- Place of origin:
Ulm (probably, made)
ca. 1470 (drawn)
Ensinger, Moritz (designer)
- Materials and Techniques:
Ink drawing on vellum, mounted on linen
- Museum number:
- Gallery location:
Medieval & Renaissance, Room 64, The Wolfson Gallery, case 17
At 161-metres high, the tower and spire at Ulm are the tallest of any cathedral in the world. They were completed in 1885–90, using a drawing made by the architect Matthäus Böblinger in about 1480. This earlier architectural drawing, dating from about 1470, shows the lower stages of the tower. It was cut from a drawing showing the whole structure and probably made by the master mason in charge of the cathedral works, Moritz Ensinger. The lower parts of the tower are not drawn as built but use the same proportions as drawn in a design of about 1399 attributed to Ulrich von Ensingen in the Ulm Stadtarchiv.
The draughtsman may have been inspired by older architectural drawings as some 'modernisations' of detail, like the depiction of the bases of the portals, are drawn in a manner typical of the end of the gothic period. This drawing is a variant of the earlier drawing rather than a completely new proposal.
Front elevation from the ground, showing the portal and two storeys above it, to the top of the tower proper, but without showing the parapet. The drawing is on two sheets of vellum joined and mounted on linen.
Place of Origin
Ulm (probably, made)
ca. 1470 (drawn)
Ensinger, Moritz (designer)
Materials and Techniques
Ink drawing on vellum, mounted on linen
Marks and inscriptions
In pen and ink on bottom right. This is the date of aquisition and refers to 15 April, 1864.
in pencil, just above date on bottom right
Three nos. 'X' shaped markings
in pencil on large window above entrance portal
Height: 181.3 cm, Width: 68.3 cm
Object history note
There is an earlier architectural drawing, of 1399, for the west tower of Ulm Minster than this drawing. There are two surviving pieces of an architectural drawing, of about 1470, for the west tower of Ulm Minster. The bottom part of the tower, for which this is the architectural drawing, the upper parts of the octagon and the helm roof, and an early sixteenth-century copy, with minor alterations, of the entire architectural drawing as it originally looked before it was separated into pieces. Hans Koepf in his Die gotischen Planrisse der Ulmer Sammlungen, (W. Kohlhammer, Kommissionsverlag, Stuttgart, Ulm, 1977) referred to the earlier architectural drawing for the west tower at Ulm Minster as 'A' (illustrated in Koepf, ibid, p.39 and R. Recht, Les Bâtisseurs des Cathédrales Gothiques , (exhibition catalogue, Strasbourg, Musées Ville, 1989), C22, p 410; he referred to the pieces of the later architectural drawing for the west tower of Ulm and the copy as 'B'. He gave the letter 'B' a numerical suffix thus the drawing of the upper parts is known as 'B1'(illustrated in H. Koepf, Die gotischen Planrisse der Ulmer Sammlungen, (W. Kohlhammer, Kommissionsverlag, Stuttgart, Ulm, xviii, 1977), Katalog Nr. 6, p.45, the bottom part is known as 'B2', and the sixteenth-century copy as 'B3'.
Architectural drawing 'A' is thought to have strongly influenced the design for Strasbourg Cathedral. The bases of the octagons of Strasbourg and architectural drawing 'A' resemble each other; the octagons are two-storeyed and flanked by staircase turrets at each end of their four angles. However, the proportions and structural relationships are different in each case. The interlocking arcades with side by side intertwining arches punctuated by little pinnacles found in architectural drawing 'A' are also found enriched and enlarged at Strasbourg.
Architectural drawing ‘B2’ for Ulm Minster was acquired as part of a group of six mediaeval architectural designs bought by the Museum from Munich in 1864. Although the architectural drawings known as ‘B’ have hitherto been referred to by letter and numerical suffix as the upper part ‘B1’, the bottom part ‘B2’, and an early sixteenth-century copy ‘B3’, for the purposes of comparison with the 1399 design ‘A’ they are referred to, both collectively and individually, as ‘B’. The 1470 elevation for Ulm Minster ‘B’ is quite similar to the 1399 architectural drawing ‘A’. Anke Vrijs in R. Recht, (ed.) Les Bâtisseurs des Cathédrales Gothiques, (Strasbourg, Musées Ville, 1989), C23 & 24, p. 410 considers it to be a variant of architectural drawing A rather than a new proposal expressive of a strong personality. Differences appear in the silhouette of the pyramid. In the 1399 architectural drawing ‘A’, the pyramid is composed of two distinct parts; the upper part rests on a conical, concave base above which the pyramid takes a simple, conical form. On the other hand, the entire pyramid is conceived like a great, very slightly concave cone in the 1470 architectural drawing ‘B’. In both drawings there is a problem with the joint between the octagon and the pyramid, the roof conceals the location of the joint as though to hide a fault or indecision. The later architectural drawing ‘B’ also has an inaccessible, sham gallery resembling a crow’s nest that does not seem to be present in drawing ‘A’. A flamboyant touch in the later architectural drawing ‘B’ is evident in the middle part of the lower storey of the helm roof where there is a snake-like ribbon with tracery in front of the pyramidal side of the helm roof, that is definitely a spiral staircase that ought to be shown in the centre of the helm roof. Another addition in the later architectural drawing ‘B’ is the addition of a cupola-shaped roof over each spiral staircase turret of the octagonal storey. An important similarity between the earlier and later drawings is that (in the case of the base of the helm roof) the stone blocks are registered in almost the same places.
Historical significance: Ulm Minster was first planned in the mid-14th century and was one of the most ambitious projects for a religious building promoted by townspeople in the late Middle Ages. Lutz Krafft, the burgomaster, laid the foundation stone for the new parish church of the Heilige Jungfrau Maria in 1377. In 1446 Ulm acquired the patronage and parish rights from the monastery of Reichenau.
A statement of account from 1387 names the first three consecutive architects as members of the Parler von Ulm family. Ulrich von Ensingen became Master of the Works in 1392 and presided over the most important building phase (1392-1419). The consecration took place in 1405 while the minster was still only partially complete. Hans Kun was appointed architect in 1417 and was succeeded by his son Kaspar Kun in 1435. In 1446, Matthäus Ensinger became Master of the Works and was succeeded by his son Moritz Ensinger in 1465 (his position was confirmed in 1470). After Moritz Ensinger's premature departure in 1477, Matthäus Böblinger from Esslingen was appointed and given life tenure. The Augsburg mason Burkhard Engelberg replaced Böblinger as minster architect in 1494/5. From 1518 Bernhard Winkler was appointed Master of Works until the Reformation put an end to construction work in 1531. The next important building phase started in 1844 under architect Ferdinand Thrän. The west tower which had been abandoned for centuries as a stump was completed on the basis of Matthäus Böblinger's drawing by the architect August von Beyer by 1890. The completion of the west tower in accordance with the medieval designs was an outstanding achievement.
Historical context note
Although this architectural drawing probably dates from the period of work on the third storey of the tower, the lower parts of the tower are not drawn as built but use the same proportions as drawn in a design of about 1399 attributed to Ulrich von Ensingen in the Ulm Stadaarchiv (inv. No. 1). The earlier drawing is a partial elevation of the west tower. Both are drawn to the same scale. There are a couple of differences between the two drawings; firstly that the later drawing proposes more concentrated proportions for the second storey which is located above the St Martin's window, and secondly that the two storeys of the octagon are much more slender (this can be seen in the section of the drawing that is at Ulm).
The draughtsman may have been inspired by older architectural drawings (Wortmann, 1978) as some 'modernisations' of detail, like the depiction of the bases of the portals are drawn in a typically end of the gothic period manner. The later drawing is a variant of the earlier drawing rather than a new proposal.
Design of the front elevation of Ulm cathedral, from the ground, showing the portal and two storeys above it; attributed to Moritz Ensinger, Ulm, ca. 1470.
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
H. Koepf, 'Die gotischen Planrisse der Ulmer Sammlungen', Forsch. Gesch. Stadt Ulm, xviii, 1977
H. Koepf, 'Die Ulmer Münstergründung und die Parlerfrage', Ulm & Oberschwaben, xlv-xlvi, 1990, p 199-226
F. Bischoff, 'Anmerkungen zum Umbau der Seitenschiffe des Ulmer Münsters unter Burkhard Engelberg', Geschichte des Konstruierens IV: Wölbkonstruktionen der Gotik 1, Stuttgart, 1990, p15-91
R. Recht, Les Bâtisseurs des cathédrales gothiques, exh. cat., Strasbourg, Musées Ville, 1989, p 205, 409-11
R. Wortmann, 'Hallenplan und Basilikabau der Parler in Ulm', 600 Jahre Ulmer Münster, ed. H. E. Specker, Ulm, 1977, rev. 1984, p 101-25
E. Schmitt, Münsterbibliographie', Das Münster in Literatur und Buchillustration (exh. cat., ed. E. Schmitt and R. Breidenbruch, Ulm, Stadtbib., 1977), p 9-59; rev. as Münsterbibliographie: Kommentiertes Gesamtverzeichnis aller Schriften über das Ulmer Münster (Weissenhorn, 1990)
R. Wortmann: 'Zur Baugeschichte des Münsterchores', Z. Württemberg. Landesgesch., xxviii (1969), p105-17
Das Ulmer Münster(1972), iv of Grosse Bauten Europas, ed. E. Adam (Stuttgart, 1968-74)
R. Wortmann, 'Hallenplan und Basilikabau der Parler in Ulm', 600 Jahre Ulmer Münster, ed. H. E. Specker (Ulm, 1977, rev. 1984), p 101-25
K. Friedrich, 'Die Risse zum Hauptturm des Münsters', Ulm & Oberschwaben, xxxvi (1962), p 19-38
V. K. Habicht, 'Das Ulmer Hüttenbuch von 1417-1421', Repert. Kstwiss., xxxiii (1910), p 412-17
R. Pfleiderer, Das Münster zu Ulm und seine Kunstdenkmale (Stuttgart, 1905)
H. Bazing and G. Veesenmeyer, Urkunden zur Geschichte der Pfarrkirche in Ulm (Ulm, 1890)
K. D. Hassler, 'Die zwei ältesten Münster-Urkunden', Verhand. Ver. Kst & Altert. Ulm & Oberschwaben, vii (1850), p 25-9
Labels and date
Attributed to Moritz Ensinger
Design for the lower part of Ulm Cathedral
German, about 1470
Ink on Parchment
The great gothic cathedrals of Europe were designed by Master Masons who combined the functions of architect, engineer, contracter and the supplier of building materials. Drawings for the cathedrals have not survived in large numbers. The durable and expensive nature of the support led to many sheets of parchment being scraped and reused. The use of open arcades in front of the doors and windows reflects the sophistication of this design. 
Ulm Cathedral, Germany, 1377-1890
Design for the west tower, probably by Moritz Ensinger (about 1430-93)
At 161-metres high, the tower and spire at Ulm are the tallest of any cathedral in the world. They were only completed in 1885-90, but using a drawing made by the architect Matthäus Böblinger in about 1480. The drawing here, which is slightly earlier, shows the lower stages of the tower. It was cut from a drawing showing the whole structure and probably made by the master mason in charge of the cathedral works, Moritz Ensinger. [78 words edited]
Pen and ink on vellum
V&A: 3547 
Vellum; Ink; Linen; Pencil
Church; Trefoil; Pinnacles; Church; Ogee arches
Architecture; Christianity; Designs; Religion
Prints, Drawings & Paintings Collection