Strasbourg Cathedral is one of the most beautiful in Europe

Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg Cathedral is one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Europe. Both the interior and exterior of the cathedral are striking, it is difficult to take your eyes away from the large number of details. Also impressive is the size of the cathedral – for almost two hundred years it was considered the highest stone building in the world.

Construction of the cathedral began in the XII century on the site of older Roman religious buildings. Originally the cathedral was planned in the Romanesque style. But in the XIII century, Gothic style came into vogue, and it was decided to continue the construction in the Gothic style. At the same time a large-scale project of the cathedral was designed, which was implemented only partially. Over time it was decided to abandon the spires and the second tower, but in spite of this, the finished cathedral looks impressive. On the whole construction took about four centuries.

The cathedral is decorated with a set of expressive sculptures.

The Mother of God with the Child and the Magi.

The composition of the tempter with the apple and the virgins. One can see snakes crawling behind the tempter’s back.

Virtues piercing vices with a spear, represented by demons.

Above the main entrance are illustrated scenes from the Bible.

Even such small details as veins on the arm are depicted.

Of course, Gothic cathedrals are not without gargoyles and other strange creatures.

The northern portal is dedicated to St. Lawrence, specifically the scene of his execution: servants pinning Lawrence to the red-hot grating.

Inscriptions left on the walls back in the 16th and 17th centuries.

You can go up to the cathedral, which offers spectacular views of the city. True, you have to walk up the narrow, steep staircase. Goethe, who lived in Strasbourg, often climbed the cathedral to overcome the fear of heights.

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The attraction of the cathedral is an astronomical clock that shows the orbits of the planets. It is a unique mechanism for that time (XVIII-XIX century). The clock also shows the procession of the Earth’s axis, the rotation of which takes more than 25,000 years.

The pulpit of the XV century.

The 16th century altarpiece.

Scene of the birth of Jesus, set for Christmas.

Unfortunately, the southern portal was closed for repairs at the time of filming.

The Cathedral of Strasbourg is one of the largest and most beautiful Gothic cathedrals and is definitely a jewel of Alsace and Europe as a whole.

Tour of Strasbourg, including a visit to the cathedral:

An overview of the best city tours that include a visit to the cathedral.

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Strasbourg Cathedral

Strasbourg Cathedral, view from rue Mercier

When you stand in front of it, raising your head higher and higher, you can’t guess what kind of skill the builders had in making these hundreds and thousands of tons want to fly up into the sky. It’s no coincidence that they call it a soaring pink angel.

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It is Strasbourg’s cathedral, the most asymmetrical in the world, and its single tower (or an unfinished second tower?) is already a symbol of the city. By the way, the height of the only spire is 142 m.

Facade and plan of the Strasbourg Cathedral

Facade and plan of Strasbourg Cathedral

The tallest building in the world since 1549 was the Church of St. Olaf in Tallinn, until its spire was destroyed by lightning in 1625. Then for twenty years the tallest building in the world was St. Mary’s Church in Stralsund, but it too was struck by lightning in 1647 and destroyed the spire. And only after that Stralsund church spire was not higher than the Stralsund. This went on for about 200 years until Hamburg built a higher St. Nicholas Cathedral, beating it by 5.3 meters.

Today, the cathedral is the second tallest in France, second only to Rouen (151 meters).

History of construction

The first religious building on the place of the future cathedral was built in the times of the Romans. The first Christian temple was built in the 7th century on the order of St. Arbogast (“Saint Arbogast”) bishop. A century later it was rebuilt by order of Bishop Remigius (765-783). The bishop even willed himself to be buried in the crypt of this structure. It is believed that it was in this version of the building that the famous Strasbourg Oaths (February 14, 842) were pronounced and, accordingly, recorded. It is the oldest monument of Old French. It suffered three fires: in 873, 1002 and 1007.

No drawings remain of what that cathedral looked like, but it is to be thought that it was a typical Carolingian church with obvious imitations of the temples of Ravenna and Constantinople.

Strasbourg Cathedral in the 11th century

The Cathedral of Strasbourg in the 11th century

And here is a drawing of the next version of the cathedral, although it is a modern reconstruction. Its construction was begun in 1015 by Bishop Werner (Wetzelin) of the Habsburg family ( Werner von Habsburg ) and Holy Roman Emperor Henry II the Holy. It was built in the new, Ottonian style in 1015-1028, but it too burned down in 1176.

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Immediately after the fire begin to rebuild the cathedral, but already in the Romanesque style and the restoration lasted until 1439. Bishop Heinrich I von Hasenburg leads the construction. And according to his plan his cathedral should surpass the cathedral of the neighboring bishop in Basel. Yes, in those days cathedrals were measured for beauty and size! But no longer built on empty land, but on the foundations of a temple laid by Bishop Werner. So from the Ottonian period we still have the crypt and the transept.

The new (current) version of the cathedral is built so long that the Romanesque style has time to become obsolete, and it is replaced by the Gothic style, and the cathedral turns out Gothic. The western part of the crypt, the chapels of St. Andrew and St. John, the choir, the dome, and the transept were built in the Romanesque and transitional style. Interestingly, three of the transept’s pillars are Romanesque, while the last, fourth, is Gothic. This is the so-called Pillar of Angels.

Pillar of Angels, the transept of the Strasbourg Cathedral

Pillar of Angels, the transept of the Strasbourg Cathedral

For the construction of the new cathedral French masters from Chartres were invited, who were the bearers of the new, Gothic, style. In fact, at that time it was simply called the French style. Thus, both the Strasbourg cathedral and the whole of Alsace become a fusion of France and Germany. This is expressed even in the stained-glass windows. Thus the French preferred to use reds and blues (the famous Chartres azure), while the Germans used green. All three colors are found in the decoration of Alsatian churches.

The cathedral of Strasbourg was built of Vosges sandstone. Among the famous craftsmen involved in its construction were Ulrich von Ensingen, who was able to build the highest buildings of his time and was actively involved in the construction of the Ulm and Basel Munster, and Erwin von Steinbach.

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Edouard Schüré tells the beautiful story that while Steinbach was creating his opus magnus, his daughter was growing up. A daughter in the Middle Ages was a misfortune in the family, she had to be fed, but she could not inherit the business. But Erwin’s daughter was different, just like a heroine in a modern Hollywood movie, while her father was building a Gothic marvel, she carved some beautiful statues for its facade.

I will, however, give way to the great Alsatian, maestro Edouard Churé:

“The cathedral rises above the pointed roofs of the houses like an enormous island, and the other churches of the city look dwarfed beside it. The building was erected over several centuries, three or four architectural styles changed, all of them reflected in the decoration of the cathedral, from the crypt of Charlemagne, through the Byzantine arcades of the southern transept, to the Gothic overload of details in the northern transept. The 13th century facade is a masterpiece of Gothic art. Looking at the cathedral from Gutenberg Square, it is overwhelming in its height, delightful in its richness. To better understand the significance of this great page in the history of architecture, we should compare the cathedral of Strasbourg with Notre Dame de Paris. The temple of the French monarchy is the height of elegance and restraint. The three floors complement each other, separated by horizontal bands. It is harmony, it is perfect wisdom. But there is little gust, little upward motion. Look at the facade of Strasbourg’s cathedral on a good summer evening when the setting sun stains the polished sandstone in reddish tones. Between the three columns, which reach the platform in a single burst, the stone lace is scattered with rich thickets. What power of image, what craftsmanship! The perfection of the three portals, the gust of pilasters pointing toward the capitals, the tents and the many lancet arches. Arches over arches, columns over columns, everything tends to the sky, everything flames, everything blooms. In the center floats a rose, the ardent heart of this stone forest. Over it all reigns a spire like a lily.

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Side aisle, Strasbourg Cathedral

Side aisle, Strasbourg Cathedral

The interior of the cathedral is peculiarly dark and full of mysticism. In the semi-darkness one can hardly make out the huge columns with elaborately crafted cannellures, which rise up, joining the vault’s crenellations. Stained glass windows reign supreme here. It is they that turn the cathedral into a Christian heaven. The huge window openings into which the stained glass windows are placed are like eyes looking into another world. Or through these openings the other world sends reflections of its azure and fire into the sanctuary. There are very few cathedrals in which the symbolism of the Catholic Church is so widely represented. Church history and secular history as the history of kings standing in the arches unfold before the viewer’s eyes in the vaults of the side aisles. Above, beneath the windows of the central nave, Christian virtues, saints, and maidens with spears and lit torches shine. It is a church of triumph and a church of militancy. Finally, the giant rose of the facade illuminates the cathedral with all the colors of the rainbow. It is a mystical rose, a symbol of eternity.”

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