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I welcome you to the grand Strasbourg Cathedral. "Cathédrale Notre Dame de Strasbourg" is
widely known as one of the most beautiful gothic cathedrals in all of Europe. Standing
at the heart of the historical center of Strasbourg, the superb cathedral dominates the cityscape
with its massive height of 142 meters. The cathedral is today the sixth tallest in its
class, and was the worlds tallest building for more than 200 years. This "gigantic and
delicate marvel", as the writer Victor Hugo described it, can be seen all the way from
the Vosges Mountains in the southwest to the Black Forest on the other side of the Rhine.
The site of the current cathedral has for a long time been the location for religious
buildings. At first, a Roman temple, dating back to the Roman occupation, was built on
this site. Later, in the 7th century, the bishop of Strasbourg had a cathedral, dedicated
to the Virgin Mary, built on the site. This cathedral was later replaced with a larger
one, completed under the reign of Charlemagne. This cathedral caught fire several times but
survived until year 1007, when it was totally engulfed by flames during a large fire. The
new cathedral built on site stood around 150 years, until it also was destroyed during
by fire as the naves were covered with a wooden framework. After this disaster, it was decided
that a new, even grander, cathedral would be built. This time the foundation of the
cathedral would not include any wooden framework. This was probably a wise decision, as this
new cathedral is the one still standing today. The construction of the current Strasbourg
Cathedral began in 1176 and finished almost 250 years later. The cathedral started as
a typical Romanesque cathedral; a rather simple architectural style with basic shapes. As
time passed and the construction continued, the wave of gothic architecture which swept
over Europe also affected Strasbourg cathedral. The result is what you can see today; an architectural
style with many arches, spires and detailed sculptures. The typical sign of gothic architecture
is that many features on the building, be it smaller details or the building itself,
point upwards towards the sky. This was seen as a way of trying to reach up and connect
with heaven. Another thing that stands out is the pink hue of the cathedral. This is
due to the fact that the cathedral is built using sandstone from the Vosges, which has
this red-pinkish color. The cathedral is also highly unique due to
the fact that it only has one spire. The north spire was completed in 1439, but the planned
south spire was never built. Why the south spire never got built is still under debate.
What is known however is that the single spire of the Strasbourg Cathedral quickly became
a landmark of the region, which is probably one of the reasons they keep it in its asymmetrical
form. Today, the Strasbourg Cathedral is a Roman
Catholic cathedral. During the Reformation in early 16th century, the cathedral became
a Protestant church and remained that way for more than 150 years. After the incorporation
of Strasburg into France in 1681, the cathedral was returned to the Catholics and dedicated
to the Virgin Mary. During the French revolution, the cathedral,
together with many other religious buildings, became the target of the revolutionists' anger.
The new regime had plans to tear down the single spire, as it "hurt the principle of
equality". When the citizens of Strasbourg heard about the plan, they placed a large
Phrygian cap over the spire, the cap which was a symbol of the revolution. This flattery
obviously worked, as the spire was saved and still stands glorious today.
While the outside of the cathedral is magnificent, one shouldn't forget its inside. Inside you
will find a most striking vault, the grand organ, the beautifully sculptured pulpit and
more. The most famous of all is however the astronomical clock.
The cathedral's south transept houses an 18 meters high astronomical clock, one of the
largest in the world. The cathedral has a long tradition of housing an astronomical
clock, and the one existing today dates back to mid 19th century. Today, tourists mainly
see the remarkably decorative shell of this clock, but behind there is an exceptionally
well functioning mechanism. The clock is basically a mathematical marvel. The clock has a mechanism
which makes it able to determine the computus, which is the date of Easter in the Christian
calendar, as well as foreseeing upcoming leap years. The clock also show the official time,
it indicates solar time, the day of the week, the month, the year, the sign of the zodiac,
the phase of the moon and the position of several planets. To top it all off, the clock
has animated characters launched into movement at different hours of the day. Simply put,
it is quite an amazing clock. In front of the clock, you will find a decorated
pillar known as the Pillar of Angels, representing the Last Judgment. In the very same room,
you will find a statue of a man resting his elbows on the railing. The legend has it this
was a rival architect to the one who built the Pillar of Angels. The rival had said that
a single pillar could never support such a large vault, and that he would wait to see
the whole thing come crashing down. Luckily for both you and me, he is still waiting.
Throughout the history, Strasbourg has been a city of great independence. The Strasbourg
Cathedral, with its single tall spire, has become a symbol for this proud city. If you
want a chance to get a stunning view of Strasbourg, I can recommend taking the stairs up to the
cathedral platform. However, the 300 steps are no easy match, so be prepared for a tough
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2426 Folder Collection
freshmanenglish published on September 30, 2014
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