<span class="nickname" ">Münsterhof

Münsterhof, Zunfthaus zur Waag, to the left, Zunfthaus zur Meisen to the right
Type town square, parking facility (2015), pedestrian zone (2016)
Owner City of Zürich
Addresses Münsterhof
Location Lindenhof, Zürich, Switzerland
Postal code 8001
Coordinates 47°22′12.30″N 8°32′27.70″E / 47.3700833°N 8.5410278°E / 47.3700833; 8.5410278

Münsterhof is a town square situated in the Lindenhof quarter in the historical center of Zürich, Switzerland.

Kratzquartier, Münsterbrücke, Fraumünster and Münsterhof, early 16th century, Hans Leu the Elder
Limmatquai and Quaianlagen: Bellevueplatz and Bürkliplatz, Quaibrücke, Bauschänzli, Stadthausquai, Münsterbrücke and Münsterhof, and RathausbrückeWeinplatz, aerial photography by Eduard Spelterini in the probably mid-1890s.


The Münsterhof is located in front of the Fraumünster church, south of the Lindenhof hill and opposite the boulevard Limmatquai. It is surrounded by medieval buildings, among them are the guild houses or "zur Waag", the former Kämbel guild house and the art museum Zunfthaus zur Meisen. Named after the Münster (plural), the two minster churches Fraumünster and Grossmünster, today the literally Fraumünster courtyard is a section of the southern extensions of the Quaianlagen promenades that were built between 1881 and 1887.[1]

It is the biggest town square within the former medieval town walls of Zürich, situated on the right (western) shore of the Limmat. The square is accessibly by Stadthausquai, Poststrasse, Storchengasse and Waaggasse, and by the Münsterbrücke crossing the Limmat to Limmatquai. Münsterhof is one of the historical cores of the medieval town of Zürich, previously the Celtic-Roman Turicum at the bottom of the Lindenhof hill.


The Zürich tram lines 2, 4 and 15, as well as the Zürichsee-Schifffahrtsgesellschaft (ZSG) and its Limmat tour boats towards Zürichhorn respectively Landesmuseum, provide public transportation. Individual transportation usually is strictly limited because the area is part of the pedestrian zone of Zürich. It is limited to road transport use between lower Limmatquai and Bellevueplatz upstream the Limmat. Since 25 September 2004, the driving of motor vehicles, motorcycles and scooters is restricted, excepted to cargo handling, rides in traffic with the cantonal police station, postal delivery services as well as medical doctors and emergency services.[2]

Sights and activities

The main sights are the Fraumünster church (first mentioned in 853 AD) and Zunfthaus zur Meisen which houses the porcelain and faience collection of the Swiss National Museum. There are some renowned restaurants and cafés situated there among them Zunfthaus zur Waag respectively Zeughauskeller and Sprüngli at nearby Paradeplatz.

The equestrian monument in front of the Fraumünster church at the Münsterbrücke was created by Hermann Haller. It was unveiled on 6 April 1937 by the Kämbel guild, aiming to rehabilitate Hans Waldmann, mayor of Zürich from 1482 to 1489 and their former dean, who they proposed had been the victim of a judicial murder.[3] The equestrian statue became the subject of controversy for artistic, political and historical reasons.

Fraumünster church and its courtyard as seen from the Limmatquai

On 14 March 2004 the Katharina von Zimmern memorial was inaugurated at the former cloister of the Fraumünster Abbey, initiated by the Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Anna-Maria Bauer, a sculptor from Zürich, created a sculpture that consists of 37 copper blocks that are layered into a compact square. The shape of the sculpture refers to the shape of an altar table or burial and shines in its simplicity as a symbol of timelessness,[4] to remember the last princess Abbess's last decision that enabled the peaceful introduction of the Reformation in Zürich on 8 December 1524.[5][6][7]

On the ground floor of the cloister a banner was engraved:

Die Stadt vor Unruhe und Umgemach bewahren und tun, was Zürich lieb und dienlich ist.[8]

Paul Bodmer's fresco related to the history of the abbey are also a very popular touristic destination situated in the abbey's cloister.

Frescos by Paul Bodmer in the cloister of Fraumünster

Beginning in 1999, Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster (Fraumünster society) organized every three years the so-called Mittelalter Spectaculum, a medieval funfair, at the Münsterhof square.

Redesign of the Münsterhof plaza

The city's authorities planned since May 2003 to declare Münsterhof as a car-free zone: For the future public use of this urban square, an evaluation has been done, to enliven this historical place within the Altstadt of Zürich, by major events such as several popular open-air performances and public events in general. Construction works were scheduled for 2014 and the inauguration for 2015, but had to be re-scheduled to spring 2016 due to archaeological excavations in winter 2014/2015 and from October to November 2015.[10][11][11]

The redesign includes a distinctive new fountain, with a diameter of six metres and height of almost four metres, as a central element. A smaller drinking water fountain will be connected directly to that central large water basin. A new granite stone pavement with two different patterns visually divides the plaza into an inner and an outer area. New lighting fixtures made of steel will enable a warm visual atmosphere. Benches will be added, and there will be more space for outdoor cafés and restaurants. All structures will meet the requirements for barrier-free construction and will therefore also be accessible to physically disabled people.[12]

When the transformation, Münsterhof would no longer be used for parking; it will be restricted to Fraumünstertrasse and Parking Opéra. Once done, the plaza will be again be a representative and lively urban square which may be used flexibly in the heart of the historical core of the city of Zürich. Similar to its past, beginning in 2016, it will be available in its entirety for major events. The focus, however, will be again on everyday use. The present (as of October 2015) construction works will result in minimal physical design changes, but they will nonetheless enhance the square significantly. The city's authorities also claim a transformation into a tranquil open space which invites everyone to take a stroll or simply relax.[12]


Münsterhof, Fraumünster and the medieval upper Limmat bridge on Hans Leu's view of Zürich around 1500

While in prehistorian times the Münsterhof (literally: Fraumünster abbey courtyard) area was a swampy, by the Sihl flooded hollow,[13] Lindenhof hill was the core of the Helvetii (Oppidum Lindenhof) and Roman (Vicus Turicum) settlement where the modern city historically has grown alongside the easterly Limmat riverbank. Probably some Roman buildings were built at the site of the Zunfthaus zur Zimmerleuten on the other riverbank, and the Roman settlement may stretched towards the present Münsterbrücke which is crossing the Limmat between Grossmünster (remains of graves) and Wasserkirche, and the Münsterhof plaza. Not yet archaeologically proven but suggested by the historians, as well for the first construction phase of the present Münsterbrücke, the present Weinplatz square was the former civilian harbour of the Celtic-Roman Turicum.[14] Fire bed tombs from the 1st century AD were found at Poststrasse, west of the Fraumünster church, as well as a round pit from the 2nd/3rd century with numerous shards northeast of the church. The human remains of a large 7th-century cemetery at Münsterhof were secured in October/November 2015.[10] Probably in the 10th century wooden houses were built by Zürich citizens besides the Fraumünster Abbey, and mansions made of stone may been built in the early 13th century.[15]

First mentioned in 1221 respectively 1303 AD,[16] Münsterhof was for centuries the only proper square within the medieval town walls. From the Middle Ages onwards, it often served as a place to stage important political and cultural events for a larger audience, for instance, where the German king and his retenue was formally welcomed by the abbess of the Fraumünster abbey. She was also acting princess of the Holy German Empire and, up to the time of the Reformation in Zürich, the formal ruler of Zürich. The plaza probably became an open square around 1300 AD when the monastic graveyard was abandoned, except for the narrow strip beside the abbey. At the same time, the demolition of the adjoint St. James chapel (in German: Jakobskapelle), as well as a number of houses,[11] was probably carried out on the orders of the prince abbess.[12] In medieval times the bailiff's house of the Einsiedeln Abbey was also situated at Münsterhof, and the plaza became the preferred domicile of the abbey's associates.

17th-century glass painting showing the so-called "Mordnacht von Zürich" on 23/24 February 1350

On 18 July 1336 Rudolf Brun defeated his political opponents in the Rat (council) of Zürich those banned members found refuge by count Johann I in Rapperswil.[17] The so-called Äusseres Zürich, meaning the banned councilors, declared the feud (German: Fehde) and formed a coalition, and Count Johann I became the leader of Brun's opposition,[18] among them the ancient councilors family Bilgeri.[17] On 21 September 1337 Zürich troops moved over the Obersee to the Grynau Castle where Johann I was killed.[19] Count Johann I's underaged children – Johann II, Rudolf, Gotfrid and Agnes – were set under guardianship of Albrecht, Duke of Austria.[20] The feud was continued by Johann II in the late 1340s,[18] and an attempted coup by Brun's opposition was forcefully put down after intensively forced street fights around the Münsterhof plaza on 23/24 February 1350: Count Johann II was arrested for two years, Rapperswil and its castles were destroyed by the Zürich troops, and Brun's opponent executed or banned. After the invention of Habsburg-Austria against Zürich a peace contract was signed in 1352.[21]

In 1504 AD, and probably much earlier, the passion play of the city's martyrs Felix and Regula was celebrated on the plaza. On 8 December 1524, on the day of the Immaculate Conception, Katharina von Zimmern, the imperial abbess of Zürich, passed the abbey and all rights to the council of Zürich.[22] Following the Reformation in Zürich, the area was used as a pig market to 1667. In 1676 the town square was renewed by using cobblestones. From 1627 to 1835, along the north wall of Fraumünster church stalls were situated.

Münsterhof and Neptun fountain (broken in 1811), drawing by Emil Schulthess, around 1835

In 1766 the Neptun fountain adorned Münsterhof plaza, but was removed 45 years later. During Züriputsch in September 1839, several thousand putschists stormed the city from the west, and fought the cantonal troops in the alleys between Paradeplatz and Münsterhof. In 1938 the plaza was rebuilt at its south-westerly side towards Poststrasse as it is today,[23] now mainly being a parking facility nearby the pedestrian zones at Bahnhofstrasse, Paradeplatz and Limmatquai.

Archaeological excavations

Dölf Wild, chief archaeologist of the 2014/2015 excavations, told in an interview: For 700 years, Münsterhof was the stage of large gatherings, and will it soon be again, after a rather sad interlude as parking facility.[24] The archaeological excavations of winter 2014/15 were concentrated on the plaza and on the Stadthausquai and Poststrasse area: So the remains of the cemetery chapel of the era before 1300 AD have been examined, when the chapel was removed and the cemetery decreased, in order that the new erected gothic church building got in the focus of the public. The Zürich archaeologists also secured grave furnishings, that will be presented along with the findings of the excavations in 1977/78 as part of an archaelogical window in the Fraumünster's crypt.[11] The city archaeologists (Amt für Städtebau) recently also identified a special find: an originally corroded metal lump was cleaned and restored, now showing a 600-year-old badge of Charlemagne on his horse when they (in fact the horse) discovered the graves of the martyrs Felix and Regula. The beautiful cast figure made of non-ferrous metals and measuring just 3.5 centimetres (1.38 in) probably was a pilgrim badge.[25] In addition to the fire bed tombs from the 1st century AD at Poststrasse, west of the Fraumünster church, also a round pit from the 2nd/3rd century was discovered, with numerous shards mainly of drinking cups and bowls, northeast of the church. In October 2015 the 7th-century cemetery respectively the remains of about 280 buried people were secured; they are stored temporarily assumably for two years at the Sihlfeld cemetery to find, after scientifically researches, a final resting place in a mass grave.[10]


The fictitious 2007 Swiss mystery film Marmorea was filmed among others,[26] at the Burghölzli sanatory in the Weinegg district, on the Limmat near Technopark Zürich, at the Limmatquai promenade, and on the Münsterbrücke river crossing towards Münsterhof.


  1. Grün Stadt Zürich (May 2006). "Vom Bürkliplatz zur Sukkulenten-Sammlung" (PDF) (in German). Grün Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  2. "Limmatquai" (in German). Poliezidepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-06.
  3. "Kleine Zürcher Verfassungsgeschichte 1218–2000" (PDF) (in German). Staatsarchiv Zürich. Retrieved 2014-12-20.
  4. "Zeitlos und vielschichtig: Ein Erinnerungsort für die letzte Fraumünster-Äbtissin" (in German). Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 2002-05-28. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  5. "Geschichte" (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  6. "Frauenehrungen" (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  7. "Frauenehrungen der Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster" (PDF) (in German). Gesellschaft zu Fraumünster. 2014. Retrieved 2014-11-30.
  8. "To preserve the city of riots and misfortune, and to do what is nice and helpful to the city of Zürich". Words of Katharina von Zimmern on occasion of the surrender of the Fraumünster Abbey to the city's magistrats during the Reformation in Zürich.
  9. "Verein Tibeter Jugend in Europa: Wangpo Tethong". vtje.org. Retrieved 2015-12-01.
  10. 1 2 3 "Wütende Camper, OPS-Personalmangel, Knochen-Bestattung" (in German). Schweiz aktuell. 2015-10-06. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  11. 1 2 3 4 "Archäologen dringen tief in Zürichs Stadtgeschichte vor" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. 2015-03-29. Retrieved 2015-03-31.
  12. 1 2 3 According to the information boards on occasion of the construction works in July 2015.
  13. Dölf Wild (2008-09-25). "Zürcher City unter Wasser. Interaktion zwischen Natur und Mensch in der Frühzeit Zürichs" (in German). Hochdepartement der Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-15.
  14. "Turicum II" (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-01-07.
  15. Dölf Wild (2011). "Zürichs Münsterhof – ein städtischer Platz des 13. Jahrhunderts? Überlegungen zum Thema  "Stadtgestalt und Öffentlichkeit"  im  mittelalterlichen  Zürich" (PDF) (in German). Hochbaudepartement Stadt Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-03.
  16. "W I 29.1 Ratsurkunde betreffend Erhöhung des Hauses am Münsterhof (1303.08.03)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-10-06.
  17. 1 2 "C I, Nr. 516 Bürgermeister Rudolf Brun, der Rat und die Bürger von Zürich verbannen 12 Mitglieder der gestürzten Regierung. (1336.07.18)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-09.
  18. 1 2 "23. Konrad II. von Gösgen" (in German). Einsiedeln Abbey. Retrieved 2014-11-05.
  19. Herman Wartmann (1835). Die Grafen von Toggenburg. Zollikofer, 1835 (in German). Google eBooks. Retrieved 2014-11-11.
  20. "C I, Nr. 1447 Kaiser Ludwig und Herzog Albrecht von Österreich, Vogt der Kinder des verstorbenen Grafen Johans von Habsburg, vermitteln einen Vertrag zwischen den genannten Kindern und den Bürgern von Zürich. 1337.11.21 (Dokument)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-05.
  21. "C I, Nr. 1464 Hans, Rudolf und Gotfrid, Grafen von Habsburg, erklären, mit der Stadt Zürich und ihren Eidgenossen Frieden geschlossen ... (1352.09.19)" (in German). Staatsarchiv des Kantons Zürich. Retrieved 2015-08-04.
  22. "Katharina von Zimmern" (in German). frauen-und-reformation.de. Retrieved 2014-10-25.
  23. Münsterhof on Gang dur Alt-Züri website (German)
  24. "Als in Zürich die Frauen das Sagen hatten" (in German). Einstein (TV series). 2015-05-29. Retrieved 2015-05-30.
  25. "Eine rund 600 Jahre alte Gussfigur wurde nach den Grabungen rund ums Fraumünster identifiziert" (in German). Limmattaler Zeitung. 2015-12-22. Retrieved 2015-12-22.
  26. Rolf Breiner. "Stausee-Spuk made in Switzerland" (in German). cineman.ch. Retrieved 2015-02-15.
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