Bern's Historical Churches, Bern

Bern's Historical Churches (Self Guided), Bern

They say architecture should speak of its time and place, but yearn for timelessness. While the outside appearances of historical churches in Bern beckon seekers of beauty and tranquility, the ethereal atmosphere within embraces the visitor with a sense of timeless serenity.

Enveloped within Bern's historic old town, the Church of the Holy Ghost (Heiliggeistkirche) is one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in Bern. An epitome of Baroque elegance, its soaring spire, crowning the clock tower, ascends towards the heavens, while the resplendent glass windows bathe the interior and its magnificent organ in ethereal hues, casting rays of light upon the faithful who gather within.

The French Church (Französische Kirche) is another notable religious landmark in the city. Originally built in the late 13th century as a Dominican monastic church, it has served the French-speaking Protestant community of Bern since 1623.

Behold the Cathedral of Bern (Berner Münster), a soaring masterpiece crowning the Bernese skyline with its majestic presence. This iconic symbol of the city is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland and a Cultural Property of National Importance.

Perched upon the gentle hillside, the picturesque Nydegg Church (Nydeggkirche) commands a panoramic view of Bern's old town tapestry of spires and rooftops, a captivating spectacle that mirrors the atmosphere within. A fusion of Late Gothic and Gothic Revival influences, this enchanting sanctuary is renowned for its peaceful ambiance and is a popular venue for weddings and concerts.

Indeed, the true splendor of a church is not in its grandeur, but in the serenity it provides to the soul. In the realms of Bern's historical churches architectural beauty and spiritual contemplation intertwine in perfect harmony.

Bathed in the warm glow of stained glass, these sacred spaces resonate with an aura of calm, inviting introspection and contemplation and, ultimately, communion with the divine in solemn reverence. Whether you're a worshiper or interested in history and art, or simply appreciating stunning architecture, the historical churches in Bern will offer you a captivating experience all the same.
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Bern's Historical Churches Map

Guide Name: Bern's Historical Churches
Guide Location: Switzerland » Bern (See other walking tours in Bern)
Guide Type: Self-guided Walking Tour (Sightseeing)
# of Attractions: 5
Tour Duration: 1 Hour(s)
Travel Distance: 1.9 Km or 1.2 Miles
Author: ChristineS
Sight(s) Featured in This Guide:
  • Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost)
  • Franzsische Kirche (French Church)
  • Berner Minster (The Cathedral of Bern)
  • Sankt Peter und Paul Kirche (Church of St. Peter and Paul)
  • Nydeggkirche (Nydegg Church)
Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost)

1) Heiliggeistkirche (Church of the Holy Ghost)

Conveniently located in the Old City of Bern, this beautiful church is a Swiss heritage site of national significance and one of the largest Swiss Reformed churches in the country. The first church on the site was a small structure built around 1228 which was replaced by a second church in 1496. The second church was demolished in 1726 to make way for the building you see today. During the 1726 construction, Roman religious objects were discovered under the foundation. From this find, it appears likely that the church sits on the site of an old Roman temple.

The first organ in the new church was installed in 1804 and was replaced in 1933 by a new one. The church has six bells – the oldest one was in 1596. The interior is supported by 14 monolithic columns made of sandstone and has a free-standing pulpit in the northern part of the nave. Especially notable are the old choir stalls, saved from the earlier church. Much like the St. Pierre Cathedral in Geneva, the Church of the Holy Ghost holds about 2,000 people and is one of the largest Protestant churches in Switzerland.

Why You Should Visit:
Without a doubt one of the prettiest churches (if not the prettiest) of the late Baroque period in Bern.

There are organ concerts every Friday at noon, very nice to enjoy and relax. Free entry!
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Franzsische Kirche (French Church)

2) Franzsische Kirche (French Church)

If you like old churches, Französische Kirche is not to be missed. Französische Kirche, also known as the French Church, is the oldest church in Bern. It initially was built from 1270-1285 in the Romanesque style. It started as a Dominican monastic church, but since 1623, it has served as a place of worship for French-speaking Protestants.

The church is famous for its rood screen located behind the alter. The rood screen, which was built at the same time as the church, was decorated in 1495 with paintings from the artists of the Bernese Carnation Masters who were a group of anonymous Gothic painters active in Swiss territory between 1479 and 1510. Bernese Carnation Masters created some of the most important religious art in Switzerland and their works are featured in the museums. Here you get to see their work for free.
Berner Minster (The Cathedral of Bern)

3) Berner Minster (The Cathedral of Bern) (must see)

The Münster of Bern is a Swiss Reformed cathedral (or minster) located in the Old City of Bern. Built in the Gothic style, its construction started in 1421 although its tower, with a height of 100.6 m (330 ft), was only completed in 1893. It is the tallest cathedral in Switzerland and is a Cultural Property of National Significance.

The Münster was built by the city of Bern as a symbol of the growing power of this city-state. The interior was therefore designed to awe the citizens as well as foreign visitors. The central nave was built in a lacy gothic style with enormous stained glass windows and numerous altars in side chapels. The Gothic style allowed a taller central nave and larger windows than had been possible before, creating an impressive and light and airy structure.

The most beautiful aspect of the Münster is the main portal. 47 large free-standing statues and 170 smaller figures depict the Last Judgement where the righteous are separated from the wicked. This is perhaps the best depiction of the Last Judgement in all of Europe. Interestingly enough, the sculptures of the Last Judgement were the only statues in the Minster to survive the iconoclasm of the Protestant Reformation.

If you are so inclined on a beautiful day, climb the steeple. There is a charge for access but if the weather is nice, you get a very nice view of Bern and the Alps. Be cautious of your time as you can be right next to the ten-ton bell (the largest in the whole of Switzerland) when it rings at 6pm. While it is possible to stand near the bells when they are rung, it is necessary to cover ears to prevent hearing damage.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Sankt Peter und Paul Kirche (Church of St. Peter and Paul)

4) Sankt Peter und Paul Kirche (Church of St. Peter and Paul)

During the Protestant Reformation in the early 16th century, the city of Bern adopted the new Protestant faith and the city's churches converted, leaving the remaining Catholics in Bern without a church. Over the following centuries, they remained without a church in the city. Following the French invasion of Switzerland in 1798 and the political reforms of the Helvetic Republic, the catholic community of Bern held mass in the choir of the Bern Minster until 1803. Beginning in 1804 they moved to the French Church.

The Church of St. Peter and Paul was begun in 1858 as the first Catholic church built in Bern since the Reformation. It was built next to the Town Hall of Bern, on the site of the St. Johannsen granary (which had been built over the ruins of a mint which burnt to the ground in 1787). The church was built in the style of the Romanesque and French cathedral Gothic. Construction began in 1858 and was completed in 1864. The first mass was celebrated in the church on 13 November 1864.

Church of St. Peter and Paul is designated as a Cultural Property of National Significance.
Sight description based on Wikipedia.
Nydeggkirche (Nydegg Church)

5) Nydeggkirche (Nydegg Church)

At the eastern edge of the Old City of Bern lies Nydeggkirche, or the Nydegg Church. This church was built in 1341 and completed in 1346. The original tower replaced an old fortress in the city, but it was refurbished over the years once it was sanctified to the Mary Magdalene Brotherhood. A tower and new nave were added in the late 15th and early 16th centuries to complete its renovation.

Nydeggkirche suffered its share of losses. The Protestant reformation caused the church to be used as a warehouse for a brief time. A fire caused significant damage to the bell tower, roof and clockwork. Luckily, repairs were possible and the church has been in service for more than 400 years.

Today, the Nydeggkirche is a part of the Reformed Churches of the Canton Bern-Jura-Solothurn. Visitors are welcome to take part in services or to admire the Gothic architecture. They may also wish to view the church to pay homage to one of the first European churches to perform a same-sex union.

From the banks of the river, you can take a photo of the Nydegg Church and the Nydegg Bridge.

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