There are an estimated 250 paternoster lifts (Personenumlaufaufzüge) still in use in Germany

The culture and polity that is Germany:

Officials in Stuttgart were among the loudest protesters against the labour minister Andrea Nahles’ new workplace safety regulations, which stated that the lifts could only be used by employees trained in paternoster riding.

“It took the heart out of this place when our paternoster was brought to a halt, and it slowed down our work considerably,” said Wolfgang Wölfle, Stuttgart’s deputy mayor, who vociferously fought the ban and called for the reinstatement of the town hall’s lift, which has been running since 1956.

“They suit the German character very well. I’m too impatient to wait for a conventional lift and the best thing about a paternoster is that you can hop on and off it as you please. You can also communicate with people between floors when they’re riding on one. I see colleagues flirt in them all the time,” he added, celebrating its reopening at a recent town hall party to which hundreds of members of the public were invited.

…In officialese the lifts are referred to as Personenumlaufaufzüge – people circulation lifts – while a popular bureaucrats’ nickname for them is Beamtenbagger or “civil servant excavator”. The name paternoster – Latin for “our father” – is a reference to one of the prayers said by Catholics using rosary beads, which are meditatively passed through the hand, just as the cabins are in perpetual motion around the shaft.

There is more here, with excellent videos of paternoster riding, all via Michelle Dawson.  By the way, it has been against the law to build new paternosters since 1974.


What a wonderful contraption. I would love to use one. In the meantime, I wonder if there are any of these things in any other countries.

There is one in the Arts Tower in the University of Sheffield:

Denmark has a number of them, most famously in the building housing our parlament, Christiansborg Castle. As to the dangers of the ride, earlier this year an 80-year old man died when he stumbled and was crushed whille on a paternoster.

No one stumbles and dies taking the stairs.

There was one at the main Post Office in Brno, still working at the end of ´90s.

There are still 8 "proletenbagger" working in Vienna, including one in city hall. Vienna also claims to have the oldest paternoster still working, a 1911 model dedicated by Kaiser FJ himself in the Haus der Industrie.

"I wonder if there are any of these things in any other countries."

Certainly used to be one in my school in England (Downside). And I ride one up to my office every day here in the Czech Republic. But then this is one that's about a century old (the Spolchemie building in Usti nad Labem was the tallest building in the Czech Republic when first built in....oooh, 1905 or something?). And this area was very heavily Germanised at that time (in the Sudetenland, of course, and the city was then Aussig).

I encountered these in Bratislava in the early `90s in a gov't office building. It can be pretty nerve-wracking to the uninitiated!

The only one |I ever saw in person was at a Hungarian university (Miskolc) It made me nervous to even look at it and could imagine all kinds of getting chopped in half scenarios.... And it's on youtube (the paternoszter, not the getting chopped in half)

I remember seeing these (in operation) in some official building in Prague (Czech Republic) in the 1960's (made a big impression on me as a 6-year old). - And I remember reading a short story in a Dutch school-book where two youngsters ride the paternoster all the way and over the top. The cubicle gets lower and lower as they near the tipping point but there is still room enough all the way. I never saw one in Holland but they must have been here too.

LOL, they have this kind of elevator in Greece--but it's just a traditional up-and-down elevator but with no interior safety door. If you're in one close to the missing door, you can touch the floors as you go by (if you don't mind risking getting a hand caught and ripped off). Worse, if you enter one with a stranger who pushes a floor button without you being ready and away from the opening, you risk a heart attack. The slightly more modern version of this unsafe elevator has an accordion steel cage door that you can slide closed for safety, but you can still see the floors go by.

Those used to be all over Europe though it's been a long time since I saw one in person. Since the doors on each floor had windows I used to mimic climbing up the wall or trying to hold on to the wall to keep from falling for anyone who might be looking in....

I would like something like that in buildings I use; I get frustrated waiting for elevators. Even better, incorporate the new high tech technology for going between floors into modern office buildings and hotels; I think it is called "stairs."

The rosary metaphor sounds like a reasonable etymology for "Paternoster", but my German teacher in high school told me it was because people said a prayer every time they stepped on one.

I think your instincts are right. If the rosary bead metaphor were correct they'd be called Avemarias or what have you.

You had me at "perpetual motion around the shaft."

The buried lede:

"Nahles claimed she had failed to read the small print in the new law restricting the use of paternosters, saying had she done so she would not have signed off on it."

Too may laws that people aren't reading before they pass.

I love to use one in Berlin former Siemens Building. We used it as entry Courage Test for our Project Team to show the guts to go all around once.

The first such continuous lift was in the London GPO, but used to carry parcels not people.

There was one at the Elstree offices of Elliott Automation in the 1960s when I worked there on the company audit. I was very nervous about using it but once I plucked up the courage to do so I thought it was great fun and certainly a great time saver. They were still being manufactured in Eastern Europe in the 1980s, one of my students wrote a dissertation on them.

I've used one of those once in Prague, and I have to say that you CAN hurt yourself if not paying attention...

The risk of getting caught and crushed seems like an easy engineering fix these days; just install sensors in the appropriate manner that halt the elevator.

I imagine the reason Americans aren't forced to suffer the evils of this fearful instrument of death is due to the wise caretaking of our benevolent regulators.

There's a paternoster in the HQ building of the German company I work for. It's a great joy to take one "over the top" and "under the bottom" - the scary part is worrying that a colleague will catch you doing it and think you frivolous (the top executives work on the top floor...). By the way, this one has trip wires near the top of each floor that (must?) automatically stop the paternoster if someone or something is about to be severed.

I was wondering about that, the potential for someone screwing up the timing and having foot go under instead of over seems very high.

I wonder that they don't extend the bottoms by a half meter or so just to make it harder for someone's foot to go under.

Lived in Germany for 33 years, never saw one. :-(

What's up to every single one, it's truly a good for me to go to see
this web page, it contains important Information.

In 1876 the General Post Office in London got one, which is often referred to as the first in the world, although Ellis had installed a paternoster in Oriel Chambers, Liverpool, eight years before.

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