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Happy 600th to Bern’s cathedral!

March 11 marks the 600th birthday of Bern’s Minster. Usually covered in scaffolding, this year the tallest cathedral in Switzerland can be admired in its entirety. Here’s a sneak peek at how its restoration processes have evolved using the newest techniques.

This content was published on March 11, 2021 - 14:00

If you’ve visited the Swiss capital, chances are your pictures show the ongoing restoration process that seems to perpetually trap the town’s minster. And rightly so: to reach the age of 600 and older, maintenance is key. A team of stonemasons and restorersExternal link is constantly at work to repair and protect the different architectural elements. 

Annette Loeffel, one of the minster’s architects leading the construction work, recalls how as a young intern, she was told it took 80 years to go once all around the cathedral restoring its pieces. Things have changed since: the architect’s been using laser technology to clean the stone faster. However caution is always required, as too much energy could damage the delicate stone. 

“Lasers are sometimes used to get rid of the rust on cargo ships,” Loeffel explained to Swiss public television, SRFExternal link. “Of course, that wouldn’t have been quite the right thing for these fine surfaces. So we worked our way around it until we found a setting and a device that could deliver good results here.” The cathedral architect was inspired by her colleagues at Cologne Cathedral in Germany.

Bern’s cathedral, a Cultural Property of National Significance, is mostly made of local sage-green sandstone. The foundation stone of today’s Bern Minster was laid on March 11, 1421, and the construction work lasted until 1575. Initially just 50 metres high, the cathedral’s tower only reached the record height of 101 metres 300 years later. It is still the tallest cathedral in Switzerland. Because of the pandemic, the official four-day-long celebrationExternal link has been postponed to 2022.

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