Paternosters may look like something out of Hogwarts, but they are a real invention and some are still in operation today. A paternoster is a door-less passenger elevator consisting of compartments attached to continuous chains and moving slowly in a loop without stopping. Passengers can step on or off at any floor. The construction of new paternosters was stopped in the mid-1970s due to safety concerns, but sentiment has kept many of the remaining examples open. Most of these are in Europe with a great concentration of over 200 in Germany.
The name paternoster, meaning “Our Father” (the first two words of the Lord’s Prayer in Latin), refers to the circular design of rosary beads.
The first paternoster was built in 1884 in Dartford, England by engineering firm J & E Hall.
If you want to ride a paternoster, here are a few places you might find them. In Kiel, the State Parliament building for the German state of Schleswig-Holstein has had a working paternoster since 1950. In Berlin, the offices of the conservative tabloid Bild use a 19-storey paternoster. The Arts Tower at the University of Sheffield has a paternoster said to be the largest in the world. The Attenborough tower at the University of Leicester is also houses one of the few surviving paternosters in the United Kingdom. Also, the University of Essex library on the Colchester campus has a working paternoster.