UNESCO World Heritage - From the Grande-Île to La Neustadt
The Grande-Île has been on UNESCO’s World Heritage list since 1988. La Neustadt since 2017.
Strasbourg was the first French city whose listing was not just about a prestigious monument but a historical urban center. To feature on the World Heritage List, sites must be of outstanding universal value and meet at least one of the ten selection criteria.
Nearly 30 years after the Grande-Île was listed, another Strasbourg district, La Neustadt was added to this listing.
Grande-Île and La Neustadt together form an urban ensemble that is characteristic of Rhineland Europe, with a structure centered on the cathedral, a major masterpiece of Gothic art.
The French and German influences, specific to Strasbourg, have forged an exceptional urban ensemble, fashioned down through the ages: Roman Antiquity, the Middle Ages, the Rhenish Renaissance, the 17th, 19th and 20th centuries and the emergence of a modern city.
This small area is bounded by the Ill river and the Faux-Rempart canal. It is connected by 21 bridges and footbridges to the rest of the city and is the historic core. It features a highly diverse monumental heritage of outstanding quality.
For the Grande-Île, the World Heritage Committee adopted criterion IV "Example of an exceptional urban ensemble, combining the French and Germanic influences from the late Middle Ages to the present day."
The Cathedral was chosen as a "unique artistic achievement" (criterion I, which represents a masterpiece of human creative genius) and a "vector of Gothic art turned towards the East" (criterion II, exhibit an important interchange of human values).
From ancient churches to department stores
In this eminent architectural ensemble representative of the changes in the city from the Middle Ages to the present day, other Strasbourg buildings have been identified and added to this listing:
- The churches of Saint-Thomas, Saint-Pierre-le-Jeune and Saint-Pierre-le-Vieux
- the Rohan Palace (Place du Château)
- the Hôtel de Ville (Place Broglie)
- the Ancien Hôtel Zorn de Bulach, Grand'rue
- the Aubette (Place Kléber)
- the buildings in the Oeuvre Notre Dame, the Maison Kammerzell, the Grande Boucherie, the Ancienne Douane, the Neubau (Place Gutenberg) and the St. Thomas school
- the Petite France, Covered Bridges and the Vauban dam
- The Galeries Lafayette department store
In 1871, Alsace and Moselle were integrated into the German Empire and Strasbourg became the capital of the new "Reichsland Elsass-Lothringen". The city was completely transformed by this.
Up to then, Strasbourg developed within its historical limits, nestled in the protective meander plotted out by the Ill river. From 1880 on, under the auspices of the German authorities, a vast project began which was to triple the size of the city.
Municipal authorities drew up this plan based on the projects presented by Jean-Geoffroy Conrath, the city architect, August Orth, a Berlin architect and Hermann Eggert, the architect of the Rhine Palace. The space was to be structured through orthogonal routes, according to Haussmanian principles, or a radio-concentric arrangement, organized around squares dotted with public buildings or parks.
The construction of La Neustadt serves several purposes. It was first intended to set in stone the regime change and the advent of a new power: the Place Impériale, now Place de la République, is at the core of this city planning project. It includes government buildings, dominated by the imposing bulk of the Rhine Palace, the place of residence of the emperor when he visited Strasbourg.
But it also had to accommodate the newcomers: the annexation led to significant German immigration into Strasbourg; in forty-five years, the population of the city more than doubled, from 80,000 in 1870 to 180,000 in 1915. Thus we find in La Neustadt luxury buildings with all modern conveniences ("water and gas on all floors" as still specified on enamel plaques on the walls), but also small private mansions off the beaten track.
In terms of style, eclecticism reigns supreme, contributing to the real charm of this district. An Art Nouveau building with a flourishing decor is set beside an elegant villa in a pastiche rococo style, while in the distance stand out the neo-Gothic spires of St. Paul church: a real tour of changing architectures.
The World Heritage List
The World Heritage List has over 1,000 listed sites, most being in Europe and 41 in France.
Ratified in 1972, the UNESCO World Heritage Convention is the only legal instrument which aims to both preserve cultural properties and protect nature.