St. Peter’s Cathedral in Cologne. Cologne. Germany

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 called it “the oldest cathedral” back in the fourth 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 miraculous 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.

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.

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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.

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. Cologne residents are proud that it is the largest free-hanging bell in the world – it weighs 24 tons.

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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 continually renovated and repaired, with no end in sight. There is already a saying about this eternal construction site: “When we finish building the cathedral, it will be the end of the world!

Cologne Cathedral – Germany’s largest Gothic temple

Cathedral in the name of St. Peter and St. Mary

Cologne Cathedral – the cathedral in the name of St. Peter and St. Mary

Cologne is the ancient city of Germany, where the Cologne Cathedral is located in the northeastern part of the old city, 250 km from the Rhine. The official name is the cathedral in the name of St. Peter and St. Mary, the symbol of Cologne, the third largest Gothic cathedral in the world.

This is the largest temple in Germany, one of the most beautiful Christian churches in the world – a Roman Catholic building in the medieval Gothic style. The pearl of Cologne, a masterpiece of architectural art, the building is striking both monumentality and light openwork forms rushing up into the air.

The origin of the temple

On top of the cathedral hill there is an elegant, graceful structure woven of openwork stone lace and decorated with numerous towers, pilasters, columns and arches. How did this extraordinary, violently striving cathedral, which is impossible to remain indifferent to look at?

The construction of the cathedral was carried out in stages: it began in the XIII century and was finished in the XIX century. The square on which the cathedral is erected has been a place of pilgrimage for Christians since the era of Roman rule.

In 1164, Bishop Reynald von Dassel brought the miraculous relics of the three Magi from Milan to Cologne. Wishing to worthily preserve the relics, the bishop ordered the erection of a magnificent monstrance. The shrine with the relics attracted crowds of pilgrims from Europe to Cologne.

The old, dilapidated church could not withstand the influx of believers, so in 1248 they laid a new cathedral, wishing to surprise the world with the beauty of the new temple. In 1288, however, construction stopped, and for 300 years the cathedral remained unfinished. In 1794, French revolutionaries broke in and turned the cathedral into stables and a warehouse.

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In 1816, the lost drawings were found in two different places, and it was decided to complete the cathedral according to the original plan. King Wilhelm IV of Prussia patronized the construction. On September 4, 1842, the construction of the front entrance of the cathedral began. Enthusiasts announced collection of money: everyone dreamed of seeing the cathedral in all its glory.

On October 15, 1880 the church, which had been under construction for 632 years, was completed. The completion of construction was celebrated as a national event in Germany. During this time were built 157 towers, many sculptures and stained-glass windows, cast a huge bronze gate and 11 bells. The inauguration of the cathedral amazed the citizens: the incredible mesmerizing construction impressed the audience with its scale and splendor.

Architectural features and interior furnishings

The architectural style of radiant high Gothic, in which the temple was built, came from France. The plan of the cathedral is in the form of a Latin cross and has two aisles on either side, which support a high Gothic vault.

Church on top of Cathedral Hill

The cathedral is 144 meters high and 86 meters wide, with the west side rising to 157 meters. The great assembly includes two majestic towers and covers an area of 8,500 square meters.


The Cologne Cathedral seems to point upwards due to the pointed arches with vertical buttresses. Verticality is a characteristic feature of the Gothic style dominant in the architecture of the Middle Ages. In the wide facade there are colorful stained-glass windows with biblical scenes. Huge stained glass spaces are divided by openwork stone ligature.

Stone sculptures of angels, saints and patterns in the form of arches, circles, columns and niches are depicted on the walls. The arch above the main entrance and the openwork stone patterns of the spires are distinctive details in the architecture of Cologne Cathedral.

The stone spires

The building consists of numerous arches and pilasters, which create minimal obstacles to the sun’s rays, and natural light reigns in the temple. There is always a wind blowing near the Cologne Cathedral, even if it is absolutely calm.

The wind currents colliding with the 157 meter high towers rush down such an unexpected obstacle on the gentle plain of the Rhine. The medieval giant is surrounded by 12 ancient churches of Cologne, seemingly frozen in a choir.

The cathedral was rebuilt in the 19th century, using more advanced technology. The ceiling beams of the cathedral are made of iron, so that during the Second World War, 14 direct hits during a bombing raid did not shatter the vaults of the cathedral.

Interior of the cathedral

The interior combines the main hall, galleries, chapels and several chapels. The walls, vaults and floor are of local grey stone. A huge bronze gate leads to the main cathedral hall. In the middle of the hall there are magnificent carved columns with fanciful patterns in the form of fabulous plants. Huge columns, like trees, support high vaults.

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Carved columns inside the cathedral

Walls are decorated with stucco and bright mosaic with gilding. Along the walls at the altar is a collection of sculptures of biblical saints. There are 14 statues of Jesus Christ, statues of the Virgin Mary and the twelve apostles in the cathedral.

The center of the hall is crowned with a magnificent marble altar. Light pours through the many stained-glass windows and colors the sculptures and columns in purple and pink, yellow and blue. The transitions in shades of color one inside the other, the transparency of the stained glass, combined with the organ music playing in the cathedral, create a festive, cheerful atmosphere.


The Cologne Cathedral has the largest choir in Germany, accommodating 104 singers. No one occupies two chairs during a service: one for the Pope and one for the Emperor.

The shrines and relics of the Cologne Cathedral

The two-meter-high golden sarcophagus contains the shrine of the three wise men who brought the gifts of the newborn Jesus Christ to Bethlehem – Caspar, Melchior and Balthasar. On the walls of the casket, covered with pearls and precious stones, are scenes from the Gospel. The central scene is the adoration of the Magi to the newborn Christ and Mary.

Basilica of the Three Magi

On a high carved pedestal is the sculpture of the Madonna of Milan (Our Lady), brought by the Archbishop of Cologne from Milan. Graciously and gracefully, the Madonna holds her child, the Lord, in her arms. The folds of the Madonna’s vestment descend from her shoulders to her feet. The silk colorful garments set off the charm of the young woman, looking at her child with tenderness and love.

Madonna of Milan

The Gero Cross is a two-meter oak cross, a gift to the cathedral from Archbishop Gero, an envoy of Emperor Otto I. Preserved to this day in its original form, the cross – an eyewitness to the death of the Savior – is impressive in its realism.

Hero's Cross

The picture of Jesus crucified on the oak cross with his lifeless body and mournfully bowed head in a crown of thorns is so convincing that it takes one’s breath away. The crucifix is surrounded by an altar with columns and a radiant wreath.

In the underground room of the cathedral are religious relics. On the illuminated showcases are ceremonial crosses, sacred wands and swords from the pre-Christian era, adorned with jewels.

Several halls hold ancient books and collections of gilded and silver cups. The splendor of church garments, brocade cassocks embroidered with precious stones, is astonishing. There are also chronicles and ancient scrolls telling about the lives of saints.

Shrine of the Bishops

Archbishops and bishops are buried in the cathedral. In the Cologne Cathedral are the relics of Archbishop Gero. In the center of the tomb is a large white marble tombstone decorated with green-red porphyry. Here, too, is the grave sculpture of Archbishop Engelbert, who was consecrated a saint. Above the coffin of the archbishop is a bowed angel.

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On the lid of the sarcophagus with the tomb of Archbishop of Hochstaden is a figure of him dressed in silk clothes. The sarcophagus of the Archbishop of Heinsberg is a real work of art.

On top of the tombstone is the figure of the archbishop, molded from limestone and covered with lacquer paint. The walls of the tombstone depict medieval cities with mighty fortress walls and iron gates with prongs.

The unofficial symbol of the city

At the top of the cathedral is an observation deck, where 500 steps lead up a narrow steep staircase. Services, masses and religious festivals are held in the cathedral. In the walls of the temple arrange organ music concerts. Cologne Cathedral is open to the public museum, which holds a unique collection of engravings, paintings and paintings on biblical themes, sculptures, and medieval frescoes. Fascinating stained glass windows depicting Germanic kings and biblical scenes.

Cologne Cathedral, top view

Around the temple – a picturesque natural park with manicured lawns and flower beds. On the perimeter – comfortable benches, street musicians entertain with unpretentious tunes. Nearby are cozy cafes, where you can eat.

In 1996 Cologne Cathedral was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The building is threatened by pollution in the urban area of industrial Cologne. The masonry is being eroded by acid rain and leaves ugly marks on the light sandstone walls.

Since the cathedral was built in 1880, the building has been continually renovated and repaired. Legend has been passed down from generation to generation by the townspeople about this perpetual construction site. The concept of the cathedral is so grandiose that the first architect Gerhard von Riele could not create drawings. The work weighed heavily on the architect, he was often mistaken and wanted to give up the cumbersome task.

Entrance to the cathedral

In a moment of despair Gerhard resolved to make a terrible bargain with the devil: in exchange for the immortal soul of the architect the devil would bring the finished drawings of the cathedral. With the first cock crowing, the devil promised to fulfill the promise. The beloved husband was saved by his wife. She got up early, sang a song instead of a rooster and went to the devil, who gave her the drawings.

Upon learning of the deception, the devil ruined the wife’s soul forever and cursed the cathedral, declaring that the day the cathedral was completed would be the last day of mankind. “When we finish building the cathedral, the world will end,” is what the people of Cologne say. Maybe that’s why construction never ends.

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