Strasbourg Cathedral de Notre-Dame is known as one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in Europe. The Cathedral stands on the exact site of a roman temple built on a little hill above the muddy ground. The first version of the church was starting to be built during 1015 by proposal of Bishop Werner von Habsburg, but fire destroyed most of the original Romanesque building. By the time that cathedral was being renovated (at the end of the 12th century, this time with red stones carried from the nearby mountains of Vosges), the gothic architectural style has reached Alsace and the future cathedral was starting to develop all characteristics of gothic aesthetics. The project of the first cathedral in Alsace was handed to craftsman and stonemasons who had already worked on the also famous gothic cathedral in Chartres.
The magnificent west front of the cathedral and its main entrance was designed by Erwin von Steinbach in 1284. In 1399, Ulrich von Ensingen, the architect of the Cathedral in Ulm, supervised the building of the octagonal base of the spire which was completed after his death by Johannes Hültz from Köln and which soon became the symbol of Strasbourg.
Under the Reformation, in 1521, the cathedral became a Protestant church. After the incorporation of Strasburg into France in 1681, the cathedral was returned to the Catholics and dedicated to the Virgin Mary.
The famous tower was once almost completely destroyed during the French Revolution, inspired by anti-religious believes, some revolutionary leaders ordered its demolition. But, a local locksmith conceived a brilliant scheme of making a huge Phrygian cap made of metal to cover the tower. The bomb shelling of 1870 and 1944 caused some damage of the Cathedral, but after few renovations and the replacements of missing statues, the Cathedral regained its original look.
The cathedral greatly contributes to the history of Gothic sculpture. The façade of the southern cross bar is decorated with the famous Church and Synagogue from the same workshop than produced the remarkable inside pillar of the Angels (1230-1250). While previous façades were certainly drawn prior to construction, Strasbourg has one of the earliest façades whose construction is inconceivable without prior drawing. The statues, dating from the 13th to the 15th century, located above the triple portal of the Gothic façade, depict the Prophets, the Wise and Mad virgins and the Virtues and Vices.
Inside, it is possible to admire the high Gothic styled baptistery made by Dotzinger (1453), the magnificent pulpit decorated with numerous statuettes sculpted by Hans Hammer in 1485, the Mount of Olives in the northern transept by Nicolas Roeder (1498), and the St. Lawrence"s portal dating from the middle Ages.
The cathedral has many other treasures: stained glass windows dating from the 12th to the 14th century, the St. Pancrace"s altar (1522) from Dangolsheim, the 17th-century tapestries forming the Virgin"s wall covering purchased in the 18th century, and finally a very popular curiosity, the astronomical clock set up in its own 17th-century case decorated by Tobias Stimmer and using an 19th-century mechanism devised by Schwilgué. To its left, there are 15th-century mural paintings.The presence of an organ is attested as early as year 1260. There was also two other instruments built and modified in 1291 and 1327. The oldest sections of the actual organ case are not older than 1385.
Clock of Strasbourg cathedralPrincipal work of the Renaissance, this mechanical astronomical clock is an invention put together by various artists, mathematicians and technicians. Swiss watchmakers, sculptors, painters and creators of automatons all worked together to build this amazing automate. The present mechanism dates from 1842 and is especially attractive for the work of its automatons, which, every day at 12.30 pm, all start their show.
The first Strasbourg astronomical clock, L"horloge de Trois Rois, was being built from 1352 till 1354, but it stopped working in the beginning of 16th century.
According to a legend, the local authorities of Strasbourg ordered that the constructor of the Astronomic Clock should be blinded so that he could not try to build something like it ever again. This first clock was equipped with various mechanical details that were very rare in that time, such as calendar and astrolabe, as well as very interesting miniature statues. The main statue of the clock was representing Virgin Mary holding baby Jesus in her arms. In front of her, every hour, the three Kings would step out of their chambers and the music announces the time (this automate is now being shown in the Strasbourg museum of Decorative Arts).
At this moment, astronomical clock offers you a view of different stages of life, which are personified by a child, a teenager, an adult and an old man, who pass before Death. Above this are the apostles who walk before Christ. Their passage is punctuated by the beatings of wings and the song of a large rooster. In front of the clock is the marvellous Pillar of Angels, which, in a very original manner, represents the Last Judgment.References:
Sirmione castle was built near the end of the 12th century as part of a defensive network surrounding Verona. The castle was maintained and extended first as part of the Veronese protection against their rivals in Milan and later under the control of the Venetian inland empire. The massive fortress is totally surrounded by water and has an inner porch which houses a Roman and Medieval lapidary. From the drawbridge, a staircase leads to the walkways above the walls, providing a marvellous view of the harbour that once sheltered the Scaliger fleet. The doors were fitted with a variety of locking systems, including a drawbridge for horses, carriages and pedestrians, a metal grate and, more recently, double hinged doors. Venice conquered Sirmione in 1405, immediately adopting provisions to render the fortress even more secure, fortifying its outer walls and widening the harbour.
Thanks to its strategical geographical location as a border outpost, Sirmione became a crucial defence and control garrison for the ruling nobles, retaining this function until the 16th century, when its role was taken up by Peschiera del Garda.