St. Martin's Collegiate church as we see now was built in the 13th century and is in Alsace a major example of Gothic architecture. The foundations go back to the year 1000.
The bulb-shaped dome that gives the building its characteristic appearance is from 1575 after a fire burnt down the former bell tower. The massive pillars of the façade give the front of the building a somewhat cumbersome aspect.
The roof is of coloured tiles. The church looks nice especially in the evening thanks to the lighting system very well developed in the old Colmar.
The interior of the church is worthwhile a visit especially in the evening as it is beautifully lit by lights of gilded colour which emphasize the choir and the adjacent chapels (photo n°2). They display several medieval altars and statues.
Impressive in the chapel left of the choir is a life-sized "Cène - Last supper" of the late Gothic period (photo n°2). I could also admire a carved "triptyque de la Vie de St. Anne" from the 17th. century (photo n° 3).
Open 8.00 - 18.00 h
At the foot of the Dominican church stands the oldest Christmas market of Colmar.
About fifty nicely decorated stalls occupy the Place des Dominicains from the end of November to the end of December.
At night the lighting of the monuments and streets which emphasizes the architectural heritage of the city mix with the lighting of Christmas and that of the 14th century stained glasses of the church.
The aspect is fairy-like and attracts large crowds of visitors.
The interior of the church can be visited until 18:00. It is a typical hall-church with a ceiling out of wood characteristic of the mendicant order of the Dominicans. In the church is on display the famous painting "La Vierge au Buisson de Roses" by Martin Schongauer (1473).
Au pied de l'église des Dominicains a lieu le marché de Noël le plus ancien de Colmar.
Une cinquantaine de maisonnettes joliment décorées occupent la Place des Dominicains de fin novembre à fin décembre.
A la tombée de la nuit se mélangent l'éclairage des monuments et rues qui met en valeur l'héritage architectural de la ville avec l'éclairage de Noël et celui des vitraux du 14ème siècle de l'église.
L'aspect est féerique et attire la grande foule.
L'intérieur de l'église peut être visité jusqu'à 18 h. C'est une église-halle typique de l'ordre mendiant des Dominicains avec un plafond en bois. Elle est connue pour son tableau "La Vierge au Buisson de Roses" de Martin Schongauer (1473).
The Dominican church is one of the finest examples of simple Gothic architecture. It was built in the first half of the 14th century. Very impressive are the tall pillars which carry the wooden ceiling.
The highlight of the church, though, is a famous picture of Martin Schongauer, the "Madonna im Rosenhag" (1473). Schongauer created a peaceful scene with a meditative Madonna, holding her curiously looking, almost smiling child in her arms. The picture got its name from the many roses in the background. The picture had its original place in the church St. Martin, but it was stolen in 1972. Found and restored later it was transferred to the Dominican church where it is to find now.
St. Martin - the main church of Colmar - is another excellent example of Gothic architecture in Alsace. It was built 1235 - 1356. The spire of the southern tower burnt down in 1572 and was reconstructed in Renaissance style, lending the building its characteristic (and non-typical) silhouette.
Please take notice of the many details, like the fine sculptured portals, the windows with Gotic tracery and the side chapel in the Northern nave. I liked it very much.
In some ways the most impressive building in Colmar, St. Martin's dominates the Place de la Cathedrale with its steeple which soars over 200 feet in the air and its typically Alsatian multi-colored tiled roof. It is so large and set in such narrow streets that it is hard to get an overall view, so walk around and admire the flying buttresses and lovely carved pinnacles. It is built of stone of course and dates to the 13th and 14th Centuries. Its external carving is magnificent and can be enjoyed over a drink or morning coffee in the Place de la Cathedral. This is the second church in Alsace that I learned is shared by Catholics and Protestants. I wonder if this is common - it would make sense given the French/German character of her history.
On the clock standing on the south side of Cathedral Saint Martin, the hours are written in Roman numbers and the four is written IIII and not IV. This is the case on most ancient clocks but the question is why. I have found several explanations and I do not know which one is true.
- This is only for aesthetic, in order to have four numbers with I (I, II, III and IIII), four with V (V, VI, VII, VIII) and four with X (IX, X, XI and XII).
- This is only for aesthetic, in order to have a better equilibrium between the right and the left side of the clock.
- If written IV, it might have been mistaken with VI, which on a clock is written upside down.
- In Roman numbering, 4 has always been written IIII except for numbering sovereigns. As nowadays Roman numbering is not used anymore in real life but only for numbering sovereigns, the wrong feeling has established itself that IV was the regular form.
This painting has several different names, Virgin in the Rosebush, Madonna and Child in the Rose Arbor, Madonna in the Rose Bower, but by any name it is brilliant. It was painted in 1473 but the colors are as vibrant as if done yesterday. The artist, Martin Schongauer, was born in Alsace and did the painting originally for St. Martin's Cathedral. I don't know how it ended up in the hands of the Dominican Church, but as this church is typically plain (a Dominican trait), the contrast is wonderful. Maybe there is a good story of religious order rivalry here as St. Martin's is a Franciscan. The church is an interesting visit, but the painting is not to be missed. Notice the goldfinches, robins and sparrows which add life to the already beautiful rose bush.
The south entrance is dedicated to saint Nicholas. It is one of the earliest parts of the church and dates from the second half of the 13th. It is partly Romanesque, partly Gothic.
The lowest part of the tympanum has a Romanesque semi-circular arch with Saint Nicolas represented with on one side 3 maids that he saved from an ill fate (prostitution ?) as their father (far left) was ruined and could not pay for their dowry. He put money in their socks that were hanged for drying. On the other side, 3 lads figuring the children that were killed, cut in pieces and put in a salting-tub by a butcher and that he resuscitate.
The upper part of the tympanum is a Gothic arch with the scenery of the Last Judgment.
Even if I have a preference for this church when it is dark because I like the way the interior is lit, I must say that the polychromy of the façade, as seen in day time, is surprising.
The colour palette of the stones used for the building is much extended in comparison with most Gothic churches. At St Martin the stones vary from dark grey to red; too which are added the colours of the roof tiles.
It seems that the inhabitants of Colmar liked to play with colours as well for their houses as for their cathedral (St Martin was once a cathedral).
Même si j'ai une préférence pour cette église au crépuscule parce que j'en aime l'éclairage intérieur, je dois dire que la polychromie de la façade, telle qu'elle apparaît en plein jour, est surprenante.
Les pierres utilisées pour les façades appartiennent à une grande variété de teintes en comparaison avec la plupart des églises gothiques. Pour la collégiale St Martin les pierres des murs varient du gris foncé au rouge; à cette palette élargie s'ajoutent encore les couleurs des tuiles de toit.
Il semble que les habitants de Colmar aimaient à jouer avec des couleurs aussi bien pour leurs maisons que pour leur ancienne cathédrale.
There are far better cathedrals than this all over Europe but this one is still worth a look inside. If you go to the City Centre of Colmar you will almost trip over it as it seems huge because it is situated right in the middle of the half timber buildings.
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