300 steps to hap­pi­ness

The tower­keep­er of Mün­ster

?If I am run­ning late and have to hurry. says Martje Saljé, ?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.

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    St. Lamberti Münster aus Sicht des Prinzipalmarktes, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Türmerin schließt ihr Postfahrrad ab, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Aufstieg hoch in den Turm der Lambertikirche, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Schlüsselanhänger mit Aufschrift Türmerin, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Türmerin radelt auf ihrem Postfahrrad zur Arbeit, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

It is cold this morn­ing. The ther­mo­met­er is say­ing minus 4 de­grees. Of course, Martje Saljé comes to the in­ter­view by bi­cycle. It is an old, yel­low post­man?s bi­cycle. The chain is on quickly and after a brief greet­ing in the cold, we get go­ing. Two little steps lead to the in­con­spicu­ous door at the back of Mün­ster?s most fam­ous church. ?Then there?s just an­oth­er 298, that?s doable?, says the young wo­man. And she laughs. As she of­ten does when she can speak about her work. When she speaks about the long tra­di­tion of her pro­fes­sion, about the his­tory of the city where she wanted to live as a child, when she speaks of the long, peace­ful even­ings in the Tower­keep­er?s room, of her fear of the severe storm in 2014 and of the high­light of her ca­reer to date, when she got to ring the big coun­cil and fire bell at the in­aug­ur­a­tion of the Lord May­or - words like in­cred­ible, up­lift­ing, won­der­ful, ma­gic, re­spect and hap­pi­ness oc­cur time and time again.

Since she took over the of­fice from her pre­de­cessor on 01 Janu­ary 2014, she has be­come more re­laxed, as Martje Saljé con­cludes at the end of the con­ver­sa­tion. However, any­one who gets to know the mu­sic and his­tory re­search­er will soon real­ise that a clev­er young wo­man, en­tirely happy in her­self, has ar­rived in the city of her choice. Her job: ?Pub­lic ser­vice, part-time, with hol­i­day cov­er and everything that comes with it?, nearly bursts out of her. And she laughs again. Be­ing the Tower­keep­er in Mün­ster is not just a job for the 36-year-old.

No fires in Mün­ster on Tues­days

Tra­di­tions & Le­gends

The Tower­keep­er of St. Lam­berti was first men­tioned in doc­u­ments in 1383. His task was to watch out for fires and to warn of for­eign in­truders in the city. More than 630 years later, a pretty, mod­ern wo­man be­gins her work in the little Tower­keep­er?s room every even­ing at 9 pm and blows the Tower­keep­er?s horn from the gal­lery every half hour un­til mid­night. Ex­cept Tues­days. On Tues­day, the horn stays quiet and the Tower­keep­er is free. Ap­par­ently, says the new West­phali­an, this is be­cause, ?ac­cord­ing to le­gend, there has nev­er been a fire or an at­tack on a Tues­day down through all the cen­tur­ies...?

The horn is al­ways blown in three com­pass dir­ec­tions on the hour and half hour. In the dir­ec­tion of Prin­zip­al­markt to the south, Dom­platz to the west and the Drub­bel (ten small houses were huddled to­geth­er, i.e. ?drub­belten?, in the ti­ni­est of space in this square un­til 1907) to the north. However, many myths and le­gends were as­so­ci­ated with the east, for ex­ample of a grave­yard to the east and that the peace of the dead should not be know­ingly dis­turbed. However, the re­search­er doubts this and in­stead as­sumes that there are his­tor­ic­al re­li­gious grounds for this, as the al­tars in the churches faced east, so the horn was not blown to the east out of re­spect.

Martjes fa­vour­ite place is high above the roofs

Martje Saljé - die Türmerin von 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 Saljé

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 Saljé 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.?

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    Zimmer der Türmerin von Münster, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Pop Art Postkarte der Türmerin von Münster, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Inschrift auf dem Horn der Türmerin, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
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    Münsteraner Türmerin mit Horn, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.
Inschrift auf dem Horn der Türmerin, © 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.

Seitenprofil der Türmerin mit Blick auf den St. Paulus Dom Münster, © Ralph Sondermann, Tourismus NRW e.V.

Three ques­tions for Martje

En­thu­si­ast­ic for Mün­ster & Cul­ture Lov­er

Martje, you have 48 hours of free time. What would you def­in­itely do with this time in NRW?

Martje: ?I would do what I al­ways do on Tues­days ? on my day off ? namely get to know my new home in North Rhine-West­phalia. Tues­day is al­ways my cul­ture day. I look for a des­tin­a­tion in Mün­ster or the re­gion, set off on by bi­cycle, take the bus or train and ex­plore the coun­tryside. Be­cause I also like to vis­it churches, for ex­ample, in my free time and of­ten join pub­lic guided tours there. In the year of the 500th An­niversary of the Re­form­a­tion, a few vis­its to Stadtmu­seum Mün­ster will def­in­itely be on the pro­gramme, be­cause the his­tory of the so-called Ana­baptists is presen­ted there. I see the iron cage in which they were hung in the tower of St. Lam­berti every day. And at least one Tues­day in the sum­mer is re­served for Skulp­tur Pro­jekte Mün­ster (Sculp­ture Pro­jects Mün­ster). I came to Mün­ster ten years ago, when the ex­hib­i­tion was last shown, es­pe­cially to see it.?

Which place in NRW did you most re­cently dis­cov­er for the first time?

Martje: ?Soest. My Soest. A fant­ast­ic city. I def­in­itely have to go see it again, be­cause when I last vis­ited two of the churches I wanted to see were closed. Moreover, there are many par­al­lels between Soest and Mün­ster, such as the clearly iden­ti­fi­able former city lim­its (in Mün­ster it?s the prom­en­ade, in Soest the city walls) and the many his­tor­ic and his­tor­ic­ally re­con­struc­ted façades, and of course the art. Take the paint­er Wil­helm Mor­gn­er and his in­cred­ibly large oeuvre. Mor­gn­er was born in Soest. However, I only be­came aware of this con­nec­tion at the LWL Mu­seum für Kunst und Kul­tur in Mün­ster of course. Be­cause some­how, everything has something to do with Mün­ster...

Your per­son­al fa­vour­ite place in NRW.

Martje: ?My ?Turms­tube? (tower room) of course, what else? Be­cause time in the tower al­ways means a happy time for me. Really, up here I breath more freely and more pos­it­ively than any­where else. And I have real­ised that ? since I have been work­ing here ? I have be­come a lot more re­laxed.?