm Minster is located in the middle of South Germany, between the two larger cities Munich and Stuttgart
Ulm Minster or Ulm Cathedral?
Many people refer to the Ulm Minster as the Ulm Cathedral. However, a church can olny be called a cathedral if it has been the seat of a bishop. This was never the case in Ulm. So correctly speaking it is not a cathedral but a minster. Minster simply refers to "any large or important church".
Construction of the Church and Steeple
The church was built in two stages. From the laying of the foundation stone in 1377, it took a whole 513 years (!!!) before the church was finished and reached its present height in 1890. Since then, it has been the tallest church steeple in the world.
First Construction Phase 1377 - 1553
Before 1377, there was an old church located outside the city walls of Ulm, basically on “open field”. This church did not belong to Ulm but to the monastery Reichenau at Lake Constanze. This meant that all the donations were flowing directly to the monastery and did not stay in Ulm. This and the fact that the church was not inside the city led the people of Ulm to make plans for building their own church.
In June of 1377, the foundation stone was laid. The people decided on the highest place in the middle of the city, which was close to the market and the city hall. The construction was funded by the people of Ulm themselves and by the government of Ulm.
The idea to build the highest church steeple within the Christian world came early during the construction phase from one of the master builders named “Ulrich von Ensingen”. He took over as a master builder in 1392 and dreamed of more than 150m (492ft) high steeple. Before him the idea was to build three steeples of equal height. His new construction plans were good. However, he did not succeed with his plan during his lifetime.
During a later phase of the construction, the already built heavy stone structure got cracks and two large stones got loose and fell on the ground. The building was in danger of collapsing. A later master builder then stabilized the structure where necessary and left a solid building. This ended the first construction phase and the church remained in this state for more than three centuries.
Second Construction Phase 1844 – 1890
During a later period of wealth it was decided to continue building the Ulm Minster. Based on the old medieval plans, the main tower was finished in a relatively short time from 1844 to 1890 to the point where you can still see it today.
World War II
Fortunately enough, the Ulm Minster was only slightly damaged during World War II and the bombing of Ulm. This was probably due to a lot of luck, because most of the sourrounding buildings have been severly damaged during the bombing. Therefore the Ulm Minster can still be seen in its original form and substance today.
It takes a tremendous effort to preserve the building, which is a never ending task and costs several hundred thousand dollars each year. So when you visit the church, you will always see some construction going on in some parts of the church.
Church Panorama Platform
If you happen to be in Ulm, you can’t miss the church because it constitutes the heart of Ulm. However, I have to say one word of warning: if you are standing on the large open area before the Ulm Minster and you have a standard camera or smartphone camera, you will have trouble taking a picture of the whole church tower as it is just too tall. But for a small fee of 5 EUR for adults you can take the 768 increasingly narrow and steep steps up the church tower to a platform 470 feet high. Expect a strong wind and on many days during the fall and winter unfortunately foggy weather up there. On a bright day however, you will have a wonderful view over the whole city and you might even see the snow-capped mountains of the Alps. The steps are worth the view so use the opportunity and bring your camera!
Facts and Figures About the Ulm Minster
Height main steeple
Height 2 chorus steeples
Height panorama platform
Steps to panorama platform
Start of construction
First construction phase
1377 - 1543
Second construction phase
1844 - 1890
Admission panorama platform
5 EUR (approx. 5.70 USD)
Opening hours platform
9:00 a.m. - 3:45 p.m. (or longer)
Opening hours church
9:00 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. (or longer)
Be aware that the opening hours of the church and also of the panorama platform vary depending on the month of the year. Because of the sunlight available, the admission times are longer in the summer. So before you go, check the official website of the Ulm Minster for most up-to-date information. Unfortunately this website is only available in German, but the admission times are shown on the main page and you will be able to read those. In the column "Kirche" the admission times for the church are shown, while in the column "Turmbesteigung" the entry times to the panorama platform are shown.