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Cathedral seen from north-west

The Cathedral of Constance (Konstanzer Münster in German) is the proto-cathedral of the former diocese of Konstanz (dissolved in 1821). Records indicate that in 590 the Alemannic diocese of Constance is established. The former bishopric of Vindonissa was replaced by Lausanne in the west and Constance in the east.[1]



The first mention of a church in Constance dedicated to the Virgin Mary was in 615. Documentary confirmation of the Episcopal church Ecclesia sanctae Mariae urbis Constantiae is dated to the mid 8th century. There is clear evidence indicating that it was located on the Minster Hill, where a late Romanesque fortification with an adjoining civilian settlement had been established. In 780, the church was mentioned in a confirmation of a contract by Charlemagne.

St. Maurice’s Rotunda (Holy Sepulchre) was built in 940 on orders of Bishop Konrad (934 - 975) who was canonized in 1123.

In 1052, the cathedral collapsed. Its reconstruction took place under Bishop Rumold (1051 - 1069), with the eastern transept and three naves separated by 16 monoliths.

The next 300 years saw the construction of one towers, then another, then a great fire destroyed one of the towers along with parts of the basilica as well as 96 other houses in the city. The south tower was completed in 1378.

From 1414 to 1418 the Council of Constance took place. The most important assembly of the Church during the Middle Ages, and the only one on German soil. Martin V, who had been elected Pope by the Conclave and thereby ending the schism dividing the Church, is enthroned in this Minster in 1417.

In 1415 Johannes Hus, because of his teachings, was condemned as a heretic by the Council who, at this time, was without a Pope. He was then delivered to the secular power who condemned him to death, tied him to a stake and publicly burnt him alive.

Between 1418 and 1525, the Minster was adapted to Gothic style by master craftsmen. In the period from 1526 to 1551, the Bishop left Constance because of the reformation, and moved his See across the lake to the Martinsburg in Meersburg. The radical iconoclasm instigated by the reformer Huldrych Zwingli in nearby Zurich, caused the destruction of artwork in the church.

The subsequent centuries saw the addition of more paintings, wrought iron gates and sculptures, as well as the replacement and repair of destroyed items. Of note is the replacement of the painted Romanesque wooden ceiling by brick vaulting in 1637.

In 1821, Constance's bishopric, the largest in Germany, was dissolved and, in 1827, moved to Freiburg in the Breisgau. It had served the people around Lake Constance (Bodensee) for 1200 years, and survived almost 100 bishops. General restoration work took place on Minster from 1844 to 1860; the tower was raised in neo-gothic architectural style.

In 1955 Pope Pius XII raised the Minster to a papal Basilica Minor. A restoration program of the Minster’s interior as well as exterior was started in 1962 and is expected to be completed by 2010. In 1966, twelve new bells were cast and hung in the center tower and the ridge turret, a present from the state of Baden-Württemberg.

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Coordinates: 47°39′48″N 9°10′35″E / 47.66333°N 9.17639°E / 47.66333; 9.17639



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