A must for everybody coming to Munich for the first time: Paying a visit to St. Peter’s Church and its tower, the “Alter Peter”. First of all, because the roots of early Munich can be found here. And second, because the belfry offers a magnificent view not only of the city centre but also of the faraway mountains.
The church is dedicated to Saint Peter and should resemble St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. Not only is the name similar, but also the architecture. The cross on top of the bell tower surely is the most obvious characteristic: 3 cross bars are used for its construction, meaning that it is not a normal Latin (with 1 cross bar) or episcopal cross (with 2 cross bars).
Looking at the belfry with more attention you will notice the small obelisk under the cross – the small brother of the one at St Peter’s Square in Rome. The high altar inside St. Peter’s Church is dominated by a statue of Saint Peter wearing a tiara (pontifical crown). This tiara is actually removed during sede vacante, the vacancy of the Holy See after the death or resignation of a pope. Only after the conclave has elected its successor this period ends and the crown is put back in its place. Munich thus has its own Papal Coronation ceremony 😉
St. Peter’s Church is Munich’s oldest church. It is supposed to have been built in the late 12th century. Some even trace the name Munich back to this old parish church: forum apud Munichen – market near the monks.
Near the choir a room has been found which can be dated back to the time before the founding of the city in 1158. It seems that it had been used as a customs station. Unfortunately, this old room is not open to the public.
For singles: The blessing of Saint Munditia
Visiting St. Peter’s Church is not only worthwhile for the faithful and fans of baroque church art but also for single, unmarried ladies. In the left nave the full body relic of Saint Munditia, the patron of single women, can be found. She is supposed to help them find a spouse – or to offer help in everyday matters to those who prefer to stay alone 😉
The devil and the cross on top of the belfry
Of course, there are also myths surrounding the Alter Peter. Normally, the crosses on church towers point to the West. Not in this case.
It is said that the devil and all his demons stormed against St. Peter’s Church to teach the infamous, pious inhabitants of Munich a lesson.*
However, the valiant tower keeper was able to put up resistance and to drive them back with the wooden cross hanging over his bed. Once again, the devil could only return to hell enraged. But only after giving the cross a last kick which caused it to rotate 90 degrees.
As usual, the truth is more trivial: the cross is quite tall and the wind often heavily blows from the west. To prevent the cross from hitting the nave King Ludwig II ordered its relocation.
* Shortly before, the devil had been betrayed during the construction of the Frauenkirche in Munich, causing him to leave the “Teufelstritt” (his footprint), which can still be seen today.