1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Münster (Westphalia)

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MÜNSTER, a town of Germany, capital of the Prussian province of Westphalia, and formerly the capital of an important bishopric. It lies in a sandy plain on the Dortmund-Ems canal, at the junction of several railways, 107 m. S.W. of Bremen on the line to Cologne. Pop. (1885), 44,060; (1905) 81,468. The town preserves its medieval character, especially in the "Prinzipal-Markt" and other squares, with their lofty gabled houses and arcades. The fortifications were dismantled during the 18th century, their place being taken by gardens and promenades. Of the many churches of Münster the most important is the cathedral, one of the most striking in Germany, although disfigured by modern decorations. It was rebuilt in the 13th and 14th centuries, and exhibits a combination of Romanesque and Gothic forms; its chapter-house is specially fine. The beautiful Gothic church of St Lambert (14th century) was largely rebuilt after 1868; on its tower, which is 312 ft. in height, hang three iron cages in which the bodies of John of Leiden and two of his followers were exposed in 1536. The church of St Ludger, erected in the Romanesque style about 1170, was extended in the Gothic style about 200 years later; it has a tower with a picturesque lantern. The church of St Maurice, founded about 1070, was rebuilt during the 19th century, and the Gothic church of Our Lady dates from the 14th century. Other noteworthy buildings are the town-hall, a fine Gothic building of the 14th century, and the Stadtkeller, which contains a collection of early German paintings. The room in the townhall called the Friedens Saal, in which the peace of Westphalia was signed in October 1648, contains portraits of many ambassadors and princes who were present at the ceremony. The Schloss, built in 1767, was formerly the residence of bishops of Münster. The private houses, many of which were the winter residences of the nobility of Westphalia, are admirable examples of German domestic architecture in the 16th, 17th and 18th centuries. The university of Münster, founded after the Seven Years' War and closed at the beginning of the 19th century, was reopened as an academy in 1818, and again attained the rank of a university in 1902. It possesses faculties of theology, philosophy and law. In connexion with it are botanical and zoological gardens, several scientific collections, and a library of 120,000 volumes. Münster is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop and of the administrative and judicial authorities of Westphalia, and is the headquarters of an army corps. The Westphalian society of antiquaries and several other learned bodies also have their headquarters here. Industries include weaving, dyeing, brewing and printing, and the manufacture of furniture and machines. There is a brisk trade in cattle, grain and other products of the neighbourhood.

History[edit]

Münster is first mentioned about the year 800, when Charlemagne made it the residence of Ludger, the newly appointed bishop of the Saxons. Owing to its distance from any available river or important highway, the growth of the settlement round the monasterium was slow, and it was not until after 1186 that it received a charter, the name Münster having supplanted the original name of Mimegardevoord about a century earlier. During the 13th and 14th centuries the town was one of the most prominent members of the Hanseatic League. At the time of the Reformation the citizens were inclined to adopt the Protestant doctrines, but the excesses of the Anabaptists led in 1535 to the armed intervention of the bishop and to the forcible suppression of all divergence from the older faith. The Thirty Years' War, during which Münster suffered much from the Protestant armies, was terminated by the peace of Westphalia, sometimes called the peace of Münster, because it was signed here on the 24th of October 1648. The authority of the bishops, who seldom resided at Münster, was usually somewhat limited, but in 1661 Bishop Christoph Bernhard von Galen took the place by force, built a citadel, and deprived the citizens of many of their privileges. During the Seven Years' War Münster was occupied both by the French and by their foes. Towards the close of the 18th century the town was recognized as one of the intellectual centres of Germany.

The bishopric of Münster embraced an area of about 2500 sq. m. and contained about 350,000 inhabitants. Its bishops, who resided generally at Ahaus, were princes of the empire. In the 17th century Bishop Galen, with his army of 20,000 men, was so powerful that his alliance was sought by Charles II. of England and other European sovereigns. The bishopric was secularized and its lands annexed to Prussia in 1803.

See Geisberg, Merkwürdigkeiten der Stadt Münster (1877); Erhard, Geschichte Münsters (1837); A. Tibus, Die Stadt Münster (Münster, 1882); Hellinghaus, Quellen and Forschungen zur Geschichte der Stadt Münster (Münster, 1898); Pieper, Die alte Universität Münster 1773-1818 (Münster, 1902). See also Tücking, Geschichte des Stifts Münster unter C. B. von Galen (Münster, 1865).