Master builder Matthäus Ensinger already had Strasbourg's cathedral under his belt when he drew up plans for what became the largest and most artistically important church in Switzerland. The city broke ground in 1421 on the site of a smaller church that was dismantled once the cathedral's choir could accommodate Sunday worshippers, and work continued, with minor interruptions, for about 180 years. The finishing touch, the tip of the open, octagonal, 328-foot steeple, was added almost 200 years after that, in 1893. Today Switzerland's highest church tower houses a tower keeper (in an apartment below the spire) and presents wraparound views of Bern and the surrounding mountains.
The Reformers dismantled much of the Catholic Münster's interior decoration and paintings (dumping them in the Münsterplattform, next door), but the exterior 15th-century representation of the Last Judgment above the main portal was deemed worthy and spared. The archangel Michael stands
between ivory-skinned angels with gilt hair (heaven) on the left and green demons with gaping red maws (hell) on the right; painted images of the Annunciation and the Fall of Man flank the carved figures as you pass through the doors. Elaborately carved pews and choir stalls within are crowned by 15th-century stained-glass windows that show an easy mix of local heraldry and Christian iconography. The organ, above the main entrance, is often used for concerts.