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The Clock Tower
The Clock Tower
Coat of arms of Sélestat
Coat of arms
Sélestat is located in France
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Country France
Region Alsace-Champagne-Ardenne-Lorraine
Department Bas-Rhin
Arrondissement Sélestat-Erstein
Canton Sélestat
Intercommunality Communauté de communes de Sélestat et environs
 • Mayor (2014-2020) Marcel Bauer
Area1 44.40 km2 (17.14 sq mi)
Population (2012)2 19,397
 • Density 440/km2 (1,100/sq mi)
INSEE/Postal code 67462 / 67600
Elevation 165–184 m (541–604 ft)
(avg. 173 m or 568 ft)
1 French Land Register data, which excludes lakes, ponds, glaciers > 1 km² (0.386 sq mi or 247 acres) and river estuaries. 2 Population without double counting: residents of multiple communes (e.g., students and military personnel) only counted once.

Sélestat (pronounced: [selɛsta]; Alsatian: Schlettstàdt; German: Schlettstadt) is a commune in the North-East of France. A sous-préfecture of the Bas-Rhin department, the town lies on the Ill river, 17 kilometres (11 mi) from the Rhine and the German border. Sélestat is located in the middle of Alsace, between Strasbourg and Mulhouse.

In 2012, Sélestat had a total population of 19,397, which makes it the eight most populous town in Alsace. During the Middle Ages and the Renaissance it was however the third city in the region, after Strasbourg and Colmar, and it is still the third commune in Alsace for cultural heritage. Sélestat was founded in the 8th century as a port on the Ill and it experienced a long period of prosperity thanks to the trade in wine and a thriving religious and cultural life. It gradually declined after the Reformation and the French conquest in the 17th century. The town eventually experienced a new demographic growth in the second half of the 20th century when it became a small industrial centre.

Thanks to its rich cultural heritage which includes its renowned Humanist Library, Sélestat is an important tourist destination in Alsace. It also benefits from its location on the Alsace Wine Route and its proximity to the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle. Aside from the medieval old town, the commune of Sélestat encompasses a natural reserve covering one of the largest riparian forests of France.


Bilingual French-Alsatian road-sign at the entrance of Sélestat.

The present name of the town is a Frenchification of the original Germanic name. It appeared soon after the French conquest in the 17th century.[1] The town is called Schlettstàdt ([ˈʃlɛd̥ʃd̥ɐd̥]) in Alsatian and About this sound Schlettstadt  (German pronunciation: [ˈʃlet͡ʃtat]) in German.[2]

Sélestat was first mentioned in 727 as Sclastat.[3] The current German name, Schlettstadt, appeared in 1310 although various spellings can be noticed on posterior documents, such as Schlestat, Schlet(t)stat and Schlestat.[2] It is only in 1920 that the town received its current French name. French administration from the 17th to the 19th century used various forms, both Frenchified (Sélestat, Sélestadt) and Germanic (Schlestadt, Schelestadt). The town was officially known as Schlettstadt between 1871 and 1919, when Alsace was part of the German Empire.[2]

The origin of the name "Schlettstadt" is unclear. It probably derives from Germanic words slade or sclade meaning "marshes", and stat for "city". Sélestat would then be the "city in the marshes", a reference to its position in the Grand Ried, a vast area subject to flooding that stretches in the centre of Alsace. Stat could also mean "area" rather than "city".[4]

A popular myth explains that the town takes its name from a dragon called Schletto which would have founded it after opening the nearby Lièpvre valley in the Vosges mountains.[3]


Birth of the town

An 18th-century relief on a house in the old town. It recalls the origins of Sélestat: the three mermaids symbolise the Ill river and its tributaries Lièpvrette and Giessen; the tree and reed stand for the Illwald forest and marshes; and the boat evokes the trade of wine.

Sélestat was first mentioned in 727 but the town is probably of Celtic or Roman origin.[C 1] Archaeological findings assert human settlements during the Mesolithic, the Neolithic and the Bronze Age. A large number of wood piles dating from the 1st and 2nd century AD were discovered around St. Quirin chapel, suggesting a Roman settlement. At that time Sélestat might have already been a port on the river Ill.[B 1]

When Sélestat started to appear in written documents in the 8th century, it may have been a market town or simply a village populated by fishermen and farmers. The area was part of the estate of Eberhard, member of the Alsatian ducal family. He donated it to Murbach Abbey at the end of his life.[C 1] In 775, Sélestat was important enough for Charlemagne to spend Christmas in town. It must have had enough buildings to accommodate his court and troops. Sélestat was not mentioned again in written documents until the end of the 11th century.[C 1]

In the 1080s, Sélestat was the property of Hildegard von Eguisheim, mother of the Frederick I, Duke of Swabia, first member of the House of Hohenstaufen. Hildegard transformed the place into a religious centre when she founded St. Faith's Church which she gave to the Benedictines of Conques Abbey. Monks from Conques opened a priory next to the church in 1092.[C 1] The House of Hohenstaufen quickly became the leading dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire and they came to the imperial throne in 1152. Being under their protection, the priory of Sélestat enjoyed a strong influence on local life. Even though Sélestat constituted a distinct parish, its priest had very limited power and the Benedictine prior was the true head of the municipality. In the end of the 12th century, the Hohenstaufen gradually lost their power and as a result the priory started to decline.[C 1] Citizens took the opportunity to reduce the prior's dominance[C 2] and secured the power of their parish. They started to build a new parish church in the 1220s. St. George's Church was designed in Gothic style and was meant to be significantly larger than St. Faith's Church, a way to signify the end of the Benedictine hegemony.[5]

Free imperial city

Engraving from Wapen des Heyligen Römischen Reichs Teutscher Nation (1545) with the coat of arms of Sélestat (at that time an eagle instead of a lion).

Frederick II, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire in the 13th century, realised that his dynasty was losing its power and granted freedoms to many cities in order to keep their allegiance. Such cities became Free imperial cities and Sélestat became one of them in 1217. Under the new status Sélestat was able to build city walls and to collect taxes on its own. Its serfs and settlers became free.[C 2] King of Germany Adolf of Nassau granted Sélestat a Constitution in 1292. It was amended many times but it regulated local politics until 1789.[C 2] Although the new status could favour trade and prosperity, free cities in Alsace were afraid that they would not be defended by imperial forces if a conflict was to occur. They decided to form an alliance called the Decapolis in 1354, which gathered ten cities (Haguenau, Colmar, Wissembourg, Turckheim, Obernai, Kaysersberg, Rosheim, Munster, Sélestat and Mulhouse). The seat of the alliance was in Haguenau but archives were kept in Sélestat. Because the town was the most centrally located, it often hosted meetings.[C 3]

The Benedictine priory was closed in 1424 after many years of decline. It had long lost its power to the local nobility, which in turn gave way to the bourgeoisie in the mid-14th century.[C 2] Nevertheless, Sélestat remained a religious centre even after the closing of the priory. Convents were established in the 13th century by Dominicans, Knights Hospitaller and Franciscans. Several abbeys located outside of the town also had a residence in town.[C 2] At the beginning of the 16th century, Sélestat was a notorious centre for Renaissance humanism thanks to its celebrated Latin school. Reformers Beatus Rhenanus and Martin Bucer were among its alumni.[C 3] This school helped spread Protestant ideas among the population although the local authorities remained faithful to Rome.[C 3] Erasmus of Rotterdam visited Sélestat four times between 1515 and 1522.[D 1]

Being a free city, Sélestat attracted settlers from the region who sought protection, freedom and a thriving economic environment. The first city wall, which had became too small, was replaced in 1280, and a third wall had to be erected in the 16th century.[C 2] At the end of the Middle Ages, the population could be estimated at between 5,000 and 6,000.[C 2] It was then the fourth Alsatian town after Strasbourg (18,000) and Colmar and Haguenau (6,000 each).[D 2] The local economy reached its zenith around 1500.[D 3] It was then centered on shipping and trade (mainly hay, cereals, wine, fish, glass, iron and salt). As the road network was poor and dangerous, goods transited via the Ill river.[C 2]


"Are illustrious times gone?", early 17th-century engraving symbolising Sélestat with broken Tables of the Law and columns in the foreground.

The decline of the town started in the 1520s, when the humanist school lost its former influence. The troubles surrounding the Protestant Reformation brought instability and unrest to the region. The town experienced the German Peasants' War in 1525 and its convents were sacked by a mob in 1534.[C 4] At the same period, Sélestat lost its pre-eminence in the Decapolis because Mulhouse left in 1515 and was replaced by Landau in 1521, moving to the North the geographical centre of the alliance.[D 4]

During the 17th century, Alsace was one of the main battlefields of the Thirty Years War. Sélestat was seized by the Swedes in 1632 after a month-long siege. They surrendered the town to their French allies two years later. The local population long remained predominantly faithful to the Habsburgs.[C 4] The Peace of Westphalia (1648) formalised the annexation of the Decapolis by France.[C 5] Sélestat was briefly occupied by the Germans during the Franco-Dutch War in 1674.[D 5] The Treaties of Nijmegen (1979) which ended the war also abolished the Decapolis.[C 5]

At first, Sélestat was a major strategic stronghold for the French. Located near the Rhine, it controlled the access to the Vosges and the rest of France. Vauban, the foremost military architect at that time, rebuilt the town walls between 1675 and 1691. However, after the conquest of Strasbourg in 1681, Sélestat lost much of its strategic importance as Strasbourg was better located. It remained a garrison town and troops helped to improve the feltering local economy.[C 5] Although Protestantism was not forbidden in Alsace, French authorities largely encouraged Catholicism and opened three new convents in Sélestat.[D 6] Jews were expelled from the town in 1642.[6] During the French Revolution, the population was extremely conservative and opposed to change.[C 6] The new territorial organisation confirmed the decline of the town: it did not become a prefecture and was not distinguished as a subprefecture before 1806, when it replaced Barr.[D 7] Sélestat suffered from the Napoleonic wars as it was besieged and bombed by the Bavarians in 1814 and blockaded by a German coalition in 1815.[B 2]

Since 1815

The train station in 1842, soon after its opening.

Industry appeared very early in Sélestat. The town had already several factories at the beginning of the 19th century: a tilery, a sawmill, 12 tanneries and 11 mills. Sélestat quickly became specialised in wire gauze making[C 6] but it never became a large industrial centre, remaining a small town with a limited influence.[D 8] The completion of the Strasbourg-Basel railway (1840), one of the first to be built in France, did not bring significant developments.[C 6] The town walls that still encircled the town were the main responsible for its economic and demographic stagnation.[C 6] After the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Alsace and a part of Lorraine were annexed by the new German Empire. The German authorities demolished the city walls in 1874 and built new spacious neighbourhoods around the old town, as they did in Strasbourg and Metz.[C 7]

Sélestat became French again after the First World War during which almost a thousand inhabitants died. It was part of the Third Reich during the Second World War. Its liberation took 3 months and ended in February 1945. The town is a recipient of the War Cross 1914–1918 and War Cross 1939–1945.[B 3][C 7] Sélestat has experienced a steady demographic and economic growth since 1945. Its population almost doubled between 1946 and 1999 and two industrial parks were built to accommodate new large factories. The service industry has been leading the town's economy since the 1970s with a large number of small businesses.[B 4]


The town hall.

Sélestat is one of the six subprefectures of the Bas-Rhin departement. As such it is at the head of the Sélestat-Erstein arrondissement. Sélestat is also the administrative centre of a canton gathering 28 other communes and which primarily serves as a constituency for local elections.[7] Sélestat is part of the 5th Bas-Rhin constituency for national elections. Since 2002, the Member of the National Assembly for the constituency has been the Republican Antoine Herth.[8]

Sélestat is a member of a federation of communes sharing some of their competencies, the Communauté de communes de Sélestat. It gathers Sélestat, its main town, and 11 neighbouring villages. It was created in 1995 to replace an older but similar structure founded in 1969.[9] Sélestat is also the seat of the Central Alsace pays, a structure aiming at developing the area.[10]

The town has had a council since 1292, when it was granted a Constitution under the Holy Roman Empire. The Constitution shaped the local political system until the French Revolution of 1789. Since then, the town has been administered the same way as all the other communes of France. Its council currently comprises 33 concillors, whose number is defined by law according to the size of the population. The town also has a mayor, who is elected by the councillors.[11]

Alsace in general is a stronghold of the French right. The main French right-wing party, The Republicans, currently holds a large majority at the council (26 concillors). Marcel Bauer, who has been mayor since 2001, is also a member. Voters in Sélestat generally favour right-wing candidates at other elections as well. Sélestat was however administered by the Socialist Party between 1989 and 2001.


Sélestat and its bell towers with the Vosges mountains in the background.

Sélestat is located at the very centre of Alsace, near the limit between Bas-Rhin and Haut-Rhin departments, which traditionnally correspond to Lower and Higher Alsace. The town is located between Strasbourg and Mulhouse, the first being 42 kilometres (26 mi) north and the latter 57 kilometres (35 mi) south. Sélestat is also located between Obernai (22 kilometres (14 mi)) and Colmar (21 kilometres (13 mi)). On the other side of the Rhine, Freiburg im Breisgau is at around 40 kilometres (25 mi).[12]

Sélestat lies on the Alsace plains, a thin but very fertile area that stretches between the Rhine and the Vosges. The river Ill flows parallel to the Rhine and crosses Sélestat. The Ill forms many diffluences and resurgences that make the area very wet and subject to flooding. Sélestat is at only 4 kilometres (2 mi) from the Vosges.[A 1] It is at the opening of one of the rare valleys crossing the mountain range and providing a connection to the rest of France.[C 8] This valley corresponds to the course of the Giessen, a 35 km-long tributary to the Ill. Contrary to the Ill which is very constant through the year, the Giessen is a moutain river subject to sudden rise in the water level, especially during the thaw. The Giessen passes North of the town and meets the Ill several kilometers east, in Ebersmunster.[13]

The town itself is built on the Giessen alluvial fan so it is slighlty higher than the rest of the Alsace plains. Much of its territory is however located on areas liable to flooding. Such areas are mostly located inside the Illwald natural reserve and comprise both forests and meadows. There the Ill forms more than 150 kilometres (93 mi) of waterways.[E 1]


Sélestat train station.

Despite its small size, Sélestat is well connected to transport networks. Alsace as a whole, being part of the economical heart of Europe, has a high road and railway density.

The town is served by the A35 autoroute, a motorway that crosses Alsace north to south, connecting Strasbourg, Colmar and Mulhouse. Further south, it connects to Swiss A3 motorway, and further north to German B9 highway. The three roads put together run from the Netherlands to Austria. Sélestat is also on one of the seven crossings of the Vosges mountains, connecting Lorraine to Alsace and Germany.

Sélestat train station was opened in 1840 which makes it one of the oldest in France. It lies on the Strasbourg–Basel railway, which also serves Colmar, Mulhouse and Saint-Louis.[A 2] Sélestat is at the start of two local railways that are partly closed: Sélestat-Lesseux, closed after Lièpvre, and Sélestat-Saverne, closed after Molsheim. The first railway runs towards the West through the Vosges, while the later runs towards the Northwest. A third local line, Sélestat-Sundhouse, was fully closed in 1953.[14] Although one of the oldest in France, the Strasbourg-Basel railway allows high speeds (200 kilometres per hour (120 mph)) because it is very rectilinear and crosses a very flat lanscape.

A TIS bus in Sélestat.

Sélestat is served by all regional trains between Strasbourg and Basel (one train in each direction every hour on weekdays).[15] Local trains also run between Sélestat and Molsheim, Sélestat and Strasbourg and Sélestat and Barr.[16][17] Sélestat is served by a Paris-Colmar TGV every day in each direction, by Strasbourg-Nice and Strasbourg-Cerbère Intercités in the summer, and EuroCity trains connecting Zurich to Brussels and Basel to Luxembourg City.

The SNCF and the Bas-Rhin council operate coach lines between Sélestat and Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines, Saint-Dié-des-Vosges, Ribeauvillé, Marckolsheim, Sundhouse and Villé. The council also put in place seasonal connections with the Haut-Kœnigsbourg castle and Europa Park.[18][19][16]

Sélestat and its communauté de communes have their own local bus network, the "Transport intercommunal de Sélestat" (TIS). It comprises two lines, one connecting Châtenois to Ebersheim, and the other Scherwiller to Muttersholtz. These two lines make several stops in Sélestat proper which is at the centre of the network.[20]


Historical population
Year Pop. ±%
1793 6,907 —    
1821 9,070 +31.3%
1841 8,634 −4.8%
1861 10,184 +18.0%
1881 8,979 −11.8%
1901 9,336 +4.0%
1921 9,943 +6.5%
1946 10,722 +7.8%
1962 13,818 +28.9%
1975 15,248 +10.3%
1990 15,538 +1.9%
2009 19,313 +24.3%
Source:Base Cassini from EHESS for figures until 1962[21][22][23]

At the 2013 census, Sélestat had 19,332 inhabitants.[24] It is the 8th most populated commune in Alsace, having reached its maximum population in 2006, with 19,459 inhabitants. Censuses have been conducted since 1793.

Sélestat was one of the largest towns in the region from the Middle Ages until the beginning of the 19th century. In 1801, it was still the third most populous in Alsace behind Strasbourg and Colmar. It then had 7,375 inhabitants, a slightly higher figure than for Mulhouse (7,197) and Haguenau (7,009). Through the 19th century, Sélestat did not take advantage of industrialisation and rural exodus because its city wall and military function prevented urban growth. It reached its overpopulation threeshold around 1830, with around 10,000 inhabitants living on only 32 hectares (79 acres).[C 9][C 9][B 3] It is only after the Second World War that Sélestat experienced a significant demographic growth, almost doubling its population in 50 years. However, this growth was not strong enough for Sélestat to recover its previous rank.[C 9]

The demographic growth that occured in Sélestat after 1945 was first due to a very high birth rate[C 9] (20.1‰ in Sélestat over the period 1968-1975, compared to 16.9‰ in France). After 1975, this rate progressively declined to meet the national figure. Net migration figures remained slightly negative until 1990.[F 1] Before then, Sélestat and Central Alsace were on the margins of the metropolitan areas of Strasbourg and Colmar and lacked attractivity. Since 1990, the Strasbourg area has greatly extended and gradually reached Sélestat. The town has then become attractive to newcomers.[25]

The population of Sélestat is relatively young, 39.7% of the population being younger than 30 in 2009 (France: 37.2%) and the rate of people over 60 years old (19%) being lower than the national (21.8%) rate.[F 2] Sélestat has a significant proportion of people between 15 and 44 (42.7%, compared to 38.9% in France) because it attracts a large number of young actives and couples starting a family. As other towns in the region, such as Saverne, Haguenau and Molsheim, it plays a role of welcoming these young adults and later dispatching them to surrounding villages.[25]


Small shops in the old town.

At the end of 2010, Sélestat had 1,823 businesses, most of them (1,240) in the tertiary sector. A large share were small businesses and only 10% had more than 10 employees.[F 3] Sélestat is a retail and services centre for the whole Central Alsace, with a large shopping park and administrative and educational institutions.[C 10] Industry is nonetheless represented by some large firms, such as the Société alsacienne de meubles which builds kitchens and bathrooms under Schmidt and Cuisinella franchise, Amcor (aluminium packaging), Daramic (battery separators), Albany (gauzes for the printing industry), Wanzl (warehouse material), and DHJ (textile).[E 2]

Most of the large factories are located in the industrial estate located south of the town centre. Created in the 1930s, it covers a site of 67 hectares (166 acres).[C 11][E 3] The newer estate north of the town was developed in the 1970s and is dedicated to retail and cottage industry. It covers 134 hectares (331 acres).[B 4][E 3] The town centre is also an important shopping area with more than 200 businesses.[E 4]

Sights and culture

The city is one of the richest and most varied in terms of architecture among the smaller cities of Alsace. Althought it is only the 8th most populous town in the region, it has the third largest cultural heritage after Strasbourg and Colmar.[26] Sélestat has 35 listed buildings[27] and 119 sites that are indexed in the French list of cultural heritage monuments without being listed.[28]


The Humanist Library displays one of the oldest and most homogeneous collections of medieval manuscripts and Renaissance books in Europe. Its core is the still almost intact library of Beatus Rhenanus, that had been bequeathed to the city and kept by it ever since. The institution also holds the books that belonged to the Latin school of Sélestat, in which Rhenanus and many other Reformers were educated around 1500. Since 2011, the library has been part of the Unesco's Memory of the World Programme.

The library is open to both researchers and tourists, with an exhibition displaying some of its best items: an 8th-century lectionary, the first books printed in Alsace, a copy of the Cosmographiae Introductio where the oldest mention of America can be found, and a 1521 document which contains the oldest record of a Christmas tree.[29]

Sélestat also has a museum dedicated to bread and baking[30] and it is the seat of the FRAC d'Alsace, a regional institution whose aim is to collect contemporary works of art. These works are regularly part of temporary exhibits in Sélestat and other places in Alsace. The FRAC possesses works by Aurélie Nemours, Olivier Debré, Mario Merz and Panamarenko among others.[31]

Religious architecture

St Faith's Church.

Sélestat has two large and remarkable churches from the Middle Ages. St. Faith's Church is the oldest and is a prime example of Romanesque architecture. Its design shows proximity with similar buildings both in the Rhine region and in Lorraine. It was built during the second half of the 12th century to replace an earlier building.[C 12] The church was renovated in the 19th century and a medieval death mask was found during the works. It is often attributed to Hildegard of Eguisheim, founder of the church, and it is now displayed in a crypt.[B 5]

St. George's Church is often called "the cathedral" because of its size but it has never been the seat of a diocese. It was started soon after 1200 and completed at the beginning of the 15th century. It has always served as the main parish church. Its design is fully Gothic. The choir is the most remarkable element and was also the last part to be completed. It is opened by 288 stained glass pannels, of which 55 date from the 15th century.[B 6]

Most of the convents of the town have disappeared and the Dominican convent is the only one to have retained much of its appearance. It was built in the 13th century and it still has its church and cloister.[B 7][C 13] The Franciscan convent has been completely destroyed, appart from the choir of its church which now serves as the Protestant church.[B 8] Sélestat also has an old granary that belonged to the Benedictine priory[B 7] and a 16th-century commandery built by the Knights Hospitaller.[B 9]

The synagogue was built in 1890. Its architecture is typical of the region, with a square shape and discreet neo-romanesque ornements. Its cupola was destroyed in 1940 by Nazis and it was never rebuilt.[B 8] The Jewish cemetery, located outside the old town, was opened in 1622. A very moving place, it has several 18th century gravestones showing a Christian artistic influence.[B 10]

Civil and military architecture

Rue des Chevaliers.

The old town comprises a large number of medieval and Renaissance buildings. The quai des Tanneurs ("tanners' quay") is one of the most picturesque streets in Alsace. A stream used to flow in the middle of the street until the beginning of th 20th century, hence its name. Most of the old tanner houses date back from the Middle Ages and have a very tall attic to allow space for driying leather.[B 11] In the neigbourghing rue des Oies and rue des Veaux, many houses were covered by a render in the 19th century in order to hide the timbering that was considered too rustic.[B 12]

Several hôtels particuliers (large townhouses) date from the Renaissance. Most of them have oriel windows that are very characteristic of the German architecture of the Renaissance. The grandest of these hôtels belonged to the Ebersmunster abbey and it has a large three-stories granary. The Ziegler house has a beautiful oriel that show the interest the elite of that time had for Antiquity. The oriel partly follows Vitruvius's Treaty and displays the portraits of four key figures of the Antiquity. Baroque architecture is visible on some later hôtels dating from the 17th and 18th century. French classical architecture and its main feature, the mansard roof, were largely employed in the 18th century. To reduce costs, buildings were still built with timber framing but as this technique was considered too Germanic and rustic, they were covered with a a render imitating stone.[B 13]

Quai des Tanneurs.

The German period (1870-1918) left some examples of Wilhelminism in architecture. This style, prestige-oriented, makes a use of various earlier styles, including Romanesque, Gothic and neoclassical. Noteworthy are the post office (1884),[B 14] the courthouse (1900),[B 15] the lycée Koeberlé (1913)[B 16] and the water tower (1903). The latter is largely inspired by the water tower in Deventer, Netherlands.[B 15]

The medieval city walls, built in several stages between the 13th and the 16th century, were destroyed after the French annexation in the 17th century. However four towers escaped destruction. The "Tour des Sorcières" ("witches' tower") which served as a gate and a jail is the tallest.[B 17] The "Tour de l'Horloge" ("clock tower") was also a gate. The clock and the elaborate roof were added in 1614.[B 18] Two much smaller towers can be seen, one near the Ill and another integrated to a later house.[B 18] All these remains date from the 13th century.[B 19]

New walls were built by Tarade and Vauban in the 17th century. They were in their turn destroyed in 1874. Only small portions survive: two bastions and the "Porte de Strasbourg" ("Strasbourg gate"), a good example of French architecture under Louis XIV.[B 19][B 20] Sélestat still has two old arsenals, Sainte-Barbe on the main square (1470) and Saint-Hilaire (1518).[B 12] The first one is a fine example of Gothic architecture with a large crenelated gable.[B 8]

Illwald forest

A stork in the Illwald.

The Illwald forest is a regional nature reserve since 2013.[32] It covers 1,855 hectares (4,584 acres), almost a half of the territory of Sélestat. The forest is one of the largest riparian forests in France. It lies on the Ill which forms there a very complex hydrographic network. The site is subject to flooding and it is characteristic of the Grand Ried, a flat region located between the Ill and the Rhine and which serves as a natural spillway for the two rivers.[E 5]

Common trees are oaks, willows and alders which tolerate very wet soils. Because the phreatic table is very close to the ground, soils hardly freeze in winter and drought rarely occurs in summer.[A 3] The nature reserve also includes meadows and reed beds. Common animals include a large variety of birds (storks, curlews, harriers), amphibians and mammals (beavers). The reserve is home to the largest fallow deer population in France. The animal was introduced in Sélestat in the 19th century.

The Illwald comprises three chapels that were originally pilgrimage destinations. The Schnellenbuhl chapel was built by Jesuits in 1683, Our Lady of the Oaks dates back from the 15th century but it was rebuilt after a fire in 1920, Our Lady of Peace was built in 1960 and St. Anthony was founded in 1280 but rebuild in 1930.[B 21]

Cultural events

The "corso fleuri".

Every year since 1967, Sélestat has organised a large flower procession through its old town. The "corso fleuri" is one of the biggest floral shows in Eastern France. New floats are made each year around a theme and decorated with dahlias only.[E 6] A carnaval procession is also held in March. It is the remnant of a very old tradition started by the town's butchers.[B 22]

A biennale dedicated to contemporary art takes place every two year in automn. The festival was founded in 1984 and has welcomed Daniel Buren, Ben Vautier, Sarkis Zabunyan and Agnès Varda.[E 7]

Sélestat also has festivals dedicated to electronic music (Epidemic Experience), satirical cartoons (Sélest'ival), a spring fun fair and a summer medievial reenactment with a market and a procession.[E 8]

Notable people

Twin towns

See also


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  1. POP T2M - Indicateurs démographiques.
  2. POP T3 - Population par sexe et âge en 2009.
  3. CEN T1 - Établissements actifs par secteur d'activité au 31 décembre 2010.

External links