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Historical Sketch of the Cathedral of Strasburg   By:

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The Cathedral of Strasburg


Strasburg A. Vix & Cie Publishers

[Illustration: Death of the Virgin Maria.]


Twenty fourth Edition

Strasburg Published by A. Vix & Cie 31, Place de la Cath├ędrale 1922.

[Illustration: The interior of the Cathedral.]



Among the wonderful monuments to which the religious art of the middle ages has given rise and which will for ever excite the admiration of men, the church of Notre Dame or Cathedral of Strasburg occupies one of the first ranks. By its dimensions, the richness of the ornaments and figures that adorn its exterior, by the majesty of its nave, and by its light steeple, which towers towards Heaven with as much grace as boldness, this house of God proclaims afar its destination and leaves a deep and indelible impression on the soul of any one who gazes on it.

Exhibiting in all its different parts models of every epoch of christian architecture, this Cathedral is for the artist a subject of serious study and for the inhabitant of Strasburg a venerable monument, which recalls to his mind the principal events of the ancient history of our city.

According to some old traditions, the Cathedral is built on a spot, which, from the remotest times, had been devoted to worship. Originally this spot formed a hill sloping westward into a cavity, which was filled up many centuries ago. Around it, the Celts, the first inhabitants of our country, built their huts: its summit was covered by the sacred wood, in the midst of which rose the druidical dolmen . It was there that those barbarians offered sacrifices to Esus, their God of war, sacrifices which, in times of public calamity, were human victims.

After the conquest of Gaul by the Romans, a regular and fortified town was very soon founded on the place hitherto occupied by the scattered habitations of the Celts. The old name of Argentorat was alone preserved; it signified a town where the river is crossed over. It was there, according to tradition, that a temple dedicated to Hercules and Mars succeeded the druidical forest. There is nothing unlikely in these traditions; the high ground on which the Cathedral stands speaks as much in their favour as the pagan statues found in the neighbourhood[1].

[1] A brass statue of Hercules, called Krutzmann , was found among the christian statues that decorated the Cathedral; it was taken down in 1525 and is no longer extant. A Hercules of stone, found no doubt when digging the foundations, is yet seen in a niche of the northward tower, where it juts out into the nave. A small stone figure of Mars, coming also from the Cathedral, was preserved in the town library, but it appeared to be modern.

With respect to the first erection of a christian church in this place, history is destitute of authentic facts. Some old chronicles report that about the middle of the fourth century, saint Amand built a church on the ruins of a Roman temple, but the existence of this supposed first bishop of Strasburg is even very doubtful. During the first years of the fifth century, the invasion of barbarians filled the provinces of Gaul with terror and devastation; the German tribes that crossed the Rhine plundered the Roman city of Argentorat and its temples. Nobody knows whether from that time new inhabitants settled in the midst of these ruins, or whether they served but as temporary abodes to the hordes successively coming into Gaul.

It was only after the conquest of that extensive country by the Franks that, about 510, Clovis had a church built at Argentorat, no doubt on the spot where the Cathedral now stands. The architecture of that church was as coarse and barbarous as the spirit of those times; it was built of wood and supported by earthen walls, extending from East to West; on this latter end was the front gate and before it a portico; besides the principal nave it had two aisles; the western side opening into a yard that served as a passage to the priest's house... Continue reading book >>

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