ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Visiting the Cathedral at Strasbourg, France: For Over 2 Centuries the Tallest Building in the World

Updated on October 6, 2017
Flag of France
Flag of France | Source
Strasbourg, Republic Square, with the Cathedral in the backgound
Strasbourg, Republic Square, with the Cathedral in the backgound | Source
Strasbourg Cathedral
Strasbourg Cathedral | Source
Map location of Strasbourg, France
Map location of Strasbourg, France | Source

Aspiring to the heavens?

This amazing building was the tallest in the world between 1647 and 1874.

But its history is rather more complex than such a statement would at first bear out.

So does this piece of historical fact mean that the Cathedral was built in 1647? Actually, no: it was completed in 1439. Between 1625 and 1647, St Mary's church, Stralsund, Germany was the tallest building in the world, and prior to this, between 1549 and 1625 St Olaf's church, Tallinn, Estonia held this record: however, both these churches suffered fires which cause the destruction of their tall, record-breaking spires, with the result that Strasbourg Cathedral's tower and spire, at 142 metres unexpectedly gained this remarkable prominence.

Comes 1871 and Alsace, of which Strasbourg is the main city, was annexed to Germany. It was shortly after this that a church in Hamburg, Germany, was built with a taller spire than that of Strasbourg Cathedral. (Interesting timing, a subliminal, backhanded acknowledgment about the annexation, as if its builders, wanting to build the tallest in the world, were admitting that annexed Alsace was not in Germany proper?)

The main architect for the Cathedral was Erwin von Steinbach (c.1244-1318). Vosges stone was the material used in the execution of the building; this gives the structure a somewhat pinkish colour. The style is Gothic — indeed, the building, particularly its west front, is said to be among the finest examples of Gothic — although Romanesque features are also identified.

A south tower, similar to the record-setting north tower, was not built. The result of this omission is the curious, asymmetrical appearance of the Cathedral's west frontage. This asymmetricality has been so familiar for centuries that it would be hard to imagine it any other way.

An annual Christmas market has been held in the vicinity of the Cathedral since 1570.

During World War Two, the Cathedral was seen as a symbol of the legitimate war aims of the Free French Forces (1). During this war — indeed, during several conflicts in previous centuries — the Cathedral suffered significant damage. While Free French Forces regarded it as a historical and cultural treasure, yet unfortunately British and American aviators, in attacking Nazi German forces in Strasbourg, managed to bomb the Cathedral.


(1) Free French General Leclerc notably made a speech in 1941, when he said that his comrades in arms would not rest until the French tricolour was flying from the tower of Strasbourg's Cathedral. This later became a widely quoted remark. Thus, Strasbourg and its Cathedral took a significant place in Gaullist and Free French discourse; similarly, Metz in eastern France, where Resistance leader Jean Moulin was assassinated also emerged as a poignant venue for a sombre, historic event.

Also worth seeing

In Strasbourg itself, Petite France is a picturesque quarter near the Cathedral, with many ancient, timbered buildings. The Medieval Covered Bridges (French: Ponts Couverts ) are also striking landmarks. Strasbourg's Cathedral is Roman Catholic; the city also has the monumental, 17th century St. Thomas's church, sometimes known as the Protestant cathedral.


How to get there: United Airlines flies from New York Newark to Paris (Aéroport Paris-Charles de Gaulle ), from where car rental is available (distance from Paris-Charles de Gaulle airport to Strasbourg: 499 kilometres). In addition, via stopovers, Air France, Delta and KLM , which have a code-sharing agreement, operate flights from New York to EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg, from where car rental is available (distance from EuroAirport Basel Mulhouse Freiburg to Strasbourg: 132 kilometres). Please check with the airline or your travel agent for up to date information.

MJFenn is an independent travel writer based in Ontario, Canada.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)