The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World
Before we get to the heart of the matter (the wonders of Alsace), let's open our history books. I'm sure you've heard of the Seven Wonders of the World. Or at least you have heard of them.
As a reminder, the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World is a list of remarkable buildings from the Ancient Times. Various authors compiled the list in guidebooks or poems popular with tourists in ancient Greece. It is estimated that the first such lists date from the 2nd and 1st centuries BC.
However, the list in its present form was fixed once and for all during the Renaissance. Of the seven ancient wonders, only one has survived relatively intact: the Great Pyramids of Giza in Egypt.
The original list has inspired countless versions through the ages, often including seven sites. This prompted me to create my list of the Seven Wonders of Alsace.
The Seven Wonders of Alsace
In compiling this list, the most spectacular monuments in Alsace inspired me. Of course, this is a subjective list - no doubt you will have a different opinion if you were to make your own! Tell me in the comments at the bottom of the article which monuments should be on the list of wonders of Alsace!
▼ Here's a pin for Pinterest! ▼
Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Strasbourg
Place de la cathédrale, Strasbourg
I think everyone will agree with me that Strasbourg Cathedral has its place in the Seven Wonders of Alsace list!
This masterpiece of Gothic art amazes visitors, especially its magnificent western façade.
The spire (142 m) gave Strasbourg's Notre Dame Cathedral the coveted title of the world's tallest monument.
The platform at the height of 66 m is open to the public. From up there, you'll enjoy a panoramic view of the structure of the sanctuary, the roofs of the city and the surrounding area (Alsace plain, Vosges and the Black Forest).
Maison Pfister of Colmar
11 rue des Marchands, Colmar
The Rue des Marchands in Old Colmar contains several houses dating from the Renaissance. The most famous of these is the Pfister House. In my humble opinion, it is the most beautiful bourgeois house in Alsace and a masterpiece of the Rhenish Renaissance.
Dating from 1537, it owes its construction to a Besançon hatmaker. Frescoes and medallions adorn the façade of the lavish residence.
Thus, the arcaded ground floor is topped by an elegant wooden gallery intersected by a magnificent two-storey loggia at the corner of the street. With its pyramidal roof, the loggia is supported by beautifully crafted brackets.
Mount St. Odile and the Hohenbourg abbey
Natural site 45 km from Strasbourg
Mont Sainte-Odile is undoubtedly the most popular tourist site for the people of Strasbourg, who are eager to see the beautiful Alsatian landscape. It is indeed the closest Vosges summit to the Alsatian capital (the other important summit being the Champ du Feu).
The summit of Mount Sainte-Odile rises to 767 m. Since the High Middle Ages, it has housed the buildings of a convent: the Hohenbourg Abbey. Legend has it that Odile, daughter of the Duke of Alsace, Etichon (635-690), founded this Alsatian high place.
On a clear day, the view extends over the Alsace plain, the spire of Strasbourg cathedral and the Black Forest in Germany.
Around the summit, the mysterious enclosure of the "Pagan wall" (mur Païen) makes its way for about ten kilometres. The secret of this wall has not yet been revealed. Could it be of prehistoric, Celtic or Germanic origin?
Castle of Haut-Kœnigsbourg
Medieval castle 30 km from Colmar
Of all the castles in Alsace, Haut-Kœnigsbourg is certainly the most famous. Indeed, the fortress is one of France's most visited tourist sites.
The first mention of the fortress nestled at 750 m above sea level dates from 1147. It was badly damaged during the Thirty Years' War. From 1900 to 1908, it was completely restored by Kaiser Wilhelm II.
From the pink sandstone castle, the view over the Alsace plain, the Vosges and the Black Forest is sublime. It is one of the rare castles in Alsace that is not in ruins!
St. Thiébaut Collegiate in Thann
There is an old Alsatian saying:
"The steeple of the cathedral of Strasbourg is the highest, that of Freiburg (in Breisgau) is the biggest, and that of Thann is the most beautiful".
Indeed, the most beautiful monument in the town of Thann can be seen from afar: the magnificent Gothic collegiate church of St. Thiébaut.
The great western portal has a very high tympanum above two doors, each with a small tympanum.
The interior of the church is rich and elegant. The vaults have beautifully carved and painted keys. The deep choir of the church is decorated with statues of apostles. The magnificently carved oak stalls date back to the 19th century. They are made in the same way as those in Metz cathedral. Finally, some of the stained glass windows date from the 15th century.
St. Etienne Temple in Mulhouse
Don't be fooled by the gothic style of the Temple Saint-Étienne; this Protestant Reformed sanctuary is of relatively recent construction (1859-1866).
For example, there has been a church on the site since the 12th century. As it fell into disrepair, it was demolished in the mid-19th century to make way for a much more imposing building.
The spire of the bell tower reaches 97 metres, making it the highest Protestant church in France. It was the tallest monument in the city until the construction of the Tour de l'Europe (a modern office and residential tower). The elegant spire was inspired by that of the collegiate church in Thann.
Fleckenstein Castle is one of the most impressive castles in Alsace, if not in France. The Fleckenstein fortress clings to the rocky promontory on which it was built in the 12th century of pink Vosges sandstone.
This castle was the centre of an imperial fief in the 13th century. Its last lord bequeathed it to the prince of Rohan-Soubise.
13 Other Wonders of Alsace
The list of the wonders of Alsace that I have drawn up above is subjective..., and it is far from being exhaustive! The following monuments could well have been part of the list. Tell me in the comments at the bottom of the article which monument(s) you think should be on the Seven Wonders of Alsace list!
Abbey church of Ebersmunster
The interior of the church in Ebersmunster holds a big surprise. It is the only Austrian Baroque building in France!
The abbey church is famous for its magnificent coloured frescoes. It's like being in Austria or Bavaria, the land of joie de vivre!
Maison Kammerzell in Strasbourg
The Kammerzell House (15th-16th centuries) is considered to be the oldest building in Strasbourg still in commercial use. The stone-ground floor is in medieval style. The upper floors are in Renaissance style and are made of carved wood. Overall, the facade of the house has 65 crown-glass windows.
The European Parliament in Strasbourg
Allée du printemps, Strasbourg
From the river Ill, the Parliament can be seen along a monumental curved glass facade that symbolises the spirit of transparency of European democracy.
On the other side, the building's physiognomy bears a striking resemblance to the ruins of the Colosseum in Rome.
The European Parliament building was named 'Louise-Weiss' in honour of its first president.
St. Georges Church in Sélestat
Place Saint-Georges, Sélestat
A small jewel of Gothic art in Alsace, built between 1220 and 1490, reflecting the power and wealth of the town's burghers.
Impressive 14th-century bell tower, 65 metres high, topped by an octagon decorated with pinnacles.
Inside, beautiful stained glass windows from the Middle Ages.
The Dolder Gate in Riquewihr
Rue du général de Gaulle, Riquewihr
Sublime vestige of the fortifications of Riquewihr. The Dolder town gate is an iconic monument of Alsace with its timber-framed and corbelled floors.
Kaysersberg's Fortified Bridge
109 rue du général de Gaulle, Kaysersberg
With its crenellated parapet and its small oratory, the fortified bridge of Kaysersberg is a unique military work in Alsace.
In the middle of the bridge, on the upstream side, in what was perhaps a former watchtower, is an aedicule (small chapel). It houses a polychrome statue of the Virgin and Child from the 18th century. It includes loopholes on both sides and parapets pierced by archers and gun ports.
St. Martin Collegiate Church of Colmar
Place de la cathédrale, Colmar
The Collegiate Church of St. Martin is the most imposing church in Colmar and is often referred to as the "Cathedral". Built of pink Vosges sandstone, Saint Martin is a significant work of Gothic architecture in Upper Alsace.
Vauban Fortifications in Neuf-Brisach
Commune de Neuf-Brisach
Away from the main tourist routes of Alsace, Neuf-Brisach is worth a visit for its incredible military architecture from the end of the 17th century.
The old fortress has kept its great octagonal enclosure, characteristic of Vauban (1699).
Château-fort situé dans la commune de Wintzenheim
The Hohlandsbourg is a 13th-century castle which was restored in the 1990s. It is now one of the important historical and cultural sites in Alsace. Open to visitors from Easter to 11 November. Magnificent views of the Colmar region and the Swiss Alps in good weather.
Murbach Abbey Church
Commune de Murbach
Murbach Abbey is one of the most photographed sites in the Alsatian Vosges. The impressive Romanesque church, which stands in a pleasant wooded valley, is the last vestige of the powerful abbey of Murbach.
Vieil-Armand National Necropolis
Lieu de mémoire à 32 km au nord-ouest de Mulhouse
The Vieil Armand is a place of remembrance that perpetuates the memory of the Great War.
This place (the Hartmannswillerkopf) was the site of one of the most disputed and deadly battles on the Alsace front (30,000 French and German soldiers died there).
The National Monument comprises a vast terrace surmounted by a bronze altar under which is a crypt containing the bones of 12,000 unknown soldiers.
The former City-Hall of Mulhouse
Place de la Réunion, Mulhouse
It is a magnificent example of the Rhenish Renaissance, with its facades painted with trompe l'oeil decorations.
The Lion and citadel of Belfort
Suppose one considers that Belfort belongs to Alsace's historical and cultural region. In that case, one should not forget to mention the Lion (Bartholdi's monumental statue) and the citadel which dominates the old town and its surroundings.
Which monuments would you like to see on this list? Again, this is a personal ranking; I'm sure you have other ideas... tell me in the comments below 👇