Fribourg or Freiburg (2073 feet a/s), the capital of the Canton of Fribourg, the ancient Uechtland. The palm for artistic beauty should, with little doubt, be awarded to this city, of which Ruskin writes: “No other town has so faithfully preserved its mediaeval character.”
This time-honoured city was founded in 1178 by Berthold IV of Zahringen and occupies a rocky height almost surrounded by the River Sarine. Fribourg, a pronounced Roman Catholic centre, is the seat of the Bishop of Lausanne and a Roman Catholic University. The city’s most revered place of worship is the Collegiate Church of St. Nicholas, a marvellous work of Gothic art, towering above all the roofs.
On June 8, 1182, Roger, Bishop of Lausanne, consecrated the first place of worship at Fribourg. A century later, in 1283, the foundation was laid to the present edifice, of which the Gothic nave was completed in 1343, the amazing tower, with a winding staircase of 365 steps and 250 feet high, in 1492, and the choir in 1631. In 1512 the church received the collegiate degree under Pope Julius II.
The main portal represents “The Last Judgment” in a most impressive and dramatic scene. The lofty interior, with no less than twelve side chapels, distinguishes itself by its remarkable spaciousness and harmony. To the right is the Chapel of the Holy Sepulchre, dating back to 1433. The figure of Christ stretched out on the tomb, and the various emotion-filled personages surrounding Him all cut in sandstone, form a noteworthy group. Stained glass windows from the ancient abbey of Hauterive, near Fribourg, decorate the choir and modern stained glass is seen in the nave.
Of universal fame is undoubtedly the organ of the Fribourg Cathedral and those who love music must hear this wonderful instrument themselves, to appreciate the various effects it can be made to produce. Built in 1824-34 by Al. Mooser, whose bust has been placed to the left of the entrance, it has 74 stops and 7,800 pipes, some of them 32 feet in length.
There may be more powerful organs in Europe, but none surpasses this one in its marvellous purity of tone. The ringing peals of praise that fall, refined and rarefied, from the vaulted ceiling, the golden, angelic arpeggios that are whispered through the carved stalls, or the plaintive tones of prayer that penetrate to the very altars of the side chapels, leave a perpetual echo in the human soul.