After a quick visit of Place de la Cathedrale in Strasbourg our guide on our Viking River Cruise led us into the famed Cathedral, Our Lady of Strasbourg. She wanted us to be able to view the Astronomical Clock, and we would just be in time. This was the first of two of our stops in France while we sailed down the Rhine, starting in Amsterdam, traveling through Germany and ending in Switzerland. This particular Viking River Cruise is nicknamed the Castle and Cathedral Tour. We had already visited the castles in Marksburg and Heidelberg and spent an afternoon viewing more as we cruised through the Upper Middle Rhine Valley. And this would be our second Cathedral – we had already spent Easter Sunday visiting the Dom in Cologne.
The Cathedral in Strasbourg is significant in many ways. It is also called the Notre-Dame de Strasbourg. The church dates to 1015 and the actual Cathedral was built in 1220 on the remains of a previous church. The architect for the church was Erwin von Steinbach. The church originally was to have two towers or spires, but somehow ended up with only one.
It features lovely Gothic architecture and is the second most visited Cathedral in France, after the Notre-Dame de Paris.
From 1684 until 1874, it was the tallest building in the world. Although its height never really changed, other buildings that exceeded it’s height were destroyed through war, fire and such so for a couple hundred years it reigned at the top spot. Like many of the other buildings in this region, it is built with a reddish-pink sandstone.
You immediately are overwhelmed trying to take it all in.
This picture that my friend June took puts the size of the Central Portal into perspective.
Before we entered, our guide Claude told us about the many statues, carvings and adornments on the church.
In the center of the Main Portal is a statue of the Virgin Mary holding the Christ Child. Most of the figures on the facade are copies – the originals are in tucked away in the Museum of the Work of Our Lady, located in the forecourt of the church or in the Vauban Dam. The large figures on the pedestals to the left and right of the doors are prophets. And the small figures on pedestals in the arches represent different stories from the Bible.
As Claude explained, not only were these decorative adornments, but they served the purpose of educating the illiterate population. Many could not read, but they could understand and remember the stories of the Bible through the characters above the prophets. Everything had meaning.
I quickly tried to capture images of the different stories. I had two favorites – the first is the story of the Great Flood. The second pedestal from the top left shows Noah’s Ark and even has a dove flying out the window.
The detail that went into these little figures was amazing.
And my second favorite was the story of Jonah and the Whale. Can you spot it above?
This turned out a little blurry. Do you see Daniel and the Lion?
I wonder how long it must have taken to carve all of these? And how many different artisans did the work?
This shot shows a slightly better image of Noah’s Ark.
The tympanum, or the decorative triangular panel inside the arch features the Passion of Christ.
The Passion of Christ refers to the Gospel accounts of how and when Jesus foretells of his death and resurrection.
In the center is Jesus on the Cross. Below him is Death. All of the detail is amazing. Each time you look you see something new. And of course, if you had never read the Bible but had been attentive and paid attention during services, you would be able to easily understand and explain what was happening. Overwhelming!
We were now heading inside to see the Astronomical Clock.
When you enter the Cathedral, there is amazing stained glass, just like in the Dom in Cologne. I think the large circle of glass above, called Erwin’s Rose after the architect that designed it, was my favorite. It was designed to illuminate the interior of the church.
We learned from Claude that during World War II, Hitler admired this panel and had it removed along with the rest of the stained glass and hidden in a salt mine in Germany for protection. Hitler wanted to make the church into a shrine for the German people after the war. The Cathedral was damaged but because the windows had been removed for safekeeping, they were able to be reinstalled after the war by the famed Monuments Men, MFAA, or Monuments, Fine Arts and Archives Program established by the Allies to preserve and recover historic and cultural monuments during and after the war. How fortunate that these beautiful windows were preserved.
This lovely stained glass window is relatively new compared to the general age of the Cathedral. It was gifted to the Cathedral in 1956 by the Council of Europe and features the 12 stars of their flag above her head. The Council of Europe is headquartered in Strasbourg and is a body made up of almost 50 different countries in Europe, many of which today are part of the European Union. It was founded in 1949, after World War II to uphold human rights, law and democracy and promotes and preserves European culture.
And now we were upon the famed Astronomical Clock. This is the third Astronomical Clock built onsite. The first clock was built in the early 1350’s and this clock was constructed in the late 1830’s to early 1840’s. Every 15 minutes you can see one of the four stages of life and an 12:30 pm you can see the full show.
It was great to be able to see the clock in action. The little figures on the stages performed for us like clockwork. Oh, that was bad, wasn’t it? It was nice that our guide made a point for us to be able see this Renaissance masterpiece in action.
Before we left the Cathedral, June stopped and lit a candle. Lighting a candle is a sacred ritual that can have many meanings, but only the person that lights the candle knows the meaning for their candle. I think it was lit in memory of her mother Betty. Lighting a candle can invoke the Spirit – be it the Holy Spirit or the Spirit of a loved one. I like to think that by June’s action her mother would be watching over us while we traveled.
Notre-Dame de Strasbourg was a special place to visit. And we would come back later in the day to see more of Our Lady of Strasbourg.
This is not a sponsored post. This is my experience from my trip with Viking River Cruises. Email me to find out how you can save $100 when you book your first cruise with Viking through their referral program.