Münster is a city at the northern tip of the state of North Rhine Westphalia, and about the furthest north that my semester ticket can go. Its about two hours away from Cologne by train, which is slightly too far to visit conveniently and too near to stay overnight, and too remote to think of visiting on a future Europe trip. I really love staying in my room to sleep, eat and watch variety shows but my free days in Europe were getting very numbered so I went on a day trip to see both Münster and Dortmund on the way to make the trip more worthwhile.
Peace of Westphalia: the Birth of Modern Europe
Münster may just be the most important European city that you have never heard of. When you think Germany, cities that come to mind would be Berlin, Munich and Frankfurt, but Münster occupies an extra special place in European history as it is the place where the Peace of Westphalia was negotiated.
In the 17th century, Europe was plagued by the Thirty Years’ War, one of the last wars motivated by religious differences. In 1648, a treaty called the Peace of Westphalia was signed, which brought the war to an end and made it clear that religion and politics should now be separate, bringing a new modern order made of secular, sovereign states instead of religious leagues and unions. It was the first that that diplomatic means were used to end conflict, and not by military means.
This is the front façade of the historic town hall where the negotiations took place, but its not the original design since the building was damaged many times over the centuries. Most recently, it was severely damaged during World War II, and only the bottom arches survived the bombings. The earliest use of the building dates back to the 13th century as a meeting place for judges, however they would hold court outside under the archways in front of the town hall.
An electronic version of the flyer is also available online if you want to read more about the town hall. The council chamber is now known as the Friedensaal, or Hall of Peace. THe wooden paneling were removed and saved from the war destruction, so it remains authentic. Back in the 17th century negotiations took years to complete as it took a long time to send messages between the negotiating parties. Portraits of important delegates are also hung in the gallery. .
The Golden Cockerel is actually a wine goblet that holds about a bottle of wine and is offered to important visiting dignitaries. There’s also a severed mummified hand in another display case, which was supposedly evidence for a murder case back in the day (o.o why did they manage to keep such a thing for so long).
Outside the town hall along the main street of Prinzipalmarkt is the St. Lamberti church. If you look carefully, you can see three cages hanging just above the golden clock, they used to hold the corpses of Baptist movement leaders and the skeletons were only removed quite recently. Which is a just a tiny bit grotesque!
St. Paulus Dom
The city’s main cathedral is another short walk away. Its actually the third church built on the same site, built in a Late Romanesque style. It has a huge astronomical clock inside, which is always a fun thing to see.