Munich’s clock in the middle of town is a big draw. Crowds of tourists cluster together in Marienplatz with necks stretched upward waiting for the elaborate Neues Rathaus (New Town Hall) glockenspiel to chime and dance, culminating with a life-sized knight getting knocked off his horse in a joust.
The clock is fun in a “it’s a small world” way and dates from 1908. But in a city with a 1,000 years of history like Munich, there is a lot more to check out, including three must-see churches that are all within a five minute walk of the glockenspiel: Old Peter, Frauenkirche, and St. Peter’s.
The Church of St. Peter is the oldest church in Munich, and although the current building only dates from the 14th century, this location has been the site of worship since the 8th century. It was built in the pre-Gothic Romanesque style and has a comparatively small nave and low ceilings with small rounded (Romanesque) arches.
The interior of the church was renovated in the 18th century Rococo style with lots of gold filigree. I like how this church feels intimate — in part because it’s on the smaller side as far as big-city churches go, and also because it’s sparsely filled with people sitting contemplatively in the quiet cool.
Skip down a couple streets and jump forward 100 years to the Cathedral of our Lady, or Frauenkirche. It’s a beautiful Medieval red brick 15th century Gothic building with a steep red rood and twin green onion domes atop matching clock towers. The twin towers are a local icon and act as an easy landmark in navigating the city.
Inside it feels very tall, and even though it’s more spacious than than Old Peter it’s also darker, making it feel cavernous. Few people were inside on my most recent visit, perhaps in part because a lot of the church was under scaffolding and billowing plastic for restoration.
Another 100 years and a couple more streets and we come to St. Michaels, a 16th century Renaissance church with Baroque facade. This Jesuit church represents the history of the counter reformation in Munich.
It has classically white frescoed ceilings and large Renaissance arches and domes. It sits along a pedestrian-only street that connects the train station to Marienplatz and is lined with stores and shoppers. But even with the hustle and bustle outside, the inside is quiet and peaceful, and still very much in use.
Like much of Germany, huge portions of Munich were completely bombed out during WWII causing severe damage to all three churches. After the war, Munich decided to rebuild their city by restoring their historic buildings as opposed to demolishing and replacing them like in other German cities such as Frankfurt. Today, all three churches have multi-lingual pamphlets that not only explain their religious history and function, but also give a sense of the history of Munich itself.
— Laura Rowley