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Strasbourg Cathedral





Fast Facts

  • Location: Strasbourg, France
  • Attraction type: Gothic Cathedral
  • Significance: Architecture, Astronomical Clock, History
  • Best Time to visit: Strasbourg has wonderful climate all throughout, and can be visited any time of the year.
  • How to Reach: Strasbourg International Airport is well connected to a large number of European destinations. The city is home to the second largest railway station in France, and is well connected by rail not only to all major French cities but also Germany, Belgium, Switzerland and Netherlands. From Paris, you can avail the high speed TGV. Eurolines traveling agency operates buses that go via Strasbourg and you can avail any of them. If you plan to come by car, take A4 highway from Paris. If you coming from southern destinations like Switzerland or Lyon, follow the A35 highway. From Germany or other eastern destinations take the A5 highway.
  • Nearest International Airport: Strasbourg International Airport

Sometimes, a little ingenuity can go a long way in protecting a wealth for posterity. The iconic spire of the Strasbourg Cathedral — Goethe's divine tree making for the sky — was on the verge of demolition in the hands of the Revolution in the aftermath of the French Revolution. Saint-Just had his plan ready and double-check — the spire had to go, being a symbol of royalty and oppressive gentry. It would, without a doubt, go, had not a local locksmith struck on a novel and radical plan. He made a huge Phrygian Cap — the symbol of Liberty — and covered the spire. The Revolutionaries were quelled. And now, years after the Revolution went awry and died, the tower remains in its true glory, still mesmerizing visitors with its grandeur and glory. Strasbourg Cathedral, with its monumental single spire that can be seen from as far as the Black Forest, stands proudly as one of the greatest wonders of Gothic architecture.


History of the Strasbourg Cathedral

The Strasbourg cathedral is not the first religious building in the site. A Roman sanctuary used to stand there. The first Carolingian Church was built on the spot in the early part of the 8th century. This church was later developed in the early part of the 11th century in wood on clearly Romanesque lines. However, repeated fire threats posed a problem for the existence of the cathedral. After 1007, when the last of a series of fire-caused disasters struck the cathedral, bishop Werner von Habsburg laid the foundation stone for the cathedral to be built in stone. That, however, was no respite as the naves were still of wood. In 1176, fire destroyed the church again, which was when the citizens decided that enough was enough. The church had to be rebuilt, and this time by the citizen's money — and this time entirely in stone. Sandstone was brought in from nearby Vosges quarry, giving the cathedral its unique pink hue, inspiring Paul Claudel to address it as 'as pinky-red angel hovering over the city'.

Forest, stands proudly as one of the greatest wonders of Gothic architecture. History of the Strasbourg Cathedral

The Strasbourg cathedral is not the first religious building in the site. A Roman sanctuary used to stand there. The first Carolingian Church was built on the spot in the early part of the 8th century. This church was later developed in the early part of the 11th century in wood on clearly Romanesque lines. However, repeated fire threats posed a problem for the existence of the cathedral. After 1007, when the last of a series of fire-caused disasters struck the cathedral, bishop Werner von Habsburg laid the foundation stone for the cathedral to be built in stone. That, however, was no respite as the naves were still of wood. In 1176, fire destroyed the church again, which was when the citizens decided that enough was enough. The church had to be rebuilt, and this time by the citizen's money — and this time entirely in stone. Sandstone was brought in from nearby Vosges quarry, giving the cathedral its unique pink hue, inspiring Paul Claudel to address it as 'as pinky-red angel hovering over the city'.

Erwin von Steinbach was to oversee the entire construction process. He sincerely wanted to contribute to the church's reconstruction, but lacking money, donated his horse. However, by that time Romanesque was a passíé and Gothic architecture was the order of the day. 'The Charters' was already built, and cathedral architecture became synonymous with the Gothic style. So, when reconstruction began, it started in the popular Gothic style, executed by the craftsmen and stonemasons who had recently completed the Cologne Cathedral.

The Cathedral, at various points of history, has been at the center of the historical happenings in France and Europe in general. Shelling attacks in 19th century damaged a part of the cathedral along with many statues. However, most of it has been reconstructed and the statues have been reinstalled, and the church now retains much of its earlier looks. A demolition plan of 2000 was also anticipated and thwarted.

The Major Architectural Features of Strasbourg Cathedral

The single spire of the Strasbourg Cathedral is its most characteristic feature. The spire, although it does not have a twin, is one of the most characteristic, noble and easily recognizable architectural features of the cathedral. Rising over 142 meters, it made the Strasbourg Cathedral for over four hundred years, the tallest building in the world. At the time of Erwin's death, the church had the rose window, but not towers, which were added about half a century later. It was in 1399 that Ulrich von Ensingen decided on adding the base to the spire. Johannes Hultz from Cologne finished the spire after his death.

The Western front is the most beautiful part of the cathedral, with thousands of beautiful sculptures and splendid stone-works. It makes for a grand view during sunset. It is one of the greatest achievements in Gothic architecture, being the first of instances when the craftsmen carved straight on the stone without prior drawing, a rarity when it comes to the very systematic Gothic style.

The beautiful stained glass windows that grace the church were all taken apart and carried to Germany after World War II, only to be returned after the war by US troops. They have great paintings on both secular and ecclesiastic themes.

The Strasbourg Astronomical Clock

The iconic astronomical clock is one of the greatest attractions of the Strasbourg cathedral. Built in the 16th century, this massive construction brought together the skills and knowledge of the best in Europe from the fields of mathematics, astronomy, craftsmanship and arts.

The clock that you will see now was built by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgue. The show for the automatic cock starts at around 12.30 pm everyday. The automatons show the retinue of the Magi, along with a parade of the twelve apostles. The automatic clock can take notes of days and years, and also makes a fairly accurate declaration of 'computation' and predicts annual Easter following the complex Gregorian calendar rules. The entire construction is a scientific marvel in itself that cannot be ignored.

Where to Stay

There are plenty of excellent accommodation facilities in Strasbourg. There are hotels that cater to the luxuries and expectations of the rich and the famous, there are others that are quite budget friendly. Some of the most popular hotels of Strasbourg include Chateau de I'lle, Regent Contades — Concorde Hotel, Holiday Inn and Hotel Hilton Strasbourg.

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