Saturday, 22 November 2014

Visiting Strasbourg - Part III

In my previous post, I showed you pictures of the old town centre and just a few glimpses of the cathedral. I said that the minster deserves its own post, and here it is.

As for its name: officially, we are talking about the "Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg". Strasbourg has changed hands in the past several times between France and Germany, and the German place names are still well known throughout the Alsace (Elsaß) region. In German, the building is officially called "Liebfrauenmünster zu Straßburg". in English, Cathedral of Our Lady.

So, when is a church a cathedral, and when is it a minster? I can explain this for the German words, but am not sure the same applies to the English words. We were told this by our tour guide in Ulm when I stayed there in March for the first part of my course. A church is called Münster (minster) when it was not originally built as a parish church but as part of a monastery. It is called a Kathedrale (cathedral) when it is the seat of a bishop. And when would you call it a Dom (dome)? Churches that have special importance in architectural, religious-cultural or historical terms.

According to wikipedia. the Strasbourg Minster (or Cathedral) is one of the biggest sandstone buildings in the world. And having a look at it from the outside, I can easily believe that:


Building took from 1176 to 1439, and until 1874, it was the highest building on Earth, with its north tower reaching 142 metres.



Have a closer look at the roof - can you see the small, flat-roofed house on top of the church's roof? I was most intrigued by this and wanted to know what it was for. Did anybody actually live up there? I found out that it was used by visitors for dance parties at night and as a restaurant for hungry and thirsty tourists after their climbing up the tower. 

Now let's go inside.


Some of the windows are still the original ones from the 12th to 14th century. The next pictures are for my Mum, because she likes angels so much:


And here is the astronomical clock:


So impressive! You can get a good idea of its size from the first picture, where you can see someone's hand pointing up in the lower right corner. Its oldest parts are from 1353, but it underwent restorative work and had many additions throughout the centuries until it reached its final form, the way we see it today, in 1842. Did you know it is the only clock in the world that strikes 13?

I am not sure who this lady represents; a rich donor or a saint, but I like her face.


A visit to the Minster is something I'd highly recommend; there is no admission charge (unlike at York Minster, which was truly disappointing), but the inside of the building is very dark, and there are lights set up to illuminate the various points of interest if you put in coins. People are very ready to pay for that, and everyone else who happens to be in the same spot benefits from the one coin. I much prefer this method of getting at least some money out of the many visitors than charging a general admission fee.

That was the last of my Strasbourg posts. Next up will probably be Munich, where I spent all of last week for work.

17 comments:

  1. Meike ' s Mum22 November 2014 at 09:46

    Wonderful photos! I do love Strasbourg, it is my favorite European town, and, of course, I do love angels as well...;-)) Thank you !

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    1. You are very welcome! You could have come with us, you know...

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  2. It truly is an amazing building. I love old churches and cathedrals (but then who wouldn't) despite so many reservations I have about the way they were financed. They did provide employment and the engineering involved was (and is) incredible.

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    1. I love old churches and cathedrals, too, in spite of having reservations about the role "Christian" religions have been (and still are) playing in promoting violence, hatred, discrimination and oppression. But, as you say, such buildings were important in providing employment, and they kept communities together and usually meant much, much more to a town than simply being a religious centre.

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    2. I could not have put it better myself Meike.

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  3. What lovely photos! And the cathedral - such inspiring fusion of artistic vision and the skill of the builders.

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    1. Thank you, Jo! Two of the pictures (the smaller ones) are courtesy my sister; I think that was when my camera's battery had gone flat.

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  4. Lincoln Cathedral was the tallest building in the world from 1300 to 1549 and would have remained the tallest well into the nineteenth century had it not lost the two massive spires atop its twin towers.I agree with you about having to pay entrance fees at York - it just doesn't feel right but these old structures must be an expensive nightmare with regard to maintenance.

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    1. I don't envy anyone the position of having to look after any such historic building, be it a cathedral, castle or anything else - it really must be a nightmare, and of course they have to find ways to finance it all.
      Thanks for the info about LIncoln Cathedral; I'd not known about that.

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  5. Do you know of the book "The Pillars of the Earth"? It was made into a movie for TV and was very good. It is about the building of cathedrals in the 12th century and your post reminded me of it.
    I love your photos and it makes me want to see it in person. Richard and I would have spent hours and hours there and happily depositing coins all over the place! I love that stained glass window, the rose window.

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    1. The rose window is very beautiful indeed and I am sorry my picture is so out of focus, but I am sure you can easily find much better pictures of it elsewhere on the internet.
      Yes, I did read "The Pillars of the Earth" during one of my first ever Yorkshire holidays, very fitting for that holiday, too - we were visiting many old churches and cathedrals, and I learned a lot from that book. Actually, after I'd finished reading it, I felt as if I'd be able now to build my very own cathedral!

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  6. Lovely photos, Meike....I think there are no "Minsters" in the US. It's only in the UK.......I remember that astronomical clock. I think we must have spent most of our time in Strasbourg in the Cathedral. I also love the rose window and have a little file of pictures of my favorite stained glass...

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    1. Thank you, Kristi! The "minster" question can probably very easily solved by looking it up on wikipedia. The rose window is so impressive, isn't it! Even on an overcast day like when we were there it was glowing.

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  7. No matter how many times i am in such buildings, they always still fill me with awe, even in pictures.

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    1. The atmosphere in there was a little too busy with so many visitors for me to be much awe-inspiring, but I do know what you mean.

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  8. I refuse on principal to pay to enter a church or cathedral. I am happy to make a donation (and always do elsewhere whether it be a major cathedral or a little country church). In Exeter Cathedral I simply said I wouldn't pay to enter a place of worship and they didn't hassle me. I then happily paid extra for the 'fee' for taking photos.

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    1. That's an approach I have not tried yet, John; maybe it would have worked in York.

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