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:
The Cathedral of Limburg is one of the best preserved late Romanesque style buildings. It is unknown When the first church was built above the Lahn river. Archaeological discoveries have revealed traces of a 9th-century church building in the area of the current chapel. It was probably built in Merovingian times as a castle and the chapel added in the early 9th century.
In 910 AD, Count Konrad Kurzbold (cousin of the future King Konrad I) founded a collegiate chapter of 18 canons, who lived according to the rule of Bishop Chrodegang of Metz, on the hilltop site. The original castle chapel was torn down and a three-aisled basilica was built in its place. The foundations of this basilica have been found beneath the present floor.
The construction of current cathedral is dated to 1180-90. The consecration was performed in 1235 by the archbishop of Trier. It seems certain that the cathedral was built in four stages. The first stage encompassed the west facade, the south side aisle, the choir and the transept up to the matroneum. This section forms the Conradine church. The second stage consisted of the addition of the inner pillars of the south nave. In this stage the bound system was first introduced. In the third phase, the matroneum in the southern nave was built. The fourth stage included the north side of the transept and the choir matroneum. By this stage Gothic influence is very clear.
The interior was destroyed by Swedish soldiers during the Thirty Years War (1618-48) and reconstructed in a late Baroque style in 1749. The Baroque renovation was heavy-handed: the surviving medieval stained glass windows were replaced; all the murals were covered up; the ribs of the vaults and columns of the arcades were painted blue and red; the capstones were gilded; the original high altar was replaced. The colorfully painted exterior was coated in plain white and the central tower was extended by 6.5 meters.
The collegiate chapter of Limburg was dissolved in 1803 during the Napoleonic period, but then raised to the rank of cathedral in 1827 when the bishopric of Limburg was founded. Some renovations in contemporary style followed: the walls were coated white, the windows were redone in blue and orange (the heraldic colors of the Duke of Nassau) and towers were added to the south transept (1865).
Further changes came after Limburg was incorporated into the Kingdom of Prussia in 1866. It was now the Romantic period and the cathedral was accordingly restored to an idealized vision of its original Romanesque appearance. The exterior stonework was stripped of all its plaster and paint, to better conform with the Romantic ideal of a medieval church growing out of the rock. The Baroque interior was stripped away and the wall paintings were uncovered and repainted.
Further renovations came in 1934-35, enlightened by better knowledge of the original art and architecture. Art Nouveau stained glass windows were also added. A major restoration in 1965-90 included replastering and painting the exterior, both to restore it to its original appearance and to protect the stonework, which was rapidly deteriorating while exposed to the elements.
The interior is covered in medieval frescoes dating from 1220 to 1235. They are magnificent and important survivals, but time has not been terribly kind to them - they were whitewashed over in the Baroque period (1749) and uncovered and repainted with a heavy hand in the Romantic period (1870s) before finally being restored more sensitively in the 1980s.