Strasbourg - Visit time : 3 days.
The Grande Ile of Strasbourg was selected as a World Heritage Site by Unesco in 1988, followed in 2017 by the Neustadt or new city. It is on the Grande Ile that the city has developed since Antiquity and the creation of the Roman castrum of Argentorate.
The historic center of Strasbourg is full of a unique heritage that runs from medieval times to the present day. Its urban heritage, as varied as it is exceptional, is the result of continuous economic prosperity throughout the history of Strasbourg. Indeed, the city is located at a commercial crossroads of European dimension. From north to south and from east to west, men, ideas and goods have been transported and exchanged for centuries. Strasbourg is unique in Europe for its cultural, intellectual, artistic and architectural mix.
The Grande Ile of Strasbourg (literally, Big Island) is a remarkable urban ensemble, characteristic of the center of Europe, and a unique example of settlement in the Rhine valley during the 15th and 16th centuries. The city was the vector for the movement of Gothic art toward the east.
Surrounded by two arms of the Ill River (which runs through the center of Strasbourg), the Grande Ile is the historic center of the Alsatian capital. This was the site of the Roman castrum of Argentorate, of which the two main axes have remained despite the growth of the modern city. The Grande Ile contains a remarkable monumental complex within a very small space.
The cathedral, whose single spire dominates the Alsatian plains, and the four ancient churches, Saint Thomas (7th-15th centuries), Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux (8th – 15th centuries), Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune (7th-15th centuries) and Saint-Étienne (7th century), are more than isolated monuments: they are closely based on the typical structure of a medieval city, and reflect the changes in Strasbourg at this time. The cathedral, which is the main monument of the site included on the World Heritage list, illustrates this historic and urban coherence.
The dense network of streets populated by shopkeepers and craftsmen offer the very image of a medieval city and post-medieval Christian society.
Public buildings such as the old City Hall (1585, the current Chamber of Commerce) or the city’s Grande Boucherie (slaughterhouse) (1587-1588, now the Museum of History) exist alongside hotels (Hotellerie du Cerf), boutiques and workshops, as well as elegant patrician houses (Maison Kammerzell or the houses along Rue Mercière, Rue du Vieux-Marché-aux-Poissons and elsewhere).
In 2017, UNESCO completed the classified area including the most significant elements of the new town (Neustadt) that are related to the old town visually and in landscape terms. In the Neustadt, the administrative centre, built around the Kaiserplatz (today the Place de la République), is linked to the University Palace via the imperial axis. The creation of the Neustadt, designed and built under the German administration (1870-1918) while respecting the urban heritage, reinforced the bi-cultural character of the city, and culminated in a picturesque urban landscape characterised by the strong presence of water.
The Grande-Île and the Neustadt form an urban ensemble that is characteristic of Rhineland Europe, with a structure that centres on the cathedral, a major masterpiece of Gothic art. Its distinctive silhouette dominates the ancient riverbed of the Rhine and its man-made waterways. Perspectives created around the cathedral give rise to a unified urban space and shape a distinctive landscape organized around the rivers and canals.
The French and Germanic influences have enabled the composition of a specific urban space combining constructions reflecting major significant periods of European history: Roman Antiquity, the Middle Ages and the Rhineland Renaissance, French 18th century classicism, and then the 19th and early 20th centuries which saw the emergence of a modern city, the capital and symbol of the new German state.
Criteria for selection
Criterion (ii): French and Germanic influences have shaped the Grande-Île and Neustadt. They have enabled the emergence of a unique expression coming from the two cultures, which is especially conveyed in the fields of architecture and urbanism. The cathedral, influenced by the Romanesque art of the East and the Gothic art of the kingdom of France, is also inspired by Prague, particularly for the construction of the spire. It is a model that acted as a vector of Gothic art to the east. The Neustadt, a modern city forged by Haussmannian influences, and a model of urbanism, also embodies the theories of Camillo Sitte.
Criterion (iv): The Grande-Île and the Neustadt in Strasbourg constitute a characteristic example of a European Rhineland city. Integrated into a Medieval urban fabric in a way which respects the ancient original fabric, the Renaissance-style private residences built between the 15th century and the late 17th century form a unique ensemble of domestic Rhineland architecture, which is indissociable from the outstanding Gothic cathedral. In the 18th century, French classical architecture became dominant, as exemplified by the Palais Rohan, built by the king’s architect, Robert de Cotte. From 1871 onwards, the face of the town was profoundly modified by the construction of an ambitious urbanistic project, leading to the emergence of a modern, functional city, emblematic of the technical advances and hygienistic policies that were emerging at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. The private and public buildings of the urban ensemble bear witness to political, social and cultural change, with the town’s status changing from a free city of the Holy Roman Empire to a free city of the Kingdom of France, before it became a regional capital.
Source : Unesco / ICOMOS