Yes, it’s time for another Faustian bargain story, this time predating the 1604 Christopher Marlowe play that popularized the “deal with the devil” narrative. In this particular narrative, a devil (or the Devil, with a capital “D”) didn’t promise fame (like some people claimed of Led Zeppelin‘s not-actually-backmasked track “Stairway to Heaven”), knowledge (Dr. Faustus in Marlowe’s play), or immortality (Spawn from the comic book). No, this time the devil apparently promised that a dude would finish building a church on time. And within budget; this was totally clutch. Infernal deities abide by practical concerns, too, apparently.
As History Daily informs us, Jorg von Halsbach had a deadline to hit when he started building Frauenkirche (Church of Our Lady) in 1468. He also had a grand vision for a Gothic cathedral with twin spires, even though the final product is a bit plain in comparison to other Munich-based, Gothic architecture of the day. Perhaps to make up for the plainness of the cathedral, or for some other reason, the story about Der Teiufelstritt cropped up hundreds of years later, somewhere between 1620-1858, as Atlas Obscura states. As for the whole “footprint” thing: There is a single floor tile at complete odds with the rest of the cathedral, suggesting it was installed later. In the center of the tile is a very boot-shaped footprint that legend says was made by the Devil himself as he stood in that spot, frustrated at his bargain being broken.
Standing in the footprint of a tall tale
The story of The Devil’s Footprint says that von Halsbach, dismayed at his cathedral’s progress, made a deal (exactly how isn’t specified) with the Devil to help him complete construction. In return, the Devil wanted the cathedral built to honor him and not God, by blocking all light from entering the building. Indeed, the current cathedral is a bit on the dark side, and there are big white columns that block a lot of light coming in from the windows, but there are still windows. Von Halsbach completed the cathedral — good on him — and didn’t pass along the blueprints to the Devil. The Lord of Darkness showed up after-the-fact, and blammo, he was upset that von Halsbach had gone back on his word. (No mention at this point whether or not von Halsbach received any otherworldly punishment for his transgression.)
And the footprint? Naturally, the Devil slammed his foot into the floor in the narthex (near the entrance) and left an imprint there. Since then, the cathedral has been pummeled by the “devil’s wind,” but continues to stand strong, thanks to some super-duper architectural skills on the part of von Halsbach. And yes, the cathedral is a rather wind-buffeted place. At present, visitors can stand in line and wait to plant their foot in the outline of Der Teiufelstritt, and imagine that they’re stepping into the shoes of an immortal entity.
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