Lost in music

For his July 2012 concert in Ulm, Elton John requested that the Münster bells were silenced.

Forums dedicated to helping new residents in Germany and Switzerland provide mixed views on the delights of living in an apartment close to a church or Münster. Münster or Monster in English describes a church with a bloody great bell. Our Münster is armed with a 3850 kg Monster, Die Christusglocke, together with some other lower calibre weaponry. These bells have been funded by voluntary donations as part of the extensive restoration of St. Stephan’s Münster.

The Münster has had a hard time of it and the post war restoration is remarkable. The most endearing features are the two principal towers I am told that one one is Gothic, the other Romanesque.

Breisach Münster

The Münster is well worth a visit in the quiet times between oldie coach trips for its pin-drop acoustics and for the faded elegance of the 145m² triptych mural by Martin Schongauer. But the huge ornate carved High Alter at the business end is to my eyes all a bit too Black Forest gloomy.

You can sometimes find the Münster open but empty and this is a great opportunity to free that one verse of psalm or hymn that was driven into your head at school. I assure you that even the musically challenged will sound quite almighty with all the echo and reverb.

I am from a Methodist town and find all the fancy religious paraphenalia and incense swinging a bit of a laugh. Having spent time on the west coast of Ireland I have learned to love the Father Ted madness of Catholicism and my daughter and I both enjoy religious kitsch. Last Christmas we chanced to exchange similar presents, a Mosque alarm clock that calls to prayer and a flashing light colour changing Madonna.

One of the special treats on moving to Germany is the religious inquisition at the town hall museum. To be fair it is all a bit gentle and the only wheel is the one with the collection of Victorian rubber stamps. To someone brought up with Milligan, Python & Peter Cooke the German bureaucracy is a never-ending source of entertainment. The additional voluntary income tax is a real beauty. If you fill out the box on your Anmeldung registration form to say that you are a member of a church congregation you get to pay another 8% of your income tax to keep Father Jack in Toilet Duck and the Pope in Weißbier.

In Britain there is no tax on the godly but those who serve Mammon have to pay the Silly Tax (National Lottery).

As for the bells, well, if you are not a rocketman then I recommend losing yourself in music, ipod & earphones.

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