Saint Stephen’s Church in Strasbourg is located inside the catholic ‘Saint-Étienne’ college, for which it serves as a chapel. Saint Stephen's is one of the oldest churches in Strasbourg. The crypt contains the remains of a fifth-century Roman basilica. The site was originally occupied by a Roman fort. A new church was built on the site in early in 717 by Duke Adalbert of Alsace, brother of Saint Odile, as part of a new convent, in which he installed his daughter Attala as the first abbess. The church was rebuilt in 1220 in Romanesque-Gothic style.
At the beginning of the 16th century, St Stephen's was a parish church, the parish of Stephen's being one of the nine parishes of Strasbourg. In 1534, as the reform was being introduced in Strasbourg, the parish of St Stephen's was transferred to St William's, on account of the opposition of the cannonesses of St Stephen's to the new teaching.
In the 17th century Louis XIV closed the abbey and transferred it to the Visitandines to serve as a boarding school for young women, a function which continued up until the French Revolution. In 1714 the church was equipped with an organ by Andreas Silbermann, which is now in Bischheim. After the French Revolution, the building was used as a warehouse, then a synagogue, and finally as a ballroom. In 1802, the church was deprived of its tower and in 1805 this was transformed into a theatre.
The college, of which the church now forms part, began life in 1861 as a 'Petit seminaire' (literally 'little seminary'), educating future priests as well as lay students.
Allied bombing destroyed much of the building in 1944. Only the wide transept with its triple apse survived. In 1956, the ancient site was excavated and a Merovingian apse was discovered beneath the foundations of the old tower. In 1961, the nave was renovated, exposing the timber structures. The church was classified as a historical monument in 1962.
As the Church is now part of a school, public access is only possible on special occasions, such as European Heritage Days. The school owns some valuable historical tapestries from the abbey church, some of which can be seen in the nearby Notre Dame museum.References:
The moated castle at Beersel is one of the few exceptionally well-preserved examples of medieval fortifications in Belgium. It remains pretty much as it must have appeared in the 15th century. Remarkably, it was never converted into a fortified mansion. A visitor is able to experience at first-hand how it must have felt to live in a heavily fortified castle in the Middle Ages.
The castle was built in around 1420 as a means of defence on the outer reaches of Brussels. The tall, dense walls and towers were intended to hold any besiegers at bay. The moat and the marshy ground along its eastern, southern and western edges made any attack a formidable proposition. For that reason, any attackers would have chosen its weaker northern defences where the castle adjoins higher lying ground. But the castle was only taken and destroyed on one occasion in 1489, by the inhabitants of Brussels who were in rebellion against Maximilian of Austria.
After being stormed and plundered by the rebels it was partially rebuilt. The pointed roofs and stepped gables are features which have survived this period. The reconstruction explains why two periods can be identified in the fabric of the edifice, particularly on the outside.
The red Brabant sandstone surrounds of the embrasures, now more or less all bricked up, are characteristic of the 15th century. The other embrasures, edged with white sandstone, date from the end of the 15th century. They were intended for setting up the artillery fire. The merlons too are in white sandstone. The year 1617 can be clearly seen in the foundation support on the first tower. This refers to restorations carried out at the time by the Arenberg family.
Nowadays, the castle is dominated by three massive towers. The means of defence follow the classic pattern: a wide, deep moat surrounding the castle, a drawbridge, merlons on the towers, embrasures in the walls and in the towers, at more or less regular intervals, and machiolations. Circular, projecting towers ensured that attacks from the side could be thwarted. If the enemy were to penetrate the outer wall, each tower could be defended from embrasures facing onto the inner courtyard.
The second and third towers are flanked by watchtowers from which shots could be fired directly below. Between the second and third tower are two openings in the walkway on the wall. It is not clear what these were used for. Were these holes used for the disposing of rubbish, or escape routes. The windows on the exterior are narrow and low. All light entering comes from the interior. The few larger windows on the exterior date from a later period. It is most probable that the third tower - the highest - was used as a watchtower.