Ulm, Germany — The world’s tallest church — Ulm Minster in Ulm, Germany — survived heavy and devastating Allied Forces air bombing in World War 2 that demolished most of the surrounding town. But now it’s being destroyed by human urine and vomit.
The renowned church is 639 years old, its foundation stone having been laid in 1377. Its spire soars 530 feet into the sky. Taking centuries to build, it was begun in the Gothic era and completed in the late 19th century. For hundreds of years the church has been a popular site for community activities such as markets, festivals, and Christmas parties.
But young Germans coming home from drinking late at night frequently stagger into the church’s dark alcoves to urinate and/or throw up against the church’s ancient walls. In addition, event organizers often fail to provide adequate toilets facilities, according to preservationists, and this leads to more urine and vomit against the stone base of the Gothic tower.
As Michael Hilbert, head of a local building preservation agency, reports,
“I’ve been keeping an eye on it for half a year now and, once again, it’s coated with urine and vomit.”
Hilbert and others in charge of maintaining the ancient structure say caustic chemicals such as acids and salts found in human bodily fluids are corroding the sandstone blocks at the church’s foundation.
Worse still, the problem is occurring right after the church completed expensive renovations.
According to U.S. Geological Survey experts, most sandstone can resist acids without substantial damage. However, certain types of sandstone include components that dissolve when subjected even to weak acids. And apparently Ulm Minster is constructed from one of these types of sandstone.
Hilbert makes it clear that he and his associates don’t want to become the local “Pinkelpolizei,” which translates from German into English as the “pee police.”
Of course, the city of Ulm already has a police force, and to limit the destructive urination and vomiting, authorities have increased police patrols around the building. In addition, the city has doubled its fines for public urination from 50 to 100 Euros, which is about $110.
Unfortunately, the increased police patrols and bigger fines are having little effect. Nevertheless, Hilbert is insistent that something be done: “This is about preserving law and order,” he told a German newspaper.
Besides being the world’s tallest church, Ulm Minster is the planet’s fourth-tallest building built before the twentieth century. The top of its soaring steeple, reached via 768 steps, provides a popular panoramic site for seeing Ulm in Baden-Württemberg and Neu-Ulm in Bavaria, as well as, in clear weather, a stunning vista of the distant Alps.
The church is not the world’s only famous building threatened by urine. The city of San Francisco, which has had a problem with public urination for more than a decade, last year began using an “anti-pee paint” on exterior walls in its “Mission District,” which includes historic buildings such as the Mission San Francisco de Asís founded in 1776. The paint splashes urine back onto the trousers and shoes of outdoor bladder relievers.