Strasbourg Cathedral or the
Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg ( , ) is a
Roman Catholic cathedral in Strasbourg, France.
A close-up of the west façade's
central portal in the above picture
Although considerable parts of it are still in Romanesque architecture
, it is
widely considered to be among the finest examples of high, or late,
. Erwin von Steinbach
is credited for
major contributions from 1277 to his death in 1318.
metres, it was the world's
tallest building from 1647 to 1874, when it was surpassed by
Today it is the sixth-tallest church
in the world.
by Victor Hugo as a "gigantic and
delicate marvel", the cathedral is visible far across the plains of
Alsace and can be seen from as far off as the Vosges
mountains or the
Forest on the other side of the Rhine.
An Al-Qaeda plot to
bomb the adjacent Christmas market
was prevented in 2000 by
French and German police.
Previous buildings on the site
The site of the Strasbourg cathedral was used for several
successive religious buildings, starting from the Roman occupation
(when a Roman sanctuary
occupied the site) up to the building
that is there today.
It is known that a cathedral was erected by the bishop Saint
Arbogast of the Strasbourg
at the end of the seventh century, on the base of a
temple dedicated to the Virgin
, but nothing remains of it today.
In the eighth century, the first cathedral was replaced by a more
important building that would be completed under the reign of
. Bishop Remigius von
Straßburg (also known as Rémi) wished to be buried in the crypt,
according to his will
dated 778. It was
certainly in this building that the Oaths of Strasbourg
were pronounced in
842. Excavations carried out recently reveal that this Carolingian
cathedral had three naves
and three apses
. A poem
described this cathedral decorated with gold and precious stones by
the bishop Ratho (also Ratald or Rathold). The basilica caught fire
on multiple occasions, in 873, 1002, and 1007.
In 1015, bishop Werner
laid the first stone of a new cathedral on the
ruins of the Carolingian basilica
. He then constructed a cathedral in the
architecture. That cathedral burned to the ground in 1176 because
at that time the naves were covered with a wooden framework.
disaster, bishop Heinrich von Hasenburg decided to construct a new
cathedral, to be more beautiful than that of Basel, which was
just being finished.
Construction of the new cathedral began on the foundations of the
preceding structure, and did not end until centuries later.
Construction of the cathedral (1176–1439)
The construction began with the quire
and the north transept
in a Romanesque style. But in 1225, a team
coming from Chartres
revolutionized the construction by contributing a Gothic architecture style.
order to find money to finish the nave, the Church resorted to
in 1253. The
money was kept by the Oeuvre Notre-Dame, which also hired
architects and stone workers.
Sandstone from the Vosges used in
construction gives the cathedral its characteristic pink
city of Strasbourg, the cathedral connects Münster-German and French cultural
influences, while the eastern structures, e.g. the choir and south
portal, still have very Romanesque features.
Above all, the famous west front, decorated with thousands of
figures, is a masterpiece of the Gothic
era. The tower is one of the
first to rely substantially on craftsmanship, with the final
appearance being one with a high degree of linearity captured in
stone. While previous façades were certainly drawn prior to
construction, Strasbourg has one of the earliest façades whose
construction is inconceivable without prior drawing. Strasbourg and
Cathedral together represent some of the earliest uses of
The work of Professor Robert O.
the University of
Iowa suggests that the design of the Strasbourg facade,
while seeming almost random in its complexity, can be constructed
using a series of rotated octagons.
tower, completed in 1439, was the world's tallest building from
1647 (when the spire of St. Mary's church, Stralsund burnt down) until 1874 (when the tower of St. Nikolai's Church in Hamburg was
completed). The planned south tower was never built and
as a result, with its characteristic asymmetrical form, the
Strasbourg cathedral is now the premier landmark of Alsace.
see 30 kilometers from the observation level, which provides a view
of the Rhine banks from
the Vosges all the way
to the Black
In April 1794, the Enragés
the city started planning to tear the spire down, on the grounds
that it hurt the principle of equality. The tower
was saved, however, when in May of the same year
citizens of Strasbourg crowned it with a giant tin Phrygian cap
of the kind the Enragés themselves
wore. This artifact was later kept in the historical collections of
the city until they were all destroyed in 1870. During the
Franco-Prussian War, the metal cross on the spire was bent.
World War II, the stained glass was
removed in 74 cases from the Strasbourg Cathedral and stored in a
salt mine near Heilbronn, Germany.
After the war, it was returned to
the cathedral by the Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives section of
the United States military.
The cathedral's south transept
18-metre astronomical clock
of the largest in the world. Its first forerunner was the so-called
Dreikönigsuhr ("three-king clock") of 1352-1354, located at the
opposite wall from where today's clock is. Then starting in 1547 a
new clock was built by Christian
, and others, but the construction was interrupted when
the Cathedral was handed over to the Roman Catholic Church.
Construction was resumed in 1571 by Conrad Dasypodius
and the Habrecht
brothers, and this clock was
astronomically much more involved. It also had paintings by the
Swiss painter Tobias Stimmer
clock functioned into the late 18th Century and can be seen today
in the Strasbourg Museum of Decorative Art.
The clock existing today originated in 1838-1843 (the clock has
1838-1842, but the celestial globe was only finished on June 24,
1843) and was built by Jean-Baptiste Schwilgué
Dasypodius' clock case,and with roughly the same functions, but
equipped with completely new mechanics. Schwilgué made a number of
preliminary studies years before, such as a design of the computus
mechanism (Easter computation)in 1816, and built a prototype in
1821. This mechanism, whose whereabouts are now unknown, could
compute Easter following the complex Gregorian rule.
The astronomical part is unusually accurate; it indicates leap years
much more astronomical data. Thus it was already much more a
complex calculating machine
a bare clock. Often the complicated functioning of the Strasbourg
Clock made specialized mathematical knowledge necessary (not just
A mathematical marvel, the clock was able to determine the computus
(date of Easter in the Christian calendar)
at a time when computers did not yet exist.
had been defined at the First Council of Nicaea
in A.D. 325
as "the Sunday that follows the fourteenth day of the moon that
falls on March 21 or immediately after". (See also Easter controversy
, Ecclesiastical new moon
Paschal Full Moon
Today tourists see only the remarkably sculpted figurines of this
clock, but behind this ensemble there is an exceptional mechanism
that engages and that represents one of the most beautiful
curiosities of the Cathedral.
The animated characters launch into movement at different hours of
the day. One angel sounds the bell while a second turns over an
. Different characters,
representing the ages of life (from a child to an old man) parade
in front of Death
On the last level are the Apostles, passing in front of Christ. The
clock shows much more than the official time; it also indicates
solar time, the day of the week (each represented by a god of
mythology), the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac
, the phase of the moon and the position of
several planets. All these automatons are put into operation at
According to legend, the creator of this clock had his eyes gouged
out afterward, to prevent him from reproducing it. Similar legends are
told for other clocks, such as the astronomical clock in Prague.
In the same room, there is a statue of a man resting his elbows on
(railing). According to
legend this was a rival architect to the one who had built the
pillar of angels, the architectural feat of the era, who contended
that one single pillar could never support such a large vault
, and he would wait to see the
whole thing come crashing down.
There are several models of the Strasbourg clock, usually with
simplified functions. One is in the Sydney Powerhouse
From 1858 until 1989, the clock was taken care of by the Ungerer
company. This company was founded in 1858 by
two brothers who were Schwilgué's assistants. Since 1989, the clock
has been taken care of by Alfred Faullimmel and his son Ludovic,
for the Strasbourg cathedral.Mr. Faullimmel had been employed by
Ungerer between 1955 and 1989.
In popular culture
The 1976 film Monsieur
, set in France in 1942, takes place largely in Paris
but in one sequence, in the middle of the film, the protagonist
visits his father in Strasbourg. The Cathedral can be seen out a
window, and there is a brief shot inside the Cathedral of the
astronomical clock's figurines moving about and striking the
The Dutch progressive rock
dedicated a theme to the
cathedral in their 1974 album Hamburger Concerto
Image:IMG 0384C.jpg|Full lateral view of Strasbourg
CathedralImage:Absolute Cathedrale Strasbourg interieur
01.JPG|Looking along the nave towards the choirImage:Rosace
cathedrale strasbourg.jpg|Rose window from Strasbourg
CathedralImage:Strassburg_Rose_exterior.jpg|The same from
outsideImage:France Strasbourg Magi.jpg|Depiction of the adoration
of the Magi on the Cathedral of Notre Dame in StrasbourgImage:Orgue
- Cathedrale de Strasbourg.jpg|The main
organImage:Cathedrale-de-Strasbourg-IMG 4240.jpg|Sculptures on the
right portal of the facadeImage:Choeur - Cathedrale de
Strasbourg.jpg|The romanesque choirImage:Cathedrale de Strasbourg -
Horloge Astronomique - Details (2).jpg|Close-up of the basis of the
1430.jpg|Depiction of the Coronation of the
VirginImage:Cathedrale-de-Strasbourg-IMG 1349.jpg|The rear of the
Cathedral seen from the platform underneath the towerImage:Cathedrale-de-Strasbourg-IMG
1284.jpg|The Cathedral towering over the Kammerzell
House (second from
1465.jpg|"Bespectacled emperor", 13th-century stained-glass window
now in the Musée de l'Oeuvre
memorial.jpg|Memorial to fallen Americans
says that the building rests on
immense piles of oak sinking into the waters of an underground
lake. A boat would roam around the lake, without anyone inside,
though the noise of the oars could be heard nevertheless. According
to the legend, the entry to the underground lake could be found in
the cellar of a house just opposite the cathedral. It would have
been walled up a few centuries ago.
The legend of the wind blowing around the cathedral is as follows:
In olden days, the Devil flew over the ground, riding the wind.
Thus he caught a glimpse of his portrait carved onto the cathedral:
the Tempter, courting the foolish virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), in the
guise of a seductive young man. It is true that his back opens up
and toads and snakes come out of it, but none of the naïve girls
notices that — nor do many tourists for that matter. Very flattered
and curious, the Devil had the idea to enter to see whether there
were other sculptures representing him on the inside of the
cathedral. Taken captive inside the holy place, he could not come
back out. The wind always waits in the square and still howls today
from impatience on the places outside the cathedral. The Devil,
furious, makes air currents from the bottom of the church to the
height of the pillar of angels.
- "Prodige du gigantesque et du délicat". Translation from
a note at TrekEarth.com.
- France Convicts Islamic Militants -
- Strasbourg Cathedral and the French Revolution
- This section largely translated from
:fr:Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg#L’horloge astronomique
 and :de:Astronomische
- Losey, Joseph (director). (1976) Monsieur Klein. DVD
released 2004, Home Vision Entertainment. Title 4, Chapter 12.