From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
or the Cathedral of Our Lady of Strasbourg (French:
Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg, German:
Liebfrauenmünster zu Straßburg) is a Roman Catholic
cathedral in Strasbourg, France. Although considerable parts
of it are still in Romanesque architecture, it is widely
considered to be among the finest examples of high, or late,
Gothic architecture. Erwin von Steinbach is credited for
major contributions from 1277 to his death in 1318.
At 142 metres, it was the
world's tallest building from 1647 to 1874, when it was
surpassed by St. Nikolai's Church, Hamburg. Today it is the
sixth-tallest church in the world.
Described by Victor Hugo as
a "gigantic and delicate marvel", and by Goethe as a
"sublimely towering, wide-spreading tree of God", the
cathedral is visible far across the plains of Alsace and can
be seen from as far off as the Vosges Mountains or the Black
Forest on the other side of the Rhine. Sandstone from the
Vosges used in construction gives the cathedral its
characteristic pink hue.
Previous buildings on
The site of the Strasbourg cathedral was used for
several successive religious buildings, starting from the
Argentoratum period (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 diocese at the end of the seventh century, on the
base of a temple dedicated to the Virgin Mary, but nothing
remains of it today. Strasbourg's previous cathedral, of
which remains dating back to the to the late 4th century or
early 5th century were unearthed in 1948 and 1956, was
situated at the site of the current Église Saint-Étienne.
In the eighth century, the
first cathedral was replaced by a more important building
that would be completed under the reign of Charlemagne.
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 von
Habsburg laid the first stone of a new cathedral on the
ruins of the Carolingian basilica. He then constructed a
cathedral in the Romanesque style of architecture. That
cathedral burned to the ground in 1176 because at that time
the naves were covered with a wooden framework.
After that 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. Werner's cathedral's crypt, which had
not burned, was kept and expanded westwards.
Construction of the
The construction began with the quire and the north
transept in a Romanesque style, reminiscent of and actually
inspired by the Imperial Cathedrals in its monumentality and
height. But in 1225, a team coming from Chartres
revolutionized the construction by suggesting a Gothic
architecture style. The parts of the nave that had already
been begun in Romanesque style were torn down and in order
to find money to finish the nave, the Chapter resorted to
Indulgences in 1253. The money was kept by the Œuvre
Notre-Dame, which also hired architects and stone workers.
The influence of the Chartres masters was also felt in the
sculptures and statues: the "Pillar of Angels" (Pilier des
anges), a representation of the Last Judgment on a pillar in
the southern transept, facing the Astronomical clock, owes
to their expressive style.
Like the 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,
with more emphasis placed on walls than on windows.
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 Cologne Cathedral together represent some of
the earliest uses of architectural drawing. The work of
Professor Robert O. Bork of 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.
The north 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.
One can see 30 kilometers from the observation level, which
provides a view of the Rhine banks from the Vosges all the
way to the Black Forest. The octagonal tower as it can be
seen is the combined work of architects Ulrich Ensingen
(shaft) and Johannes Hültz of Cologne (top). Ensingen worked
on the Cathedral from 1399 to 1419, and Hültz from 1419 to
In 1505, architect Jakob
von Landshut and sculptor Hans von Aachen finished
rebuilding the Saint-Lawrence portal (Portail Saint-Laurent)
outside the northern transept in a markedly post-Gothic,
early-Renaissance style. As with the other portals of the
Cathedral, most of the statues now to be seen in situ are
copies, the originals having been moved to the Musée de