Münster was one of two cities — the other being nearby Osnabrück — where the peace treaties were negotiated and signed to bring an end to the Thirty Years’ War that had ravaged Germany, or what is now Germany, from 1618 to 1648.
The Hall of Peace in the Münster City Hall is where some of the negotiations took place, over a period of five years, before the final treaties were signed on October 24, 1648. The negotiations were long and difficult, with 109 delegations taking part at one time or another, but the end result was that for the first time in European history a major war was ended by diplomacy, not military surrender.
Münster had about 100,000 inhabitants in those days, and had to house and feed roughly the same number of visitors from all those delegations — which must have been quite a strain, but the advantage was that Münster was declared a neutral city for the duration of the peace talks, so it was not the site of any battles during the final years of the war.
Münster’s City Hall was built starting around 1320, but it has been added to and rearranged numerous times over the centuries.
In the Second World War the City Hall was largely destroyed by aerial bombings, but it was re-built during the 1950s and is still used for some of the city offices.
On display in the City Hall is this ‘golden rooster’, a ceremonial drinking cup that is actually made mainly of silver but is partly gold-plated.
This golden rooster was made in the early 1600s as a symbol of the city of Münster.
In those days there was a popular legend (since disproved) that a rooster had once saved the city during a siege, when an opposing army was trying to force the city to surrender for lack of food. The city’s last surviving rooster was about to be slaughtered and eaten when it escaped and flew above the enemy lines. This convinced the gullible enemy commanders that the city still had plenty of food, so they withdrew, thinking it would be pointless to continue the siege.
Later I learned of a similar legend in Bretten, a town at the other end of Germany, involving a small dog instead of a large rooster. As I wrote at the time (on the now defunct website VirtualTourist):
Heartwarming local legends involving little dogs usually turn out to be a load of bull, and this one is no exception. The story is that Bretten was under siege for some reason, and food supplies in the city were running low. To fool the besieging army, the people of Bretten used their remaining food supplies to fatten up a little dog and turn it loose to give the impression that they still had enough food to hold out indefinitely. Clever, huh?
The besieging forces, duly fooled, decided they had no chance of starving the city out, so they ended the siege and withdrew, but first they chopped off the little dog’s tail and sent him back into the city.
Local historians agree that this never happened. There were several sieges in Bretten’s early history, but they all ended for other reasons that had nothing to do with dogs.
So far I haven’t come across any similar legends in other German cities, besides Münster and Bretten, but if you know of any, please let me know in the comments below.
My photos in this post are from 2009. I revised the text in 2021.