The pink sandstone cathedral of Strasbourg represents both an outstanding artistic achievement and an extraordinary encyclopaedia of mediaeval
architecture. Strasbourg’s development and prosperity under the Holy Roman Empire reached its zenith in 1015 when the city’s Bishop decided to build a vast Romanesque cathedral. After it was destroyed by a fire in 1176, the Cathedral was rebuilt on its original foundations, an endeavour that covered some 3 centuries. Construction started with the choir, with the Western facade completed in the 14th century and the spire in 1439. While the original architectural influences were clearly Romanesque, the Cathedral was caught up in the wave of Gothic architecture sweeping through Europe in the 13th century and the many sculptures adorning facade bear eloquent witness to this movement. Restoration work is now a permanent aspect of the Cathedral.
The Cathedral is a place of worship, a historical monument and also a symbol of Rhine culture. A symbol of Christian faith, the Cathedral became famous throughout Europe right from the end of the Middle Ages. Although Gothic architecture fell out of favour over several centuries, it became popular again in the late 18th century and the Cathedral was fulsomely praised by both Goethe and Hugo. The Cathedral was listed as a historical
monument in 1862. The city of Strasbourg has long been based on twin cultures and the Cathedral is a reflection of the turbulent history of its region. Nowadays, with Strasbourg as a European capital, the Cathedral has become one of the symbols of Europe. Strasbourg’s centre has been listed as a UNESCO world Heritage site since 1988. As a unique artistic achievement and a symbol of Gothic art, the Cathedral is central to the city’s extraordinary heritage.
THE WESTERN FACADE
The Western facade is an outstanding technical and artistic achievement and is a masterpiece of Gothic art.
The Western facade (1277-1384)
Construction of the Western facade began in 1277, under the supervision of German architect Erwin von Steinbach. The facade comprises 3 vertical
divisions, separated by buttresses and featuring an external decor covering the load-bearing walls. A magnificent rose window dominates the main door.
The tower (1399-1419)
The octagonal tower was built between 1399 and 1419 and is the work of Ulrich von Ensingen. Each of the faces is open and crowned by a curved décor. The tower is flanked by 4 sets of spiral staircases.
The spire (1419-1439)
The work of Jean Hültz of Cologne and completed in 1439, the spire sits atop the tower. It comprises a pyramid of pinnacles over 8 levels, crowned by
a lantern and a cross. Soaring up 142 m, the spire is an outstanding technical achievement which remained the world’s tallest building until the late 19th century.
The massive nave is 63 m long, 32m wide and 32m high.
The nave (1240-1275)
The nave comprises 3 long aisles and impresses with its verticality and elegance. With vaulted intersecting ribs, the nave is sustained by arched
buttresses. It is a triumph of the Gothic style and drew inspiration from other French cathedrals which had just been completed. Its elevation comprises three levels: large arcades with fasciculated columns, an open triforium and high windows each containing 4 lancets under rose windows. The nave also features magnificent stained glass windows from the 12th to 14th centuries.
The great organs
The polychrome organ case is perched in the north part of the nave. The lower part, the pendentive, was built in 1385, by Michael of Fribourg. The flamboyant upper part was designed by Friedrich Krebs in 1489. A number of significant changes have been made to the organ over the centuries by organ builders, including Andreas Silbermann in 1716. The current organ is the work of Alfred Kern (1981).