A famous sight in Munich, the Glockenspiel

Several times a day, always at the full hour, groups of people gather on the Marienplatz in Munich to witness one of the city’s most famous sights: the Glockenspiel at the new City Hall.

By Guest Author Synthia Demetriou, Your Local Friends Tours Munich

Every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., and in the summer additionally at 5 p.m., the music will start playing and a total of 32 figures will show historic scenes on several levels

The carillon is installed in the tower of Munich’s New City Hall which was completed in 1909. With its 43 bells, it is actually one of the largest glockenspiels in Europe. From what we know, there are four carillons that are bigger than ours, and all of them can be found in Belgium. So this would make the Munich Glockenspiel the largest non-Belgian glockenspiel in Europe.

You can watch the Glockenspiel while sitting at an out-door restaurant at the Marienplatz

Every day at 11 a.m., 12 p.m., and in the summer additionally at 5 p.m., music will start playing and a total of 32 figures start showing historic scenes on several levels.

A remarkable 16th century wedding of future Duke Wilhelm the 5th and Renata of Lorraine in 1568

The upper level shows the wedding of future Duke Wilhelm V and Renata of Lorraine in 1568. This couple truly knew how to party! The celebrations lasted more than two weeks and included massive feasts and amusements such as sleigh rides, fireworks and theater performances, all in honor of the bridal couple. One of the highlights was a joust, a knight’s tournament that was held right on Marienplatz.

The lower floor shows the so-called Schäfflertanz, the dance of the coopers. After one of the many plague epidemics that would strike Munich in its history, people remained inside their houses as they were terrified by the Black Death. To lift their spirits, and to show them that it was safe to return to everyday life, the coopers went out onto the streets where they started singing and dancing for everybody to hear. Legend has it that they were successful enough to repeat their traditional dance every seven years – that is roughly parallel to how frequently the plague came over Munich.

Schäfflertanz in Munich 1863, per Wikimedia
Schäfflertanz in München, 1863 per Wikimedia

And the Schäfflertanz still happens in our times! Every seven years and only until lent, the Coopers will dance in several places in Munich. 2019 was the last time they danced, so normally we would have to wait until 2026 to see them again, but who knows – maybe we will see them sooner than that: hopefully as soon as the Corona pandemic bids its final goodbye.

Cooper or Schäffler dance in Neuhausen by wikimedia
The Cooper or Schäffler dance in Neuhausen-Nymphenburg per Wikimedia

Now here’s something that only insiders will know: There is a third play every day in the Glockenspiel. Every night at 9 p.m., the Münchner Kindl, symbol of the city’s coat of arms, is sent to bed both by the night watchman and the Guardian Angel, while the bells ring classical lullaby tunes.Some time ago we had the chance to take a look behind the scenes. Here is a short clip of the joust from inside the New City Hall. You can see the figures that are made of copper and beautifully painted. To represent the joust, two knights ride towards each other, and one pushes the other of the horse with his lance. One is a Bavarian knight (painted in white and blue), the other one is from Lorraine (painted in white and red). What do you think, which knight usually wins the joust?

If you want to verify if you’ve guessed right, or if you want to find out more about the Glockenspiel in special or Munich in general, like our Facebook page where we are posting pictures, personal insights and travelers’ information on Munich.

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