The Strasbourg Cathedral was built between 1176–1439.  It is a masterpiece of Gothic Art and is full of stained glass.  The cathedral measures 142 metres made up of the platform at 66 metres, the spire at 132 metres and the tower at 10 metres.

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In 1839, Victor Hugo declared that the cathedral was a “gigantic and delicate marvel”.

The highlight is the astronomical clock which shows off it’s full automation 12:30 pm every day.

Instead of joining the very long queue in front of the church (to see the church and NOT the clock in action), go around to the right hand side.  The entrance to climb up to the platform is there as well as the entry to see the astronomical clock.  Entry starts at 11:30 am and I arrived an hour earlier to ensure I had a good spot!

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The Platform

Climbing a spiral staircase with 332 steps (66 metres) brings you to the top of the platform.  Great views!

Mary & Jane: The Strasbourg Cathedral of Notre-Dame Platform

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The Astronomical Clock

I have always wanted to see this astronomical clock.  I am fascinated by astronomical clocks.  This one is Strasbourg is one of those things that I must have read about somewhere and filed it away in my head as something I wanted to see one day.

There is so much history and detail surrounding the astronomical clocks in Strasbourg Catherdral.  I have taken a lot of the information in this post from the guidebook I purchased in the cathedral.

There was restoration work ongoing during my visit.

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There have been 3 astronomical clocks in the cathedral and many renovations have taken place throughout the centuries.

The original clock, The Clock of the Three Kings, was built between 1352 and 1354.  It was 12 metres high and consisted of a calendar, an astrolabe and a statue of the Virgin and Child.  Every hour, the Magi bowed, chimes played and a rooster crowed and flapped it’s wings.  The Clock of the Three Kings stopped working in the 16th century and was replaced.  A few changes and restorations have occured since.

The current clock is a Renaissance wonder.  Artists, mathematicians, technicians, Swiss clockmakers, sculptors, painters and automaton designers all worked together to create this clock.

The geek and Math lover in me is fascinated and I would love to have seen the “project plan” for this achievement.

The Case and it’s Decoration

  • A stone and wooden structure, the case made up of a turret with the weights, a spiral staircase to reach the top and the central part displaying the automations and the scientific data.  The case is 18 metres high.
  • The Sculptures
    • Lions:  one presenting the shield, the other the helmet of Strasbourg’s coat of arms
    • Lion holding a shield bearing the arms of the Œuvre Notre-Dame
    • Griffin holding a shield bearing the arms of architect H. Th. Uhlberger
    • Architect H. Th. Uhlberger
    • The Four Evangelists
    • Prophet Isaiah
    • Four musicians
    • Child with skull, allegory of the brevity of life
  • The Paintings:
    • The Four Empires:  Assyria, Persia, Greece and Rome
    • The Creation of Eve
    • The Triumph of Christ
    • The Resurrection of the dead
    • Deaths of the believer and the unbeliever
    • The Fall
    • The Salvation
    • The Church and the AntiChrist
    • Four allegorical figures representing the seasons, the ages of man, the elements, the hours and the dispositions
    • The three Fates:  Lachesis, Clotho, Atropos
    • Urania, Muse of Astronomy
    • Portrait of Nicolaus Copernicus
    • Portrait of Jean-Baptiste Schwilgue
    • Emblems of the various arts and crafts having taken part in the making of the clock

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The Measurement of Time and the Astronomical Indications

  • The Time
    • Dial of local mean time (golden hands) and official time (white hands)
    • Angel child smiting the first stroke of each quarter-hour
    • The four ages of life (child, youth, adult, old man) strike the quarters.  Death strikes the hour.
    • Angel child who turns over his hour glass every hour
    • Christ before whom the twelve apostles parade at noon
    • The cock which crows three times during the apostles procession
  • The Calendar
    • Succession of weekdays personified by the seven planetary gods seated in chariots (starting Sunday they are Apollo, Diana, Mars, Mercury, Jupiter, Venus and Saturn)
    • Apollo points out the current day with his arrow
    • HIs counterpart Diana
    • Ring outlining the civil calendar
    • The ecclesiastical computation
  • The Astronomical Indications
    • Celestial globe
    • Dial indicating sidereal time
    • Dial indicating apparent time
    • Solar hand
    • Lunar hand
    • Hand indicating the time of sunrise
    • Hand indicating the time of sunset
    • Solar and lunar equations
    • Planetary dial showing the seven planets visible to the naked eye
    • Globe indicating the phases of the moon

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At 12:30 pm each day, the automation occurs of the different ages of life, represented by a child, a teenager, an adult and an old man, who all parade past Death. Higher up on the clock, the apostles parade before Christ.  Their journey is accompanied by the beating of wings and the sound of a large rooster crowing.



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