You round the corner on Rue Mercière and you realize the sunlight was just blocked. You look up and BAM. There it is. The crown jewel of Strasbourg. The beautiful and overwhelmingly large Strasbourg Cathedral dominates the end of the street. Hell, it dominates the entire island of Grand Ile. You can see it from almost everywhere… boldly making it’s statement on the city skyline. When you get up close you realize how magnificent and striking it really is. :0
Called the “Notre-Dame de Strasbourg,” this beautiful gothic church literally can not fit in one frame. There is no way for me to get the whole cathedral in without getting the street leading up to it. It is THAT large.
The French began construction on the Cathedral in 1176 (WOW!) but didn’t actually complete it until 1439!! After it was finished, it was officially the tallest building in the world until 1874.
Some other fascinating Cathedral history- Hitler actually visited the Cathedral in 1940 with intentions to take it over and turn it into a sanctuary for Germans. At that time, the French took out 74 panels of the stained glass and hid them in a safe place until the war was over and the Monuments/Fine Arts section of the US Military helped return the glass panels to their home. It was a good thing too, because the Cathedral was actually damaged by American and British forces (oops, sorry guys) when we were fighting the Germans in WWII. It was damaged in 1944 and took until the 1990s to finish repairing!
The interior of the cathedral is breathtaking. The amount of sculptures and details in every square inch is astounding. It’s hard to describe-so I will just show you. Pay special attention to my favorite part, the enormous organ glowing in the sunlight.
Today, the Cathedral still holds regular ceremonies and services, but is obviously the largest tourism draw on the island as well. You can be wowed by the exterior, stunned by the interior, but perhaps best of all.. you can climb to the top of the clock tower! Bonus- we made the climb on the first Sunday of the month which apparently is FREE day! Always a nice treat 🙂
The climb to the top is 332 wwiiiiinnnnnddddinggg stairs. Like any European gothic building, the staircase is ridiculously narrow with teeny tiny stairs that wind and wind and wind. The sides of the staircase are sometimes open to the outside so you can see the city as you climb. Although a nice view, it provides a very dizzying effect when you are essentially spinning and watching the world get smaller. It made me a little woozy. But it’s all worth it when you hit the top.
The viewing terrace is a giant, open space from which you can see EVERYTHING. You can view both directions and there is a (confusing) map to help you orient yourself. It was a wonderful experience and totally recommended to anyone visiting Strasbourg!
I will leave you with a silly shot of Brad ‘Godzilla-ing’ the mini cathedral in the plaza. (Brad is not too thrilled I posted this, but it’s too good not to)