A visit to Mont Sainte-Odile is a must-do when visiting Alsace. Located on the hills above Obernai, it is actually very impressive. On top of this Vosges mountain, you will find a very beautiful abbey, from which you can enjoy superb views over the Alsace plain and the Black Forest on one side and the Vosges mountains on the other side.
Mont Sainte-Odile is an important pilgrimage site, because of the source at the foot of the mountain, which supposedly has curative powers on eye diseases. Many people also come just to enjoy the beauty of the place. No need to be a believer to enjoy Mont Sainte-Odile!
A short history of Mont Sainte-Odile
At the time of the Celts, the mountain was called Altitona, a word that means “the high mountain”. For the Celts, it was already a place of worship and they built there a fortress, which wall is now the renowned “pagan wall”. In the 7th century, it belonged to the Duke of Alsace Etichon-Adalric, who will then become the father of Saint Odile. He first built a residence, the Hohenburg Castle. The Duke rejected his daughter, born blind. She would only recover her sight at her baptism, at the age of 12. He would only understand and accept her destiny, when seeing the miracle of the open rock (to learn more about the legend of Saint Odile, “daughter of light”, click here). In 700, he has a monastery built, which he would then donate to Saint Odile, who would turn it into a convent. It quickly became a very popular place of pilgrimage, notably for people affected by eye diseases. National asset under the French Revolution, Mont Sainte-Odile is purchased by the diocese of Strasbourg in 1854, which restores it to its original monastic vocation.
What to see at the Mont Sainte-Odile?
Mont Sainte-Odile abbey is splendid and is very pleasant to walk around: it is cooler there than in the plain, the views are stunning and the place is peaceful and perfect for relaxing. Don’t forget to visit the small chapels of the abbey, which walls and ceilings are decorated with magnificent mosaics, frescoes and gilding. Inside the Mont Sainte-Odile, you will first see the Cour des Tilleuls, and then the Basilica, the Convent Courtyard dominated by a statue of Saint Odile, the Saint-Jean Baptiste Chapel and its frescoes, the Chapel of the Cross – the oldest part of the convent, dating back from the 12th century – Sainte-Odile Chapel and the sarcophagus with the relics of Saint Odile, the Large Terrace and its wonderful views, the 17th-century sundial, the Chapel of Tears, where you can catch a glimpse of a few Merovingian graves, and finally the Chapel of the Angels, built in the 12th century.
There are also an hotel and a restaurant in the abbey. I really enjoyed seeing such a lively religious place, because of the cohabiting between religious people and visitors.
And the visit doesn’t stop there! Many hiking paths start from Mont Sainte-Odile. You can see outside Mont Sainte-Odile, the Way of the Cross and the Grotto of Lourdes, you can walk around the Rock onto which the convent was built, you can see Saint-Odile source, as well as Niedermunster, the remains of the former abbey and the famous pagan wall, around which you can walk.
The pagan wall
With a 10 minutes walk from the abbey, you can reach the Pagan Wall, an old wall which origin is still unknown and therefore is the object of many hypotheses. For uninformed visitors, it is just an old wall… I passed it without noticing it at first! It is still a nice forest walk.
The pagan wall is about eleven kilometers long and it goes around the plateau of the Mont Sainte-Odile. Formed with about 300,000 blocks of stone, sometimes 3 meters high and of a thickness varying from 1 to 2 meters, scientists haven’t yet been able to determine if it was a defensive or cultural wall and its construction remains a mystery. Recent analyses have dated the construction to the 7th century (but it could also be the restoration date), even though we have believed for a long time that it was dating back from the prehistory. There are many hypotheses, but they are just that: oppidum from La Tène, sanctuary for the populations from the plain, sacred compound, boundary delimitation… the mystery of the pagan wall remains to this day… and that’s a big part of the charm of this walk!
- The view on the Alsace plain, the Black Forest and the Vosges
- The peacefulness
- The beautiful buildings of Mont Sainte-Odile abbey
- The cohabiting between religious people and visitors
I liked a little less
My pictures of Mont Sainte-Odile
The visit of Mont Sainte-Odile and of the abbey is free. You can make a donation to help preserving the place.
Mont Saint-Odile is open from 8 am to 9 pm. However, chapels are only open until 7 pm.
The address is as follows: Mont Sainte-Odile 67530 Ottrott. Mont Sainte-Odile is located:
- 48 km from Strasbourg (about 50 minutes drive)
- 54 km from Colmar (about 55 minutes drive)
- 95 km from Mulhouse (about 1h15 drive)
Parking is free.
By public transport
In high season, the bus line 257 from the Network 67 stops at Mont Sainte-Odile from Obernai. You will find here the schedule for bus line 257.
You can also have a look at the website Vialsace to plan your itinerary.
It is possible to eat at Mont Sainte-Odile restaurant. I have not tried it.