AskDefine | Define paternoster

Dictionary Definition



1 (Roman Catholic Church) the Lord's Prayer in Latin; translates as `our father'
2 a type of lift having a chain of open compartments that move continually in a loop so that (agile) passengers can step on or off at each floor

User Contributed Dictionary



Latin: pater noster, the two first words of the Oratio Dominica, the Lord's prayer


  1. The Lord's prayer, especially in a Roman Catholic context.
    ''Pater noster, qui es in caelis, sanctificetur nomen tuum. Adveniat regnum tuum. Fiat voluntas tua, sicut in caelo et in terra. Panem nostrum quotidianum da nobis hodie, et dimitte nobis debita nostra sicut et nos dimittimus debitoribus nostris. Et ne nos inducas in tentationem, sed libera nos a malo. Amen.''
  2. An slow, continuously moving lift or elevator consisting of a loop of open fronted cabins running the height of a building. The moving compartment is entered at one level and left when the desired level is reached. Found in some university libraries.

Extensive Definition

A paternoster or paternoster lift is a passenger elevator which consists of a chain of open compartments (each usually designed for two persons) that move slowly in a loop up and down inside a building without stopping. Passengers can step on or off at any floor they like.


First built in 1884 by Londoner J. E. Hall as the Cyclic Elevator, the name paternoster ("Our Father", the first two words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin) was originally applied to the device because the elevator is in the form of a loop and is thus similar to rosary beads used as an aid in reciting the Lord's prayer.
Paternosters were popular throughout the first half of the 20th century as they could carry more passengers than ordinary elevators. They were more common in continental Europe, especially in public buildings, than in the United Kingdom. However, a number of United Kingdom, multi-storey, university buildings were built in the early 1960s with paternoster lifts: they included buildings at Aston University; Birmingham University's Gisbert Kapp building, Muirhead Tower, and University Library (working until the early nineties?, but now gone (05)); Leicester University's Attenborough Building; Leeds University's Roger Stevens building, now closed, Salford University's tower block, now demolished; Sheffield University's Arts Tower, De Montfort University's Fletcher Building (now replaced with high speed lifts,) Oxford University's Psychology/Zoology building and Newcastle University.
Today, in many countries the construction of new paternosters is no longer allowed because of the high danger of accidents (people tripping or falling over when trying to enter or alight). Also, an increased sensitivity to the needs of the disabled, e.g., wheelchair users, has led to the paternoster's gradual demise.
In April 2006, Hitachi announced plans for a modern paternoster-style elevator with computer-controlled cars and normal elevator doors to alleviate safety concerns.

Surviving paternosters

Numerous working paternosters are known to survive in Europe:


  • City Hall of Vienna (at stairway 6 near the northern entrance)
  • House of Industry, Schwarzenbergplatz 4, Vienna (oldest paternoster in Austria)
  • Federal Ministry of Economics and Labour, Stubenring, Vienna
  • Ministry of Defence, Rossauer Lände 1, Vienna
  • Federal Computing Centre, Hintere Zollamtsstraße 4, Vienna
  • Versicherungsanstalt für Eisenbahnen und Bergbau (Insurance institution of the railway and mining industries), Linke Wienzeile, Vienna
  • The Ringturm (Wiener Städtische Versicherung / Vienna City Insurance Headquarters Building), Schottenring 30, Vienna


Czech Republic


  • At the seat of the Danish parliament, Christiansborg, there is a working paternoster open to the public.
  • Frederiksberg City Hall.
  • At Danfoss Nordborg
  • At KVUC in Copenhagen
  • At The Danish Dairy Board in Aarhus.
  • At Vejle sygehus, The hospital in the city Vejle, there is a working paternoster, but not open to the public.



  • Trostbrücke 1, in the Altstadt district of Hamburg (although this is a working office and not always open to the general public). A paternoster still in operation and open to general public is in the Bezirksamt Eimsbüttel (Grindelberg 62/66). Qype's office building at Deichstraße 29 also has a working Paternoster.
  • The IG Farben Building in Frankfurt-am-Main. The current occupants of the building, Johann Wolfgang Goethe University, have pledged to maintain and preserve the famous paternosters "in perpetuity".
  • Frankfurt - Fleming's Deluxe Hotel the paternoster provides service to six floors and the rooftop restaurant.
  • Stuttgart - town hall, Literaturhaus, Universität Stuttgart, Allianz Lebensversicherungs-AG (only for employees), Kaufhof (near main station (only for employees)), Robert Bosch GmbH (Feuerbach (only for employees), Arbeitsgericht
  • Kiel Rathaus, or town hall. One of the best examples in Germany, it is 5 levels and it open to the public.
  • Mannheim operations building of SCA
  • Leverkusen, some Paternosters
  • In the Informatics and Mathematics faculty of Universität-Leipzig one can still be found, although the lift stays in operation only half of the day. As the faculty is being rebuilt by 2009, it is unlikely that the paternoster will be in service beyond that date.
  • Duisburg - both in the city hall and the internal revenue offices.
  • Düsseldorf - in the older of the three Vodafone Global buildings. Currently out of use following an incident.
  • Cologne - In the IHK (Industrie- und Handelskammer/Chamber of Industry and Trade) Building (Unter Sachsenhausen 10-26, D-50667 Cologne, Hansahochhaus (housing Saturn, Hansaring, Maybachstraße 115, D-50674 Cologne), WDR HQ (Wallrafplatz 1, D-50667 Cologne (only for employees); Kaufhof (Hohe Straße 41-53, D-50667), Kaufhof Corporate HQ (Leonhard-Tietz-Str., D-50667 Cologne (not open to the public); Volkshochschule Building (near Neumarkt, D-50667 Cologne); Former Felten & Guilleaume Corporate HQ (Schanzenstr. 28, D-51069 Cologne-Mülheim, accessible public office building, 5 Stories); former downtown Bezirksamt „Dischhaus“ (Brückenstr., D-50667 Cologne);Bezirksregierung Köln (Regional Government Center Cologne), Entrance: Zeughausstraße 8 (D-50667 Cologne)
  • Berlin - Foreign Office, Werderscher Markt 1; Finance Ministry, Wilhelmstrasse 97; Agriculture Ministry, Wilhelmstrasse 54; Axel Springer Building, Axel Springer Strasse 65; Bayer Schering Pharma, AG; ART+COM, Kleiststrasse 23-26, 10787 Berlin (), rbb (Radio Berlin Brandenburg) Masurenallee 8-14.



  • Paternosters are still in operation at the main office of the Corus Steelworks (formerly Hoogovens) in IJmuiden. This remarkable building (by Dudok, 1951) was restored in 1999.
  • Casema in The Hague also still is using a Paternoster


  • Katowice: The Silesian Parliament at Jagiellonska 25 - 14 cabs,7 floors - Build by VEB Aufzugbau Leipzig
  • Katowice: Office Building at Wita Stwosza 7 - 12 cabs,4 floors - Build by Flohr (1951 - Flohr-Otis,1989 - Otis)
  • Wrocław: The Head Office of Bank Zachodni WBK at Rynek 9/11 - 20 cabs, 10 floors - the paternoster is still in use, yet it is only available to the Bank staff


  • The Railways of the Slovak Republic HQ, Klemensova street, Bratislava
  • Ministry of Finance, Štefanovičova street, Bratislava
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Dobrovičova street, Bratislava
  • Ministry of Transport, posts and telecommunications, Nám. slobody, Bratislava
  • Ministry of Interior, Pribinova street, Bratislava
  • Technical University of Košice
  • Business centre at Letná ulica Košice




  • Regional State Administration Building in Uzhhorod

United Kingdom

  • Paternoster lifts continue to operate in the Albert Sloman library at the University of Essex.
  • The Arts Tower at the University of Sheffield contains a 38-car paternoster. The building is a teaching block and not specifically open to the public, but the paternoster can be seen from the front door.
  • Attenborough Tower at the University of Leicester, the tallest in the UK.
  • The Pantheon, Oxford Street branch of Marks & Spencer still had a paternoster for staff use in the 1990s.
  • A seven floor Paternoster survives in E block at the Ericsson (formerly Marconi) site in Beeston, Nottinghamshire. Employees were banned from going around the bottom or over the top following an incident a few years ago, when abuse caused by a group of visitors shaking the car had caused the car to get stuck at the bottom. The lift has been out of action since November 2007, and is unlikely to be put back into service.
  • Rolls-Royce's seven storey tower block on Victory Road in Derby.
  • Staff in the main ward building of Northwick Park Hospital, Harrow, Middlesex, have access to a paternoster in the central ward building. This is slated for replacement as existing conventional lifts exist for staff use.
  • One was in the four-storey British Airways Viscount House building at Heathrow Airport, west of London. This building has now been demolished.
  • The Dental Hospital in Birmingham has one for staff use.
  • In Scotland, a working paternoster serves seven floors of the Pontecorvo Building (former Department of Genetics) at the University of Glasgow. The building is not open to the public. A paternoster was installed there on construction, in 1966–67 (by architects Basil Spence & Partners) because each floor has a small area and it was anticipated that staff and students would make many short journeys. This expectation has been fulfilled, and the paternoster is considered to have been a very valuable device. Occupants of the Pontecorvo Building are currently being relocated to allow its demolition.
  • There is a paternoster at Technology House, the headquarters of Boxclever, in Bedford, which was switched off on 11/02/08 due to health and safety reasons
  • There is a paternoster at Thomson House, an office building at Birchwood Park near Warrington. Although covered over during re-refurbishments in 2005 due to maintenance costs, the paternoster is still operable if uncovered.

Cultural references

  • An example of a continuous-belt type paternoster of the type used in industrial plants can be seen in the 1966 film Our Man Flint, in which James Coburn uses a paternoster to escape pursuing enemies.
  • In the 1976 film The Omen, a paternoster can be seen in the Rome hospital visited by Robert Thorn (Gregory Peck) in the course of his enquiries into the origins of Damien (located in reality in Northwick Park Hospital).
  • In David Lodge's 1975 novel Changing Places, the transplanted Californian, Morris Zapp, is chased up and down a paternoster by a psychotic professor of literature at the fictitious University of Rummidge in England.
  • In his Diaries (1899-1941) the Austrian novelist Robert Musil uses the paternoster as an analogy of birth and death:
It is distressing to reflect that we hurry like little hunted dots along the line that is our life and finally disappear down some unforeseen hole. And that, in front of us and behind, at intervals that nothing can reduce, other similar dots go racing along, which have some kind of temporary link with us, like the next links in the chain of a paternoster lift that goes racing on round.
  • In the novel Metropolis a lead character Freder exchanges places with an exhausted worker and takes over his seemingly pointless task of moving the dials of a gigantic clock-like device which runs the massive system of Paternoster-lifts in the New Tower of Babel.
  • In the novel Underworld by Reginald Hill, Ellie Pascoe and one of her students ride together in a Paternoster located in a building referred to as "the Ivory Tower" in Mid-Yorks University.
  • In the 1948 film "Berlin Express" a paternoster is shown inside the IG Farben building.
  • The German WDR stand-up comedy show "Funkhaus", which is recorded in Cologne in the Foyer of the WDR building at Wallrafplatz 1, makes frequent use of the paternoster lift as an entrance/exit for comedians.
paternoster in Czech: Páternoster
paternoster in Danish: Paternoster
paternoster in German: Paternosteraufzug
paternoster in Spanish: Paternoster
paternoster in Esperanto: Paternosterlifto
paternoster in French: Paternoster
paternoster in Italian: Paternoster
paternoster in Hungarian: Páternoszter
paternoster in Dutch: Paternoster (lift)
paternoster in Norwegian: Paternosterverk
paternoster in Polish: Dźwig okrężny
paternoster in Finnish: Paternosterhissi
paternoster in Swedish: Paternoster-hiss
paternoster in Tamil: சுற்றுயர்த்தி

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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