The Ulm Sparrow

Ulm's Sparrow Sculptures

These are my photographs of the sparrow sculptures I saw in Ulm.

The story of how these giant sparrows came to invade Ulm is below.

There is a nice version of the Ulm sparrow story here. [2021: Link is dead. You can explore more from Wikipedia.]

43 Sparrow Sculptures

#151 Abschleppspatz (Tow Sparrow).

#189 Hirschi. (Hirsch is deer.)

#247 Greif nach den Sternen (Grasp for the Stars).

#192 Coco.

#127 Frech-Spatz (Impudent Sparrow).

#214 Objekt-Spatz (Object Sparrow).

#191 Hotel-Spatz (Hotel Sparrow).

#199 Blau-Spatz (Blue Sparrow).

#44 Michel.

#152 Blumen-Spatz mit Herz (Flower Sparrow with Heart).

#180 Letterspatz (Letter Sparrow).

#54 Kaffee-Exotik-Spatz (Coffee Exotic Sparrow).

#72 Charlotte-Spatz.

#122 Malocher-Spatz (Toiler Sparrow). (Translation uncertain.)

#229 Fliegender Fridolin (Flying Fridolin).

#86 Homage en Gustav Klimt.

#99 Faraday.

#88 Fischerstechen. (Fischerstechen, literally fishermen-pricking, is a contest over water.)

#248 Gärtner-Spatz (Gardner Sparrow).

#147 Bergsteigerspatz (Mountain Climber Sparrow).

#79 Kolibri-Spatz (Hummingbird Sparrow).

#49 Facetten-Spatz (Facets Sparrow).

#162 Koch (Chef).

#96 Marienkäferspatz (Ladybug Sparrow).

#138 Frau Pfau (Mrs. Peacock).

#175 Spatzen-Chor-Spatz (Sparrow Choir Sparrow).

#246 Orka (Orca).

#203 Martin-Luther.

Title unknown.

#93 Rohr-Spatz (Pipe Sparrow).

#212 WC-Spatz (Toilet Sparrow).

#27 Albrecht Berblinger.

#159 Schlafmütze (Sleepyhead).

#29 Che-Spatzeuvara (Che Sparroweuvara).

#124 Spatzen-Duett (Sparrow Duet).

#182 Spektralfarben 3 (Spectral Colored 3).

#231 Heureka (Eureka).

#158 Storchenspatz (Stork Sparrow).

#131 Breitensportspatz (Popular Sport Sparrow).

#4 Spatz im Frack (Sparrow in Tails).

#6 Wollwanner. This is written on the sparrow's stand, but this not the original #6 design.

#137 Welt-Spatz (World Sparrow).

#69 Käs-Spätzle 2 (Cheese Pasta 2).

1 Sculpture Seen Only in a Picture

#194 Steuersparspatz (Tax Saving Sparrow). (Not my photo.)

7 Extra Pictures

#247 Greif nach den Sternen.

#54 Kaffee-Exotik-Spatz.

#229 Fliegender Fridolin.

#99 Faraday.

#93 Rohr-Spatz.

#93 Rohr-Spatz.

#137 Welt-Spatz.
The Ulm Sparrow


Why 255 sparrows invaded Ulm in the summer of 2001.

The Münster

The pride of Ulm is the Münster. This cathedral boasts the highest church steeple in the world, 161.5 meters. It dominates the town and symbolized Ulm's independence, prestige, and wealth.

Construction began three hours after sunrise on June 30, 1377, and finished on May 31, 1890.

The Ulm Münster

The Sparrow

The sparrow (Der Spatz) is Ulm's mascot. In the late 1800s, the city adopted a fictional story of a sparrow helping build the Münster when workers confronted wooden beams loaded crosswise on carriages. The beams were too long to fit through the narrow city gate. The story says the workers were inspired when a sparrow turned a straw sideways to get it into its nest. While the story does not reflect well on the workers, it stands for the sparrow's cleverness. In spite of the late origin of the legend, the sparrow has been associated with Ulm since at least 1573.

As early as 1530, a bird sculpture perched on the roof of the Münster and was probably there since 1471. It was later reinterpreted as a sparrow and was replaced around 1840 with a sandstone sparrow sculpture, an unusual decoration for a cathedral. The sandstone sculpture was replaced at least once by another and was finally replaced by a gold-plated copper sparrow in 1889.

The sparrow appears throughout Ulm, as a team mascot, as cute sculptures and carvings, on coffee mugs and postcards, and molded in chocolate.

Franco-Prussian War

Tensions between France and Prussia culminated in the Franco-Prussian War. A crisis arose when France opposed a German candidate for the Spanish throne. German reports of the negotiations provoked France, which declared war on July 19, 1870.

Over the course of the war and its aftermath, the French empire became a republic, the loose union of German states became an empire, French Alsace-Lorraine became German Elsaß-Lothringen, and Italy seized the Papal States from France.

After the Siege of Paris, an armistice was signed on January 28, 1871, and the Treaty of Frankfurt ended the war on May 10, 1871.

France was forced to pay reparations, which included stone for the Münster. The Savonnieres limestone the French delivered was too soft and had to be replaced 123 years after the southern choir tower was finished.

The city of Ulm, the state of Baden-Württemberg, and the German federal government paid for most of the renovations, but the rest had to be financed by private contributions and activities.

Giant Sparrow Fundraising

Poster of all Ulm's sparrow sculptures
Spatzeninvasion poster.
To raise some of the money, the 1889 sculpture was scanned in three dimensions, and 255 enlarged reproductions were molded from plastic. The giant sparrow is 1.35 meters high and 1.80 meters long with a wingspan of 1.2 meters, four times that of the original.

Sponsors put up about $1100 for each sparrow—about $800 for manufacture and the rest as a donation. Sparrows were decorated by artists, high-school and college students, sick children, decorator teams from retail shops, and employees of large companies.

Decorated sparrows were auctioned off or kept by their sponsors. Auction proceeds were split between the sponsor, the artist(s), and the Cathedral Construction Association. About $145,000 was raised.

In the summer of 2001, the sparrows were displayed around Ulm. Several dozen remain on public display.

The Spatzeninvasion poster displays all 255 sparrows.

© Copyright 2003 by Eric Postpischil.