Friday, December 18, 2015

St. Thomas Church - Strasbourg, France

St. Thomas Church (Thomaskirche in German or Eglise Saint-Thomas in French) is located in Strasbourg, France and is the Lutheran cathedral for Lutheran Protestantism in the Alsace Region of France (which stretches along the French side of the Rhine from Basel almost to Karlsruhe). Its nickname is the "Protestant Cathedral" or the "Old Lady." 
St. Thomas church as viewed from the platform of Strasbourg Cathedral.
The narrow streets of Strasbourg make it difficult to get a comprehensive view of large structures like churches. 
Another partial view from another narrow street.
The same view from a different direction.
Beautiful clock between columned arches.
The church site has been a place of worship since the 6th century when Scottish monks arrived here. Bishop Adeloch, the first bishop of Strasbourg, who lived from 786 to 823, built a Carolingian Church on this site, but it burned down in 1007, was rebuilt and burned again in 1144. In 1196 another church was started. The present front of the church is from 1230 to 1250. The inside was begun between 1260 and 1270 and was completed in the 14th century. In 1524 it converted to Protestantism under Martin Bucer, the pastor from 1524 to 1540. Martin Bucer was an important reformer. He acted as a mediator between Martin Luther and Huldrych Zwingli in their debates over the Eucharist and worked with other reformers including Philipp Melancthon and Thomas Cranmer in England. The church has remained Protestant ever since, despite the town being predominantly Catholic since the annexation of Strasbourg by France in 1681. Under the Treaty of Westphalia, signed in 1648, each prince had the right to determine the religion of his own state, but Christians living in principalities where their denomination was not the established church were guaranteed the right to practice their faith in public during allotted hours and in private at their will.  
Looking toward the altar.
The altar as viewed from near the choir.
Typical of Lutheran churches, the inside of the dome is unadorned.
It is known for it organs. Its 1741 Silbermann organ was played by Mozart in 1778. In 1908, Dr. Albert Schweitzer started a tradition of concerts for remembrance of the anniversary of the death of J.S. Bach. He also played this organ. There is also a 1905 organ following a design by Albert Schweitzer. 
The pipes of the 1741 organ.
The original keyboard of the 1741 organ which was played by Mozart and by Schweitzer. The keyboard has been replaced and we heard the church organist, Professor Daniel Leininger playing it. It was amazing. 
A tribute to Schweitzer who started the Bach concerts. In 1906 Schweitzer wrote an extremely influential book, The Quest of the Historical Jesus, which summarized prior efforts toward and legitimized efforts in the historical criticism of the New Testament. 
And a tribute to Bach.
It has a number of monuments that are fabulous. One is the sarcophagus of Bishop Adeloch, the founder of the church and the first Bishop of Strasbourg. He lived from 786 to 823. The Romanesque sarcophagus rests on four crouching lions and has figures carved in the side, including one representing Bishop Adeloch.  
The sarcophagus of Bishop Adeloch.
Bishop Adeloch holds a shepherd's staff and faces Chris, his hand in the airt. 
Christ faces toward Bishop Adeloch and acknowledges him. 
A man riding a fish is on the far left-side of the sarcophagus. 
An angel (holding the burial linens?) is to the right of Christ.
Another great monument is the tombstone of Nikolaus Roeder von Tiersberg (who died in 1510). The tombstone depicts his decaying corpse. It reminds me of some of the men found alive in concentration camps of Nazi Germany. 
Nikolas Roeder von Tiersberg
Then it is hard to beat the late-Gothic (15th century) fresco of St. Michael. 
St. Michael
The Baroque mausoleum of Marshall Maurice de Saxe dominates the choir behind the altar. Marshal Saxe lived from 1696 to 1750 and had an amazingly distinguished military career. Among other things, he was made Marshal of France under King Louis XV and commanded a French invasion of Britain at Dunkirk in 1744 and defeated the Duke of Cumberland at the Battle of Fontenoy in 1745. King Louis XV initially tried to bury Maurice at St. Denis outside Paris, but because he was Protestant, no Catholic church would accept his remains. So in 1751 a procession accompanied his remains to another church in Strasbourg where civil and military leaders, including the king, all gathered together for a magnificent funeral. Louis XV arranged for J.B. Pigalle, a famous French sculptor, to do a monument for him. When it was finished, the remains of Marshal Saxe were transferred to St. Thomas in 1773. The mausoleum is one of the most amazing tributes I've ever seen. 
At the back of the monument is a pyramid. It symbolizes immortality. 
Marshal Saxe stands in the middle, balancing the composition, oblivious to the agitation going on. To his right is a lion (Holland), a leopard, although it looks more like a hyena (England), and an eagle (the Holy Roman Empire - Austria) which are beaten and placed on their broken flags. To his left are the flags of France which is victorious. At his feet, a skeleton (death) has opened the tomb of death which Marshal Saxe is moving toward. Hercules, representing the French army, is filled with pain. The woman (France) holds Marshal Saxe's hand and simultaneously pushes away death, which holds an hourglass. Behind the woman is a crying child (love), with the flame of her torch extinguished. 
A close-up of Marshal Saxe advancing toward his tomb, France pushing away death, and love crying in the background. 
Death beckons, holding an hourglass.
The French army is in mourning and defeated England, on its back, looks on. 
The rose window at the front is an original medieval leaded window. Many of the other stained glass windows were destroyed by Protestant iconoclasts in the 16th century. 
The rose window on the outside.
The rose window from the inside.
What appears to be the tombstone of a knight.
What appears to be another very old tombstone.
I would love to know what this represents.
This appears to be very old. Perhaps from the outside of the 13th century church.
I believe this is medieval stained glass. 
More medieval stained glass.
A modern painting that seems out of place, but I love it. I'm not sure what it represents, but it looks like it has layers that could represent some sort of burial. 
Another modern painting that appears to be from the same artist. This appears to represent fabric and may have something to do with the death of Christ. 
Strasbourg Cathedral dwarfs St. Thomas on the outside and in the magnificence of the architecture. Although Strasbourg Cathedral does have some wonderful inner monuments, nothing compares to the mausoleum of Marshal Saxe or the sarcophagus of Bishop Adeloch. St. Thomas Church is another treasure of Strasbourg. 

1 comment:

  1. Hearing the organ was one of many high points of this trip. That second to last blue painting looks like a modern painted version of stained glass windows.