Often mistranslated to Church of Our Lady, the name of the protestant Fraumünster actually means Women’s Church, referring to the founding of an abbey here in 853 for aristocratic women of Europe by the Emperor Ludwig for his daughter, Hildegard. Until the high Middle Ages, the head of the convent was also governor of the city.
The church is a three-aisled, pillared basilica with a Gothic nave built from the 13th to the 15th centuries, a Romanesque chancel, and an Early Gothic transept with high vaulting. In the undercroft, you can see remains of the crypt of the 9th-century abbey church.
Although the church itself is worth seeing, what makes it one of Zürich’s most popular tourist attractions is the beautiful set of five stained-glass windows in the chancel created by Marc Chagall in 1970. From left to right, the vividly colored windows show Elijah’s ascent to heaven, Jacob, scenes of Christ’s life, an angel trumpeting the end of the world, and Moses. The rosette in the southern transept is also the work of Marc Chagall.
In the north transept is another impressive stained glass window, The Heavenly Paradise, created by Augusto Giacometti in the 1940s. The abbey itself was demolished in 1898 to make way for the Stadthaus, but the Romanesque and Gothic cloister survives, with 1928 paintings by P. Bodmer illustrating the legend of the convent’s founding and the city’s patron saints, Felix and Regula.