Cologne Cathedral in Germany, detailed information

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral is the symbol of Cologne and the entire city is subject to it like a stone guard, the world’s third-largest Gothic cathedral is the heart of the city.

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General Information

Officially it is called the Cathedral of St. Peter and St. Mary, but it is better known simply as Cologne Cathedral. It is the most distinctive example of the High Gothic style in the world. Cologne Cathedral at a height of 157 m is the second highest in Germany and third highest in the world. From 1880 to 1890 it was the tallest building in the world. Its entire monumental bulk, including the two majestic towers, covers an area of 7,000 square meters, which is a world record for a religious building.

The cathedral is 144 meters high and 86 meters wide, and the towers on the west side of the building rise to 157 meters, making it the largest church in Germany.

The square on which the Cologne Cathedral is built has been a place of pilgrimage for Christians since the Roman era. It was here that the first Christians erected one of their first churches and dubbed it “the oldest cathedral” back in the 4th century AD. In the early 9th century, construction began on the first cathedral of the Carolingian dynasty. This temple was finished in 873 and stood until XIII century.

In 1164 the newly ordained bishop Reynald von Dassel brought the miracle-working relics of the three Magi to Cologne. Captured in the Cathedral of Milan by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa, they were in need of a proper home. To this end, Reynald von Dassel began the construction of the most magnificent monstrance in Europe.

It was the shrine with the holy relics that attracted crowds of pilgrims to Cologne from all over Europe. The old temple was not able to withstand such an influx of believers. In 1225 it was finally decided to erect a new cathedral, and in 1248 the first stone was laid. However in 1288 the construction slowed down greatly. The choirs were finished in 1322, and by 1410 only 2 floors were built in the south tower. In 1530 the problems with money and indifference of the powers that be stopped the construction altogether. And following 300 years the cathedral remained unfinished. But the worst was yet to come. In 1794, French revolutionary forces broke in, and the bishop fled with the treasury. The soldiers who invaded Cologne had no particular reverence for the creeds. They turned the cathedral into stables and a warehouse. It was not until 1801 that it was re-consecrated.

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A blue enamel plaque, nailed to the main entrance of the church, is a reminder of those barbaric years. It reads, “Domkloster, 4,” the postal address of the building. No church in the world can boast anything like this. Until France occupied Cologne, there was no need for signs on houses here at all, but the conquerors had too much trouble sorting out the unfamiliar streets. An order was issued to name each street and assign a number to each house. The cathedral did not escape the same fate.

Sometime between 1814 and 1816, long-lost plans of the cathedral were found in two different places, Darmstadt and Paris. This was a time when Gothic architecture was going through its second period of popularity, and it was decided to complete the cathedral according to the original Gothic scheme. King Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia acted as the patron of the construction. Archbishop Johann von Heissel arrived from the Vatican and on September 4, 1842, the inauguration of the new front entrance took place in the presence of the Prussian king. Out of an abundance of feeling, the king uttered: “Here the stone is laid, here will stand the gate between the two divine towers.”

The Prussian kingdom undertook one third of the construction costs. The rest of the money was raised by a civic organization that collected voluntary donations. It was not only the citizens of Cologne, but also Germany as a whole, that were enthusiastic about seeing their precious cathedral in all its glory.

And finally, on October 15, 1880, the cathedral, which had been under construction for 600 years, was completed. Having found the original plans for the building, the 19th century architects decided to carry out the design drawn up in 1280 by their medieval colleague, who remained nameless. As a result, the cathedral retained its classic Gothic appearance, despite the use of modern technology-for example, the ceiling beams were no longer made of wood but of iron. These beams played a role during World War II, when the cathedral was severely bombed. Despite 14 direct hits that destroyed the entire interior, the vaults of the cathedral stood indestructible.

Cologne Cathedral, the seat of the Archbishop of Cologne, is one of the most beautiful Christian churches in the world. But it should not be regarded solely as an example of Gothic architecture. The interior, also in Gothic style, is no less admirable. The choir, which accommodates 104 singers, is the largest in Germany. In addition, there are two chairs, which no one occupies during the service. One is reserved for the Pope, the other for the Emperor.

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The golden sarcophagus, the shrine of the Three Kings, holds the relics of the three wise men who brought the gifts of the newborn Jesus Christ to Bethlehem. It is the most popular pilgrimage site among Christians. Every year, hundreds of thousands of believers visit the Cologne Cathedral to pray to the holy relics.

Twelve bells ring the bell tower of the Cologne Cathedral. The largest of them is Peter, cast in 1924. The people of Cologne pride themselves on the fact that it is the largest free-hanging bell in the world – it weighs 24 tons.

The size of the cathedral is truly astonishing, but it is also of great importance as the oldest pilgrimage site and a monument to the immortal faith of its creators.

Cologne Cathedral was inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in 1996. In recent years the main threat to this unique building has been the high level of pollution in the city. Acid rain erodes the masonry and leaves ugly marks on the light and light sandstone. Since construction was completed in 1880, the cathedral has been renovated and repaired continually, and without end. The townspeople already have a saying about this eternal construction site: “When we finish building the cathedral, it will be the end of the world!”

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral

Cologne Cathedral briefly topped the list of the world’s tallest buildings, but today it deservedly ranks third among all churches. This is not the only thing the Gothic church is famous for: it has a huge number of relics, which representatives of different nations who come to Germany want to take a look at. Everything is interesting: the height of the towers, the history of creation, the architecture, the interior decoration.

General Information

Cologne Cathedral from above

For those who are still wondering where the cathedral is, it is worth going to the city of Cologne in Germany. Its address is Domkloster, 4. The first stone was laid as early as 1248, but the modern execution of the church is characterized by the Gothic style.

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Below is a brief description of the main dimensions related to the construction of the church and its contents:

  • the height of the largest tower reaches 157.18 m;
  • the length of the temple – 144,58 m;
  • the width of the temple – 86,25 m;
  • number of bells – 11, with the largest of them “Decke Pitter”;
  • The area of the cathedral is about 7914 square meters. m;
  • Weight of stone used in construction – about 300 thousand tons;
  • annual maintenance costs 10 million euros.

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For those wondering how many steps lead up to the spire, it is worth adding this figure, because in order to get to the bell tower and take a high quality photo from the top of the church, you will have to overcome 509 steps. True, there is a fee to visit the towers, but anyone can just walk into the temple. Opening hours vary by season. In the summer (May-October) Cologne Cathedral is open to visitors between 6:00-21:00, and in the winter (November-April) you can admire the beauty of the church between 6:00-19:30.

Stages of construction

The main temple of the Archdiocese of Cologne was built in several stages. Conventionally there are two main periods. The first one dates back to 1248-1437, the second one took place in the second half of the 19th century. Until the 13th century, many sanctuaries were built in the area, the remains of which can be seen in the lower part of the present cathedral. To date, excavations have uncovered parts of the floor and walls from different eras, but it is impossible to reconstruct a unified picture of past temple variations.

Cologne Cathedral facade

At the beginning of the 13th century it was decided to erect a cathedral of its own in Cologne, one of the richest centers of that time. Archbishop Conrad von Hochstaden launched the great construction, promising to give the world a temple that would outshine the already existing churches.

There is speculation that the appearance of the Cologne Cathedral is related to the fact that in 1164 Cologne received the greatest relics – the remains of the Holy Magi. A unique sarcophagus was created for them, and it was necessary to store such a treasure in an appropriate place, as the future temple was supposed to be.

Cologne Cathedral at night

The erection of the church began with the eastern part. The Gothic style, which was popular at that period, was chosen as the main idea. In addition, the abundance of stained glass windows and elongated arches was symbolic and denoted reverence for the divine powers.

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Gerhard von Riele was the architect of this astonishing creation, and all subsequent works were carried out according to his drawings. Within the first 70 years the choir was built. Inside the room was decorated with capitals with tracery leaves, covered with gilding. From the outside one could see soaring peaks topped with a gold cross from the east. It has decorated the cathedral for more than 700 years.

Cologne Cathedral exterior

In the 14th century another part of the construction began, as it was necessary to demolish the western part of the Carolingian cathedral. At that time, the South Tower, whose architectural features are emphasized by the refinement of the elements, was being erected. By the beginning of the 16th century the middle nave was almost completely finished, only minor details remained in the decoration of the facade.

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During the Middle Ages not all of the ideas were realized, and over the years the Cologne Cathedral gradually fell into disrepair. As a result, in 1842 the question arose of the need to restore the church and complete the necessary construction work, including the final decoration. On September 4, financed by the King of Prussia and the civic organization of the town, work resumed and the honor of laying the first stone fell on Friedrich Wilhelm IV as the main initiator.

During the construction the original ideas and already existing drawings were used. The facade was decorated with sculptures, and the towers were tall and reached a height of 157 metres. October 15, 1880 is officially considered the day of the completion of construction, then a large-scale celebration was organized, and people from all over the country went to Cologne to see this creation with their own eyes.

Cologne Cathedral up close

Despite the fact that it is known exactly how long the temple was built and when it was built, work is still going on to ensure that the landmark will be preserved for many years to come. Many key elements were replaced in the 20th century, and restoration is still going on today as pollution in the city negatively affects the cathedral’s appearance.

Values kept in the temple

Cologne Cathedral is a veritable treasure trove of unique works of art and symbols of religious worship. Among the most valuable are:

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No picture can convey the true emotion of exploring all the treasures housed in the cathedral. In addition, the pictures laid out in the stained glass windows create a special atmosphere in the room, and the music of the organ as if lifted into the clouds, so deep and penetrating.


Cologne Cathedral interior

There is an interesting legend about the cathedral, which is variously retold. Some believe it to be true, others create a cloud of mysticism around the story. At the time of the design, architect Gerhard von Riele was constantly tossing and turning, not knowing which drawings to give preference. The master was so burdened by the choice that he decided to turn to Satan for help.

Interior of Germany's Cathedral

The devil instantly responded to requests and offered a bargain: the architect would receive the cherished blueprints that would transform the cathedral into one of humanity’s greatest creations, and in return he would give his soul. The decision had to be made after the cry of the first roosters. Gerhard gave his word to think about it, but for the sake of greatness he leaned toward a positive decision.

Cologne Cathedral exterior

The conversation with Satan was overheard by the master’s wife and decided to spare her spouse’s soul. She hid and cried out like a rooster. The devil gave the blueprints, and only later realized that the deal had failed. A processed version of the story was told by Platon Kuskov in the poem “Cologne Cathedral”.

Sanctuary statues

It is not uncommon to hear a sequel to the legend, which says that Satan was so enraged that he cursed the temple. He said that with the last stone of the cathedral the world apocalypse would come. According to some versions only Cologne was threatened with destruction, but perhaps it is no coincidence that the great German temple is constantly being completed and expanded.

Interesting facts are often presented in the form of unusual stories for tourists. For example, guides from Cologne love to tell about the times of war, which the temple survived without the slightest damage. The city during World War II was subjected to heavy bombing, as a result of which all the structures were completely destroyed and only the church remained intact. It is believed that the reason for this was that the pilots chose the high building as a geographical landmark.

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