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Strasbourg

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Strasbourg (French: Strasbourg, pronounced /stʀazbuʀ/; Alsatian: Strossburi; German: Straßburg) is the capital and principal city of the Alsace région of northeastern France, with approximately 650,000 inhabitants in the metropolitan area in 1999. Located close to the border with Germany, it is the préfecture (capital) of the Bas-Rhin département.

The city's Germanic name means "town (at the crossing) of roads". Stras- is cognate to the English street from the German equivalent cognate, Straße/Strasse, while -bourg, from the German -burg ("fortress, town, citadel"), is cognate to the English borough.

Strasbourg is the seat of, among other things, the Council of Europe, the European Court of Human Rights, the European Ombudsman, the Eurocorps, the European Audiovisual Observatory, and, most famously, the European Parliament, though the latter also holds sessions in Brussels.

Strasbourg is an important center of manufacturing and engineering, as well as of road, rail and river communications. The Strasbourg port [1] is the second largest on the Rhine after Duisburg. The city is the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine.

Strasbourg's historic center, the Grande Île (great island), has been classified a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honor was placed on an entire city center.

(CC) Image: Geo Swan
Cities on the Rhine River, including Strasbourg.

Geography

Strasbourg is situated on the Ill River, where it flows into the Rhine on the frontier with Germany. The German town across the Rhine is Kehl. The city is situated in the Rhine valley, approximately 20 kilometers east of the Vosges mountains and 25 kilometers west of the Black Forest. Winds coming from either direction being generally held up by these natural barriers, summer temperatures can be inordinately high. The defective natural ventilation also makes Strasbourg one of the most atmospherically polluted cities of France, although the progressive disappearance of heavy industry as well as effective measures of traffic regulation in and around the city are showing encouraging results.

History

At the site of Strasbourg, the Romans established a military outpost and named it Argentoratum. It belonged to the Germania Superior Roman province. The name was first mentioned in the year 12 BC ; in 1988, the city celebrated its 2000th birthday. From the 4th century, Strasbourg was the seat of the Archbishopric Strasbourg.

The Alamanni fought a battle against Rome in Strasbourg in 357. They were defeated by Julian, later Emperor of Rome, and their king Chonodomarius was taken prisoner. On January 2, 366 the Alamanni crossed the frozen Rhine in large numbers, to invade the Roman Empire. Early in the 5th century the Alamanni appear to have crossed the Rhine, conquered, and then settled what is today Alsace and a large part of Switzerland.

The town was occupied successively in the 5th century by Alamanni, Huns and Franks, who gave it its present name. In 842, Strasbourg was the site of the Oath of Strasbourg, the trilingual text of which is considered to contain, besides Latin and German, also the oldest written document in the French language. A major commercial center, the town came under control of the Holy Roman Empire in 923, through the homage paid by the Duke of Lorraine to German King Henry I. The early history of Strasbourg consists of a long conflict between its bishop and its citizens. The citizens emerged victorious after the Battle of Oberhausbergen in 1262, when King Philip of Swabia granted the city the status of an Imperial Free City.

A revolution in 1332 resulted in a broad-based city government with participation of the guilds, and Strasbourg declared itself a free republic. A murderous plague was followed on February 14, 1349 by one of the first and worst pogroms in pre-modern history : several hundreds Jews were publicly burnt and the rest of them expelled of the city. Until the end of the 18th century, Jews would be forbidden to remain in town after 10 pm.

The Münster begun in the 12th century, was completed in 1439 (though the south tower always remained unfinished), and became the World's Tallest Building, surpassing the Great Pyramid of Giza. During the 1520s the city embraced the religious teachings of Martin Luther, whose adherents established a university (the Gymnasium, headed by Johannes Sturm) in the following century. Protestant iconoclasm caused a lot of destruction in churches and cloisters, though, as would nearly 300 years later French Revolutionism. Strasbourg was a center of humanist scholarship and early book-printing in the Holy Roman Empire and its intellectual and political influence contributed much to the establishment of Protestantism as an accepted denomination in the southwest of Germany. Together with four other free cities, Strasbourg presented the confessio tetrapolitana as her Protestant book of faith at the Imperial Diet of Augsburg in 1530, where also the slightly different Augsburg confession was handed over to the emperor.

After the reform of the Imperial constitution in the early 16th century and the establishment of "Imperial Circles" (Reichskreise), Strasbourg was part of the "Upper Rhenish Circle", a corporation of Imperial estates in the southwest of the empire, mainly responsible for maintaining troops, supervising coining, and ensuring public security.

During the Thirty Years' War, the Free City of Strasbourg remained neutral. However, it was suddenly seized by King Louis XIV of France in September 1681, whose unprovoked annexation was recognized by the Treaty of Ryswick (1697). The official policy of religious intolerance which drove many Protestants from France after the revocation of the Edict of Nantes (1598) by the Edict of Fontainebleau (1685) was not applied in Strasbourg and in Alsace. Strasbourg cathedral, however, had to be handed over from the Lutherans to the Catholics. The German Lutheran university persisted until the French revolution. Famous students were Goethe and Herder.

Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle composed "La Marseillaise" on April 25, 1792, in Strasbourg during a dinner organized by Frédéric de Dietrich, Strasbourg's mayor. However, Strasbourg's status as a free city was revoked by the French Revolution. Fanatical jacobinists (most notoriously Eulogius Schneider (de)) ruled the city with an iron hand before being overthrown after the downfall of Robespierre. During their reign, many churches and cloisters were either destroyed or severely damaged. The Cathedral lost hundreds of its statues (later replaced by copies in the 19th century) and there was even talk of tearing its spire down, on the grounds that it hurt the principle of equality. The tower was however saved when citizens of Strasbourg covered it with a giant phrygian cap.


With the growth of industry and commerce, the city's population tripled in the 19th century to 150,000. During the Franco-Prussian War and the Siege of Strasbourg, the city was heavily bombed by the Prussian army : on August 24, 1870, the Museum of Fine Arts was destroyed by fire, as was the Municipal Library housed in the Gothic former Dominican Church, with its unique collection of medieval manuscripts (most famously the Hortus deliciarum), rare Renaissance books and Roman artifacts. Following the war, in 1871, the city was annexed to the newly-established German Empire, as part of the Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen (via Treaty of Frankfurt) and rebuilt/extended on a grand and representative scale (the Neue Stadt), including a new Museum and a new Library; the city was restored to France after World War I; on neither occasion were city residents offered a plebiscite. The city remained heavily German-speaking well into the twentieth century, and Germany continued to covet it under Nazi rule. In 1940, following the Fall of France in World War II, the city was annexed by Nazi Germany. As one of the first official acts, the new fascist rulers burnt and razed the main Synagogue that had been a major architectural landmark and one of the largest in Europe since its completion in the late 1890s [2]. After the war, the city was returned to France, and while the First World War did not notably damage the city, Anglo-American bombers caused a lot of destruction in 1944, even hitting the Cathedral in a raid allegedly intended for the similarly sounding metronym "Salzburg". Another, though unrelated tragedy, was the 1947 fire that destroyed a valuable part of the collection of the new Museum of Fine Arts.

In 1920, Strasbourg became the seat of the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, previously located in Mannheim, one of the very first European institutions. In 1949, the city was chosen to be the site of the Council of Europe, and since 1979, Strasbourg has been a seat of the European Parliament, although sessions are held in Strasbourg only four days each month, with all other business being conducted in Brussels. Those sessions take place in the Immeuble Louise Weiss (also known as "IPE IV"), built in 1998, which houses the largest parliamentary assembly room in Europe and of any democratic institution in the world. Before that, the EP sessions had to take place in the main C.o.E building, the Palace of Europe, whose unusual inner architecture had become a familiar sight to European TV audiences. In 1992, Strasbourg became the seat of the Franco-German TV channel and movie-production society Arte.

In 2000, an Islamist plot to blow up the cathedral was prevented by German police. On July 6, 2001, during an open-air concert in the Parc de Pourtalès, a single falling tree caused one of the worst disasters of its kind in history, killing thirteen people and injuring close to hundred [3].

In 2006, after a long and careful restoration, the inner decoration of the Aubette, made in the 1920s by Hans Arp, Theo van Doesburg and Sophie Taeuber-Arp and destroyed in the 1930s, was made accessible to public again. The work of the three artists had been called "the Sistine Chapel of abstract art".

Main sights

Architecture

The city is chiefly known for its sandstone Gothic Cathedral with its famous astronomical clock, and for its medieval cityscape of Rhineland black and white timber-framed buildings, particularly in the Petite-France district alongside the Ill and in the streets and squares surrounding the cathedral, where the renowned Maison Kammerzell stands out.

Strasbourg's historic center, the Grande Île (great island), has been classified a World Heritage site by the UNESCO in 1988, the first time such an honor was placed on an entire city center. In addition to the cathedral, Strasbourg houses several other medieval churches that have survived the many wars and destructions that have plagued the city: the Romanesque Eglise Saint-Etienne, partly destroyed in 1944 by Anglo-American bombing raids, the part Romanesque, part Gothic, very large Eglise Saint-Thomas with its Silbermann organ on which W. A. Mozart and Albert Schweitzer played, the Gothic Eglise Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune Protestant with its crypt dating back to the 5th century, the Gothic Eglise Saint-Guillaume with its fine early-Renaissance stained glass and furniture, the Gothic Eglise Saint-Jean etc. The Neo-Gothic church Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux Catholique (there is also an adjacent church Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux Protestant) serves as a shrine for several 15th-century woodworked and painted altars coming from other, now destroyed churches and installed there for public display. Among the numerous secular medieval buildings, the monumental Ancienne Douane (old custom-house) stands out.

The German Renaissance has bequeathed the city some noteworthy buildings (especially the current Chambre de Commerce et d'Industrie, former town hall, on Place Gutenberg), as did the French Baroque and Classicism with several palaces, among which the Palais Rohan (now housing three museums) is the most spectacular. Others are the Hôtel du Préfet, the Hôtel des Deux-Ponts and the city-hall Hôtel de Ville (hôtel particulier meaning palace) etc. The largest baroque building of Strasbourg though is the 1720s main building of the Hôpital civil. As for French Neo-classicism, it is the Opera house on Place Broglie that most prestigiously represents this style.

Strasbourg also offers high-class eclecticist buildings in its very extended German district (Place de la République, Place de l'Université, Place Brant, Place Arnold), being the main memory of Wilhelmian architecture since most of the major cities in Germany proper suffered intensive damages during World War II. Streets, boulevards and avenues like Avenue de la Forêt Noire, Avenue des Vosges, Avenue d'Alsace, Avenue de la Marseillaise, Avenue de la Liberté, Boulevard de la Victoire, Rue Sellénick, Rue du Général de Castelnau, Rue du Maréchal Foch and Rue du Maréchal Joffre are homogenous, surprisingly high (up to seven stores) and broad examples of German urban lay-out and of this architectural style that summons and mixes up five centuries of European architecture as well as Neo-Egyptian, Neo-Greek and Neo-Babylonian styles. The former imperial palace Palais du Rhin, the most political and thus heavily criticized of all German Strasbourg buildings epitomizes the grand scale and stylistical sturdiness of this period. But the two most handsome and ornate buildings of these times are the École internationale des Pontonniers (the former Jungmädchenschule, young girls school) with its towers, turrets and multiple round and square angles and the École des Arts décoratifs with its lavishly ornate facade of painted bricks, woodwork and majolica.

Impressive examples of Prussian military architecture of the 1880s can be found along the newly (re)opened Rue du Rempart, displaying large scale fortifications among which the aptly named Kriegstor (war gate).

As for modern and contemporary architecture, Strasbourg possesses some fine Art Nouveau buildings (the huge Palais des Fêtes, some houses and villas on Avenue de la Robertsau and Rue Sleidan), good examples of post-World War II functional architecture (the Cité Rotterdam, for which Le Corbusier did not succeed in the architectural contest) and, in the very extended Quartier Européen, some spectacular administrative buildings of sometimes utterly large size, among which the European Court of Human Rights by Richard Rogers is arguably the finest. Other noticeable contemporary buildings are the new Music school Cité de la Musique et de la Danse, the Musée d'Art moderne et contemporain and the Hôtel du Département facing it, as well as, in the outskirts, the tramway-station Hoenheim-Nord designed by Zaha Hadid.

Finally, the city is also home to some beautiful bridges, among which the medieval Ponts Couverts with its four towers is the most spectacular.

Next to it is a part of the 17th-century Vauban fortifications, the Barrage Vauban. Other nice bridges are the ornate 19th-century Pont de la Fonderie (stone) and Pont d'Auvergne (iron), as well as the futuristic Passerelle over the Rhine, opened in 2004.

Parks

Strasbourg also features a number of prominent parks, of which several are of cultural and historical interest: the Parc de l'Orangerie, created for Joséphine de Beauharnais and displaying noteworthy French gardens, a neo-classical castle and a small zoo; the Parc de la Citadelle, built around impressive remains of the 17th-century fortress erected close to the Rhine by Vauban; the Parc de Pourtalès, laid out in English style around a Neo-baroque castle that now houses the Schiller International University, and featuring an open-air museum of contemporary sculpture (works by Barry Flanagan, Ernest Pignon-Ernest, Claudio Parmiggiani, Stephan Balkenhol...). The Jardin Botanique (botanical garden) was created under the German administration next to the Observatory of Strasbourg, built in 1881, and still owns some greenhouses of those times. The Parc des Contades, although the oldest park of the city, was completely remodeled after World War II. The futuristic Parc des Poteries is an example of European park-conception in the late 1990s. The Jardin des deux Rives, spread over Strasbourg and Kehl on both sides of the Rhine, is the most recent (2004) and most extended (60 hectare) park of the agglomeration.

Museums

For a city of comparatively small size, Strasbourg displays a large quantity and variety of museums :

  1. The Musée des Beaux-Arts owns paintings by Hans Memling, Francisco de Goya, Tintoretto, Paolo Veronese, Giotto di Bondone, Sandro Botticelli, Peter Paul Rubens, Anthony van Dyck, El Greco, Correggio, Cima da Conegliano and Piero di Cosimo, among others. (A selection of paintings).
  2. The Musée de l'Oeuvre Notre-Dame (located in a part-Gothic, part-Renaissance building next to the Cathedral) houses a large and renowned collection of medieval and Renaissance upper-Rhenish art, among which original sculptures, plans and stained glass from the Cathedral and paintings by Hans Baldung and Sebastian Stoskopff. (A selection of works)
  3. The Strasbourg Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art is among the largest museums of its kind in France.
  4. The Musée des Arts décoratifs, located in the sumptuous former residence of the cardinals of Rohan, the palais Rohan, displays a reputable collection of 18th century furniture and china. (Views of the rooms and the collection)
  5. The Musée archéologique presents a vast display of regional findings from the first ages of man to the 6th century, focussing especially on the Roman and Celtic period.
  6. The very large Musée Alsacien is dedicated to every aspects of traditional alsacian daily life.
  7. The Musée zoologique (fr) is one of the oldest in France and is especially famous for its gigantic collection of birds.
  8. Le Vaisseau (the vessel) is a science and technology centre, especially designed for children.
  9. The Musée historique is closed until June 2007. It is dedicated to the tumultuous history of the city and displays among other things the Grüselhorn, the medieval horn that was blown every evening at 10 to order the Jews out of the city.
  10. The Cabinet des estampes et des dessins displays six centuries of drawings and engravings.
  11. The Collection Tomi Ungerer (now spread over two locations but soon to be installed in a spacious single building next to the National Theater.) is dedicated to the artist's original drawings and sketches and to his large collection of ancient toys.
  12. The Musée de la Navigation sur le Rhin, also going by the name of Naviscope, located in an old boat, is dedicated to the history of commercial navigation on the Rhine.
  13. The Musée de Sismologie et Magnétisme terrestre,
  14. the Musée Pasteur and
  15. the Musée d'Égyptologie are all three part of the University and only open to public some hours a week.

Demography

1684 1789 1851 1871 1910 1921 1936 1946 1954 1962 1968 1975 1982 1990 1999 2004
22 000 49 943 75 565 85 654 178 891 166 767 193 119 175 515 200 921 228 971 249 396 253 384 248 712 252 338 264 115 273 100

Today, the metropolitan area of Strasbourg reaches 650,000 inhabitants and the eurodistrict 868,000 inhabitants [4].

Culture

Strasbourg is the seat of some internationally reputed institutions in the musical and dramatic domain :

Other theatres are the Théâtre jeune public, the TAPS Scala, the Kafteur...

Education

Strasbourg, which was a humanism centre, has a long history of higher-education excellence, melting French and German intellectual traditions. Although Strasbourg had been annexed by Royal France in 1683, it still remained connected to the German-speaking intellectual world throughout the 18th century and the university attracted numerous students from the Holy Roman Empire with Goethe, Metternich and Montgelas, who studied law in Strasbourg, among the most prominent. Nowadays, Strasbourg is known to offer among the best university courses in France, after Paris.

There are three universities in Strasbourg:

The campus of the École nationale d'administration (ENA) is located in Strasbourg (the former one being in Paris). The location of the "new" ENA - which trains most of the nation's high-ranking civil servants - was meant to give a European vocation to the school.

The École supérieure des Arts décoratifs (ESAD) is an art school of Europe-wide reputation.

The permanent campus of the International Space University (ISU) is located in the south of Strasbourg (Illkirch-Graffenstaden).

Transport Systems

A modern-looking tram system has operated in Strasbourg since 1994 by the regional transit company Compagnie des Transports Strasbourgeois. A former tram system, partly following a different route, had been operation since 1878 but was ultimately dismantled in 1960.

Two TGV lines are planned to link Strasbourg to the European high-speed train network:

  1. TGV Est (Paris-Strasbourg) (under construction, to open 2007)
  2. TGV Rhin-Rhône (Strasbourg-Lyon) (to open 2011)

European role

Strasbourg is:

Strasbourg also houses the Eurocorps headquarters as well as the Central Commission for Navigation on the Rhine, the European Directorate for the Quality of Medicines ([5]) and the Franco-German television channel, Arte.

France and Germany are creating a Eurodistrict straddling the Rhine, combining the Greater Strasbourg and the Ortenau district of Baden-Württemberg, with some common administration. The combined population of this district is 868,000 [6].

Famous people

Main article : Famous people of Strasbourg

Many famous people were born in Strasbourg, such as, in chronological order, Johannes Tauler, Sebastian Brant, Jean Baptiste Kléber, Ludwig I of Bavaria, Gustave Doré, Émile Waldteufel, Jean Arp, Charles Münch, Hans Bethe, Marcel Marceau, Tomi Ungerer and Arsène Wenger.

Famous residents include, in chronological order, Johann Gutenberg, Martin Bucer, John Calvin, Hans Baldung, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz, Klemens Wenzel von Metternich, Georg Büchner, Louis Pasteur, Ferdinand Braun, Albrecht Kossel, Georg Simmel, Albert Schweitzer, Otto Klemperer, Marc Bloch, Alberto Fujimori and Jean-Marie Lehn.

Twin towns

Strasbourg is twinned with:

Others

  • One of the longest chapters of Lawrence Sterne's novel Tristram Shandy ("Slawkenbergius's tale") takes place in Strasbourg.
  • A long episode of Matthew Gregory Lewis's novel The Monk takes place in the forests then surrounding Strasbourg.
  • British art-punk band The Rakes had a minor hit in 2005 with, their song 'Strasbourg'. This song features witty lyrics with themes of espionage and vodka and includes a cleverly-placed count of 'eins, zwei, drei, vier!!', even though Strasbourg's spoken language is French. '70s Dutch progressive band Focus included a track called 'La Cathédrale de Strasbourg' on their 1974 album Hamburger Concerto. It included chimes from a cathedral-like bell.

See also

References

  • Alsace-Lorraine, Elsass Lothringen, une nation interdite - 1870 - 1940, by the Rev. Pierri Zind, Copernic, Paris, 1979, ISBN 2-85984-048-6
  • Histoire de l`Alsace autrement, E G`schicht zuem üwerläwe, by Bernard Wittmann, Rhyn un Mosel, Morsbronn (Alsace), ISBN 2-9514359-0-8

External links