The Palais Rohan represents not only the high point of local baroque architecture, but has also housed three of the most important museums in the Strasbourg since the end of the 19th century: the Archaeological Museum, the Museum of Decorative Arts and the Museum of Fine Arts. The city gallery, Galerie Robert Heitz, is also in a side wing of the palace.

The palace was commissioned by Cardinal Armand Gaston Maximilien de Rohan, Bishop of Strasbourg, from the architect Joseph Massol and erected between 1731 and 1742 according to plans by Robert de Cotte. It was built on the site of the former residence of the Bishop, the so-called Palatium, which had been built from 1262 onwards. In 1744, Louis XV stayed in the palace, and Marie Antoinette stayed there in 1770. In 1805, 1806 and 1809, Napoléon Bonaparte stayed there and had some of the rooms changed to suit his tastes and those of his wife, Joséphine. In 1810, Napoleon's second wife Marie Louise, Duchess of Parma spent her first night on French soil in the palace. Another royal guest was king Charles X of France in 1828. From 1872 until 1898, the palace served as the main building of the imperial German Universität Straßburg, up until the founding and opening of the new 'Kaiser-Wilhelms-Universität'. The art collection of the city (previously kept in the Aubette on the Place Kléber, which had been burned after Prussian artillery fire on August 24, 1870) had been completely destroyed during the Franco-Prussian War. As of 1898 and during the course of the re-establishment of the art collection, the palace became the seat of the imperial museums of Strasbourg. On August 11, 1944, the building was damaged by British and American bombs. The restoration of the premises was completed in the 1990s.

The palace is built on a nearly square base which falls away toward the Ill River and is subdivided around a three-part inner court by a gallery. South of that, there is a main wing for the Prince-Archbishop, with its two representative Classic façades, which extends the entire width of the building. The most extravagant and overwhelming feature, from the viewpoint of the overall impression, is the façade which faces the Ill, with a small flat terrace with wrought-iron railings extending on both sides before it. The courtyard gate to the cathedral is wide and curved and has a roof with religious sculptures.

The chambers of the Prince-Archbishop, which can be viewed today in nearly their original condition, are divided into the grand appartement (display space, facing the river) and petit appartement (living space, facing the inner court), as in the Palace of Versailles. On both sides of the suites are the two most spacious rooms of the palace, the dining hall and the library, which both extend over the entire longitudinal axis of the wing. The library also serves as the nave of the castle's very small chapel.

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Founded: 1731-1742
Category: Palaces, manors and town halls in France

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4.3/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Simon Richards (2 years ago)
This grand, elegant building houses three museums - the fine art and archaeology museums are both very interesting, the decorative arts museum less so. Signage at the entrance isn't great - push on the doors and hope for the best!
Simon Drury (2 years ago)
Closing.... Rude people who apparently do not like tourists. Not my problem but they need remedial training.
Bhavana K (2 years ago)
Good museums. Very well maintained.
Derek F Garcia (3 years ago)
One of the most beautiful places on Earth.
Jez Bond (3 years ago)
Really enjoyed this place, great to see how the rich used to live.... and it was free due to some national day in Europe, winning!
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Quimper Cathedral

From 1239, Raynaud, the Bishop of Quimper, decided on the building of a new chancel destined to replace that of the Romanesque era. He therefore started, in the far west, the construction of a great Gothic cathedral which would inspire cathedral reconstructions in the Ile de France and would in turn become a place of experimentation from where would later appear ideas adopted by the whole of lower Brittany. The date of 1239 marks the Bishop’s decision and does not imply an immediate start to construction. Observation of the pillar profiles, their bases, the canopies, the fitting of the ribbed vaults of the ambulatory or the alignment of the bays leads us to believe, however, that the construction was spread out over time.

The four circular pillars mark the start of the building site, but the four following adopt a lozenge-shaped layout which could indicate a change of project manager. The clumsiness of the vaulted archways of the north ambulatory, the start of the ribbed vaults at the height of the south ambulatory or the choice of the vaults descending in spoke-form from the semi-circle which allows the connection of the axis chapel to the choir – despite the manifest problems of alignment – conveys the hesitancy and diverse influences in the first phase of works which spread out until the start of the 14th century.

At the same time as this facade was built (to which were added the north and south gates) the building of the nave started in the east and would finish by 1460. The nave is made up of six bays with one at the level of the facade towers and flanked by double aisles – one wide and one narrow (split into side chapels) – in an extension of the choir arrangements.

The choir presents four right-hand bays with ambulatory and side chapels. It is extended towards the east of 3-sided chevet which opens onto a semi-circle composed of five chapels and an apsidal chapel of two bays and a flat chevet consecrated to Our Lady.

The three-level elevation with arches, triforium and galleries seems more uniform and expresses anglo-Norman influence in the thickness of the walls (Norman passageway at the gallery level) or the decorative style (heavy mouldings, decorative frieze under the triforium). This building site would have to have been overseen in one shot. Undoubtedly interrupted by the war of Succession (1341-1364) it draws to a close with the building of the lierne vaults (1410) and the fitting of stained-glass windows. Bishop Bertrand de Rosmadec and Duke Jean V, whose coat of arms would decorate these vaults, finished the chancel before starting on the building of the facade and the nave.

Isolated from its environment in the 19th century, the cathedral was – on the contrary – originally very linked to its surroundings. Its site and the orientation of the facade determined traffic flow in the town. Its positioning close to the south walls resulted in particuliarities such as the transfer of the side gates on to the north and south facades of the towers: the southern portal of Saint Catherine served the bishop’s gate and the hospital located on the left bank (the current Préfecture) and the north gate was the baptismal porch – a true parish porch with its benches and alcoves for the Apostles’ statues turned towards the town, completed by an ossuary (1514).

The west porch finds its natural place between the two towers. The entire aesthetic of these three gates springs from the Flamboyant era: trefoil, curly kale, finials, large gables which cut into the mouldings and balustrades. Pinnacles and recesses embellish the buttresses whilst an entire bestiary appears: monsters, dogs, mysterious figures, gargoyles, and with them a whole imaginary world promoting a religious and political programme. Even though most of the saints statues have disappeared an armorial survives which makes the doors of the cathedral one of the most beautiful heraldic pages imaginable: ducal ermine, the Montfort lion, Duchess Jeanne of France’s coat of arms side by side with the arms of the Cornouaille barons with their helmets and crests. One can imagine the impact of this sculpted decor with the colour and gilding which originally completed it.

At the start of the 16th century the construction of the spires was being prepared when building was interrupted, undoubtedly for financial reasons. Small conical roofs were therefore placed on top of the towers. The following centuries were essentially devoted to putting furnishings in place (funeral monuments, altars, statues, organs, pulpit). Note the fire which destroyed the spire of the transept cross in 1620 as well as the ransacking of the cathedral in 1793 when nearly all the furnishings disappeared in a « bonfire of the saints ».

The 19th century would therefore inherit an almost finished but mutilated building and would devote itself to its renovation according to the tastes and theories of the day.