Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

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Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is a vast and impressive gothic cathedral which took over six hundred years to complete.

Located on what was previously the site of a Roman villa, thought to have dated back to the fourth century as well as several increasingly larger churches, construction of the current Cologne Cathedral began in 1248. There was already a church on the site, but when the relic known as the Three Magi was brought there, it was felt a larger church was need to accommodate the hordes of pilgrims to the site.

Due to its enormous size and elaborate nature as well as a series of interruptions including the arrival of French Revolutionaries, Cologne Cathedral was only completed in 1880.

Today, Cologne Cathedral is home to a wealth of important ecclesiastical art, the highlight of which is the Shrine of the Three Magi (or three Kings), thought to contain the skulls of the three wise men.

Despite having been bombed during World War II raids, Cologne Cathedral has survived and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, revered for being a remarkable example of a gothic cathedral. Visitors can also enter its treasury for more religious relics or climb its tower for great views of Cologne. Guided tours are available by appointment.

Cologne Cathedral features as one of our top German Visitor Attractions.

Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom)

The Gothic cathedral dominates the skyline of Cologne and is one of Germany&rsquos most famous landmarks. It is also one of the most beautiful examples of Gothic and Neo-Gothic architecture in the world.

Building of the Cologne Cathedral was commenced in 1248, it took over 600 years to complete but the cathedral still dominates the skyline of the city.

Currently the cathedral is the seat of the Archibishop of Cologne and it is a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1996. Upon its completion on the 14th of August 1880, the Cologne Cathedral held the title of the World&rsquos tallest building until 1884.

The Cologne Cathedral dominates the city of Cologne even today, it can be viewed from anywhere in the city, the cathedral's famous twin towers stand out boldly as the symbol of Cologne's proud history.

On the outside the cathedral is dark and rather menacing inside it is just awe-inspiring.

At the end of the gigantic nave is the reason for the cathedral being built the shrine of the Three Magi, the Three Wise Men whose relics were brought to the city in 1164.

Treasures of the Cologne Cathedral

  • Shrine of the Three Holy Kings - The Cathedral's most precious work of art is the Shrine of the Three Kings, a golden sarcophagus studded with jewels. Dating back to the 13th century, the shrine is the largest reliquary in the Western world it holds the crowned skulls and clothes of the Three Wise Men who are considered city patrons. This impressive work of medieval gold is 6 hundredweight, 153 cm high, 220 cm long, and 110 cm wide.
  • Gero Cross - The Gero-Kreuz is the oldest surviving crucifix north of the Alps. It was carved in oak in 976 and hangs in its own chapel near the sacristy. It was named after its commissioner, Gero (Archbishop of Cologne), and is unique in that the figure appears to be the first Western depiction of the crucified Christ on the Cross. It stands at an intimidating six feet tall, making it one of the largest crosses of its time.
  • Milan Madonna - In the Sacrament Chapel, you find the Mailänder Madonna ("Milan Madonna"), an elegant wooden sculpture from the 13th century. It depicts the Blessed Virgin Mary with the infant Jesus and is the oldest representation of the Madonna in the cathedral. Give it a long, appreciate look as it is said to have miraculous powers.
  • Modern Mosaic Glass Window - In the south transept, marvel at the modern stained glass window created by German artist Gerhard Richter in 2007. Composed of more than 11,000 identically sized glass pieces, it offers the modern interpretation of a stained glass window.
  • South Tower - The platform of Cologne Cathedral’s south tower offers an impressive view at 100 meter high, 533 steps up. While the view at the top is the highlight, watch for the bell chamber as you march by. There are eight bells, including the St. Peters Bell which is the largest freely swinging church bell in the world at 24,000 kg.

Koln Cathedral Germany

One of the most famous pieces of architecture in the country, the Koln Cathedral Germany is a must-see attraction. This artistic masterpiece began to be built in 1248 and was not completed until 1880. You will learn many more fascinating facts about Cologne Cathedral history when you visit and feast your eyes on its twin soaring towers.

No trip to this city would be complete with visiting the Koln Cathedral Germany. While exploring Cologne and strolling along the river, it is impossible to ignore the spires of this intricate Cathedral. Architecture enthusiasts are sure to be impressed by the long list of details that make this UNESCO Heritage Site such a treasure.

Beyond Cologne Cathedral history, the building also plays a role in the culture of the city. Here visitors will encounter many entertaining street performers and the district surrounding the Cathedral is full of shopping. With many places to sit and gaze up at the cathedral in Cologne, this attraction is an appealing destination for several reasons.

Germany Map

Almost as interesting as the building itself is the story of how the Cathedral survived the damage of World War II. Air raids caused severe damage to this gorgeous Cathedral, and after the war it was left in a derelict state. Restoration began soon after the war, and was complete in 1956. Visitors today can now see the Cathedral in all of its former glory.


Cologne is the fourth largest of Germany’s cities (only Berlin, Hamburg, and Munich are larger). Some four-fifths of its population is of German nationality of the remainder, most are southern European guest workers who have moved to the city since the 1970s, chiefly from Turkey and Italy but also from the Balkan states. The predominant religion of the German community is Roman Catholicism, but there is a large Protestant minority. There is also a sizable Muslim community and a small Jewish one.

313 A.D. The first Christian cathedral is said to have stood on the same site as the present cathedral.

(There is no architectural evidence to prove it.)

Architectural evidence appears around the 6th century.

The cathedral in the year 800 looked different from what it is today.

In 1248 Archbishop Conrad of Hochstaden laid the foundation stone for the present cathedral.

The construction of the cathedral began with the model of modern French architecture, the Cathedral of Amiens and the Sainte-Chapelle in Paris.

The chapel was completed around 1265, the first in Gothic architecture.

After 1520, construction was halted, and in 1794, it was occupied by French troops.

In 1842, Frederick William IV of Prussia laid the first foundation stone to complete the cathedral, which had been abandoned for over 300 years.

Not only the king, but also many Cologne citizens donated large sums of money for the completion of the cathedral.

When the cathedral was completed in 1880, the two towers were over 157 meters high, making it the tallest building in the world at the time.

In 1945, the city was severely damaged by World War II, but the medieval artworks escaped the devastation.

1996 Registered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral (Kölner Dom) is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is Germany"s most visited landmark, attracting an average of 20,000 people a day.

Begun in 1248, the building of this Gothic masterpiece took place in several stages and was not completed until 1880. Over seven centuries, its successive builders were inspired by the same faith and by a spirit of absolute fidelity to the original plans. Apart from its exceptional intrinsic value and the artistic masterpieces it contains, Cologne Cathedral bears witness to the strength and endurance of European Christianity. No other Cathedral is so perfectly conceived, so uniformly and uncompromisingly executed in all its parts.

Cologne Cathedral is a High Gothic five-aisled basilica, with a projecting transept and a tower façade. The nave is 43.58 m high and the side-aisles 19.80 m. The western section, nave and transept begun in 1330, changes in style, but this is not perceptible in the overall building. The 19th century work follows the medieval forms and techniques faithfully, as can be seen by comparing it with the original medieval plan on parchment.

The original liturgical appointments of the choir are still extant to a considerable degree. These include the high altar with an enormous monolithic slab of black limestone, believed to be the largest in any Christian church, the carved oak choir stalls (1308-11), the painted choir screens (1332-40), the fourteen statues on the pillars in the choir (c. 1300), and the great cycle of stained-glass windows, the largest existent cycle of early 14th century windows in Europe. There is also an outstanding series of tombs of twelve archbishops between 976 and 1612.

Of the many works of art in the Cathedral, special mention should be made to the Gero Crucifix of the late 10th century, in the Chapel of the Holy Cross, which was transferred from the pre-Romanesque predecessor of the present Cathedral, and the Shrine of the Magi (1180-1225), in the choir, which is the largest reliquary shrine in Europe. Other artistic masterpieces are the altarpiece of St. Clare (c. 1350-1400) in the north aisle, brought here in 1811 from the destroyed cloister church of the Franciscan nuns, the altarpiece of the City Patrons by Stephan Lochner (c. 1445) in the Chapel of Our Lady, and the altarpiece of St. Agilolphus (c. 1520) in the south transept.

Interesting facts about Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is a Roman Catholic cathedral in Cologne, Germany.

It is the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne and of the administration of the Archdiocese of Cologne.

It is a renowned monument of German Catholicism and Gothic architecture and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1996.

Begun in 1248, the construction of this Gothic masterpiece took place in several stages and was not completed until 1880.

Over seven centuries, successive builders were inspired by the same faith and a spirit of absolute fidelity to the original plans.

The panorama of the city has been dominated by the Cathedral’s gigantic pair of towers since their completion in 1880.

The North Tower at 157.38 meters (516.33 feet) is 7 centimeters (2.75 inches) higher than the South Tower.

The Cathedral is still the second highest building in Cologne after the telecommunications tower. Its footprint is no less impressive, with the full length of the Cathedral measuring 145 meters (475 feet) and the cross nave 86 meters (282 feet) .

While the enormous Western facade is the largest in the world, the Cologne Cathedral has the world’s third largest church interior.

The cathedral covers almost 8,000 square meters (86,111 square feet) of floor space and can hold more than 20,000 people.

The design of Cologne Cathedral closely resembles that of Amiens Cathedral in terms of groundplan, style and the width to height proportion of the central nave.

The plan is in the shape of a Latin Cross, as is usual with Gothic cathedrals.

The stone mass seems to rise, almost weightlessly, up to the 43 meters ( 141 feet) high baldachin-style arches.

The nave is enhanced by many nineteenth century stained-glass windows including a set of five on the south side called the “Bayernfenster” which were a gift from Ludwig I of Bavaria, a set highly representative of the painterly German style of that era.

With no less than 104 seats, the medieval choir stalls in the inner choir of Cologne Cathedral are some of the largest of their kind still in existence.The choir is surrounded by 13th and 14th century art: carved oak stalls, frescoed walls, painted statues and stained glass.

The Lady Chapel contains the Altar of the City Patrons, painted in 1442 by Stefan Lochner. The painting is notable for its photographic realism (note the varieties of herbs in the foreground) and believable depth.It is the most significant example of the Late Gothic Cologne school of painting.

In the Sacrament Chapel is the Madonna of Milan, an elegant wooden sculpture depicting Mary and the child Jesus. Made in the Cologne Cathedral workshop around 1290, this High Gothic statue is associated with miracles and has attracted pilgrims for centuries.

The Shrine of the Magi or the Shrine of the Three Kings is a reliquary said to contain the bones of the Biblical Magi, also known as the Three Kings or the Three Wise Men.It is the largest, most artistically significant, and, in terms of its content, most ambitious reliquary of the Middle Ages. The relics were brought to Cologne from Milan in 1164. From about 1190 to 1220 a number of artisans worked on the shrine in the workshop of the goldsmith Nicholas of Verdun and in workshops in Cologne and along the river Meuse that continued his work.

The Gero Cross or Gero Crucifix, of around 965–970, is the oldest large sculpture of the crucified Christ north of the Alps, and has always been displayed in Cologne Cathedral.

The cathedral has eleven church bells, four of which are medieval.

Cologne Cathedral has two pipe organs by Klais Orgelbau, the Transept Organ built in 1948 and the Nave Organ built in 1998.

The Cologne Cathedral was the tallest building in the world between 1880 and 1884.

Cologne Cathedral was hit by 14 bombs during World War II, but the building did not fall.

In the present day, the Cathedral s a major pilgrimage place and millions of people visit the cathedral from all over the world.

Visitors can climb 509 stone steps of the spiral staircase to a viewing platform about 98 meters (322 feet) above the ground. The platform gives a scenic view over the Rhine.

History of Cologne

No city can and should be divided from its history - taking a look at Cologne, the roots can be found almost 2000 years ago when Cologne was still in the hands of the Romans and called "Colonia Claudia Ara Aggrippinensium", making it one of the oldest cities in Germany.

The 2000-year long history has had a strong influence on the cathedral city and made it what it is today - a vital and dynamic metropolis with a unique atmosphere.

Cologne is one of the oldest large German cities and its name dates back to Roman times. The Romans founded the Ubii village on the Rhine in 50 AD and named it "Colonia".

The imperial governors of Rome resided here and soon the town grew into one of the most important trade and production centres in the Roman Empire north of the Alps. The inhabitants left behind many traces of their culture in the town centre (see Romano-Germanic Museum and city map).

After the tumult of the transition period, the town came under Franconian rule. In 785, Cologne was made an archbishopric by Charlemagne. The archbishops of Cologne, who were amongst the most powerful feudal lords of their time, were Chancellors for the part of the empire in Italy (11th century) and later electoral princes (14th century).

In the Middle Ages, Cologne was the most densely populated and one of the most prosperous towns in the German-speaking region - in particular due to the pilgrims and trade benefits that the newly introduced 'staple right' brought. The role as leading Hansa town and the early development of the trade fair business also led to further influence and prosperity. Impressive city gates and ruins of city walls line the "Ring" and the Museum of the City of Cologne houses other "historical artefacts".

In 1288, Cologne citizens assumed political power after the military victory over the archbishop and town rulers, paving the way for the city's later establishment as a free imperial city (1475). In 1388, the citizens of Cologne founded the first city university in Europe, and it is now one of the largest universities in Germany with over 44,000 students.

Until the Middle Ages, Cologne was one of the most important trade centres in Europe. However, its excellent economic and political position suffered after the discovery of America, and with the introduction of new economic systems and trading channels, this continued into the 19th century.

In 1881 work began to demolish the city walls. This made it possible to extend the city for the first time since the Middle Ages, leading to the development of the ring road and new town. With the Industrial Revolution and the incorporation of large parts of the surrounding area, Cologne became an industrial city.

During the Second World War around 90 percent of the inner city was destroyed. By the end of the War, only around 40,000 people were still living in the city area. After initial thoughts of giving up the old area, work began in 1947 to rebuild the Old Town. Post-war architecture still characterises the face of Cologne today. The Rhine metropolis is now the fourth largest German city and one of the most prominent travel destinations in Germany and Europe.

The Cologne museums rank amongst the best in the world and have enormous appeal for cultural tourism. Cologne is also becoming increasingly popular as a city of music and events.

Every year the Koelnmesse is home to around 55 international trade fairs and welcomes more than two million visitors. In addition, the shopping streets, shopping arcades and variety of restaurants have continued to attract more and more visitors over recent years.

A particular highlight in the annual calendar is the Cologne Carnival, held in February or March and enjoyed by hundreds of thousands of people every year.

The half a dozen Christmas markets selling different wares also attract many visitors to Cologne during the Advent season.

Even in the 21st century Cologne is still a favoured destination thanks to its central location. Today, as in Roman times, the city is one of the most important traffic hubs in Western Europe: all high-speed trains stop here and travellers can fly to more than 130 destinations around the world from Cologne-Bonn Airport.

Watch the video: Cologne Cathedral - The Skyscraper Of The Past. Vertical City. Spark