Image of Cologne Cathedral

Image of Cologne Cathedral

Visited May 19. 2014

(German: Köln) is situated on the river Rhine, it’s the largest city in North Rhine-Westphalia and the fourth largest city in Germany with more than 1.000.000 inhabitants (greater area <3.500.000 inhabitants). It is

View of Cologne's cathedral at night

View of Cologne’s cathedral at night

one of the nation’s media, tourism and business hotspots. Cologne is known to be one of the most liberal cities in Germany. (This pin’s location 19-C2)

The distinctive flavor to the city of Cologne is often linked to the city’s inhabitants, or Kölsche, who take an enormous

[Left – a great cafe where I had perfect Schnitzel]

Away from the landmarks,workers of the Deutsche Bahn (German railways) often speak English reasonably well, and ticket machines have a language selection feature. In general, older people in Cologne tend to have little or no knowledge of English, while younger Germans and those working in the business world tend to be reasonably proficient. Language is rarely a strong barrier, so this shouldn’t be too much of a worry for the average tourist. Just approach a friendly native and use a smile on your face.

Daytime view of Cathedral from the river

Daytime view of Cathedral from the river

Cologne has an excellent public transport network consisting of trams, local trains and buses. Bicycles are also available for hire on the northern side of the Hauptbahnhof. Local transport systems rarely provide announcements in English, but network maps are commonly available to assist with your journey. Those wishing to explore area away from the central city should plan their journey and potential connections before leaving. The KVB (Kölner Verkehrs-Betriebe) website is a good source of public transport information.

Construction of Cologne Cathedral commenced in 1248 and was halted in 1473, leaving it unfinished. Work restarted in the 19th century and was completed, to the original plan, in 1880. It is 144.5 meters (474 ft) long, 86.5 m (284 ft) wide and its towers are approximately 157 m (515 ft) tall.[3] The cathedral is the largest Gothic church in Northern Europe and has the second-tallest spires. Its two huge spires give it the largest façade of any church in the world. The choir has the largest height to width ratio, 3.6:1, of any medieval church.

Cologne’s medieval builders had planned a grand structure to house the reliquary of the Three Kings and fit its role as a place of worship for the Holy Roman Emperor. Despite having been left incomplete during the medieval period, Cologne Cathedral eventually became unified as “a masterpiece of exceptional intrinsic value” and “a powerful testimony to the strength and persistence of Christian belief in medieval and modern Europe”.

When the present Cologne Cathedral was commenced in 1248, the site had been occupied by several previous structures, the earliest of which may have been a grain store, perhaps succeeded by a Roman temple built by Mercurius

Fruh Cafe on the square in Cologne

Fruh Cafe on the square in Cologne

Augustus. From the 4th century the site was occupied by Christian buildings, including a square edifice known as the “oldest cathedral” and commissioned by Maternus, the first Christian bishop of Cologne. A free-standing baptistery from the 6th century was located at the east end of the Cathedral. The baptistery was demolished to build the old cathedral in the 9th century. Now only the ruins of the baptistery and the octagonal baptismal font remain. The second church, the so-called “Old Cathedral”, was completed in 818. This was destroyed by fire on 30 April 1248, during demolition in preparation for a new cathedral.

In 1164, the Archbishop of Cologne, Rainald of Dassel acquired the relics of the Three Kings which the Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa had taken from the Basilica of Sant’Eustorgio, Milan, Italy. (Parts of the relics have since been returned to Milan.) The relics have great religious significance and drew pilgrims from all over Christendom. It was important to church officials that they be properly housed, and thus began a building program in the new style of Gothic architecture, based in particular on the French cathedral of Amiens.

The foundation stone was laid on 15 August 1248, by Archbishop Konrad von Hochstaden. The eastern arm was completed under the direction of Master Gerhard, was consecrated in 1322 and sealed off by a temporary wall so it could be in use as the work proceeded. Eighty four misericords in the choir date from this building phase. In the mid 14th century work on the west front commenced under Master Michael. This work halted in 1473, leaving the south tower complete up to the belfry level and crowned with a huge crane that remained in place as a landmark of the Cologne skyline for 400 years.[6]

Some work proceeded intermittently on the structure of the nave between the west front and the eastern arm, but during the 16th century this ceased.

With the 19th century romantic enthusiasm for the Middle Ages, and spurred on by the discovery of the original plan for the façade, it was decided, with the commitment of the Protestant Prussian Court, to complete the cathedral. It was achieved by civic effort; the Central-Dombauverein, founded in 1842, raised two-thirds of the enormous costs, while the Prussian state supplied the remaining third. The state saw this as a way to improve its relations with the large number of Catholic subjects it had gained in 1815.

Work resumed in 1842 to the original design of the surviving medieval plans and drawings, but utilizing more modern construction techniques, including iron roof girders. The nave was completed and the towers were added. The bells were installed in the 1870s.

The completion of Germany’s largest cathedral was celebrated as a national event on 14 August 1880, 632 years after construction had begun. The celebration was attended by Emperor Wilhelm I.

Cologne after carpet bombing in in WWII

Cologne after carpet bombing in in WWII

The cathedral suffered fourteen hits by aerial bombs during World War II. It did not collapse, but stood tall in an otherwise flattened city. The 303rd bombed the railway junction next to the Cathedral through solid clouds. Fortunately there was no damage to the Cathedral. The great twin spires are said to have been used as an easily recognizable navigational landmark by Allied aircraft raiding deeper into Germany in the later years of the war, which may be a reason that the cathedral was not destroyed. It has been claimed that in June 1945 American troops used the cathedral as a rifle range.

The repairs to the building were completed in 1956. In the northwest tower’s base, an emergency repair carried out in 1944 with bad-quality brick taken from a nearby war ruin remained visible until 2005 as a reminder of the war, but then it was decided to reconstruct this section according to its original appearance.

Some repair and maintenance work is constantly being carried out in some section of the building, which is almost never completely free of scaffolding, since wind, rain, and pollution slowly eat away at the stones. The Dombauhütte, which was established to build the cathedral and repair the cathedral, is said to employ the best stonemasons of the Rhineland. There is a common joke in Cologne that the leader of the Dombauhütte, the Dombaumeister (master builder of the cathedral), has to be Catholic and free from giddiness. The current Dombaumeister is Michael Hauck. Half of the costs of repair and maintenance are still borne by the Dombauverein.

On 25 August 2007, the cathedral received a new stained glass in the south transept window. With 113 square meters (1,220 sq ft) of glass, the window was created by the German artist Gerhard Richter. It is composed of 11,500 identically sized pieces of colored glass resembling pixels, randomly arranged by computer, which create a colorful “carpet”. Since the loss of the original window in World War II, the space had been temporarily filled with plain glass. The archbishop of the cathedral, Joachim Cardinal Meisner, who had preferred a figurative depiction of 20th-century Catholic martyrs for the window, did not attend the unveiling.

In 1996, the cathedral was added to the UNESCO World Heritage List of culturally important sites. In 2004 it was placed on the “World Heritage in Danger” list, as the only Western site in danger, due to plans to construct a high-rise building nearby, which would have visually impacted the site. The cathedral was removed from the List of In Danger Sites in 2006, following the authorities’ decision to limit the heights of buildings constructed near and around the cathedral.

As a World Heritage Site, and with its convenient position on tourist routes, Cologne Cathedral is a major tourist attraction, the visitors including many who travel there as a Christian pilgrimage.

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

On 18 August 2005, Pope Benedict XVI visited the cathedral during his apostolic visit to Germany, as part of World Youth Day 2005 festivities. An estimated one million pilgrims visited the cathedral during this time. Also as part of the events of World Youth Day, Cologne Cathedral hosted a televised gala performance of Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis, performed by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra and the London Philharmonic Choir conducted by Sir Gilbert Levine.

The design of Cologne Cathedral was based quite closely on that of Amiens Cathedral in terms of ground plan, 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. It has two aisles on either side, which help to support one of the very highest Gothic vaults in the world, being nearly as tall as that of the Beauvais Cathedral, much of which collapsed. Externally the outward thrust of the vault is taken up by flying buttresses in the French manner. The eastern end has a single ambulatory, the second aisle resolving into a chevet of seven radiating chapels.

Internally, the medieval choir is more varied and less mechanical in its details than the 19th century building. It presents a French style arrangement of very tall arcade, a delicate narrow triforium gallery lit by windows and with detailed tracery merging with that of the windows above. The clerestory windows are tall and retain some old figurative glass in the lower sections. The whole is united by the tall shafts that sweep unbroken from the floor to their capitals at the spring of the vault. The vault is of plain quadripartite arrangement.

The choir retains a great many of its original fittings, including the carved stalls, which is made the more surprising by the fact that French Revolutionary troops had desecrated the building. A large stone statue of St Christopher looks down towards the place where the earlier entrance to the cathedral was, before its completion in the late 19th century.

The nave has many 19th century stained glass windows. A set of five on the south side is called the Bayernfenster, and were a gift from Ludwig I of Bavaria, and strongly represent the painterly German style of that date.

Externally, particularly from a distance, the building is dominated by its huge spires, which are entirely Germanic in character, being openwork like those of Ulm, Vienna and Regensburg Cathedrals.

Close to the cathedral is Cölner Hofbräu P. Josef Früh KG. In the traditional “Brauhaus” one can find local cuisine in historical surroundings of the brewery founded in 1904. The traditional “Köbes” serves “Kölsch” and typical regional dishes on smoothly scrubbed wooden tables. The modern “HOF 18 Restaurant” has recently re-opened after extensive renovation and can be found on the first floor, in the former private living room of the Früh family. Here with a magnificent view of the cathedral one can enjoy fine colorful cross-cultural cuisine in a pleasant atmosphere. I chose to eat outside at a table with a direct view of the cathedral. The wienerschnitzel was OK. Cover your glass when you are finished with beer otherwise the server will continue to refill it.

One thing I did miss was the Cologne Hard Rock Café.

Advertisements