Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Münster

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MÜNSTER, the chief town of the province of Westphalia in Prussia and formerly the capital of the important bishopric of its own name, lies in a sandy plain about halfway between Cologne and Bremen on the Aa, an insignificant affluent of the Ems. It is one of the best-preserved old towns in Germany, its quaint mediæval character being most strongly impressed on the “prinzipal-markt,” with its lofty gabled houses, its arcades, the town-house, a fine Gothic building of the 14th century, and many churches. Of the latter the most important is the cathedral, one of the most original and striking structures in Germany, though much disfigured by modern decoration, rebuilt after a fire in the 13th and 14th centuries, and exhibiting a combination of Romanesque and Gothic forms; the church of St Ludgerus, originally erected in the Romanesque style in 1170, was extended in the Gothic style in 1383, with a tower terminating in a picturesque lantern; the Liebfrauenkirche is of the 14th century; the old church of St Maurice, founded about 1070, was rebuilt in 1859-1862. The room in the town-house in which the peace of Westphalia was signed in 1648 contains portraits of the ambassadors present at the ceremony. On the tower of St Lambert's church (14th century), the upper part of which has recently been pulled down as insecure, were hung three iron cages in which the bodies of John of Leyden and two of his followers were exposed in 1536 (see Anabaptists). The old Stadtkeller contains a collection of early German paintings. The university of Minister, founded after the Seven Years War and closed at the beginning of this century, is now represented by an academy with the rank of a university, possessing faculties of philosophy and theology (Roman Catholic). In connexion with it are botanical and zoological gardens, several scientific collections, and a library. The private houses of Münster afford an admirable picture of German domestic architecture in the 16th, 17th, and 18th centuries, — Gothic, Renaissance, and Rococo.

Münster is the seat of a Roman Catholic bishop, of the headquarters of an army corps, and of the administrative and judicial authorities of Westphalia. The Westphalian Society of Antiquaries and several other learned bodies also have their headquarters here. The population in 1880 was 40,434, including about 6000 Protestants. The relative industrial importance of Münster is no longer maintained, but manufactures of cotton, linen, and woollens, candles, leather, &c., are still carried on, and it is the centre of a tolerably brisk trade in these products, as well as in cattle, Westphalian hams, grain, and books.

History. — The first historical mention of Münster takes us back to the close of the 8th century, when Charlemagne fixed “Mimegardevoord” as the residence of the newly-appointed bishop of the Saxons. The growth of the settlement round the “Monasterium” was slow, owing to its distance from any navigable river or important highway, and it was not till 1180 that it received a municipal charter. The name Münster had supplanted the original one about a century earlier. During the 13th century Münster was one of the most important members of the Hanseatic League. At the time of the Reformation the citizens were inclined to adopt Protestantism, but the excesses of the Anabaptists (q.v.) led to the armed intervention of the bishop and the forcible suppression of all divergence from the ancient faith. The Thirty Years War, during which Münster suffered most from the Protestant armies, was terminated by the peace of Westphalia or Münster, signed in the town-hall here on 24th October 1648. The authority of the bishops, who seldom resided at Münster, was usually somewhat limited, but in 1661 Bishop Bernhard von Galen took the town by force, built a citadel, and deprived the citizens of most of their privileges. In the Seven Years War Münster was occupied both by the French and by the allied troops. Towards the close of last century Münster was recognized as one of the intellectual centres of Germany, being the home of Hemsterhuis, Princess Gallitzin, F. von Stolberg, Fürstenberg, and other notabilities.

The bishopric of Münster, which possessed the freedom of the empire, embraced an area of 2500 square miles and contained about 350,000 inhabitants. In the 17th century Bishop Galen was of such importance — he supported an army of 20,000 men — that his alliance was sought by the English in 1665 in the war against Holland. The bishopric was secularized and annexed to Prussia in 1803.

Comp. Geisberg, Merkwürdigkeiten der Stadt Münster (6th ed., 1877); Erhard, Geschichte Münsters (1837).