“If I am running late and have to hurry. says Martje Thalmann, “I can complete the climb in two minutes”. The lady has had practice. There are 300 steps after all on the way up. Six times a week, the native Norwegian climbs the narrow stairs in the evening - to her workplace in the Towerkeeper’s room at St. Lamberti in Münster. DeinNRW visited Germany’s only Towerkeeper in government service there, high above the roofs of the bishop’s town. 300 steps up and then down again.

  • St. Lamberti Münster as seen from the Prinzipalmarkt, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Doorkeeper locks her mail bike, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Klimmen hoog in de toren van de Lambertikerk, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Keyring with inscription Türmerin, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Martje Saljé - the Türmerin of Münster, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

“Even as a child, Münster was right at the top of the list of cities I wanted to work in some day. And now I’m really here and can be part of this centuries-old custom. Unbelievable!”

Martje Thalmann

The high art of toot­ing

Al­ways alone, but nev­er lonely

The 36-year-old regularly reports on similar and other events in the city’s history and research areas relating to this in her blog at tuermerinvonmuenster.wordpress.com

Because she does not climb the small winding stairs for fun up to the quaint room with all kinds of pictures on the walls, city maps, numerous books, specialist journals, an old radio from granddad’s time, a cassette recorder from her childhood and two little heaters to heat the cold top of the tower up a little bit. In amongst all of this, we also find some soap bubbles (“to put me in a good mood”) and postcards painted by m-ART-je herself. The motifs: Everything to do with Münster. Because in addition to her music and medieval history, art is also a great passion of the woman who grew up in South Norway and near Bremen, who also works as an English and French translator on the side.

And as her gaze continues to wander over the ordered chaos in the tower room, Martje Thalmann also comments that: “Everything up here has also been properly examined and checked in regard to safety.” And then she adds with a wink:

“It’s not the most beautiful workplace in the world, but it’s definitely the safest.”

Even more so as the Towerkeeper has to check in with the fire service every evening when she starts and finishes work. But she is always alone up here and is not allowed to bring anyone up here for safety reasons. There are no public guided tours of the Tower of St. Lamberti either. “Yes”, says the Towerkeeper, “I am always alone here, but I am not lonely.”

  • Room of the Türmerin of Münster, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Pop Art Postcard of the Türmerin of Münster, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Inscription on the doorkeeper's horn, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
  • Münster doorkeeper with horn, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Inscription on the doorkeeper's horn, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

“Born to watch,
appointed to observe,
sworn to this tower,
I enjoy the world”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Martje Saljé, who beat 46 other applicants three years ago with the Goethe quote writes down everything she has experienced and learned up here. “Everyone knows Till Eulenspiegel for example”, she says, “but did you know that he also used to be a Towerkeeper?“ Another story concerns the “high art of tooting”. This follows a certain mysticism of numbers and is not at all as easy as laymen think it is. “Above all, it has to work first go.” Because Martje Saljé was not able to practice with the 1.2 metre long, expensive replica of the original horn before her “first time”. Everyone heard it.

The key number for all signals, by the way, is “3”. It represents, among other things, the Holy Trinity of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. So at 9 pm, 3x3 Tuuuut, at 10 pm 2×3 Tuuuut and 1×4 Tuuuut can be heard from the tower, so: „Tuuuut – Tuuuut -Tuuuut (Pause) Tuuuut – Tuuuut -Tuuuut (Pause) Tuuuut – Tuuuut – Tuuuut – Tuuuut“. In the beginning, Martje Saljé, who also plays eight other instruments in addition to the tower horn, including the piano, Renaissance lute and double bass, got the numbers wrong from time to time. “It was noticed immediately in the city”, she recalls. But usually the reactions to her medieval handwork are positive. “The night watchman always responds,” she says. “But sometimes people also shout ‘Rapunzel’ at me or jokingly call out: “Don’t jump.” Some also request an encore.

And of course they get it, though not until the next hour or half hour. But anyone who listens really closely will probably be able to hear my other tones from the top of the tower high above. Because in her free time, Martje Saljé prefers to listen to Heavy Metal. That fits somehow with the middle ages.