Voyager c’est grandir. C’est la grande aventure. Celle qui laisse des traces dans l’ame – Marc Thiercelin
To travel is to grow. This is a great adventure, the one that leaves traces in the soul – Marc Thiercelin
Imagine being at the centre of the tussle between two nations yet not harbouring any sourness but thriving with vigour at every opportunity in the long history of 2000+ years! Welcome to ‘quaint Strasbourg’ a transcendent symbol of perseverance, a city with deep historical roots and distinctive feathers in the cap of its glory!
Strasbourg is a border town in the Alsace region in the East, between France and Germany with the river Rhine acting as a natural border. The Vosges mountains are to its west and the Black Forest to the east. It is traversed by river Ile for a large part of it. Strasbourg enjoys an oceanic climate with mild summer and cool but not freezing winters.
Thanks to its strategic location on the important trade-traffic route offered by the Rhine, Strasbourg rose to fame in 13AD. It was the richest city under the Roman empire then. Art and learning flourished in the same period as a positive side effect of the growth.
However, since its first mention in 12BC as the Roman camp, it has witnessed many dark periods like the Strasbourg massacre(1349), the Dancing plague (1518), the Reign of Terror (1793), the siege of Strasbourg (1870), Nazi occupation and the British and American bombing raids (1940–1944).
In spite of the perils, it was here that the world’s first newspaper was printed by Johann Carolus in 1605. A poet-musician-soldier, Claude- Joseph Rouget de Lisle composed an anthem for Rhine Army in 1792 here which we now know as ‘La Marseillaise’. In 1889, Minkowski & Von Mering discovered the pancreatic origin of diabetes, here in Strasbourg.
Cut to the present, the University of Strasbourg is currently the second-largest in France. It is the second-largest river port in France, after Paris. It is also the address of the largest Islamic place of worship in France, the Strasbourg Grand Mosque. Its unique Franco-German culture, antique cobblestone alleys, picture-perfect old town with its full-of-life canals, creaking half-timbered houses, and commendable Gothic Roman architecture draw international and local tourists alike.
Let’s start our exploration of the quaint Strasbourg from the jewel in its crown.
La Cathdrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg
‘Cathedra’ means a seat of Archbishop. ‘Cathedral’ thus means a place of worship, prayers where the cathedra is sheltered. Built between the 13th to 15th centuries La Cathedrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg is an awe-inspiring medieval architectural marvel. Situated at the heart of the Grande Ile (Big Island) surrounded by the Ile river, a UNESCO heritage site since 1988, this masterpiece is a unique blend of Romanesque-Gothic architecture.
The cathedral is built with rose-pink / red sandstones from the Vosges Mountain.
Its larger-than-life façade retells many biblical stories.
Thousands of Christian figures sculpted on its exterior in the flamboyant Gothic style spellbound the onlooker!
Soaring at 143m in height the spire was the tallest structure of Christendom till the end of the 19th century.
The pulpit, the Pillar of the Angels representing in three dimensions the Last Judgment, the great organs, and many stained-glass windows, including an impressive rose window on the façade are some of the intricately sculpted highlights of the interior.
A Renaissance astronomical clock, L’Horloge Astronomique in the south transept stands out with its gigantic presence. Every day at 12:30 pm, visitors crowd the area to watch an automated parade of Apostles and the crowing of the rooster.
Climb 300+ spiral steps and reach the top of the bell tower. Sweeping panoramas of the city, the Rhine plains, the Black Forest, and the Vosges Mountains await in rapt attention to satiate your discerning eyes from this open viewing platform.
Sionara time. Let’s meet tomorrow to discover the jolly-merry Strasbourg.
Click here for posts so far in the “Exploring l’Hexagone” series