As per the norm on my most recent European adventure, we were not planning to stop in Strasbourg, but when we discovered we had a long drive ahead on the trip from Heidelberg to Beaune (which was about 5 hours), I researched what might be en route and worth seeing and stumbled upon Strasbourg. There is a Strasburg in Germany (spelled differently) but Strasbourg is in France and sits on the French/German border, has tons of architecture that blends both cultures, but most importantly has a Cathedral that rivals, in my opinion, Notre Dame in Paris.
The Cathedral in Strasbourg happens to also be a Notre Dame (there are a lot of them in France!), but specifically the Cathedral de Notre Dame de Strasbourg, and it impressed, in the biggest, best kind of way. It is a Gothic Cathedral But more than that, words cannot describe the awe that fell over me walking beneath those soaring, vaulted arches for the very first time.
The Cathedral was closed to the general public when we arrived, but we found a way in by purchasing a ticket, along with about 50 others, to see a presentation on the incredible Astronomical clock inside (truly a marvel) more on that here: https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/strasbourg-astronomical-clock). Our small crowd was easily engulfed by the enormity of the Cathedral and I felt totally alone as I wandered through the Narthex, into the Nave and beyond into the Sanctuary. I’ve always been drawn to the Medieval era – castles and cathedrals fascinate me. Many years ago I happened upon a series of books about building a Cathedral in the middle ages by Ken Follett (more on his Kingsbridge series here https://ken-follett.com/bibliography/kingsbridge/). The first book, called “The Pillars of the Earth” was also turned into a mini-series that was one of the best adaptations of book – to – television that I’ve ever seen. And I felt like everything I read in the book truly came to life when walking into this Cathedral. Here’s more on the general topic of why and how Cathedrals were built https://www.durhamworldheritagesite.com/architecture/cathedral/construction
From what I remember, France was way ahead of the curve with Cathedral building in terms of understanding how flying buttresses helped not only architecturally support the ceiling but created that reaching-for-heaven thing Cathedrals have going on when you look up….and up and up. It feels like it goes on forever. And the light streaming in from every angle…well let’s just say it might be the closest to Heaven you get.
I am thrilled to share this journey with you. If you want to plan your own journey, do like I do and head over to Lonely Planet and research their guide books! I still love buying or downloading guide books because I feel like they have sooooo many options in just one place!