Explore Germany: The Cologne Cathedral

Explore Germany: The Cologne Cathedral

On the banks of the Rhine, the towering Cologne Cathedral - the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary - is perhaps Cologne's most stunning sight. This marvel of High Gothic architecture, one of Europe's greatest cathedrals, was begun in 1248 and was the Middle Ages' most ambitious construction endeavor.

Its spectacular interior, which spans 6,166 square meters and features 56 massive pillars, is as imposing as its exterior. The Reliquary of the Three Kings, a 12th-century gold work of art built by Nicholas of Verdun to house the relics of the Three Kings brought here from Milan, is located above the high altar. The panoramic views from the South Towers, the stained glass from the 12th and 13th centuries in the Three Kings Chapel, and the Treasury with its many valuable goods, all of which escaped WWII largely intact, are among the other attractions. Climb the 533 steps to the viewing platform in the South Tower for some of the best views of the city and river.

Since the fourth century, Christian churches have been on the site of Cologne Cathedral. After a fire destroyed an older cathedral in 1248, construction on the current cathedral, which was planned in the Gothic style in the tradition of French church architecture, began immediately. Although the choir was consecrated in 1322, work on it lasted until 1560. The project then paused for centuries, with a big wooden crane remaining at the top of the south tower, some 184 feet (56 meters) above the ground.

During the French Revolution's occupation of Cologne in the 1790s, troops used the cathedral as a stable and hay barn. Sulpiz Boisserée, a German proponent of the Gothic Revival movement, sparked restoration efforts in the 1820s. King Frederick William IV of Prussia laid a new cornerstone in 1842, and work on the cathedral resumed in earnest. The project was carried out by the architects Ernst Friedrich Zwirner and Richard Voigtel, who were guided by architectural designs created around 1300. Construction was completed in 1880.

Cologne Cathedral was thought to be the world's tallest edifice at the time of its completion, a title it kept until 1884, when the Washington Monument was completed. It remained the world's tallest building until 1890, when it was surpassed by Ulm Cathedral in Germany. In 1944, Allied air strikes severely damaged Cologne Cathedral, but the ancient windows had already been removed. The choir had been rebuilt and was in regular use by 1948, while the remainder of the interior had been rebuilt and was in regular use by 1956. The impacts of acid rain on the masonry were first repaired in the late twentieth century.



Explore Germany: The Cologne Cathedral