Saint Peter the Young Protestant church
25th september 2019, by Gustave
This is undoubtedly not the most well known, it is certainly not the most visible, it probably goes unnoticed by the traveler that passes by Strasbourg… and yet, the Saint Peter the Young protestant church in Strasbourg has many things to tell us about the history of our city.
At Strasbourg’s origins
While the site of the current church still remained outside the walls of the city, diggings brought to light a hypogeum that dated back at the 8th or 9th century.
We are here in a rather unclear period of Strasbourg’s history, but this shows with certainty that the Roman tradition went on until the Merovingian era and that the dead were buried outside the city. The location is not surprising, as the sanctuary is located on the margin of Argentoratum’s Cardo, its major North-South axis and the current Rue de la Nuée Bleue… indeed, one of the oldest streets in Strasbourg!
The current church
This church being a patchwork of successive constructions and reconstructions, it is hard to pick a construction date…. Yet we know it got consecrated circa 1050 and was still outside the city’s walls. Maybe this is the reason for its poor maintenance, though the first three levels of the western tower, and the cloister especially, remind us of these past times.
We have to wait until 1290 and the church’s integration into the urban territory for the currently visible naves and choir to spring forth. Less than a century later, 3 chapels will be built around the tower: one dedicated to Saint John, another to Saint Nicolas and the last one named the Zorn chapel, a well-known name to those initiated in Strasbourg’s history. In 1491, Hans Hammer will build as well the Trinity Chapel, just below the choir, a testimony to the parish’s importance.
At last, we will have to wait until the end of the 19th century and Karl Schaeffer’s renovations for our church to finally look like it does now. His most significant contribution will be the new south portal, nicknamed “Erwin’s portal”. It stands as a tribute to the Cathedral’s portal, in particular with the Wise Virgins and the Foolish Virgins or with an up to date representation of the Church and the Synagogue.
Inside Saint Peter the Young
Among this church’s many jewels, you mustn’t miss its above-mentioned cloister, one of the oldest in France. Although they were entirely restored by Schaeffer, the north, west and south galleries are faithfully recreated in accordance with their original style and with the reuse of materials unearthed during the restoration works.
You should also take the time to observe the Navicelle fresco, painted circa 1320, an allegory of the Church borrowed from Giotto di Bondone’s Mosaic in Saint Peter in the Vatican a few decades earlier.
Last but not least, come admire the rood screen, one of the few who made it through the Protestant Reformation and the Revolution. In fact, this is the only gothic rood screen that remained intact in Alsace. Not to waste anything, it also serves as a support for the magnificent 1780 Silbermann organ.