St George's Church (Eglise Saint-Georges)
Restoration of the St. George's Church in Sélestat in progress - scaffolding present
In the 8th century, a Carolingian baptismal chapel was located on the site of the church, as part of an imperial complex built by Charlemagne. Charlemagne came here at Christmas time in 775 to pray.
It took no less than three centuries to build the church of Saint-Georges under the impetus of the local bourgeoisie, who wanted to assert themselves against the religious power represented by the priory of Sainte-Foy. The construction of the church began in the 1220s and was completed shortly before 1500. At that time, the original choir was replaced by a much larger sanctuary decorated with numerous stained glass windows, 55 of which are still original. The stained glass windows in the choir, some of which date from the 15th century, are without doubt the treasure of this church.
The Renaissance pulpit (1619) with its prominent Samson and two columns supporting the painted and gilded stone vat is the work of the sculptor Jerome Kruch, an exceptional work. The Rinckenbach organs date from 1895 and were restored in 1975 by Alfred Kern.
Because of its size, the parish church of St. George could be mistaken for a cathedral. However, this is not the case, as a cathedral is the seat of a bishopric, which has never been the case in Sélestat.
The western tower of the church
In the early 14th century, construction began on the western tower, which was completed in 1490 and contains six bells, the first of which, known as the "bourdon", is decorated with the Sélestat lion. At 60 metres high, St George's church is one of the highest religious buildings in Alsace, well after Strasbourg cathedral (142 m).
In the past, a team of watchmen was stationed at the top of the church to keep an eye on the surrounding area and prevent any fire from breaking out. They also had to ring the quarter-hour bell, which one of them forgot to do in 1886. One of them forgot to ring the bell in 1886 and was punished by paying a fine or spending a day in prison.
The crypt of St George's Church was once a public passageway open on three sides: north, south and east. This passageway was designed in the 15th century when the new choir was built to avoid dividing the cemetery which then extended around St George's into two parts. The new choir was raised and underneath it a sort of vaulted passageway was built by Master Mathis. It is a vaulted hall with four ribbed windows falling on a heavy central pillar.
The passage was closed in the 19th century with glazed stone infills and converted into a crypt.