The Bonner Münster (Bonn Minster) is a towering Romanesque basilica of harmonious proportions in Bonn, the former capital of West Germany. It stands on a site that has been sacred for 2,000 years, first as a Roman temple and then as a Christian church and shrine to the martyrs Cassius and Florentius.
History of Bonn Münster
The city of Bonn had its start as Castra Bonnensia, a fortress built by the Romans in the 1st century AD. It survived the breakup of the Roman Empire as a civilian settlement, and in the 9th century it became the Frankish town of Bonnburg.
Around 235 AD, two Christian Roman soldiers stationed in Castra Bonnensia, Cassius and Florentius, were martyred for their faith. Tradition has it that a small memorial shrine was built over their graves in the 4th century by St. Helen, mother of Constantine. There is no surviving evidence of this first structure, but archaeological excavations have shown that the basilica stands on the site of a Roman temple and necropolis.
The original memorial hall was expanded into a larger church in the 6th and 7th centuries, and many people were buried near the martyrs inside and outside the building. Further extensions were carried out in the 8th century.
Around 1050 the church was demolished and construction began on the present Romanesque building, which dates from the 11th to 13th centuries. By the end of this period Bonn had grown in importance, becoming the capital of the Electorate and Archbishopric of Cologne, which was then a sovereign state. The new basilica appeared in the city's coat of arms. In 1643, Cassius and Florentius were officially declared the patron saints of the city of Bonn.
The basilica suffered significant damage in 1583-89, 1689, and in World War II, but each time it was fully restored. In 1956, the Bonner Münster was granted the status of Papal Minor Basilica.
What to See at Bonn Münster
Bonn's Münster lies in the center of the city on the Münsterplatz and Martinsplatz, just a short walk from the train station. It has five towers in all: square flanking towers on the east end, a round central tower 315 feet (96m) high, and two slender turrets on the west end. All are topped with spires. The plain west end is one of the oldest parts of the basilica, dating from the 11th century.
Lying in the open plaza on the east end of the basilica are large sculpted heads of the Roman martyrs Cassius and Florentius, the patron saints of Bonn. They were sculpted in 2002 by Iskender Yediler, who also contributed similar sculptures of St. Benno in Munich and St. Gereon in Cologne.
The nave of the basilica dates from 1220 and is a blend of Romanesque and Gothic elements. It is illuminated by a matching set of modern stained glass windows, mostly black-and-white with a colorful central scene.
At the back (west) of the nave is a larger-than-life-sized bronze statue of St. Helen, donated by Cardinal Franz Wilhelm von Wartenberg, Provost of the Collegiate Church (1629-61). Tradition credits Helen with building the first memorial shrine on this site in the 4th century.
Most of the interior furnishings date from the Baroque and more recent periods. The baptismal font, however, dates from the 12th century. It is topped with a small representation of Noah's Ark from 1966. Near the font in the northwest corner is a painting of 1704 depicting St. Helen, Cassius, Florentius, and a view of Bonn.
The south transept features several modern murals, including a large depiction of St. Christopher. Also here is the Altar of St. John, with an alabaster relief (1608) depicting the Baptism of Christ by John the Baptist and John the Evangelist writing his Gospel.
The north transept is home to a mural of 1400 depicting the Three Magi (who are said to rest in nearby Cologne Cathedral), an equestrian sculpture of St. Martin of Tours, and the effigy tomb of Ruprecht, Archbishop of Cologne (1463-78).
At the front (east) of the nave are two large Romanesque sculptures(c.1200) depicting an angel and a devil. Stairs under the chancel lead to the crypt, which is normally reserved for prayer. Here a shrine containing the relics of Cassius and Florentius stands on a stone pedestal between the eastern pillars. A locked door leads into a small cave said to be the tomb of the martyrs, but this is only opened on their feast day (October 10).
Above the crypt, the chancel dates from the 11th century and is decorated with 19th-century paintings. On the vault near the back is a muralof the Assumption of Mary from c.1300. The high altar dates from 1865 and features sculptures of Sts. Cassius, Florentius, Martin and Helen.
The apse mosaic was created in Venice 1894, based on the Byzantine Deesis motif (most notably seen in the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul) and the apse windows, depicting the Creation, date from 1951-52.
The cloister, entered through a door in the southwest corner, dates from the 12th century, when it was added along with two-story collegiate buildings by Gerhard von Are. These buildings are still occupied by the basilica's clergy.
The cloister centers on a tranquil garden with fountain and its arcades feature fine Romanesque carvings of dragons, horses, lions, stylized leaves and more. The northern side of the cloister was removed in the 13th century to facilitate the widening of the basilica's south aisle.
Quick Facts on Bonn Münster
|Bonn Basilica · Bonn Cathedral (incorrectly) · Bonn Minster · Bonn Münster · Collegiate Church of St. Cassius and St. Florentius · St. Martin's Basilica
|basilicas; churches; minsters
|St. Martin, St. Cassius, St. Florentius
|Visitor and Contact Information
|50.733495° N, 7.099721° E
|0228 985 8810
|Basilica: daily 7am-7pm
Cloister: daily 9am-5pm
No visits during services
|View hotels near Bonn Münster
- Personal visit (December 3, 2007).
- Das Bonner Münster - official website
- Bonner Münster - German Wikipedia
- Das Bonner Munster - Kirche des Monats (Church of the Month)
- Bonn - Encyclopaedia Britannica
- Photos of Bonn Münster - here on Sacred Destinations
Map of Bonn Münster
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