Münster of Bern

Cathedral in Bern

Bern Munster
CC BY-SA 2.0 / Thomas Woodtli

Bern Minster, the tallest cathedral in Switzerland, is a Swiss Reformed cathedral located in Bern’s old city. Constructed in the Gothic style, the cathedral began its initial construction phase in 1421. Its striking tower, which reaches a height of 100.6 meters (330 ft), wasn’t completed until 1893. The Minster is a Cultural Property of National Significance.

Structure and Layout: Bern Minster is situated on the southern side of the Aare peninsula, oriented east to west, mirroring the layout of the Old City of Bern. The cathedral’s main facade faces Münsterplatz to the west, while the south side overlooks the Münsterplattform.

This impressive structure is a three-nave basilica without a transept, extending 84.2 meters (276 ft) in length and 33.68 meters (110.5 ft) in width. The central nave alone measures 39.37 meters (129.2 ft) in length by 11.10 meters (36.4 ft) in width and rises to 20.70 meters (67.9 ft) in height. The side naves nearly match each other in size and are adorned with side chapels. The cathedral is noted for its 10 bays, with the central nave housing half of these. Flying buttresses support the central nave walls, each starting from ornately decorated columns.

Material and Construction: The majority of the cathedral is built from local sandstone, with brick used for the vaults. Over the centuries, different types of sandstone from various quarries have been incorporated into the building, creating a slightly varied appearance in the stone’s color and texture. During the 19th and 20th centuries, reconstruction projects introduced additional materials.

West Facade and Tower: The west facade is dominated by a large tower, originally a rectangular structure flanked by two round towers. The lower part of the tower was built first, followed by an octagonal upper section in the 19th century. The facade features three main entrances, each uniquely shaped and decorated, with the central portal showcasing a representation of the Last Judgment.

Historical Significance: Bern Minster’s site has been a place of worship since around 1191, with the first church likely being a simple chapel. The cathedral we see today began construction in 1421 under the direction of Matthäus Ensinger, a master builder from Strasbourg. The site underwent several phases of construction, reflecting Bern’s growth and its status as a major city-state north of the Alps.

The Reformation in Bern: In 1528, the Reformation dramatically impacted the cathedral, leading to the removal of its altars and much of its interior decoration in an act of iconoclasm. Today, the Minster remains a symbol of Bern’s historical and architectural grandeur, its interior marked by austerity but filled with artistry, including its famed stained glass windows.

Visitor Experience: The Bern Minster offers visitors a rich historical experience, with the opportunity to climb its tower for panoramic views of the city and beyond. The cathedral also hosts a variety of concerts throughout the year, making use of its significant organ, which has been rebuilt several times since its first installation in the 18th century. The surrounding Minster Terrace provides a tranquil spot for reflection and enjoyment of the city’s scenic beauty.

The Münster of Bern appears in our Complete Guide to Visiting Bern!

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Visiting Münster of Bern


Church: Mon.–Sat.: 10.00 – 16.00, Su.: 11.30 – 16.00

Tower: Mon.–Sat.: 10.00 – 16.30*, Su.: 11.30 – 16.30*

*last ascent

Address: Munster of Berne, Münsterplatz, Bern, Switzerland
Duration: 33 minutes
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