A view from the top – Future to Go? – Future of work?

The Towerkeeper from St Lamberti

The most traditional job in Münster

There are many different perspectives on the theme ‘Future To Go?’ What about your future at work?

In this age of fast paced change in the workplace, we at TEDxMünster, looked at one of the most traditional jobs in Europe, which has hardly changed in hundreds of years. The job, after a big fire in 1383, was created to keep watch over the town for both risks from fire and invading enemies. We were privilidged to be invited to the office of Martje Salje, the towerkeeper of the Lamberti Church in the town centre. We had to climb hundreds of steps in a narrow, medieval stairway to reach the top tower with the most amazing view at sunset over the town. With a job like that, there is no need for the stairmaster in the gym.

The door to eternity

Martje’s job is to keep watch on the town every evening, between 9pm and midnight except Tuesdays. Her job is unique in Europe, in that she is employed as a civil servant by the town of Münster and not by the church. Every hour, she blows her horn from the four corners of the tower over the four corners of the city. At 9pm ,the horn must be blown in specific sequence: 3 x3 =10. The three times are symbolic of the Christian Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost. At 10pm, she must blow in a 2x3 plus 1x4 sequence. The number 4 is symbolic of the fourth letter in Hebrew ‘Dalet’ (part of the Semitic abjads which in Arabic is Dal) which looks like this ד. The letter is based on a glyph of the Middle Bronze Age alphabets, probably called dalt "door" (door in Modern Hebrew is delet). In the history of Münster, which is of great interest to Martje, it can be taken as symbolism for the door to heaven. This is history and mysticism, on which many books have been written over the centuries. To the millennium agnostic, standing up above a spectacular view of the town, possibly more of a symbol of a door to the sky, a view to the future. Everyone has their own ideas on tradition and change for the future.

Does anyone else still care about tradition?

Yes. There is a great deal of interest in her job, not only in Germany, but worldwide from Pennsylvania to Japan. Martje also writes a blog. One day, Martje,had a very famous guest in the tower, who wanted to write about her and kept asking questions. This distracted her and she made a mistake in her horn blowing. She blew One too many. The next day in the town hall, the phone did not stop ringing: ‘What has happened?’ “Can’t they count?” “ A disgrace” “We live nearby”

A pragmatic approach to Münster burning

With Martje in her post, we don’t have to worry about Amazonian style fires in Münster. Again, her job is unique in Europe, in that she has a responsibility to watch over the town for fires and every evening, as she reaches the top tower, she checks into the fire department with a phone call. Despite these times of news travelling faster than wild fire across social media, Martje, with her eyes and her horn at the top of the church, was faster than anyone else in spotting a fire. It was two years ago, in the middle of summer as she identified smoke in the middle of a green area, where there were no houses or buildings. She immediately called the fire department, who had not yet been alerted. Because it was difficult terrain, the team from the fire department had to approach by foot and Martje directed them from above over the phone. It turned out that someone had burnt garden waste and then disappeared. It was very hot and very dry that summer and the fire could have been very damaging.

Continuity in Change

Every day, from above Martje sees Münster change. She sees buildings been ripped down and new ones built. Because of her expertise in history, she can see the streets that have not changed structure since the middles ages and the new ones and new directions. The towerkeeper in the middle ages, was seen by the town folk as an outsider, someone who was outside the church, who had to deal with death (ringing the bell for death in the tower). Today, Martje, a Norwegian, is also not a local but so proud to grow roots in this traditional job and keep attracting interest from around the world. At the top the tower, she gets a feeling that her troubles are small in relation to the wide expanse of sky around her. Unfortunately, the tower is not open to the public but Martje conveys a great deal over her Social Media,talks to schools, attends public events and watch our social media for the photos we were allowed to take.

For the full interview with Martje in German, please see the German blog on our website.

We love your Ideas! Has Martje inspired you to think about the town you live in, the traditions to keep, to change, the way you work? Let us know! Get your ticket to join us 12 October

Get your tickets here!