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Big stink in Ulm over urine threat to church

October 23, 2016

The city of Ulm is desperate to solve the problem of men urinating on its famous church. Authorities have so far been unable to stop a stream of individuals relieving themselves on the slowly eroding sandstone structure.

Ulm Minster, which has the world's tallest church steeple
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/F. Kästle

Despite the town's best efforts, the problem of men urinating against the walls of the Ulm Minster has gone unabated.

Fines have been doubled, with officials warning of irreversible damage to the world's tallest church, the foundations of which were laid in 1377. But the problem remains unsolved.

While both the nasty stench and concerns about hygiene are bad enough, there's another problem. Acids and salts in the urine are eating away at the building's sandstone base, which was recently restored at considerable cost.

Earlier this year, city officials smelt the need for action and increased the penalties for those caught relieving themselves against the Gothic edifice. However, Michael Hilbert, head of the Münsterbau agency tasked with preserving the church, said there's been no discernible change.

"I've been keeping an eye on it for half a year now and, once again, it's coated with urine and vomit," said Hilbert.

Ulm: Where the Middle Ages meet modernity

Fairs and festivals

One of the problem's, according to Hilbert, is the fact that a large number of events are held on the square around the building throughout the year, from wine festivals to Christmas fairs and markets. At the same time, organizers are providing insufficient toilet facilities. 

Hilbert has already asked for event organizers to ensure that their guests don't head for the church whenever they are caught short. He also wants them to provide free toilets for revelers. "I am not the pee police," the "Südwest Presse" newspaper reported Hilbert as saying, "but this is about preserving law and order."

Although it is often referred to as Ulm cathedral, the building has never been the seat of a bishop. However, with a steeple measuring 161.5 meters (530 feet) it does have the distinction of having the world's tallest church steeple.


Richard Connor Reporting on stories from around the world, with a particular focus on Europe — especially Germany.