Strasbourg's Grande-Île, an exceptional architectural heritage
The Grande-Île of Strasbourg is an urban ensemble characteristic of central Europe, offering a fascinating blend of French and German influences and reflecting the political and religious changes that have taken place in the city since mediaeval times.
Surrounded by the River Ill and the canal du Faux Rempart, Grande-Île is the historic centre of the Alsatian capital. A historically thriving hub for trade and the exchange of ideas, its development was driven by its extensive waterway network and its importance as a fortified city standing along the border of the Kingdom of France and the Germanic Holy Roman Empire.
The city was built on the site of the Roman Castrum of Argentorate, which, along with the successive extensions of the city walls, left their mark on the original mediaeval layout of Grande-Île.
Within what is a fairly small area, Grande-Île contains a remarkable monumental ensemble. The Cathedral, along with the Oeuvre Notre Dame and the Palais Rohan and 4 old churches of St Thomas, St Pierre-le-Vieux, St Pierre-le Jeune and St Etienne, are more than just isolated monuments, they fit coherently into an old quarter that accurately reflects the way the mediaeval city operated and shows the evolution of Strasbourg from the 15th to 18th centuries.
Renaissance town mansions and public buildings (Neue Bau 1585, now the Chamber of Commerce - Grande Boucherie 1588, now the Historical Museum- Maison Kammerzell 1467-1589), stand alongside monumental 18th-century buildings (Hôtel Hanau-Lichtenberg 1735, the current town Hall - palais Rohan 1742 - Aubette 1778), that bear witness to French "good taste"..
The only major change to the original urban layout came with the Grande Percée, which linked the new railway station to the Neudorf suburb in the first half of the 20th century. Designed to remove the more insalubrious parts of the town, this operation is a fine example of the modernisation of an old city centre, with the construction of department stores, hotels and housing.
Inclusion on the Unesco World Heritage List
The world Heritage list contains cultural and natural sites considered to be of outstanding universal value. The list currently features 37 French sites, including place Stanislas in Nancy and the saltworks of Arc-et-Senans, both in eastern France.
Grande-Île was selected by the World Heritage Committee on the basis of criteria 1, 2 and 4:
- Criterion 1: to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius; the Cathedral is a unique artistic achievement
- Criterion 2: to exhibit an important interchange of human values, over a span of time or within a given cultural area, and developments in architectural technology, monumental arts, town planning or landscape design; the Cathedral was a vector of Gothic art in Europe
- Criterion 4: to be an outstanding example of a type of building, architectural or technological ensemble or landscape which illustrates (a) significant stage(s) in human history; Grande-île is an urban ensemble characteristic of central Europe and a unique ensemble of domestic architecture in the Rhine Valley.
To learn more, go to the website of the Unesco world Heritage