The cathedral, as most in France, is sublime.
The Cathedral is usually our first stop when visiting a large city. Strasbourg was no exception and every time we've gone, we've revisited the Cathedral. You have a different experience each time. Once they were restoring some of the stained glass windows and the church looked very bare without them. Fortunately that is now completed.
We've also been accosted by very aggressive beggars inside the Cathedral which is (to us) unusual so keep an eye on your belongings. Usually they sit silently at the door but these folks were actively working the church and no one seemed to be doing anything about it. It's difficult because there is so much to see and your eyes are elsewhere as they should be.
There is an astronomical clock in the back of the church and be aware that at noon you will be required to pay or be chased out of the church until the clock show is over. We decided once to pay and see the famous clock in action but the line was long and the space was limited so we gave up. Perhaps on a future trip . . .
Outside, the tourist office in Strasbourg is beside a lovely medieval building in the Cathedral Square. The entire area is a fun exploration including the very touristy street going down toward the river where you take the boat tour.
We've never met a tower that we didn't feel like we needed to climb so our 1st stop was to the top of Notre Dame for the view. Going up and down there are lots of photo opportunities as it's not as enclosed as most towers, you go up and down a different way so shoot as you are going up, you won't see the same view on the way down. If you don't like heights or enclosed spaces, this is not an attraction for you, we saw a woman going down shaking and practically in tears!
Included on the Strasbourg Pass, 5€ if you don't have the pass
Touted as one of the top things to see in Strasbourg, I was a little disappointed in the astronomical clock. There is only one performance per day, they tell you to start lining up at 11:45am, if you don't have the Strasbourg Pass, you need to buy a ticket at the cassis before getting in line to go in, cost is 2€. They then usher you into the cathedral, which is closed during the performance, you stand for awhile, there is a short video on the clock to watch and then at 12:30pm the clock starts doing it's thing, the apostles go round, the cock crows, the angels clang a bell and turn over an hour glass and then it's done. Doesn't sound exciting? It really isn't and I think if your time is tight this is skippable.
The Munster has 142 meters of towering bronze sandstone drawn straight from the valleys of the nearby Vosges mountains. It was once, for several centuries, the tallest building in the world, and even today you can see, on a good day, from the Vosges mountains in the west to the Black Forest in the East. It's known as a marvel of Gothic architecture, an engineering feat without contemporary parallel, with praise ladled upon it by some of history's literary greats, like Goethe. It contains an 18 meter clock, one of the largest in the world, which draws in crowds of tourists to watch it strike the hour. It is striking, iconic, dominating, important and symbolic.
And yet, for me, I found the building unpleasing aesthetically. Maybe it was the single offset spire lending it a clumsy appearance, or maybe it was the dull weather combining with the dark stone to obscure its best features, or maybe it was the austere, stretched, angular lines, as if built for height rather than grandeur.
The cathedral is in the old city center - on the island formed by the river Ill's two branches, Cathedral boasts a plethora of typical half-timbered houses
Besides being a masterpiece of wood sculpture is also a popular for the restaurant and sidewalk cafes all around
I bet your thinking this in located in one of the squares, sorry, wrong, it is in Notre Dame Cathedral.
Even if your here at the wrong time, [we were], still make you way and have a look, for it's a wonderful piece of work. This mechanical astronomical clock is an invention put together by various artists, all who worked together to build this amazing Clock. The present mechanism dates from 1842.
"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."
Perhaps this was for the 1st clock, as this one was built by many people.
What makes it such a work of art, is that many of the mechanical details were very rare in that time, such as calendar and astrolabe, as well as very interesting miniature statues. The main statue of the clock is the 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.
The astronomical clock offers you a view of different stages of life, starting with 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.
The clock can be seen every day at 12.30 pm, cost is 1 euro.
You can view it at other times, but of course, you won't see it working.
The lovely Pulpit was built in 1485. Built in flamboyant Gothic style, you will find 50 or more sculptures, four evangelists linked with the fathers of the church, Virgin & child, St. Barbara, St. Catherine, St. John the Baptist, 8 Apostles and Angels carrying the instruments of Christ's Passion, and Christ on the Cross between the Virgin Mary and St. John the Baptist. It is a beautiful piece of work.
Beside the Pulpit, is a box where you can put in a euro. This will light it up the pulpit and you will be able to read all about it. Taking photo's, I found it to be a little too bright!
The Notre Dame Cathedral has a small entry fee, don't let this put you off, as it is well worth seeing!
I felt in awe when I entered the Cathedral, for here I was, standing, looking at a 32 metre high nave, built between 1235 and 1270. The Nave is decorated with 14 tapestries depicting the life of the Virgin Mary, these were made between 1638 and 1657 for Notre Dame cathedral in Paris, but were acquired and brought here in 1739.
The Organ was lovely too. Situated in what is known as a Bird nest loft [15th century], it has 3 automations that still work today. The figure on the left, is dressed in the town's colours and is playing the trumpet. In the middle, Samson is opening and closing the mouth of his roaring Lion. On the right side, is a Monkey holding a pretzel? Years ago, these automated robots were displayed on the Pentecost Sunday, when the Pretzel man used to cry and jeer at the congregation!!!
So, when you are here, take a close look at these figures.
The Cathedral is open every day:
(except 01/01, 01/05 and 25/12)
from April to September, every day from 9am to 7.30pm
from October to March, every day from 10am to 5.30pm
from June to August, until 10pm every Friday and Saturday
4,40 Euro for adults
2,20 Euro for children (5-18) and students
For groups (+ 20 people) : 3,30 Euro per person
Free entry on the first Sunday of each month.
Every day at 12.30pm (south portal from 12.00pm).
Price: 1 Euro
Cathedral Platform: For views
November, December, January, February: from 9.00 a.m. to 4.30 p.m.
March, October: from 9.00 a.m. to 5.30 p.m.
April, May, June, September: from 9.00 a.m. to 6.30 p.m.
July and August: from 8.30 a.m. to 7.00 p.m.
Entrance: 3.00 Euros
Reduced: 2.30 Euros
Next, time to look at the Southern Gate. This gate deals with life after death. The sculptures detail a short story of the wise and foolish virgins as found in "Matthew's" gospel, and the tympanium features the episode of the Last Judgement. The consoles show the signs of the Zodiac.
Where do I begin? I think I will start with the exterior of the Cathedral.
The Strasbourg Notre Dame Cathedral is known as one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in all of Europe, a claim that I agree with. The Cathedral took almost 250 years to complete after work began in 1176, they must have done a good job as it is still standing today.
Where-ever I went, I could see the 142 metre high Spire dominating the cityscape, just one Spire as the second was never built. This Cathedral was the world’s tallest building for more than 200 years and still is the sixth tallest in its class.
It is quite unique as it is built from a red/pink sandstone, has only one Spire, many arches and detailed sculptures. Once a protestant Church, it now is Roman Catholic.
The beautiful West Façade is what I saw first. It has three richly sculpted archways. The Central gate features the Passion of Christ in the tympanum. Solomon on his throne, the Virgin and child, the figure of Father are all there. On the rampart there are musicians and 12 Lion cubs, symbols of the 12 tribes of Israel. On the 5 vault arches are the Miracles of Christ, The Martyrdom of the Apostles, Some episodes from the Old Testament and Scenes from the creation, where Adam and Eve are depicted with their sons Cain and Abel after their expulsioin for paradise.
The sculptures were brilliant, so well done, and still there today.
The Cathédrale Notre-Dame-de-Strasbourg is a beautiful example of late-Gothic architecture and sports one of the tallest church spires in the world. Inside, it has the longest nave in France. Originally planned to have two spires, the church never built the second spire, thus is appears to be unbalanced with one side jutted up to the sky. However, without this spire, the Strasbourg Cathedral would look a lot like the cathedral with the same name in Paris. This solo spire gives the structure character and a unique look.
The west façade of the cathedral with its three portals is full of things to see. The most decorated of the portals is the central one, with ornate statues of Old Testament prophets lined up on five arches above the doorway. On the left portal are statues of ladies appearing to stab a creature below them – representative of virtues striking down vices. On, what I think is the most interesting to look at, the right portal has the foolish virgins on the left and the wise virgins on the right. The expressions of the silly virgins and the Tempter are worth a look!
Once inside, be sure to look at the stained glass windows on the north side which feature the Holy Roman emperors as well as the ancestors of Christ and the lives of Mary and Christ. The rose window above the west portals is not to be missed.
As you make your way up the left side of the nave, you will see a beautifully carved pulpit by Hans Hammer, which was created for Geiler, the preacher of Kayserberg. Look for the small dog sculpture on the steps – Geiler would bring his dog along when he came to Strasbourg to preach. It is dark in the nave so if you want to have a better look at the pulput, put 20 cents in the machine beside the pulpit to turn the lights on.
Continuing up the left side of the nave is the St. Lawrence Chapel. Although this richly decorated chapel is not open to visitors except those who are here to worship, you can catch a glimpse of it through the gates. There is also a video display outside these gates that give you some information about the chapel.
In the southern transept is the astronomical clock which dates back to 1571 (although the current on is from the 1800s). At noon there is a show, but the area is closed for this event and tickets need to be purchased from the outside the south side of the cathedral. All other times, the south transept is open to the public and you can see the clock.
The chancel dates back to Romanesque times and is designed in the period. It is higher than the nave (the crypt is below it) and contains some wonderful neo-Byzantine frescoes. The stained glass window within the chancel is new – dating to 1956 to replace the one destroyed in World War II. Notice the European Union flag in the upper part of the window.
If you are interested in climbing to the top of the cathedral, there is an entrance through the outside of the cathedral on the south side.
The cathedral is a must-see visit during your stay in Strasbourg.
Like many cathedrals and places with high towers, you can climb to the top for some exercise and a magnificent view. Strasbourg’s cathedral also has a tower climb, except that it doesn’t take you to the top of the tower, but rather you stop short of the spire, which, at 142 meters, was once the highest church spire in the world until the 1800s. The circular staircase gets you as far as the top of the building, but that’s as far as you go. However, even this lower level, you can get a spectacular view of Strasbourg and a close up view of the cathedral, its statues and architectural elements such as the flying buttresses.
Usually both Hubby and I make the climbs up the towers, but this time we decided that Hubby would climb solo. The cost was higher than most other climbs - €5 per person – so he climbed while sending me on a mission to find a good bakery.
The tower climb has a limit on how many people can be up there at one time (50 people) so the line can get long while you are waiting your turn. The line forms up outside the cathedral on the right hand side (next to the astronomical clock line). Once the tower has met its quota of people, the door closes until people exit the climb (exit is on the other side of the cathedral).
The views were really very nice, but Hubby was disappointed to learn that he could not go to the top of the tower. But walking around the top of the roof gave him the chance to get a 360-degree view of the city and some up-close looks at the structure. He enjoyed the different and unique statues, including one of the equestrian statues that people have attempted to throw money onto the hat of the rider – if you miss, the money lands down on the street (or on top of someone else’s head!).
Hubby enjoyed his time up in the tower and when he was back on street level was treated to an eclair from the bakery I had found.
The tower climb is open daily from 0900-1700 (with later hours in the summer on weekends).
Inside the cathedral is the famous astronomical clock, located to the right of the altar. This is actually the third clock of its kind to be located in this spot; the first clock from the 14th century was replaced in the 16th century by a larger clock. The clock we see today was built in 1843 and has a perpetual calendar, and planetary dial, a display of where the Sun and Moon are currently positioned as well as solar and lunar eclipses. There is also a portrait of Copernicus on the left side of the clock. At 12:30 each day, the clock goes into full motion and a procession of 18-inch high figurines of the apostles move past a similar figure of Christ. As Peter passes Christ, a life-sized rooster crows three times. Just below these figures is a skeleton that rings a bell.
The astronomical clock is a favorite attraction for visitors to Strasbourg. Because space is limited and the clock only gives its show once a day, the line for tickets can get very long. Currently, the cost is €2 per person and the line forms up outside on the right side of the cathedral. Shortly before noon, the workers at the cathedral close up the clock area to visitors (you may see the clock during any visit to the cathedral – it just doesn’t put on a show) to make way for the paying customers waiting on the outside to enter. I didn’t stay for the show, but was there as they were closing the gates and shooing the people out of the area. The show begins at noon with a movie about the clock, followed by the clockwork display.
There are videos of the clockwork display so you can get a feel for what you would see if you got into the noon presentation.
If you want a birds-eye view of Strasbourg while getting some exercise, I suggest you climb the Notre-Dame tower. You don't actually climb the sole tower. Your highest point is the section of the cathedral between the two towers (if there was a 2nd tower). Even though you can climb all the way to the top it is still worth the five euros it costs to make the ascent.
The views of the church as you climb up one side of the building are outstanding. You get a good look at the flying buttresses and the architecture most people never experience. What always amazes me is the level of detail the masons put into their work for something that almost no one will see. One the way back down there is stone bannister that has a small carved statue on it (I think it is a crouching dog).
You will be attracted like a magnet to the cathedral. It's huge, and dominates the city. The little streets are quaint, full of people in the best of time and pleasant for a stroll, maybe with an ice cream cone?