Strasbourg Cathedral

West End at night

The Cathedral held the honour of being the tallest building in the World for over two centuries, though interestingly only because the Great Pyramid eroded, and three other taller churches (including Lincoln Cathedral) suffered the loss of their spires as a result of lightning strikes. So although the majority of the cathedral was built by the 13th century it was only in the 17th century that it achieved this feat.

The cathedral is also somewhat odd as it only has one tower. This in itself isn’t odd, but when looking at the Cathedral from the West the asymmetry of the building becomes obvious. I’m not entirely sure why the second tower was never built as I’ve read contradictory stories. According to Wikipedia during the revolution there was a plan to actually demolish the tower because it was an example of inequality.

The church is largely gothic, but there are also Romanesque bits but the highlight is the gothic West end which is covered in perhaps hundreds of carved figures. I didn’t have a long lens with me so I haven’t included any details of the carvings, but it is rather impressive to stand and look at.

West end during the day

The inside was less exciting, with the exception of an astronomical clock and a scene of the crucifixion. With a better guidebook I might have got more out of it, but there are no tombs, relatively little artwork and no crafty side chapels, or at least not immediately obvious. What I found particularly annoying was the channelling of visitors around the cathedral in a clockwise direction. There is nothing that turns a church more into a tourist attraction than setting out guide ropes and essentially turning the church into an exhibition. There is no awe to be had when you spot a detail on the opposite aisle and can’t go to look at it without going against the flow- it’s the ecclesiastical version of Ikea without the secret shortcuts.

Astronomical clock

Lucky dog – rub its nose
Detail on clock
Detail on pulpit


East window with subtle EU motif at top

We saw a quarter hour chime of the astronomical clock in the cathedral but to see the full show on the hour you have to pay some cash to the cathedral, which is an arse, but on the other hand you don’t have to pay to enter.

You can climb to an observation platform, which gives a good view to the Black Forest and the Rhine but given the 30 degree weather I decided not to pursue this. Subject to good weather when we hope to return this winter, I will try having a climb up.

During the summer months, there are sound and light shows in the evening, we were ‘lucky’ enough to catch the first night which included an organ and choral recital, which was a little tedious. The actual light show was quite good, but I thought would work really well with some opera. On the way back to the hotel however, we ended up in a bit of a crush, which it transpired was due to 6 British people stood in a circle on the main exit route oblivious to the constriction they were causing.

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