Reformation and Reformers

The Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune church in Strasbourg, wall paintings © Jean-Marie Stocker

The Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune church in Strasbourg, wall paintings © Jean-Marie Stocker

Strasbourg, as a free imperial town, was a beacon for Protestantism right from the 16th century. As from 1523, Protestant celebrations began in old churches that welcomed the new liturgical form and preaching inspired by Martin Luther's thesis. This was centred on a Gospel accessible to all, on a faith abolishing any distinction between laymen and clerics and on a Church integrated in the town community. In 1529, the town government decided to abolish traditional mass and introduce more simple celebrations.

It all started in the Cathedral.


The Saint-Aurelie church was the market gardeners' parish, the first to become Protestant. Martin Bucer was its pastor from 1524 to 1530. In 1765 its nave was completely rebuilt, based on the architectural principal that the prayer room should be centred around the pulpit and the altar.


The site on which the current church stands was used as a place of worship under the patronage of Thomas the Apostle as early as the sixth century. In the ninth century, Bishop Adelochus established a magnificent church with adjoining school. However both burned down in 1007, and again in 1144. In 1196, construction began on the façade of a new, fortress-like building with an imposing steeple, built in the Roman style. Interrupted several times, the building work was completed in 1521, in the late Gothic style.
In 1524, the church became Protestant (Martin Bucer served there as a pastor from 1531 to 1540), a status which it maintained despite the annexation of Alsace to Catholic France.
The Saint Thomas church is a five-naved hall church, the oldest on the territory of former south-west Germany. Inside it is approximately 65 metres long and 30 metres wide, with a height of 22m (30m under the late-Gothic cupola). There is a gallery on the left outer aisle, and chapels to the right and left of the apse

The church is internationally renowned for its historic and musically-significant organs: the 1741 Silbermann organ, played by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1778 and faithfully restored in 1979 by Alfred Kern; the French organist Louis Thiry recorded the Art of Fugue by Johann Sebastian Bach on this organ. Another organ is the 1905 organ (installed in 1906) built by Fritz Haerpfer, following a design by Albert Schweitzer.

The funerary monuments at Saint Thomas church date from between 1130 and 1850. The most famous are the richly decorated sarcophagus of Bishop Adelochus (1130) and the huge, late-Baroque mausoleum of Marshall Maurice de Saxe (1777), created by Jean-Baptiste Pigalle. Among the many other remarkable funerary monuments, the Renaissance tombstone of Nikolaus Roeder von Tiersberg (1510) is notable for its realistic depiction of his decaying corpse. Roeder had been the donor of the life-size Mount of Olives group of sculptures (1498) now to be seen inside Strasbourg Cathedral. The Neoclassical sculptor, Landolin Ohmacht, is represented by two works, one of them dedicated to Jean-Frédéric Oberlin.


Built from the end of the 13th century to the beginning of the 14th century, this church is one of Strasbourg's most inspiring buildings. Restored around 1900, its mural paintings go back to the Middle Age.
The church became Protestant in 1524. Then in 1683, when the chancel was given to a Catholic parish, a wall was built behind the jube, dividing the church. After the Catholics' departure in 1893, the furniture in the chancel was kept. The cloister, recently restored and where the remains of columns dating from the 11th century can still be admired, offers a haven of peace.


The church of Saint Guillaume used to be a convent church. In 1544, the buildings adjacent to the church were given to the Collegium Wilhelmitanum to accommodate about forty students from the Gymnasium. The church is known for its beautiful pulpit and alter, but also for the funerary monument of the Landgraves of Werde and its 19th century stained glass windows. Do not miss the concert given there every Good Friday, with Jean-Sébastien Bach's Saint John or Saint Matthew's Passion cantatas.


Built on the site of the old Dominican church, it was destroyed in 1870 during the bombing of the town. Its sandstone architecture is in the Romanesque style. On its Northern side you'll find the « Gymnase Jean Sturm » a Secondary School, that replaced the former Secondary School started by the Reformers in 1538, then the university established in 1621. While living in Strasbourg (1538-1541), Jean Calvin celebrated services for French-speaking Protestant refugees in its oratory.


Site Internet créé par
l'agence web Adipso
localisée à Strasbourg, Alsace