cathedrale notre dame de strasbourg france

Cathedrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg – Strasbourg, Alsace, France

A Triumph of Gothic Architecture Is a City’s Crowning Glory

This ancient capital of Alsace is the modern-day headquarters of the Council of Europe and home of the European Parliament. There are those who associate Strasbourg with choucroute (an earthy, peasant-style dish made of sauerkraut, various sausages, bacon, pork, and potatoes), the hearty regional spe­cialty, and those who think at once of its magnificent Gothic cathedral.

The russet- colored sandstone structure, begun in the 12th century, is one of the largest buildings in the Christian world and one of the most architecturally harmonious Gothic structures to survive the Middle Ages. When completed in 1439, its 466-foot lacy openwork spire made it the tallest building in Christendom (it still ranks as the tallest dating from medieval times).

Other showstoppers are the stained-glass windows, some dating back to the 12th century, and the 16th-century astro­nomical clock. Every day at precisely 12:31 P.M. it whirs into action as a parade of macabre allegorical figures enact Christ’s Passion. Afterward, tourists make a beeline for the squares second-most-visited site in time for lunch: the richly carved Maison Kammerzell, a 16th-century merchant’s house, is now a famous restaurant. Though it looks like a tourist trap, locals insist that its choucroute a I’alsacienne is formidable. Try any of the ten versions and cast your vote.

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